Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pray For Me

Today's Reading: Acts 7-9

Simon answered, "Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may happen to me." Acts 8: 24 NRSV

Simon has seen the power of the Holy Spirit come upon the newly baptized and he wants the ability to lay hands on others and give them that power as well. He tries to buy that ability from Peter and John with money. They are appalled and Peter pronounces that, unless Simon has pureness of heart, his money will perish with him. Simon then asks for prayer, "that nothing of what you have said may happen to me."

This is one of the places in the bible where I ask myself, "Is he saying this or meaning that?"

For instance, Simon could be asking that he not have to pray to God or be forgiven or have his heart right before God. His words are not clear. I think the lack of clarity has much to do with the translation into English.

But, the words that Peter says first in verse 20 are probably what he is responding to: "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God's gift with money!" Simon is asking for prayer that he not die with his money, the thought being that his demise may happen sooner rather than later. But I wonder if he is asking for more than that. Peter wants him to repent and get right with God, specifically to get rid of the bitterness and chains of wickedness in his heart. Is Simon really asking for all of that? Or is Simon only willing to go so far in his prayer request?

Are you asking for all you could ask for? Or are you willing to only go so fare with your prayer requests?

God, help me to ask for far more than I do right now. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lying to God

Today's Reading: Acts 5-8

While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God! Acts 5: 4 NRSV

Peter is speaking to Ananias, a member of the early church community. Many members were selling property in order to share the proceeds with the community as needed. Ananias and his wife Sapphira have done something that is not entirely clear from the scripture. They have sold their property and received the money. They have also kept some of the proceeds. That is not the lie. The lying is somehow related to what they have informed the community of faith. Perhaps they have announced that they are giving all the proceeds to the church, yet have kept back a part of them. Or maybe they said they received a lower amount than they actually received.

The point is that lying to the church is lying to the Holy Spirit; in other words, lying to God.

Lying to those in our Christian community is lying to God is what this scripture says.

I have been sitting here trying to think when I have ever lied to someone in the church. I confess I have done so. Thank goodness God has not struck me dead! But I am not comfortable with thinking about that. Perhaps I don't consider it one of my greater sins. However, this scripture convicts me that perhaps I need to find the person I lied to and confess. At the very least, I need to spend some time confessing to God what I have done and asking for forgiveness.

What about you?

God, forgive me for lying to YOU about: ______________________________. Although I lied to a member of my worshiping community, it was really you I was not being truthful with.  In the merciful name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

They were all together in one place

Today's reading: Acts 1-4

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. Acts 2:1 NRSV

The Holy Spirit was expected and anticipated. So, the believers spent their time in prayer as well as replacing Judas. But the biggest thing is that they were all together in one place.

When was the last time all of the members of your worshipping community were in one place? When has your entire family been in one place? In fact, when have you and your immediate family all been in the same place lately for longer than a few minutes?

The idea that the followers of Jesus were all together in one place means that they had an incredible sense of unity and trust. They stayed together despite the loss (twice if you count the ascension) of their beloved Jesus. They completed the number of disciples, making their total back to twelve. They included the women who had been devoted and faithful followers of Christ. And they all spent time in prayer. Constantly.  They trusted that Jesus' words were going to happen. They did not waver from where Jesus asked them to stay. They did not wander from one another, try to cause division or conflict in their small group, or give up and go home. And Jesus never gave them a particular date for the coming of the Holy Spirit. He just told them to remain in Jerusalem.

Are you listening to Jesus' instructions? How about your family? How about your worshipping community? And are you and any of these groups spending time constantly in prayer?

God, I know that you will send the Holy Spirit into our midst. Help us to remain unified, follow Jesus' instruction and pray constantly. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, September 27, 2010

Follow Me!

Today's reading: John 20-21

Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!" John 21: 22 NRSV

Jesus has given Peter clear final instructions on what he is to do once Jesus ascends. Jesus has also just informed Peter of what his future is going to be like. "Follow me!" Jesus concludes to Peter. Then Peter turns and sees this other disciple, the one that Jesus seems to love so much. "What about him?" Peter asks. Jesus tells him to stop worrying about the other person -- what is that to Peter? Follow Jesus!

We are all so much like Peter. We are so much more concerned about the other person. We want them to follow Jesus, to listen to the Holy Spirit and to do God's will. We are full of advice and assistance for others to do so. We want to know what God has in store for them and if they will be better Christians than we ever will.

But God says to us, "What is that to you? Follow me!"

Do we listen? Maybe half the time, when we are not so busy trying to figure out God's business in the lives of those around us.

If we spent more time on following Jesus rather than comparing ourselves to others, we would probably be much closer to God's kingdom here on earth.

God, help us to listen to what you are saying to us and to follow you. Prevent us from becoming so wrapped up in what you are planning for others that we miss what you have for us. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What Is Truth?

Today's reading: John 18-19

Pilate asked him, "What is truth?" After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, "I find no case against him." John 18: 38 NRSV

What is truth?

Well, if Pilate had been following Jesus and listening to him or if you and I have been paying attention throughout the Gospel of John, we would all know that Jesus is the truth.

In fact, Jesus keeps beginning each of his statements with "very truly." He is all about truth and testifying to the truth.

But neither Pilate nor the Jewish religious leadership hear the truth.

I suppose a politician like Pilate is so used to lying and scheming to get ahead that truth has long been buried. And he is probably surrounded by people who are the same. There is no truth in their lives.

So, because he cannot see the truth, he tries to get out of all responsibility for this Jesus by saying he cannot make a case against him.

But the truth is that Pilate is simply a tool for the world to take care of Jesus' in its own way. They don't call Satan the father of lies for nothing.

God, we are saddened when others don't see or hear the truth. Open our ears and eyes so that we see your truth even when others don't. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Written on Our Behalf

Today's reading: John 17

I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word. John 17: 20 NRSV

How did you come to know about Jesus?

Do you go to Sunday school as a child? Did your parents read to you about Jesus? Did you celebrate the true meaning of Christmas while growing up?

Or were you older? Did you began to understand by hearing and later reading about Jesus in the Gospels?

In any of the above ways, we all know about Jesus through the Gospels.

And the surprising thing is that we don't really know who wrote what gospel. When the bible was officially approved from various letters and books from churches in the 4th century, the church leaders gave each gospel a name according to which disciple the book seemed to be written. No disciple had  signed any of the books. I would call what they did inspired guesswork.

But what matters more than who wrote what is that the gospels were written for our edification and belief.

And Jesus spoke these words in his prayer to God not just for his disciples to hear but for us to hear and believe.

Praise God!

God, thank you for those who wrote the gospels. Without their faith and their work, we may not have come to believe. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, September 24, 2010

In Jesus' Name

Today's reading: John 16

Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. John 16: 23 NRSV

When in India in the mid-nineties I remember my seminary class being invited to dine with a Hindu family. Before we began eating, our professor asked everyone to stand and then he proceeded to pray a blessing, ending the prayer with "in Jesus' name."

We were agast! How rude -- this was a Hindu family. Surely we had offended them!

But later our professor told us that if he had not prayed in Jesus' name, the Hindus would not have believed the prayer to be effective. They believe our prayers only work if we pray in Jesus' name.

If only we were that convicted!

Too often I hear Christians say that we shouldn't pray in Jesus' name in public settings because we might offend someone. If that is the case, I say don't pray at all! Is it better to offend God than people?

I don't want to get onto a religious freedom kick here but I do want to say that I respect the right of others of other faiths to pray or not as they choose. But I respect even more Jesus' own words to his disciples.

God, help us to respect others but to respect you more. Create in us clear boundaries between political correctness and our lives of faith. May you be a priority in our lives, including in our prayer life.  In Jesus' name we do pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sometimes I Hate Being a Pastor

Today's reading: John 15

"If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world - therefore the world hates you."  John 15:19 NRSV

Sometimes I hate being a pastor. When trying to befriend parents of our son's classmates I always have a feeling they would rather be friends with anyone but me. When a stranger or new acquaintance asks what I do for a living, I can either silence them quickly or cause them to erupt with a spiritual monologue. I sometimes have a hard time balancing being myself with being a pastor. When does one end and the other begin?

I don't say that the world hates me but I think it does have a general dislike or avoidance when I walk into a room.

Jesus said that if we belonged to the world (the world being Satan's kingdom), the world would love us.

But Jesus has chosen us. He has taken us out of the world. This makes Satan and the world hateful toward us.

And that is what keeps me from throwing in the towel. Knowing that I have been chosen. That God called me to ministry. That I am doing as God wants me to do, not as the world wants me to do.

You too are called and chosen. Live as God's own.

God, thank you for calling us out of the world and claiming us for your own. We praise your glorious name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Greater Works than What Jesus Did

Today's reading: John 14

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these because I am going to the Father. John 14: 12 NRSV

Think of all the works that Jesus did. He healed the sick, raised the dead, inspired the living, reached out to the marginalized, converted sinners, called people to repent, taught and trained the disciples, called people to ministry, calmed the storm, walked on water, challenged the righteous, and lived the truth.

And he said if we believe in him, have faith in him, we would do greater works than these.

Do you really believe that?

Does your faith in Jesus strengthen you to do greater works that what Jesus did?

Jesus said this would happen because he would be with the Father. If we asked in Jesus' name, he would make it so.

Do you truly believe that?

God, help our unbelief! In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Betraying Jesus

Today's reading: John 10-13

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit and declared, "Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me." John 13:21 NRSV

Not me, Lord, I would never betray you.

I would never cause your spirit to be troubled.

Well, there was that one time.

But other than that I have been your faithful follower.

Besides the time I got really angry at you. You know I did. I got over my anger. That was just a tiny lapse.

And when I was younger Lord, you know how misguided I could be. I was just trying to be liked by others. That doesn't count because...well, because...I was young. Right?

It isn't like when I have ignored you. I did that a lot when my career was taking off. I haven't really betrayed you, have I?  Ignoring is not really betraying, is it? Isn't ignoring more like denial...kind of like Peter rather than Judas.

Which, of course, is better. Right?

Betraying Jesus is just not in my vocabulary or my makeup ... most of the time.

God, help us not to continue to deny when we have turned from Jesus for personal gain. And forgive us Lord, forgive us. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Who is this Jesus?

Today's reading: John 7-9

"Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?" John 7: 42 NRSV

Who is this Jesus fellow, anyway?

Is he a prophet?

Perhaps the Messiah?

He couldn't be the Messiah or the Christ. Scripture says the Messiah will be David's descendant. The Messiah is supposed to be born in the small village of Bethlehem where David came from. This guy hails from Galilee.

The crowds convince themselves that Jesus is not the Christ. Some want to arrest him while others want to crown him. No one is sure who he is. He speaks of living water and eternal life -- both are spoken with authority.

Who is Jesus in your life?

Is he more of a prophet? A wise sage?

Is he your savior but after that you haven't had much of a relationship with him at all?

Do his words anger you? Or give you peace?

Does what he did for you leave you wondering about the God who sent him in the first place?

God, who is this Jesus for me? May he be alive in each one of us. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What kind of food are you working for?

Today's reading: John 4-6

"Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal." John 6: 27 NRSV

What kind of food are you working for?

I must admit that I am working for the food that perishes. Even though I am in ministry and I am following God's call on my life, the work that I do pays the bills and puts food on the table.

How can I work for the food that endures for eternal life?

Well, that is really impossible.

Jesus says that he gives that imperishable food. We don't work for it. We are given that food as a gift.

I just need to accept the food of eternal life that Jesus wants to give me and stop thinking that I have to work for that kind of food like I do the food that doesn't last.

How about you? Are you willing to accept the food you don't have to work for?

God, thank you for setting your seal on Jesus who give us the food of eternal life. In His name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Living Among Us

Today's Reading: John 1-3

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 NRSV

What does it mean to say that the Word became flesh and blood and lived among us?

Can words really become flesh?

I know that certain words can hurt, cause pain, start wars, create peace, win hearts, inspire thousands. Words can give comfort or exhortation. Although we can do much without words, sometimes words are very powerful.

But here John's gospel is speaking of the Word, that is Jesus. We are given some background for this man who was testified about by John the Baptist. Jesus was always with us, the gospel tells us.

When God spoke during the Creation, that was the Word. And that Word is Jesus. God decided to do a new thing by morphing the Word into human form so that he is walking among us.

The Word is not simply something spoken during creation or even written in holy texts.

The Word is alive and with us.

Now we just need to act like it.

God, you sent your son in human form to live among us. But we seem to be acting like this never happened. May your Word be a part of our flesh and blood and give us grace and truth. In the name of the Living Word. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, September 17, 2010

Surrounded by Criminals

Today's Reading: Luke 21-24

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Luke 23: 33 NRSV

Jesus spent his ministry with the downtrodden, the hopeless, the lost, the outcast, the unrighteous. Even his disciples were ordinary, misguided people. In other words, Jesus was always with sinners.

How fitting, then, that he is hung between two criminals. He is not next to these "bad guys." He is in the center of criminals.

God is hung to die in the midst of the wicked.

What, then, do we make of that?

Perhaps God cares for the wicked.

Maybe God loves the unrighteous.

Is it that Jesus dies for sinners that he was hung in the midst of them?

We focus on being part of the righteous when Jesus came to give his life for the unrighteous.

God, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He did not die for those that were good but those that you wanted to bring into your arms. Help us to realize our own sinfulness and to reach out to the lost. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Keep Asking

Today's reading: Luke 17-20

I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? Luke 18:8 NRSV

The woman has come to the unjust judge again and again with her request. She has not given up, despite his reputation and callousness. And it is because she keeps bothering him that he grants her request.

If such an evil person grants a request, won't God also grant our requests?

Yes, Jesus says, he will quickly give them justice.

But what Jesus sees is that no one has truly been asking God again and again for justice. Therefore, will God find faith on earth?

Have you ever prayed for something for a really long time and your prayers were answered?

Have you ever prayer for something, nothing happened for a time, and you just gave up?

If you had a faith check-up right now, how well would you do?

God, do I have enough faith? Am I  asking you without ceasing? Or have I given up. I ask of you this:
___________________________________________. I trust you will answer in your time. And I will continue to pray for this. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lord, Open to Us

Today's reading: Luke 13-16

When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us,' then in reply he will say to you, 'I do not know where you come from.' Luke 13:25 NRSV

Have you ever been ignored or not recognized by someone who should know you? It is not a good feeling. Makes you feel horribly insignificant and embarrassed.

What Jesus is talking about goes beyond those feelings.  Jesus is talking about salvation.

He has been asked what a person must do to be saved. He responds that one must try for the more difficult way as not everyone will be able to be saved. Then he gives the story of a home owner who has gone to bed and someone stands outside knocking to be let in, obviously emphasizing the First Century custom of hospitality. The home owner claims he doesn't know them. The person says they ate and drank with them when the home owner taught on the streets. But the home owner doesn't know where the person has come from.

The more difficult way is through a narrow door. Knocking on the front door of the house must be the easy way in and the way of most rejections.

Do you think you have attempted to go through the narrow door? Or are you setting yourself up to enter the front door?

God, being Christ' s followers is not easy. However, we try to make it so. Help us to realize it is about attempting the narrow door and the more difficult way. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Don't Blame the Devil

Today's Reading: Luke 9-12

"Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands." Luke 9: 44 NRSV

I don't know if you "believe" in Satan/the devil or active evil in the world or in your life. Perhaps you see Satan as an ongoing tempter or interferer in your spiritual and physical life. You perhaps know there is evil in the world but it is more about people than a demonic force instead. No matter which viewpoint you have, today's reading is very scary.

Jesus is telling his disciples, even while people are amazed at what he can do, that he will fall at the hands of human beings.

Jesus has just cast a demon out of a young boy. But he is telling the disciples that it won't be a demon or unclean spirit that betrays him but human beings.

We cannot blame the devil or even evil for what happened to Jesus. Instead, we must see that it is our fault. Human beings betrayed God's son. Human beings are responsible for Jesus' death. Human beings abandoned him, beat him and nailed him to a cross.

When have you betrayed Jesus lately? Did you blame evil or the devil afterwards? Maybe you are still in denial that Jesus was abandoned by you in the first place. We all need to take responsibility for our actions against Jesus and stop blaming outside forces.

Let these words sink into your ears.


Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, September 13, 2010

To Be Greatly Admired

Today's reading: Luke 5-8

"Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets." Luke 6: 26 NRSV

This saying of Jesus is really an eye-opener for me.

I want to be liked. I want people to speak well of me. I want to be affirmed and have most everyone's good regard. As a pastor, when people are not speaking well of me, that means two things: I am not engaging in personal relationships with those who are speaking ill and I need to find ways to bring about unity, if not agreement.

But Jesus has other ideas.

He says that it is actually a curse, maybe worse than a curse, to have folks say nice things about you. This is because those who do not follow God's lead and/or speak for God are the ones who are well-liked and admired. You and I, after journeying through the Old Testament really can know what he is talking about. In thinking of many of the prophets we heard and read about, we know that the ones who were speaking for God were not well liked nor admired.

I guess the questions to ask are these:

Do you want people to like you?

Or do you want to follow God?

It is up to you to decide.

God, do I really want to follow You? Or would I rather have everyone's good will? In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What do to when you have been rejected

Today's reading: Luke 1-4

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read.... Luke 4 : 16 NRSV

None of us like rejection.

It is especially hard when we are rejected or put down by those who should know us and love us the best.

Jesus comes home. He goes to church on the day to worship, which was usual for him. He participates in the service.

But instead of being amazed at this boy everyone has known since he was little, everyone takes offense at  him and rejects his interpretation. In fact, they go beyond taking offense and become so angry that they want to kill him.

How this must have hurt Jesus. It must have been extremely painful to know that he had been rejected by his childhood friends and neighbors. In addition, it must have hurt to know that in rejecting him, they were also rejecting God.

But in being rejected at home, Jesus goes on to Capernaum which becomes his home base for his ministry and he flourishes there.

Sometimes being rejected can be the catalyst we need to go where we will be most effective.

God, we don't like being rejected, especially by those who should love and accept us the most. May we all find the place where we are truly accepted. Thank you for your love and acceptance of us regardless. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Just Like Judas

Today's Reading: Mark 10-14

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. Mark 14: 10 NRSV

Why, why, why did Judas want to betray Jesus?

Some say it was for money. Yet, in the next verse, it is the chief priests who offer money. That doesn't seem to be the motivation for Judas.

Just before this, a woman has anointed Jesus with costly perfume. Was Judas incensed with Jesus' defense of her actions? Or was he upset that Jesus again tells them that he is going to die? "She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial (Mark 14: 8)."

I really want to know why Judas betrayed Jesus.

But the best source of an answer comes from my own heart. Why do I, why do you, why do you and I betray Jesus? Because we are embarrassed, ashamed, want to be liked by others, don't want to be made fun of, don't want to get hurt, want to impress the right people and don't want to hurt our chances of success or self-improvement. You may can think of other reasons.

We have more in common with Judas than we would like to think we do.

God, we are guilty of betraying Jesus like Judas did. Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy. In His precious name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, September 10, 2010

Today's Reading: Mark 9-12

For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life for the ransom of many. Mark 10: 45 NRSV

Jesus tells his disciples three separate times what is going to happen to him. Each time, the disciples refuse to really hear him. Right after the first time, Peter takes him aside and begins to rebuke him. The next time, all the disciples immediately begin arguing about which one of them is the best disciple. This third time, James and John get a jump on everyone and try to wheedle their way into the best seats in the kingdom. 

Look, says Jesus, I came not to be served but to serve and give up my life for many of you. That is the way of the cross, giving up of self for others. It has nothing to do with being the greatest or the first.

It is going to take the disciples living through the events of the cross and the resurrection to get this point.

I think the rest of us have a hard time understanding this "serve not be served" advice as well.

God, we are still trying to be successful and super-productive in school, our jobs and our lives. Yet, Jesus is trying to tell us that it is more about giving up for others than promoting ourselves. Help us to listen and really hear what Jesus is telling us. In His name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Commissioning and Beheading

Today's Reading: Mark 5-8

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all they had done and taught. Mark 6: 30 NRSV

Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs to heal, exorcise, and call for repentance. While they are out doing the Lord's work, the gospel of Mark tells us of what happened to John. Then we come back to Jesus and see the disciples gathered around him, excitedly telling him all that they had done, all that had happened on their mission.

It is significant that the commissioning and ending celebration is interrupted by the story of John's death at the hands of a young girl. It reminds us that, even when we are doing the Lord's work, there is a certain understanding that this may not all have a happy ending. When we do as Jesus commands, we do put ourselves in danger, especially with those who are in power or who can influence those that have power.

No wonder Jesus follows up on this by trying, unsuccessfully I might add, to get away!

God, you give us your mission and your commandment to spread the gospel. We know what happened to John and what happened to Jesus. But we also know the real ending of the story. Keep us focused on that empty tomb, Lord! In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Proclaiming or Baptizing?

Today's Reading: Mark 1-4

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Mark 1: 4 NRSV

The good news of Mark begins with John the baptizer. Or is he John the proclaimer? The gospel spends as much time on John's words as with Johns actions. In fact, the way Mark opens emphasizes John's voice and message over the baptisms. The baptisms are actually in response to what John is saying rather than the other way around. Folks come out to hear John and end up being moved to ask for forgiveness. This leads to their cleansing or baptism.

John's message makes it easier for folks (us included) to receive God's gift of Christ. We are prepared by realizing we have fallen short and being forgiven of our sins. Then we are ready to listen and follow Jesus.

Are you more an action witness or a vocal witness to Jesus' love and forgiveness? Although it is true that actions speak louder than words, it is our words that can touch people's hearts and turn them toward Jesus. I always tell people that if you are have a relationship with another person, it is easier to talk about what God has done in your own life. Certainly, your actions must follow your words. But it is the actual message that people need to hear with their ears, not just see with their eyes, for them to follow Christ.

God, may we speak with love and grace as much as we act with the same. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

From A Distance

Today's Reading: Matthew 25-28

Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Matthew 27: 55 NRSV

These women were on the periphery, yet they provided two essential elements for Jesus. First, there money helped his ministry. I imagine they were all wealthy in their own right and made sure that Jesus and his followers, although not rich, had food, clothing and shelter. Second, these women were the witnesses to the crucifixion. Remember that the men had all run away. It was the women, standing at a distance, who kept an eye on the awful death of their friend and teacher. Without their witness, would the writer of Matthew known what happened at the cross?

You and I are also important to Jesus. It is through our provision, i. e. tithes, that help Jesus' ministry continue today. It is our witness about what Jesus sacrificed for us that helps others know about Jesus. And we, too, stand looking from a distance: the distance of time.

God, you ask us to provide and to witness. May we be essential to your kingdom now and for always. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, September 6, 2010

Praying with Faith

Today's Reading: Matthew 21-25

"Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive." Matthew 21: 22 NRSV

Jesus has just amazed his disciples by cursing a fig tree which produced immediate results. When he saw their amazement, he told them they could do even greater things than this if they had faith and no doubt. In fact, the kind of faith Jesus spoke of was the faith of moving mountains. With that kind of faith, one could command that a mountain be thrown into the sea. With that kind of faith, anything they prayed for, they would receive.

I think Jesus is trying to say that it is not just praying or asking for something that produces results. It is the trust or full confidence in God that we need. In other words, we should not be full of faith in our own ability to have faith or to pray well. It is not our prayers that contain power. God has the power. We should simply place our trust in God. 

What do you need to pray for today? Take this moment right now to pray to God, not with the expectation that you have the power to have your prayers answered, but that you have full confidence in God's power to answer prayer.


Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Today's Reading: Matthew 17-20

Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Matthew 18:21 NRSV

We all want rules. We want to know what the boundaries are, how we should behave and what is not allowed. If we don't have rules, we end up with chaos and usually someone gets hurt.

Peter wanted to know the rules. Jesus has just give the disciples the guidelines for one someone in the church had offended them. Peter wants to know how often one must go to all this trouble: meeting with the individual, taking one or two witnesses when you can't work it out, going to the whole congregation when there is still disagreement, then resorting to kicking the person out so that they would have to be evangelized again. How often, Lord, must we go through this arduous process? Would the perfect amount be the perfect number -- seven times?

Would you be able to forgive someone who had sinned against you seven times?

I have a hard enough time forgiving someone one time. In fact, there are at least two individuals whom I work constantly to forgive and I still haven't gotten there yet. Seven times would stretch my forgiving ability.

But many of us know that Jesus wants us to forgive again and again and again. That, of course, is what love is about. And there is no ruling when it comes to love.

God, you want us to love one another, not just follow a set of rules. May forgiveness be central to our love for one another. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Blessed Are You

Today's Reading: Matthew 13-16

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Matthew 13: 16 NRSV

Have you ever realized how blessed you are?

For you are not one of the crowds who hear the parable but not the explanation. You are not those who are like sheep without a shepherd. You are not the lost but the found.

You are a disciple of Jesus Christ. As such, you have eyes that see and ears that hear.

You are blessed.

Do you realize how many longed to be where you are? And still how many long for what you have?

Live as one who is blessed, one who has eyes that see and one who has ears that hear.

God, you have blessed us with eyes and ears that see and hear. Help us to use what we are blessed with to further you kingdom. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, September 3, 2010

Silent Witness

Today's Reading: Matthew 8-12

Then Jesus said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them." Matthew 8:4 NRSV

I have often wondered why Jesus didn't want folks to spread the word about his healing ministry. It was like he wanted to keep it hush-hush. Perhaps he had enough hangers-on who were only there to get physical help but were not really willing to turn their lives around and follow him. It could have been because he really didn't want too much attention from the religious authorities before his time. Too many reports of his healings might have made him an easy target before he had accomplished his purposes. But in this verse, Jesus doesn't want the man to say anything; instead, he wants him to show what has happened.

Too often we think we are silently witnessing to God's redeeming work in the world when in reality we are just trying not to bring any attention to ourselves. We don't really feel "comfortable" spreading the Gospel in any form, so we just don't bother at all.

What Jesus is saying in this verse is to use the physical and visual proof of what Jesus has done as your testimony. This is a testimony without words but it is still a testimony.

What miracles has Jesus done for you lately? Is there are way for you to show this to others without saying a word?

God, sometimes you want us to simply allow what Jesus has done for us to speak of your love and mercy. May we be a silent testimony. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Respecting Human Life

Today's Reading: Matthew 5-7

But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire. Matthew 5: 22 NRSV

Good thing that Jesus isn't talking about strangers but brothers and sisters in Christ. Otherwise, I would be in trouble after driving around town.

However, I have heard some members of the same church practically calling each other fools. Sometimes there seems to be no love lost between people who worship together yet are perpetually angry with one another. And I don't think many church goers would withhold calling other church goers -- or their pastors for that matter -- idiots or fools.

Jesus addresses such behavior directly and puts it all in perspective for his followers (i.e. us church goers). The Ten Commandments say not to murder. Jesus says, in fulling the law, that it isn't just about not murdering another human being and dismissing their life. It is about respecting them as people. Calling another person names is not respecting the other person.

And even though Jesus is speaking of our brothers and sisters in Christ, he later goes on to say that we must pray for our enemies rather than curse them.

Perhaps Jesus is saying we should also not be disrespectful of those outside the church, including strangers driving other cars on the roads. Ouch.

God, you ask us to respect human life. Help us to see how we can be disrespectful with our attitudes and the words coming out of our mouths. May we follow your commandments. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

List of Our Ancestors

Today's Reading: Matthew 1-4

Sorry I am so late with today's devotional! I have yet to divide the New Testament so will do so in the next day or so and post. 

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Matthew 1:1 NRSV

Have you ever really read this genealogy. Usually, this is the part we skip when reading Matthew. Who wants to read a list of boring names?

But then, we miss out what this list of three groups of fourteen generations has to say to us. 

In the midst of this list are some not-so-holy people. Judah, Rehoboam, and Ahaz would be in that group. I also find it interesting that this is not the priestly line but the kingly line. We are talking royalty over religion at the beginning of the gospels! In addition, several women of "ill repute" are mentioned: Tamar and Bathsheba among them. And there is even a hint at David's own sin (see verse 6).

Aren't we looking at Jesus' own lineage, though? 

Why would it be so important to begin with such a rag-tag group as an introduction to our Lord and Savior?

Perhaps it tells us this: Jesus was really not so different from you and me.  His background and his earthly family had their own skeletons in the family tree. Instead of being holier-than-thou, Jesus was approachable, reachable and real.

Thank you, Jesus, that you came from an earthly background that is no different from many of us. May we become closer to you in this realization. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims