Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: devotional

YouTubevotinal: Trick or Treat

YouTubevotionals are designed to be used in personal devotion time, with small groups, youth groups, or Sunday school classes. To see other YouTubevotionals, click here

Introduction

In the 1952 Disney short, Witch Hazel observes from her broom as Huey, Dewey, and Louie ring the doorbell of their Uncle Donald’s house. Donald has decided to trick the boys instead of giving treats. Donald is having fun with it, but Hazel feels sorry for the three boys. She attempts to get a treat from Donald, but he only offers a trick.

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Giveaway: VeggieTales Every Day with God Devotional

VT Devo_girlsEvery day with God is a 365-day devotional from VeggieTales.  The updated content and art offer the perfect opportunity for parent and child to share time together each day. Each entry includes a Bible verse, short devotion, Thought of the Day, and prayer.

As the message to parents at the beginning notes, “As parents, you know the importance of teaching your children the big ideas that are found in God’s Holy Word.”

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Giveaway: ESV Family Devotional Bible

ESV-Family-Devotional-BibleStudies have shown that the most influential person for a young person’s faith is his or her parents. The ESV Family Devotional Bible aims to help families read and study scripture.

This hard back Bible includes the entire English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible. A fairly new translation, in the midst of quite a few to choose from, the ESV is not all that different from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). The ESV seems to have been presented as an alternative to the traditionally used King James Version.

The ESV Family Devotional Bible includes 130 key stories retold, along with questions and a key verse. There are colorful illustrations for each devotion as well. At first the illustrations were a bit nostalgic, as they reminded me of the pictures in the story Bible at my grandparents’ home. I’m not sure, however, they would be the most kid-friendly today.

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Giveaway: The Plans I Have for You Devotional & Journal

The Plans I Have for You: Devotional, Amy Parker, Zonderkidz, 2015.

About the Devotional:

The devotional is an illustrated 90-day devotional written by bestselling children’s book author Amy Parker and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, teaching and inspiring kids to dream about their future, to focus on faith, love, and joy, and recognize that God has a plan and purpose for each and every one of us.

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Book Review: A Sherlock Holmes Devotional

Holmes DevotionalThe first Sherlock Holmes story was published in 1887. Ever since, the brilliant detective has fascinated readers and viewers. Trisha Priebe’s devotional attempts to draw from the Holmes canon spiritual truths to inspire the Christian’s life. The publisher states that “this book investigates the spiritual truths we can discern from this enigmatic fictional character – a brusque, stubborn, and arrogant man who also shows honor, trust, and self-sacrificing friendship.”

Unfortunately, Priebe’s investigation does not reveal all that it could reveal.

I liked the concept, which is what drew me to read the book. I’m always interested in how others make connections between faith and pop culture – and yes even though Sherlock Holmes’ first appearance was in 1887, he is just as part of our pop culture as James Bond or Bruce Wayne. The best parts of this book are the first half of each of the devotionals where Priebe shares information about the different stories or events leading up to the writing of those stories. Here she reveals interesting facts about the character, his legacy, and his creator Arthur Conan Doyle.

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Guest Post: The Greatest Gift

Brock Weigel is a student at Randolph-Macon College. There he is a Bailey Scholar, discerning a call to ordained ministry. 

Read Matthew 1:18-25

Christmas PonderingsThings I Would Like for Christmas:

  • A New Bike
  • Video Games
  • Comic Books
  • Drumsticks

It would feel almost too cliche to say “Jesus is the best gift ever received on Christmas.” However, the statement is true. Matthew 1:18-25 tells the story of how Joseph was convinced that he was to raise the Son of God. He literally received THE Christmas present, right into his arms.

As a drummer, I often feel like I need certain things to be happy. I think I need new sticks after I break my old ones; new heads when they become dented; and a sound system to hear a guitarist over all my noise. When Christmas comes around, I selfishly hope to receive such things, as though I earned them for surviving until December yet again. I even convince myself that these things are necessary in order for me to praise the Lord by playing at Church.

As great as it feels on the occasions that I do get new drumsticks, one Christmas I received a gift that truly surprised me. I was given an entire, brand new drum set. A complete overhaul! I hadn’t asked for a drum set. I had asked for sticks or other equipment. My parents knew me well enough that they were able to buy me something they knew I would really enjoy, without me having to ask.

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” -Matthew 7:11

I did not include that verse to say that my parents are anything less than incredible. Matthew 7 contrasts the earthly gifts that we as Creation give to each other against the heavenly gifts our Father bestows upon us. My parents were able to give me a drum set. My God was able to give me loving parents. How much greater then was God’s gift?

I have a laundry list of things I desire, and I have needs to fulfill, such as eating. But we know that “man cannot live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (from Matthew 4:4) What we truly need always comes from our thirst for God. Having created us, he already knows what we like and require, even before we ourselves do so. Though I have a list of things I would be happy to receive for Christmas, God knows even better.

Bible’s Major Players: Potiphar’s Wife

Slide2The Bible is filled with some major players. Potiphar’s wife is one from the Old Testament.

The story of Potiphar’s wife is a part of the Joseph narrative found in Genesis 39. Joseph was sold in slavery by his jealous brothers. Through a series of fortunate events, guided by the hand of God, Joseph was purchased by Potiphar, the commander of Pharaoh’s royal guard, and an Egyptian. Joseph was quickly put in charge of the household. The Mr. Carson of Potiphar’s house (Genesis 39:6).

The Bible tells us that Joseph was young, handsome, and smart. He was a natural leader. No wonder he was in charge of the whole household at such a young age. So, here is Joseph the young, handsome, smart leader of the household. He has been rejected by his family, sold into slavery, and sent to a foreign land. He spends the bulk of his day in charge while his master is at work.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Potiphar is at home too. She was an older woman home with her servants most of the day. Maybe she was neglected. Maybe she was needy. Maybe Mr. P worked long hours. Maybe she needed attention.

Mrs. Potiphar is the original Real Housewife. She is attracted to Joseph and makes passes at him. And even though he denies her invitations, she doesn’t stop asking.

One day when Joseph arrived at the house to do his work, none of the household’s men were there. (Gen. 39:11, CEB)

Anyone else think this should cause a red flag?

She grabbed his garment, saying, “Lie down with me.” But he left his garment in her hands and run outside, she summoned the men of her house and said to them, “Look, my husband brought us a Hebrew to ridicule us. He came to me to lie down with me, but I screamed. When he heard me raise my voice and scream, he left his garment with me and ran outside.” (Gen. 39:12-14, CEB)

Joan Collins as Potiphar's wife in Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat

Joan Collins as Potiphar’s wife in Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat

You got to give her an A for effort. We quickly switched channels in this story from the Real Housewives to Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. When Mrs. P didn’t get what she wanted, she cried rape. A serious accusation, then and now.

There is no telling how many other housemen she had tried this with. Imagine the Real Housewives anger she must have experienced. Angry enough to blame her husband AND insult Joseph. “Look what this Hebrew my husband gave us did,” she says. But, let us not forget that she still had Joseph’s garments in her hand. But in Joseph’s case, clothes don’t make the man. God does.

But she is still part of the rich and powerful. She pleads her case to her husband, and he sends Joseph to jail. Some have suggested that if Potiphar really truly believed that Joseph had attempted to rape his wife, he would have had Joseph sentenced to death. Perhaps there is something special about this Hebrew.

Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann, in his commentary on Genesis, suggests that the two main characters in this episode symbolize a tension between the Kingdom and the empire. (Notice the upper and lower case letters, I did that on purpose). It is the tension between living as a faithful disciple and living as the world demands us to. It is the tension between living as called by the power of God and living as called by the power of society.

Potiphar’s wife represents the empire and those in power. Joseph is a symbol of the faithful. The faithful will be faced with moments when they will be asked by those in power (sex aside) to do something that goes against the Kingdom. Joseph’s response was to not do it, and to remain faithful to his God.

It should be noted that it was in jail that Joseph meets the men who tell him about Pharaoh’s dreams and interprets them. It because of these men in jail that Joseph rises to power as a Governor. Crappy things happened to Joseph, but God was with him through it all, and Joseph was faithful through it all.

What will your response be?

Resources: Brueggemann, Walter. Genesis. John Knox Press, 1982.

Whose Image?

Read Psalm 105:1-5

A writing by Francis of Assisi from The Earlier Rule.

 All-powerful, most holy,

Almighty and supreme God,

Holy and just Father,

Lord King of heaven and earth

We thank You for Yourself

For through Your holy will

And through Your only Son

With the Holy Spirit

You have created everything spiritual and corporal

And, after making us in Your own image and likeness,

You placed us in paradise.

It is hard to imagine that we are all created in the image of God. Our siblings, our parents, our teachers, even those annoying kids at the other lunch table. All created in the image of God. The truth is, we don’t always treat others like they are an image of God.

Is there someone in your life that you have recently taken for granted?  A parent that you don’t say thank you enough to?  A boyfriend or girlfriend you don’t always appreciate?  A best friend who does a lot for you?  Express words of gratitude to those people today.  Let them know that you appreciate everything they do for you and that you are thankful for them.  Journal about the experience.

Pray:

Dear God, thank you for the saints in our lives who guide us through our journey of faith. Help us today as we seek forgiveness and express gratitude for the people in our lives.  Amen.

Slow Down

Read 2 Peter 3:1-18.

From Henri Nouwen’s With Open Hands:

What is perhaps most striking about the visions of the world’s future is that they have taken form completely independent of Christian thinking which is preeminently future-oriented.  Those enormous powers which are gaining ground in the hardened world, which cry out for a new age, a new world, and a new order can find no solid roots in Christianity, it seems.  While Christians were so busy with their interior household problems and were so preoccupied with themselves that they lost sight of the rest of the world, a growing need for salvation outside of Christianity became more and more evident.  This suggestion Christians often regarded as merely naïve, anarchical and immature.

And yet you are Christian only so long as you look forward to a new world, so long as you constantly pose critical questions to the society you live in, so long as  you emphasize the need of conversion both for yourself and for the world, so long as you stay unsatisfied with the status quo and keep saying that a new world is yet to come.  You are a Christian only when you believe that you have a role to play in the realization of this new kingdom, and when you urge everyone you meet with a holy unrest to make haste so that the promise might soon be fulfilled.  So long as you live as a Christian you keep looking for a new order, a new structure, a new life.

What new order, new structure, or new life is needed in your life?  What needs to change?

This newness will not happen right away.  When we decide to change our lives, it takes time. We have to wait.  Today when you find yourself having to wait, slow down and view the situation as a blessing, and then journal about the experience and what it was like to look at waiting as a blessing.

Pray:

Almighty God, may Your Holy Spirit dwell in the midst of our lives as we prepare to wait.  Guide us to be be patient while we wait.  Help us to slow down to hear Your voice and to see Your blessings.  Amen.

Promise Fulfilled?

Read Jeremiah 33:14-16. 

At the time in which Jeremiah shared his prophecy, the Babylonians had conquered Israel.  As a result, the Israel people were exiled all over the Babylonian empire.  Everything that God had promised to the people seemed to be gone!  What happened?  Where was God in this?  The temple was destroyed.  Their homes were destroyed.  Families were separated.  God was in this?

The people longed to hear from God.

How often do we ask the same question.  Is God in this? We are surrounded by destruction. There is great suffering in our community and around the world. Is God in this? There is bullying in our schools. Is God in this? There is so much conflict in our families. Is God in this?

As a prophet, Jeremiah is the voice box of God.  Jeremiah gives the people hope in the promise of a new leader; a kingly leader who will rule in the tradition of David, the greatest king of Israel.  We know this king to be the Messiah, Jesus. This is what we prepare for during Advent, the coming of the promised Messiah who will change everything!

What does hope mean to you?   What do you hope for?  In what ways do you need Jesus to change everything?

We are surrounded by a lot of noise and voices in our society, in our schools, and in our homes.  With all of these voices, it is hard to hear the voice of God, leaving us wondering if God is even around.  Today, create a space where you can listen to God speaking to you.  Listen for God’s voice of hope in your life. In a journal, write down what you hear from God.

Prayer:

Holy One who promises the coming Messiah, be with us and guide us as we prepare and wait this Advent season. Help us to hear Your voice in the midst of so many other voices demanding our attention. Help us to see you in the midst of destructive lives. Amen.

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