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Devotional Texts for January 2024

Mercy beyond our control – Jonah 3:1-5, 10

“God changed his mind.” (v. 10)

Jonah is a classic children’s Bible story full of wild adventure. It’s also the kind of fish tale about which and evangelist would love to boast: “I walked across the city and my preaching was so powerful that the entire city, even the king, repented and believe in God!”

This story is exciting and fun – but not for Jonah. Jonah rides in the belly of a fish, not seeking adventure but vehemently resisting God’s call to go to Nineveh. He resists God’s call not because he’s lazy or shy, but because he doesn’t want the Ninevites, his enemies, to receive God’s mercy. But as Jonah learns, God’s mercy is not for him to control, but is God’s alone.

It’s a wonder God chooses us, fickle and often completely unreliable messengers, to bring God’s word of love and mercy to the world. Yet, this is an act of God’s mercy too, isn’t it? Just when we think we are only the messengers, we feel, drop by drop, the shower of God’s mercy flowing upon us as well.

God of love, help us extend to others the mercy we’ve received from your hand. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Reproduced by Permission of Augsburg Fortress, taken from the Christ In Our Home devotional Quarter 1, 2024.

Our hope and home – Psalm 46

“Therefore we will not fear.” (v. 2)

The Psalms have provided people of faith with words of prayer, lament, and praise to God for thousands of years in every imaginable situation. The beauty and power of the poetic images and the range of human emotions expressed within the Psalms are stunning and timeless.

Psalm 46 speaks a truth about God that is bigger than any challenge or fear we may face in this life. The psalmist does not shy away from naming even the most extreme situations, including natural disasters and war, when declaring God as the one who will subdue all that threatens us in body, mind and spirit. “God is our refuge and strength” (v. 1), the ultimate source of peace who will prevail. You may be enduring or escaping conflict in your country or home, battling an addiction or diagnosis that threatens your life, or sitting next to a beloved who is suffering. In any and every place and situation, these words of promise are for you. Be still. Do not fear. God is with you.

God, when we are afraid, protect us in the still pool of your peace, through Christ. Amen.

Reproduced by Permission of Augsburg Fortress, taken from the Christ In Our Home devotional Quarter 1, 2024.

Surrounded by gifts – Psalm 111

“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.” (v. 2)

Years ago I began a spiritual practice that engages the five bodily senses – sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste – to open awareness of simply being alive in the present moment. I particularly like doing this outside and focusing on the natural world, but inside is great too. Try it with me!

Begin by noticing and naming five colors you see. Take your time. Regard each thing. Now, listen. Can you hear four sounds? Maybe birds singing, a cat purring, children, music? Now, notice three smells. I love the smell of fir trees in the salty air in my part of the world. Now touch. What two things can you touch? Smooth, furry, prickly, grainy? And what is one thing you taste? If I can’t taste anything, I imagine what I would love to be tasting. Now, take a deep breath and give thanks.

I consistently find this simple practice leading to gratitude for the many great works of God with which God delights us so that we might know God’s love for us.

Teach us, O God, to delight in your works, that we may grow in your wisdom, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Reproduced by Permission of Augsburg Fortress, taken from the Christ In Our Home devotional Quarter 1, 2024.