Secret Oil and Pervasive Grace

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Secret Oil and Pervasive Grace

By Travis West on June 26, 2022

Read: 2 Kings 4:1-7

Shut the door. (v. 4)

Two important details in this story are easily overlooked: the role of the neighbors and the fact that the miracle takes place behind closed doors. We’ll take them each in turn. First, it is clear that the community had turned its back on the woman and her plight. The situation the woman and her children found themselves in should not have happened since the Law required the community to care for the widow and orphan (remember Exodus 22 from a few days ago). Elisha tells the widow to borrow vessels from her neighbors, a curious detail. Hold that thought. Second, Elisha tells the widow to shut the doors of her house before pouring the oil into the vessels. Another curious detail! Why would Elisha tell her to do such a thing? I think these two curious details are intimately related.

After the oil miraculously multiplies and then stops just when the vessels are full, Elisha tells the woman to sell the oil (v. 7). To whom would she sell it? Who else; to her neighbors! The very ones who had turned their backs on her had inadvertently enabled the miracle by lending her vessels. Now the miracle oil is filling their bellies, healing their wounds, lighting their homes, and they have no idea where it came from. It’s the same way with God’s grace, though we miss it more often than not. Every meal, every healing touch, every bright spot in our lives, is a gift of grace. —Travis West

As you pray, ask God to help you see his grace.

Life and Death

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Life and Death

By Travis West on June 25, 2022

Read: 2 Kings 4:1-7

Your servant my husband is dead. (v. 1)

This story is a roller-coaster ride of emotions, beginning in the depths of human tragedy—a father dies before his time, leaving a widow and two young children helpless and vulnerable—and ending with the soaring declaration: you and your sons can live (v. 7).

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before the soaring declaration is a long period of profound turbulence. This story is about death and life. It is also a story about power; which has more power, life or death? Death is presented as an insatiable force, literally eating the woman out of house and home, leaving her cupboards, her table, her bank account, her bedroom, and even her future empty. Death isn’t satisfied until it has taken everything you have. Death took from this woman the resources required for her to live, and now through the debt collector it also threatens to rob her of her last remaining joy and the source of her hope—her children.

But in this story, as in so many other stories in the Bible, death does not get the last word. In fact, almost the last word in the story is “live.” Through the ministry of Elisha, God has transformed the woman’s fortunes from death to life. We are compelled to ask with the apostle Paul, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1. Cor. 15:55). This story testifies that with God life is more powerful than death. Life wins! —Travis West

As you pray, thank God for the gift of life.

Once or Twice?

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Once or Twice?

By Travis West on June 24, 2022

Read: 2 Kings 2:1-18

When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other. (v. 14 NRSV)

The Hebrew language is as different from English as any two languages can be. The structure of its grammar, the ways that words connect to make meaning (syntax), and even the range of meaning of individual words make reading the Hebrew Bible a profoundly cross-cultural experience. Not to mention a perennial challenge for translators! One passage that has confounded translators for centuries has to do with how many times Elisha strikes the waters of the Jordan River.

The confusion is created by a peculiar grammatical construction in the Hebrew. The act of striking the water is narrated twice, once before and once after Elisha’s cry: “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” (v. 14). The second narration can read either: “When he had struck the waters, they were parted,” or “And again, he struck the waters.” So, did he strike once or twice? Does it matter?

It does! If Elisha had to strike twice, this means his first attempt at dividing the waters failed, and he had to call on the name of the Lord and try again. I think Elisha’s first act as a prophet was a failure—the waters did not part for him immediately. But he reoriented himself toward God and tried again, this time with success! Maybe this is a reminder that if we ask for the “double portion” (v. 9), we should be prepared to work twice as hard! —Travis West

As you pray, ask God to strengthen you for the work he has called you to do.

The Passing of the Mantle

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

The Passing of the Mantle

By Travis West on June 23, 2022

Read: 2 Kings 2:1-18

He picked up the mantle of Elijah. (v. 13 NRSV)

In high school I ran on the track team. One of my least favorite events was the 4×400 meter relay. I didn’t like it for two reasons. First, it is a grueling race; running 400 meters as fast as you can leaves you completely exhausted, every muscle in your body crying for mercy. The second reason I disliked it was because we didn’t practice passing the baton very often, and I always feared I would drop it and disqualify my team.

Transitions—in sports or in leadership—are never easy. Elijah took his job as God’s prophet with ferocious seriousness; he didn’t want the mantle dropped. Elisha, likewise, was serious about becoming a prophet but didn’t know what it was like to bear the title: “Man of God.” Ultimately it was God who ensured the successful succession of the prophetic ministry in Israel.

After Elijah’s dazzling departure, Elisha picked up his mantle. He didn’t sulk, he wasn’t paralyzed by anxiety, he simply took up where his mentor left off and headed back to the Jordan. It was now his responsibility to lead God’s people “further up and further in” to God’s preferred future. But the mantle didn’t only fall from Elijah. Eventually it would fall from Elisha too and be taken up by another prophet. The baton has been passed down for centuries, and through Christ we all must pick it up—now shaped as a cross—and follow in Jesus’ footsteps into God’s preferred future. —Travis West

As you pray, ask God to empower you to pick up your mantle and follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

A World without Birds

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

A World without Birds

By Denise Vredevoogd on June 22, 2022

Read: Jeremiah 4:23-28

I looked, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the air had fled. (v. 25)

The July 2, 2021, issue of The Old Farmer’s Almanac contained an article about birds’ sensitivity to temperature and barometric pressure. Watching their behavior can help us predict the weather. For example, they are often silent before a storm and will fly either higher or lower depending on air density and pressure. When we consider how marvelously God has designed his creatures, we stand in awe.

We should also stand in reverence and awe after reading about the implications of a world void of birds and what could cause this. Many prophetic passages refer to the disappearance of birds as a result of divine judgment (see Jer. 9:10; 12:4; Hosea 4:3; Zeph. 1:3). The desolation of the land and the absence of beasts and birds represented God’s withdrawal of favor from his disobedient people. How sobering to think that as humans, our refusal to follow God and his requirements can have such a devastating effect on nature.

The impending disasters that Jeremiah foretold could be avoided only one way—by a humble, penitent, and obedient return to God. Perhaps that is the way to experience nature’s renewal and blessings upon his creatures, by heeding the word of the Lord so instead it may be said that “the flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land” (Song 2:12). —Denise Vredevoogd

As you pray, humbly ask God for forgiveness, mercy, and renewal for yourself, mankind, and all creation.

A Descending Dove

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

A Descending Dove

By Denise Vredevoogd on June 21, 2022

Read: Matthew 3:13-17

The Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22 NIV)

The nurses in a local hospice facility attach a laminated white paper dove to the wall outside the room whenever a patient dies, symbolizing release from this life to the next and providing a comforting visual for grieving family members.

One summer, a lovely white dove (or pigeon) regularly visited our deck. He had a dignified, intriguing appearance, and our son named him Wingston. Each leg had a colored band, so we assumed he was a homing pigeon or had been tagged for an ecological study. After a couple months, he stopped coming by and we missed seeing him perch on the railing or rooftop. He had become a messenger of peace during an unsettling period in our son’s life.

Because of its role in Jesus’ baptism, the dove has also come to represent the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 4, this same Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, and it was the power and peace of the Holy Spirit that enabled Jesus to withstand the Devil’s temptations. The voice accompanying the dove had declared the Father’s love and delight. As this audible and tangible evidence of God’s presence helped prepare Jesus for his life’s ministry, so God’s Spirit lives within every believer, empowering them for life and service. —Denise Vredevoogd

As you pray, thank God for visible reminders of his presence and peace.

Like a Hen and Her Chicks

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Like a Hen and Her Chicks

By Denise Vredevoogd on June 20, 2022

Read: Isaiah 31:1-5

How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. (Matt. 23:37 NIV)

The word woe expresses grief, regret, or distress (Webster’s). Isaiah 31 begins with a “woe . . .” warning to those who trust in military might but not God. Matthew 23 lists seven woes addressed to the scribes and Pharisees, whom Jesus called out as “blind guides” and “hypocrites.” Jesus used strong language to condemn their hypocrisy, violent actions, and attitudes. Then in poignant contrast, in language similar to Isaiah 31:5 Jesus described his protective care of Jerusalem using the image of a hen sheltering and protecting her vulnerable young.

Similar imagery was used by Boaz when he spoke kindly to Ruth: “The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” (Ruth 2:12). The text of William O. Cushing’s gospel song “Under His Wings,” based on Psalm 91:4, echoes the same refrain: “Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow! How the heart yearningly turns to His rest! Often when earth has no balm for my healing, There I find comfort, and there I am blest.”

If you are overwhelmed by news of persecution and violence in the world or by personal trials and struggles, allow yourself to be gathered under the Father’s wings of protection and refuge. He longs to care for you. —Denise Vredevoogd

As you pray, find comfort in turning to God who gently covers your soul.

Worth More Than Sparrows

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Worth More Than Sparrows

By Denise Vredevoogd on June 19, 2022

Read: Matthew 10:26-33

You are of more value than many sparrows. (v. 31)

If you are familiar with gospel tunes, the song “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” probably comes to mind when you read this passage. The repeated phrase “I know He watches me” provides comfort and reassurance because God is good, and as our Father he knows and cares about whatever situation we’re in. I think of this verse whenever a bird flies into our large picture window overlooking the deck where our birdfeeders are. Sometimes the bird flies off, leaving a feather or a smudge. Sometimes it falls to the deck, stunned, and eventually recovers. But other times, I sadly carry away a limp, motionless creature that didn’t survive the impact.

Even though God cares about each sparrow, he doesn’t suspend the law of gravity. Birds will die, accidents happen, but still that doesn’t negate his presence or love. These comforting words in Matthew 10 (as well as in Luke 12, a similar passage) are tucked between admonitions and warnings about persecution, divisions, fears, and loss of life, reminding us that our loving Father knows us intimately, and we are of great value to him.

That is why we can confidently sing, “When songs give place to sighing, When hope within me dies, I draw the closer to him, From care He sets me free; His eye is on the sparrow, And I know He watches me” (Civilla D. Martin). —Denise Vredevoogd

As you pray, draw close to God and thank him for his watchful eye over you.

The Praise of Birds

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

The Praise of Birds

By Denise Vredevoogd on June 18, 2022

Read: Psalm 104:10-17

Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; they sing among the branches. (v. 12)

Before I sat down to write this, I opened the window so I could hear the birds in the background. I’m not skilled in identifying individual bird calls (or imitating them, as my sons are), but listening to birdsong is a beautiful way to begin the morning and a soothing way to end the day. The mourning dove’s plaintive coo or an oriole’s trill comforts me. When my husband was in the ICU, our daughter played recordings on her phone that combined soothing music with bird sounds, creating a peaceful atmosphere in a stressful situation.

In Psalm 148:13, all of creation is invited to “praise the name of the LORD.” Birds fulfill this mandate by doing what they’re designed to do: warble, tweet, caw, and chirp. They praise God instinctually, but we can praise God intentionally. Sometimes praising God doesn’t come naturally for us, and we must focus our hearts and minds on who God is and his unique purpose for us. Unlike the birds, we’re designed to have a personal relationship with our Creator. As the psalmist concluded this song, he exclaimed, “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD” (vv. 33-34).

Whenever birdsong penetrates the air, may we be reminded of our privilege to personally and intentionally praise our Maker. —Denise Vredevoogd

As you pray, sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.

The Ostrich Paradox

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

The Ostrich Paradox

Denise Vredevoogd June 17, 2022

Read: Job 39:13-18

The ostrich flaps her wings futilely—all those beautiful feathers, but useless! (v. 13 MSG)

What an enigma! This large, flightless bird, averaging eight feet tall with a long neck and long legs, is not described in complimentary terms in this passage. She neglects her offspring and lacks wisdom and common sense, yet “when she runs, oh, how she runs, laughing, leaving horse and rider in the dust” (v. 18 MSG). She looks gangly and awkward, but can run up to 40 mph.

The ostrich is also a symbol for people who avoid reality by “burying their heads in the sand,” even though technically ostriches don’t do that. It only appears that way because, since their feathers aren’t designed for flying, when they feel threatened they lie down with their heads against the ground, blending in with the color of the sand. Yet they fight with their feet and a good solid kick could kill a lion. They can be both fearful and brave.

Throughout this section in Job, God described other natural aspects that we find hard to understand, reminding us of animals that we did not create and cannot control, reminding Job (and us) that God is in charge. We might consider the ostrich an oddity among birds, but the God of the universe has a purpose for his creation. As Job acknowledged, “I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans.” (Job 42:1 MSG). —Denise Vredevoogd

As you pray, praise God for his omnipotent plan, creativity and wisdom.

The Friendly Church