Home Altar: Week of May 9, 2021

by Dave Guertin

Something Worth Celebrating

Sunday, May 9

As a lifelong New England sports fan (I grew up in Rhode Island), I vividly remember in 2004 when the Boston Red Sox came from a 0-3 game deficit to come back and break “the curse of the Bambino” by defeating the New York Yankees to win the American League Championship Series. They went on to win the World Series—it was magical and exhilarating. The celebrations involving parades, concerts, fireworks, and so on, lasted for weeks.

When was the last time any of us celebrated the presence of God in the same way? We are called by the psalmist to “make a joyful noise to the LORD” (v. 4) because he has done amazing things. And as wonderful as those things are, God will do even more when God comes in his fullness at the consummation of the ages. Let us take time to remember all the good things God has done in our lives and find ways to celebrate and make known God’s overwhelming goodness.

Holy God, thank you for all the ways you show your unrelenting, pursuing love for me. Grant me the grace and strength to both celebrate your love and proclaim it in my life. AMEN.

A Change of Heart

Monday, May 10
Zechariah 7:2-6; 8:18-19

When I was young, I went to church for all the “wrong” reasons. I went because my parents required me to go. I wanted to see my friends. I went because sometimes an older gentleman would give me a quarter, and my grandmother was always good for lifesavers and a back rub during the sermons. It wasn’t until I had a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ that my motives changed. I was still doing many of the same things, but now it was about worshiping Jesus and being with his people to encourage and be encouraged.

What we do does matter, but it’s not nearly as important as why we do it, especially in the eyes of God. When we engage in spiritual, religious practices out of a response to God’s love for us and our love for God, then those practices become full of joy and celebration instead of agonizing drudgery. My prayer is that we would rediscover the joy of engaging with God in a loving response to his amazing grace.

Loving God, help me be aware of my motives in why I do the things I do. Help me to find joy and celebrate your gift of love found in Jesus Christ. AMEN.

Matters of Fairness

Tuesday, May 11

Kids have an innate sense of right and wrong, of what’s fair and what’s not—especially if they’re the ones being short-changed. I remember playing at recess at school and how if anyone tried to bend the rules of any game you could hear the cry of, “Not fair!” from across the playground. No one likes to be cheated or ill-used in any way.

God asks us to make sure that we treat others fairly, kindly, and mercifully. We are asked to make sure the most vulnerable, the most marginalized people are treated with justice, fairness, and mercy. We do this because that’s how God has treated us in Christ Jesus. This is how we live in the kingdom of God here and now.

Merciful Lord, thank you for your steadfast love and kindness toward us. Give us your grace that we might extend that same love, mercy, and kindness to everyone we encounter along life’s way. AMEN.

The Law of Love

Wednesday, May 12
John 15:9-13

I was in a rush to get back to my workplace when I saw the telltale red and blue lights in my rearview mirror. I had been speeding and had no good excuse. I had failed to obey because in that moment, I believed the rules didn’t apply to me. My natural, human tendency is to obey rules and laws because I’m afraid of the consequences. In many ways that was why I followed Scripture’s instructions. But Jesus tells us our obedience is to come from a different place—from a place of love.

Keeping, holding, and obeying God’s commandments originates in God’s unfailing, relentless love for us found in Jesus Christ. As I embrace God’s love for me, my desire is to please him by doing what God wants me to do, just as a young child seeks to please his or her parent because of love. For me, this becomes “the law of love.” It’s a law based not in legalistic fear but in a confident love of Jesus and his love for me.

Lord Jesus, help me embrace your steadfast love for me so I can love you and follow your intention for my life. AMEN.

Awesome Indeed

Thursday, May 13 | Ascension

Back when I lived in Rhode Island one of my favorite things to do was to drive down to the ocean when a big storm was offshore and to watch and listen to the pounding of the massive waves. The waves beating on the rocks could be deafening. The wind would blow sea spray into my face, and I could both smell and taste the saltwater. The experience of the power of nature would overwhelm my senses, and I loved it.

Yet the psalmist rightly tells us that as powerful as the most extremes of creation can be, that doesn’t compare to the majesty of the Lord. A deep encounter with the living God of creation is even more awesome. Everything about God inspires our worship. What I find equally amazing is that this same God invites us into a relationship with God’s self through the person of Jesus Christ who calls us “beloved.” Awesome indeed.

Majestic and awesome God, thank you for the experience of your majesty we witness in creation. Help us never to lose that sense of wonder and worship in our relationship with you. AMEN.

Cause for Obedience

Friday, May 14
John 15:14-15

Several years ago I worked in a mailroom. My immediate boss was someone I found easy to like, and therefore it was easy to do the things he asked me to do. I’ve had other bosses who did not inspire such loyalty, and I did what was asked because I needed the job. But my boss in the mailroom treated me as a friend. He treated me as someone he respected as part of his team. And I certainly considered him a friend and still do to this day.

At first, Jesus’s words may sound as if his friendship has to be earned—that if we do what he asks, he’ll call us “friends.” But a more careful reading shows something quite different. It’s because Jesus loves us and calls us friends that we are able to do the things he calls us to do. Our obedience doesn’t cause Jesus to love us; Jesus’s love for us and our love for him is what causes our obedience. May our love for Jesus increase more and more.

Lord Jesus, thank you for calling us to be your friends. Thank you for your undeserved love for us. Help us to find the grace to return your love as we seek to love one another better. AMEN.

Love’s Choice

Saturday, May 15
John 15:16-17

I dreaded gym and recess in elementary school. I was not particularly athletic, I was overweight and not particularly popular. I hated when it came time to choose sides for team games. The two most popular kids usually became the captains who took turns picking their teams. Inevitably I would be one of the last, if not the last, to be chosen. I wondered if anyone would ever genuinely want me.

The words of Jesus in this text took a while to register with me. But when I embraced the truth that Jesus chose me long before I chose him, the walls of protection I had built up over the years finally broke down. The truth of his relentless, pursuing love for me won out over my fears of rejection. He actually chose me. He actually chose you too.

Thank you for choosing me, Jesus. Help me to bear the fruit of your love as I seek to love others in your name. AMEN.

About the Author: Dave Guertin

I currently serve as pastor at the Valleys Evangelical Covenant Church in Halifax, Pennsylvania, where I have lived with my wife of 25 years, Laurel, and our son, Seth. I am also currently enrolled in the Certificate for Spiritual Direction program at North Park Theological Seminary. I enjoy playing guitar, bass guitar, and drums whenever I can. I also enjoy hiking, fly-fishing and fly tying, photography, and being out in nature. I hope to begin hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail soon.

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