Home Altar: Week of October 17, 2021

by Sherin Swift

Sunday, October 17
Psalm 104:1-9 1

Control Belongs to God 

The psalmist draws on the imagery of the creation account to remind us of the great care God took in shaping our world out of chaos. The psalmist acknowledges that even the fiercest elements in the natural world are mere playthings to God, who fashioned them with his own words. All around us are signs that God has put limits around that which would be far outside of our control. When life seems chaotic, we can remember that it is God who causes the waters to flee with a simple rebuke. When the unexpected happens, we can trust the One who has the power to create the world around us from nothing, yet also loves us enough to send us his word into the winds. When we experience events outside of our control, may we do as the psalmist does and take comfort in the reminders that surround us—that the One who set the mountains in place will hold onto us as well.

Lord, in a world filled with anxiety, help us to look at your world, and remember the invitation to rest in your provision. AMEN.

Monday, October 18
Psalm 104:10-23

Created for Joy

God not only created for our needs, but also for our pleasure. To stop and delight in the beauty found in someone else’s face is to worship the God who has provided for both joy and necessity. The order of the world around us is more than functional, it is marvelous and meant to be savored. But do we stop to revel in it? I recall many days while parenting young children when I felt guilty for slowing down to take in the beauty of a gorgeous day instead of attending to the laundry. It is easy for us to get lost in our day-to-day work, the routines of family life or ministry, and the demands of our various roles as a child, sibling, friend, employee, or caretaker. While we recognize our responsibilities, let us also pause to take in the joy God has set before us.

Lord, help us to revel in the simple pleasures that surround us, the beautiful things that you have created to be enjoyed.  AMEN.

Tuesday, October 19
Job 38:1-7, 34-41

Our Limitations and His Goodness

In my previous career as an accountant, clients often wondered why tax filings took so long to complete. Did it really take so long to get it right? While a 1040 form is just two pages and a handful of numbers, they often didn’t realize the amount of documentation and calculation each one required! Similarly, our limited understanding may cause us to doubt God’s goodness or trust in his wisdom. From the earliest days of humanity’s existence, we have struggled to reconcile our limitations with God’s goodness. When Job and his friends question God’s goodness, God responds by giving Job a peek into his reign over the world. Coordinating the needs of the whole world would be overwhelming to any human being. We want to be able to make demands of God, but none of us can take on the burden of his sovereignty. We can ask the questions, but we are often unable to fathom the complexity of the answer. Instead, the invitation in the doubts is to recognize our limitations and trust in the proven character and wisdom of God.

Lord, help us to embrace our limitations, that we might also see and trust your goodness. AMEN.

Wednesday, October 20
Isaiah 52:13–53:3

Like a Root Out of Dry Ground

At some point in our lives, we may find ourselves in an impossible situation—without the necessary resources and support, trapped in places and systems beyond our human ability to solve. For some of us, it feels we are constantly faced with these situations on multiple sides. When I was orphaned at 17, I was suddenly very uncertain about the bright and hopeful future I had envisioned. I could not see a way forward that would allow me to sustain the demands of school mentally, emotionally, or financially. Even so, God provided in many ways so that I could finish high school and even college in spite of the obstacles on my path. Against all odds, it was one of the most healing seasons of my life.

God ensures his purposes are accomplished, regardless of how impossible the situation appears to be. Scripture repeatedly testifies about God causing his people to flourish in the unlikeliest circumstances. Where have you seen God sustain you in the dark and dry times?

Lord, we know nothing is impossible with you. Sustain us, grow us, and cause us to flourish where we are today. AMEN.

Thursday, October 21
Isaiah 53:4-12

We Accounted Him Stricken

When I read this passage, I am humbled that our human measures of success are often misleading. Like the first man and woman, our ability to judge good from evil is poor. As Jesus was crucified, it seemed his ministry was a failure. Most of his followers dispersed, and his miraculous powers appeared ineffective as he was battered and bruised. His disciples feared for their lives. As he hung on the cross and breathed his last, it seemed all hope was gone. He was dead and buried, and it looked as though the movement he started was swallowed by the grave. But what could not be imagined in those three days was that Jesus was not done yet. The cross was a source of shame, yet God’s glory was shining through as he conquered both in the resurrection. God uses the weak, the humble, the ugly, and the foolish to make his purposes known and to demonstrate his glory. Even now, there is no place in our lives beyond his resurrection power.

Lord, anchor us in the hope of your resurrection power today.  AMEN.

Friday, October 22
Mark 10:32-45

A New Standard of Greatness




Multiple times in the New Testament we are cautioned to guard ourselves against selfish ambition. But that also means we can have ambitions that are directed well. Paul says his ambition is to preach the Good News wherever it has not yet been preached. How are we channeling our focus? Are we blinded by our own quest for fame and money, or are we advancing God’s glory and kingdom? James and John approach Jesus to secure seats of honor in his kingdom, thinking only of the proximity to power. By the world’s standards, these positions would be a universal, undeniable win. Instead, Jesus directs the disciples to a new standard of greatness—one of service. Using his own life as an example, he demonstrates that the path to prominence in God’s kingdom is humility.

In serving one another, we are making Jesus’s name famous, becoming part of God’s work that will last through eternity. Like James and John, have you let the ambitions celebrated by this world distract you from the goals Jesus has for you as his follower?

Lord, give us your heart and your ambitions for our time in this world.  AMEN.

Saturday, October 23
Hebrews 5:1-5

The Throne of Grace

Unlike every high priest before him, Jesus fully understood our struggles without succumbing to temptation himself. In perfect humility he received God’s call to the role as the quintessential High Priest, the Supreme Mediator between us and God. I think back to times when I was afraid to ask for help, worried it would indicate weakness or leave me exposed and vulnerable. And the culture in particular organizations or systems may make that a well-founded fear. But it is isolating and exhausting to constantly keep your guard up.

In the same way, we may avoid confession and repentance because we think it might compound our sense of guilt and condemnation when, in fact, the opposite is true. Because of Christ, we can come to the throne of grace unashamed and be assured that we will be greeted with mercy and help in our time of need. Are you struggling today with a sin or burden? Do not hesitate to kneel in prayer. Jesus’s grace and mercy await you.

Lord, remind us daily that you deal gently with us as our High Priest.  AMEN.

About the Author: Sherin Swift

I am the connections and equipping pastor at New Life Fellowship Church, a multiethnic church in Queens, NYC. I am a lifelong New Yorker who hails from the Bronx. I have the honor of serving others through the preached Word, creating environments for teaching and growth, writing, and providing pastoral care. I have a unique perspective as a former atheist and abuse survivor, and I have developed a particular passion for those who have their faith disrupted by trauma and suffering as well as those who have stagnated in their faith journey. I was ordained by the Evangelical Covenant Church in June 2021.

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