Use this devo as you are able, in whole or in part. Don’t feel compelled to read it all. Simply read and meditate upon whatever catches your attention. The goal is enjoying time with God through His Word and in prayer. Questions about the devotional elements?
Call to Prayer
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Prayer of Confession
Confession is formative. It trains us to recognize the ways our hearts have become de-formed and how Christ is at work bringing redemption in our lives. Pray with this in mind.
God of all that is, was, and will be, you hold it all in your hands. And yet,
I confess that my heart is often like that of Jacob: wanting the moon, but not its Maker.
Remake my self-sufficient heart, O God, and hobble me to do it if you must.
It is surely better to walk alongside you with a limp than to sprint through this wilderness alone.
But don’t stop there! Continue working out your redemption of me by your Spirit
And not just today, but tomorrow, and every sunset and sunrise until I return to the dust. Amen.
Take a moment to confess your sins, knowing that he hears you.
This reading plan will help you to develop the habit of being in God’s Word each morning and evening. Come to this time with expectation. Expect God to reveal himself to you. Expect that he delights in you being there, even when you’ve wandered away. Growing a spiritual habit is a slow, patient process. So be kind to yourself as you grow!
Readings are hyperlinked. Simply hover over the passage or click Morning/Evening Reading (email version).
Praying the Psalms: Read slowly. Take note of words and phrases. Bring them before the Lord in prayer and personalize the passage as you pray.
NT Context: “Paul’s letter to the Ephesians joins together what has been torn apart in our sin-wrecked world. He begins with an exuberant exploration of what Christians believe about God, and then, like a surgeon skillfully setting a compound fracture, “sets” this belief in God into our behavior before God so that the bones—belief and behavior—knit together and heal.” Meditate on the passage, noting a few words or a phrase that stood out. Take them to God in prayer.
OT Context: “The book of Deuteronomy is organized as a series of addresses given by Moses to the people of Israel in the land of Moab, where they had stopped at the end of the long wilderness journey and were about to enter and occupy Canaan…The great theme of the book is that God has saved and blessed his chosen people, whom he loves; so his people are to remember this, and love and obey him, so that they may have life and continued blessing. The key verses of the book are 6:4–6, and contain the words that Jesus called the greatest of all commandments, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”Reflect on the passage. Who was the original audience, and what was their situation? How is that relevant to you today?
Each day this devo will tread along a variety of paths connected to the week’s theme in Knowing God. Consider this your invitation to come along for the ride as we head into the wilds of coming to know and experience God’s person and grace.
You can probably tell by now, dear reader, that I absolutely love Frederick Buechner’s take on the life of Jacob in Son of Laughter. His retelling of the story undoes our tendency dress Jacob up in saintly garb. Here the story comes alive in all its earthy detail and, in doing so, draws us in to see the God of Jacob in his fearsome beauty and mystery. I don’t want to ruin your enjoyment of the book if you do in fact pick it up someday at a secondhand bookshop (or Jeff’s quaint online bookshop), so we’ll join the narrative in the moments after Jacob’s crippling:
“I knew I was crippled and done for. I could do nothing but cling now. I clung for dear life. I clung for dear death. My arms trussed him. My legs locked him.
For the first time he spoke. He said, “Let me go.”
The words were more breath than sound. They scalded my neck where his mouth was touching. He said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.”
Only then did I see it, the first faint shudder of light behind the farthest hills. I said, “I will not let you go.” I would not let him go for fear that the day would take him as the dark had given him.
It was my life I clung to. My enemy was my life. My life was my enemy. I said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Even if his blessing meant death, I wanted it more than life. “Bless me,” I said. “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
He said, “Who are you?”
There was mud in my eyes, my ears and nostrils, my hair. My name tasted of mud when I spoke it. “Jacob,” I said. “My name is Jacob.”
“It is Jacob no longer,” he said. “Now you are Israel. You have wrestled with God and with men. You have prevailed. That is the meaning of the name Israel.”
I said, “What is your name?” I could only whisper it.
“Why do you ask me my name?”
We were both of us whispering. He did not wait for my answer. He blessed me as I had asked him. I do not remember the words of his blessing or even if there were words. I remember the blessing of his arms holding me and the blessing of his arms letting me go. I remember as blessing the black shape of him against the rose-colored sky.
I remember as blessing the one glimpse I had of his face. It was more terrible than the face of dark, or of pain, or of terror. It was the face of light. No words can tell of it. Silence cannot tell of it. Sometimes I cannot believe that I saw it and lived but that I only dreamed I saw it. Sometimes I believe I saw it and that I only dream I live.
He never told me his name. The Fear of Isaac, the Shield of Abraham, and others like them are names we use because we do not know his true name. He did not tell me his true name. Perhaps he did not tell it because he knew I would never stop calling on it. But I gave the place where I saw him a name. I named it Peniel. It means the face of God.
The sun’s rim was just starting to show over the top of the gorge by the time I finally crossed the Jabbok. Bands of gold fanned across the sky. I staggered through the rocky shallows, one hip dipping deep at each new step and my head bobbing. It is the way I have walked ever since.
From that day to this I have moved through the world like a cripple with the new name the Fear gave me that night by the river when he gave me his blessing and crippled me.”
Reflect: When Jacob met God he was transformed. It was a renewal worked out over a lifetime, but a metamorphosis nonetheless. You don’t come face-to-face with God and leave the same. What has been the nature of your encounter with God’s grace? A wrestling match? A peaceful collapse? A crippling? A healing? Spend time today thanking him for how his grace is at work in you.
Evening Prayer of Examen
Where did you move with or feel close to Jesus today?
Where did you resist or feel far from Jesus today?
Where is Jesus leading you tomorrow? Ask for joy as you follow him.
Now may the God who did not hold back His very own Son but handed him over for us all, provide you with every good thing you need in order to do His will and do in you what pleases Him. Amen. (based on Romans 8:32)