Dr. Gina Orton (right), my wife Denise and me, outside Church in Punta Cana
I love the house of the Lord. I love the music, prayers, candles, the sacraments and company of those who believe in the Lord. It does not matter if I am in Detroit, in the Dominican Republic of Dakar, Senegal, I get goosebumps when I am in the presence of the glory of the Lord.
One day in the middle of a “Married Couples Weekend of Romance in Punta Cana, handful of us broke away from the “Reservation” of an “All-Inclusive” resort and took a tour of a nearby town. The high point of the excursion was a tour of a local catholic church. It did not matter that we could not understand the language. It did not matter that we were surrounded by perhaps a thousand people we did not know. What bound us together was our love for the Lord.
While I was thrilled to be in the temple of the Lord, Paul taught that our “Body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.” Each of us has been blessed by God with a body, a mind and a spirit. Every one of us has been made by God, shaped by God and directed by God to live lives us meaning, purpose and value. I encourage you this day to grasp the glory that is within you, around you, above you and behind you. Let your glory shine and share the good news of the salvation of Jesus Christ with all whom you meet.
1 Corinthians 6: 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. 
Questions for Reflection:
What are your thoughts about the “Temple of the Holy Spirit within you?”
Prayer: Lord, I love your habitation. Your Word is my light and my joy. The songs of Zion, the prayers of the faithful, candles of prayer, the blessings of the preacher and the shadow of the cross draw me closer to you. Bind me closer, Lord. By your stripes I am made whole. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior I pray. Amen
Out of Zion, the Perfection of Beauty, God Shines Forth!
Recently, several members of my church participated in a “Married Couples Weekend of Romance in Punta Cana. Seemingly on cue, each of the women had their nails painted in a wonderful array of colors. Their toes seemed to proclaim the majesty of the beauty of God. After the last session on marriage where the question was asked, “What do you want to receive from God?”, I asked all the females to arrange their feet in a beautiful circle. While the shine on the toes was external, it seemed to point to a deeper shine within the spirit of each of the women.
While the painted toes were beautiful, the perfection of beauty is found in God almighty. God’s shine does not wear out. God’s shine will never grow dull. The shine of God is true and everlasting. As I think of those beauty toes, I think of Psalm 50 where David proclaims that through the perfection of beauty that is God, God shines forth:
Psalm 50: 2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth. 
God shines forth through our faith, our hope and our love. God shines when we try to live the way God has ordained that we might life. God shines through our dreams, hopes and aspirations. God shines through our disappointment when we strive to keep pushing, hoping and dreaming. I encourage you today to hold on in faith, no matter what your challenge might be and God will sustain you, bless you, and shine through you.
Questions for Reflection:
What are your thoughts about the “Beauty of Zion”?
How does God “shine forth” through the beauty of human beings?
What is the essence of beauty?
Prayer: Shine through me Lord! Let your light shine above me, around me, beside me and through me. Grant me faith. Grant me hope. Grant me love. Shine through me, Lord! Through Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior I pray. Amen.
Sunday, I looked at Reddick Grant holding his young son, who had fallen asleep. I am sure they were waiting on the little boy’s mother, sister and older brother. As I looked at the father holding the little guy in his sleep, I thought about all the potential the little fellow possessed. God has promised him a future and a hope. God only knows what tomorrow will bring for the children of the world, but the love of this little boy’s dad will lay a foundation for what lies ahead. The Apostle Paul teaches that when we are filled with joy and peace in believing that we will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. I pray this day that you will be filled with this hope.
Romans 15: 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 
Questions for Reflection:
Where does your hope come from?
Why do you think Paul writes that “Joy and peace in believing…will make it possible for you to abound in hope?”
Prayer: Lord, grant me your hope. Fill me with joy. Bless me with peace. Make it possible for me to abound in hope by the power of your Holy Spirit.
Serve One Another With Whatever Gift You Have Received!
It is easy to think that whatever unique skill-sets we may have that they just come naturally and will always be there. Each of us is blessed in peculiar ways. One of the things I have observed about life is that nothing lasts forever, and, the special skills and gifts that each person has is given freely from God.
The athlete might believe that it is they who rightly so has fine-tuned their body to perform at premium levels, but who gave you the body, the DNA, the mind, to push yourselves to the upper limits of performance? God! The musician may sing and play at unbelievably tremendous levels, but who was it who made it possible? It is none other than God!
Peter writes that we should share the gifts we have received by serving one another:
1 Peter 4: 10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.
This passage is part of a larger section that Peter writes about stewardship of the gifts God has given to us. I feel it is worth reading the larger section because what he is saying is that our gifts come from God and you and I are called upon to share those gifts with others. The two women in the photo with me are Lisa Reeves and Ebony Lola Dixon. They are relatives. I forget if they are cousins or aunt and niece, but they are related in some way. We took this photo one night last week when our church housed and fed 38 homeless persons. Both Lisa and Ebony work jobs outside of home, but last week they stopped by the church after work to feed and interact with the homeless. In my opinion, these two women are good examples of what Peter is talking about when he challenges his readers to “Share the gifts they have received.”
1 Peter 4: 7 The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. 11 Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. 
Questions for Reflection:
What are the gifts you have received from God?
What does it take to “Serve someone” with the gifts you have received from God?
Prayer: Lord, grant me the wisdom to recognize the gifts you have bestowed upon me. Make me generous and kind in my efforts to share with others. Teach me to share without being haughty and condescending. Help me to give with no thought of repayment. Lord, I thank you for the manifold ways you have blessed me. Teach me this day to share my gifts with those in need. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior I pray. Amen.
At my church, we celebrate the sacrament of communion on the first Sunday of every month. An hour before people arrive for worship, the deacons arrive to prepare the sacrament. We have a tradition of electing at least one male and female under the age of 20 to serve as deacons. On the first Sunday in February, I was struck be the image of Jason McGuire, one of our young deacons who may only be 13 years old, as mature women of the Deacon Board “showed him the ropes” in preparing the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. What they were doing was participating in a ritual that goes all the way back to the first century in a way that Christians have celebrated the Lordship of Jesus. The ritual of the Lord’s Supper is a reminder to those who believe, that Jesus is the Son of God, made in the image of God and a reminder of the salvation of God
The verse I begin with today is from Hebrews 1:3-4. It proclaims that Jesus is the Son of God and the very reflection of God’s glory and grants sustenance to the world by the power of his word. Just as our earthly children are a reflection of their mother and father, Jesus is the very reflection of God.
Hebrews 1: 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. 
Paul begins the Book of Hebrews by telling us that in the beginning God spoke through prophets, but with the birth and advent of Jesus the Christ, you and I can now see the image of God, up close and personal.
Hebrews 1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.
I encourage you to reflect upon this verse as you contemplate the significance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In Jesus, the Christ, we have a Savior who has conquered sin and the world. In Jesus, we have a hope beyond hope, joy beyond joy, peace beyond peace and love beyond love! Celebrate with me this day this good news!
Questions for Reflection:
What does this passage of scripture say to you about the glory of God?
Verses 1-2 tells us the significance of Jesus in the context of the prophets that preceded him. What does this mean to you?
Prayer: Lord, your reflection is the glory of God! Your word sustains because of its power. Your sacrifice on the cross has placed you at the right hand of God. You are higher than all angels combined and your name is above all names! Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior I pray. Amen.
Written by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III
Photo by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III of deacons preparing communion. Photo of Nathan Page Hood as a baby in his father’s arms was taken by Denise Page Hood
Seek First the Kingdom of God and thesethings will be given to you as well. 
Life is full of surprises.I learned the other day that a friend from my youth has experienced a stroke.Some of his brain functions are working and some are not.I called him yesterday, he lives too far away in another state for me to go see him.We talked briefly on the phone.He told me he was glad I called him.I shared with him some reflections of how smart he has been all his life and that I believe his God-given intelligence will help him to regain his memory.I also told him I was praying for him.He thanked me and hung up the phone without saying goodbye.I did not get my feelings hurt, but thanked God for our youth and all the fun we had.
I mention my friend because I believe he is frightened and frustrated that he cannot remember everything.He is a musician.He cannot remember the lyrics to songs, but he can still play the piano.He makes his living singing, playing and entertaining.He is a natural clown.In our youth, he showed me how to play popular songs that were on the radio.I can remember today him teaching to play, “My Girl” and “Cool Jerk” and many other songs on the piano.In high school, he had a band that played several dances around Detroit.When I finally made it to the 11th grade, I started a band and we too played parties and other events in Detroit.I believe it is only a matter of time before he will be able to sing and play again.
My friend is not really the illustration for this devotional, but he is heavy on my mind. I hope you will pray for him.
Jesus challenged his listeners to “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”He says this in the context of worry.Listen to the larger passage of scripture about worry:
Matthew 6: 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of youby worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. 
Think for a moment about the things that stress you out – not enough money, not enough sex, not enough companionship, health that is falling apart, parents getting older, children getting older, yourself getting older, and the list goes on.Yet, Jesus says, “seek first his kingdom and righteousness.”
If we seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, we put God first.The values and principals of God become our guiding map for the direction of our lives.If we seek first the kingdom of God, love will dictate how we interact with others.If we seek first the kingdom of God, we will resist the temptation to be mean and cutthroat in our relationships with others.This does not mean to roll over and let someone abuse you, but rather, it means that we work our best to do our best without lying, cheating, and misusing another person.When we try to live in this manner, God has promised to bless us in this life and the life to come.
Questions for Reflection:
1. What makes you anxious?
2. What is it about seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness that allows the believer in God to receive blessings in this world?
Prayer:Lord, today I put you first.Today I seek your kingdom.Today I seek your righteousness.Today I stop worrying about those things over which I have no control, and focus more upon those things I can control.Bless me now with patience.Bless me now with hope.Bless me now in this world and bless me in the world to come.Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior I pray.Amen.
Have you ever been angry with God? Has there ever been a time when you asked the Lord for something and it did not happen? Have you ever prayed a hard, long prayer for something specific and the answer was no?
I have had a few “No’s”, but I can truly say that up to this point in my life I have never been angry with God. There have been occasions when things and people just did not make any sense, but my attitude in faith is to press on, hold on, and walk on through the darkness until the light of God points me to a new awareness.
The lesson from the Bible I would like to draw upon today is the story of Jonah. Jonah was a prophet who was directed by God to travel to the city of Nineveh and preach that they should repent or die. Instead of going to Nineveh, Jonah takes a boat to Tarshish. Along the way, a storm arises and the sailors throw Jonah overboard because he admits that he is running from God. Jonah is swallowed by a big fish and for three days and nights he dwells in the belly of the beast, praying to the Lord. Eventually, the fish spits Jonah from the fish and he makes his way to Nineveh. To his disappointment, the people of Nineveh heed the warning of God and repent. The story ends with Jonah, stomping off in anger and expressing his displeasure with God in not blowing the roof off of Nineveh. You would think Jonah would be pleased with the repentance of the city, but instead he pouts in anger.
As I have considered the anger of Jonah, I believe there is a progression of steps that cascade into his bitterness and anger with God. First, Jonah attempts to define God. What we are really doing when we define God is to secretly make ourselves into little gods. Jonah moves from defining God to disagreeing with God. His disagreement with God leads him to distance himself from God. The next logical step in this theological progression is to become angry with God.
Thank you for reading this post. I encourage you in faith to resist the temptation to allow disappointment in life to cause you to become angry with God. I encourage you to hold on in faith and the Lord we serve will bless, keep and strengthen you in all ways.
Jonah 4 But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. 3 And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” 5 Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city. 
Questions for Reflection:
Have you ever been angry with God?
How do you handle disappointment in life and maintain your faith in God?
Prayer: Lord, walk with me through disappointment. Hold my hand when life becomes difficult to understand. Jesus, help me to rise above the temptation to define you, disagree with you, and distance myself from you. Lord, your mercy is great. Your grace is sufficient. Your love is everlasting. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior I pray. Amen.
More about the ministry, missions, and books, (“The Test, The Strength, The Endurance and the Way Out” and “African American Passover Celebration”) by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III at http://nicholashoodiiiministries.org
The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Jon 4:1–5). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Romans 10: 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 
The most powerful aspect of the love of Jesus Christ is his promise of salvation. The Apostle Paul makes it clear that there is no division in Jesus Christ. Regardless of race, nationality, gender or creed, all who believe in Jesus will be saved. Slaves in America were told to hold fast to scriptures in the Bible that commanded “Slaves be obedient to your masters.” (Ep. 6:5), but at the same time, the slaves took great inspiration from other verses, also by the Apostle Paul, that spoke to the universality of God’s saving grace and love.
Romans 10: 9 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 
The good news is that salvation is free. Salvation is near. Salvation from death is available to all who believe that Jesus is Lord! The grace of God is just as available to those who believe in Nigeria, Kenya, India, China, South Africa, Canada, the Philippines and America. That same salvation is extended to the young, the old, women and men. Call on his name, confess that He is Lord, and you will be saved!
Last night my wife and I attended the opening night of hospitality that our church extends each year for a week to homeless individuals. 38 men and women are eating dinner and breakfast and spending the night at the church for an entire week. Saturday night was the kick off for a week of hospitality. If you are in the Detroit area, I invite you to stop by the church – Plymouth United Church of Christ, 600 E. Warren Ave. Detroit, Michigan at 6PM for dinner or 6 AM for breakfast. The persons in the photo above represent two church organizations that fed the homeless Saturday evening, the Progressive Circle and the Scholarship Fund Committee. In their own way, both groups are sharing the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ to a segment of our population that has fallen through the cracks of our social network.
Questions for Reflection:
What are your thoughts regarding the universality of salvation in Jesus Christ?
What does this passage from the Apostle Paul say to you about salvation?
Prayer: Jesus, I accept you as Lord. Jesus, I believe you are the son of God. In you there is healing, strength, guidance, forgiveness and love. Let your mercy fall down upon me. May your grace sustain me and may your love surround me. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior I pray.