Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ordinary Time: Thursday, January 31, 2008

Today, it's a little late, been busy here in the office.  But today, just a quick thought, thanks to our friends at Christian Quotation of the Day.  

No man desires anything so eagerly as God desires to bring men to the knowledge of Himself. God is always ready, but we are very unready. God is near us, but we are far from Him. God is within, and we are without. God is friendly; we are estranged.
    ... Meister Eckhart (1260?-1327?), from 
Meister Eckhart's Sermons, trans. Claud Field, H. R. Allenson, London, 1909, p.24

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ordinary Time: Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Old Testament Lesson

Well, here's where all the fun starts.  Abram and Sarah decided it's better instead of waiting on the Lord's promises to try and take care of things themselves.  And so Abram has a child with Hagar, and it all kind of goes down hill from there.  

Why?  Why did they choose to do this? Why didn't they trust in the Lord?  Didn't He say it would happen?  Didn't two angels appear and tell them the news and the promise? Why couldn't they just do what He said?  

Waiting.  Doubting.  Waiting.  Watching.  Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.  There is nothing harder than waiting on something, even when we know that it is a certainty it will happen.  Sometimes that makes it even harder.  Waiting makes us realize that we are not in control; God is.  Waiting is hard.  Waiting is frustrating.  Waiting makes us trust.  Trust is essential to faith; but trust is hard to come by. 

Today, wait upon the Lord.  It is always our best option.  

New Testament Lesson

We see that it is now Christ who intercedes for us.  He is the one that goes before God.  He is the one that makes our case.  It is through Him that we have access to God, and access to all His grace.  It is through Him that we are able to know life and love and peace.  It is because of what He has done.

And because of what He has done, He is the Lamb that is worthy of our praise.  All praise and honor is due Him for all He has done.  He is the one; the one to be praised. 

Gospel Lesson

CS Lewis writes that we have never met an ordinary person.  Every person we meet, from the person in line at Wal Mart, to the president of the bank, to our teachers, doctors, lawyers, and the garbage man at work this morning in the cold of Ripley, each of them is someone designed for eternity.  We each are made to live for eternity. We each are special, unique, and made by God for some great purpose.  We each are made for eternity. 

Today, remember, you will not meet an ordinary person today. Each person you meet, talk to, get tired of, get angry at, each of these; they are extraordinary. Designed for eternity. 

Oh yeah, and so are you as well.  You are extraordinary.  You are made in God's image.  And you have something, something only you can do for God.  You are extraordinary.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ordinary Time: Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Today, just a quick thought.  

There was a quote I've read and I'm pretty sure it was by Max Lucado.  At least I give him credit for it when I quote it.  It says "The reason God hates sin so much is because of what it does to His children."  I've been thinking a lot about that quote recently.  My favorite verse in the Bible is John 10:10, "The thief comes to rob, to kill, and to destroy, but I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly."  

In both of these quotes you see the dueling voices that circle around each of us. We see the voice of good, of truth, of God that tells us what is correct. Tells us which way to life. Tells us how to live. 

And we see the voice of evil, of wrong, of the devil, promising us the same thing. Promising us life, and happiness and peace. But, in the end, that voice leads only to our destruction.  It leads only to the destruction of all that we want to be. 

And that is why God hates sin.  His will for us is not sadness and brokenheartedness.  His will for us is life and love and peace.  His will for us is that we are made whole.  That we know forgiveness and grace.  His will for us is that we have that abundant life. 

Today, two voices will come offering you abundant life.  Only one will lead to life. The other will lead to that which will destroy us. 

Today, may we choose life.  

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ordinary Time: Monday, January 28, 2008

Old Testament Lesson

This may be first instance in the Bible of a "tithe."  Abram gives to Melchizedek 1/10 of everything he has as a way of thanking God and of giving to God what is already him. 

OK, I'm going to stop now and promise you the rest of this reflection is not going to be about tithing. 

Now, I'm back. What it is going to be about though is giving out of a thankful heart. Abram gave to the priest of God out of thanks for all that God had done for him in his journey.  He gave out of thanksgiving and out of a sense of joy.  He didn't do it because he had to.  He didn't do it because he was forced to.  He didn't do it out of a sense of fear.  

He did it because he loved God and wanted to give back to a God that had given him so much. Friends, the Lord has blessed us in many, many ways.  Life may not be perfect, but God is good.  Let's given to him, not just money, but our lives, our hearts, all that we are. And let's give to him with a sense of thanksgiving.   

New Testament Lesson

We see the reminder from the Old Testament within this passage that God says He will write His law upon our hearts.  That is the thing that He is most worried about, a changed heart.  Change works inside out.  Our heart is changed, and that shows forth through all of our lives.  As our hearts are changed, as our hearts are drawn closer to God, then our lives will be changed in accordance. And our hearts are changed by walking closer to God in all of life: through prayer, through study, through fellowship, through walking close to God and to His people.  In this, our hearts and our lives will be changed.  

Gospel Lesson

One of things we see in John's Gospel is the power of signs.  People are always looking this Gospel for Jesus to do something, show them something, and then they will believe.  They want sight, then belief. 

But, it doesn't normally work like that.  When we believe, then we see. The official believed, and then his son was healed.  Then, when others saw, they believed. But first, that belief had to come. Belief comes, faith comes, trust come, and then sight. Without faith, miracles are hard to see. With faith, every day of our life, every day we draw breath, we will see miracles.  If you believe, you will see.  

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ordinary Time: Thursday, January 24, 2008

Old Testament Lesson

The people got themselves into trouble when they said, hey we can really be something. And the Lord knew the people of humanity when we really work together.  But, in this case we were working together out of pride and evil hearts.  So, the Lord put a stop to it.  

A couple of things we can learn. First, let's always try our best to be aware of our motivations. They were motivated out of pride and out of a wrong heart.  That was the first thing that got them in trouble. 

But secondly, think of all that we can do when we work together.  Think of the good we can do when we work for the common good. Think of the good we can do when we work together for the kingdom. Think of what we can do for God when we join together. 

In the passage, they joined together for selfish and prideful reasons. May we join together for good.  

New Testament Lesson

One of the things that Hebrews stresses over and over again is that God makes promises to us. God comes to us and makes covenants with us. God desires relationship with us, and desires a partnership with us.  He doesn't have to.  After all, He is God. But, He wants us to work with Him.  He wants us to be with in His plan. 

Think about all the ways that God could change the world. But, think about how He chooses to change the the world. Through us. Through the Church. Through the people of God working together for His glory. Today, He wants to use us in some powerful way.  May we allow Him.  

Gospel Lesson

You may have heard a lot of sermons or bible studies about all the things that Jesus has done in this passage that people just didn't do.  He went to Samaria.  You don't do that.  He talked to a women in public.  You don't do that.  They discussed religion.  You don't do that.  She was probably a woman in low standing since the the proper women would have went to the well much earlier in the day; not at noon. 

Yet, Jesus violates all these things for one reason and one reason alone.  This woman was a child of God, and she needed to hear grace.  He knew that she needed to know that she was loved and she was valuable.  He didn't think about what others might think, He simply knew she needed to hear what He had to say. 

Today, may we be more concerned with making sure that people hear a word of grace than we are concerned about what other folks may think.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ordinary Time: Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 9:18-29

One of the great things that the Bible reminds us is that no one is perfect. Even the people that are faithful and righteous and are the "saints" of the Bible make mistakes. Noah gets off the ark, is thankful for surviving, is thankful to God, worships God, has God make a covenant with him. And the he grows a vineyard, makes some wine, and gets drunk.

This is not to defend his action. This is not to defend our sin. This is, however, the show that even the most holy make mistakes. No one is perfect. We will all fall down. We will all makes mistakes. We will all trip.

The question then becomes, what will we do after we fall down? What will we do after we make a mistake? I remember reading in CS Lewis once something to affect of "The shame is not in the falling down, the shame is not in the getting back up." Today, if we fall, may we have the grace to get back up.

New Testament Lesson

Hebrews 6:1-12

But Hebrews gives us a stern warning this morning. Let's not go looking for trouble. Let's not go looking for sin. Let's remember the real damage that sin can cause to us and to those that we love. It is a terrible and destructive thing. The reason why God wants us to stay so far away from sin is because He knows what it will do to us. Today. let's not go looking for it.

Gospel Lesson

John 3:22-36

And we see in the John the great correlation between love and obedience. If we love Him, we will want to obey Him. If we love Him, we will want to follow Him. If we love Him, we will want to be faithful to Him. Obedience doesn't save us. It doesn't make us "better people." It simply shows that we love Him and desire to follow Him.

Today, let us love Him with all that we have, and let us follow and obey Him where ever His grace may lead.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ordinary Time: Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Old Testament Lesson

I was taken by the fact in reading this passage that God Almighty desires to covenant with humanity. Think about it.  He could come to us and say, this is what you are going to do, or else.  But, what He does is that He says, if you do this, I will do that.  And in this covenant with Noah, He doesn't even go that far.  He simply tells them He will not flood the earth again.  No conditions required. 

It is humbling to think that God Almighty would chose to do this.  He, after all, is God.  Yet, He desires that covenant with us.  He desires that relationship with us.  He desires to actually know us on a personal level.  And likewise, we receive the grace of getting to know Him on a personal level. 

Today, the God of all ages desires to know you.  May we each take advantage of that wonderful gift. 

New Testament Lesson

I was taken in this passage about the obedience of Jesus to God's will.  He was the son of God, but yet He chose to submit to God's will. So often in our lives, I think our greatest injuries are those when we fight against what God is trying to do. There is a great passage in Acts where God says to Paul, why do you kick against the goads.  Why do you do the things that will bring you pain instead of following my will for you.

We've all been there. We've all through our plan was better than His. And we normally wind up bloody and bruised.  Today, instead of kicking against God's will, let us, as our savior did, follow God's will and God's plan.  And in doing that, we will actually find life.  

Gospel Lesson

This may be one of my favorite passages in scripture.  Not just because of John 3:16, but because of the words after.  Jesus came to bring life and salvation to the world.  He gave this offer, but people loved their darkness more than they loved the light.  And in choosing darkness, that is their judgment. 

Their judgment is that they get what they wanted.  God is not in heaven wanting us to mess up or fall down.  He is not in heaven just waiting to get us.  He is not waiting to throw a lighting bolt at us.  Too many of us have that view of God.  He doesn't want us to fall, He wants us to live!

He wants what is best for us.  He wants us to choose light and love and peace and life.  He doesn't desire for any of us to be apart from Him or each other.  He longs for those that are far away to come home.  He wants us to know Him and know what it means to know life. For this reason, Christ came. 

Today, may we choose life and light, and may we live in that life and light. 

Monday, January 21, 2008

Ordinary Time: Monday, January 21, 2008

Old Testament Lesson

One of the things that happens a lot in Noah's story is a lot of waiting.  He builds the ark.  And waits. It starts to rain. And they float. And they wait.  They send out a raven.  And wait. Then a dove. And wait. Then, another dove. And wait.  

God's plan doesn't always come on our schedule.  His schedule is different than ours. Part of being faithful is learning to wait. Learning patience.  Learning to wait upon Him, and when He thinks that the time is right, it will unfold when He wants it to. 

Today, wait upon Him.  Live in this moment. And when the time is right, all will be as He desires.  

New Testament Lesson

Remember, we have a high priest in Jesus that was tested as we are, was tempted as we are, and suffered as we do.  So, in the midst of all of life's struggles, we can turn to Him.  He has experienced everything that we experience.  He knows loss, He knows hurt, He knows temptation.  And because of that, He can give us strength, and grace, and mercy in that time. 

Remember, turn to Him in your moment of need.  He will be there.  

Gospel Lesson

One of the interesting parts about this passage has always been to to me that Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night.  Not during the day, when others could see him. But, by night. When know one would know.  I remember when I really got serious about my faith, one of the things I worried about the most was, what would other people think?  

I think that can be one of the things that can keep us from really doing some of the things that God may have for us. We worry more about what other folks think than about what God thinks.  If He has called us to something, He will give us the strength and ability to do it. Don't worry about what others think.  Noah didn't, and it turned out alright for him in the end.  Do whatever it is that God has called you to. . . . He will take care of the rest.  

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Pictures from Israel

Here's some links to pictures from our recent trip to Israel

Day 1/2

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ordinary Time: Thursday, January 17, 2008

We had a slight mix up, I inadvertently reflected upon today's passages yesterday, so today, we get yesterday's!

Old Testament Lesson

What did Cain do wrong?  The text doesn't say, but it may give a hint.  Notice it says that Able brought the firstlings, the best meat of the animals.  It simply says that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground.  Not the first fruits of the ground.  So, it is possible that perhaps what Cain gave God was not his best, but what was left over?  

How many of us give God not our best, but what is left over?  What is left over of our time?  Our resources?  Our heart?  Let us be careful to follow in the steps of Able and give God the first of everything, for in doing that we give God that which He is worthy of.  

New Testament Lesson

This passage reminds us of one of the great truths of our faith.  Jesus was tested as we are, suffered as we do, and understands our plight. Our Lord knows all that we go through, all that we experience, all that we deal with. So, when we cry out in the midst of life, He understand.  Our cries fall upon ears that are sympathetic, that can truly understand what we are going through. 

So, today, in whatever it is you go through, you can rest knowing that God understands.  He is above us, but He humbled Himself to walk among us.  He is at once Creator of all that is, and at the same time, as close our next heart beat.  Today, know that He delights in you longs to know you in a deeper more personal way.  

Gospel Lesson

One of the things we see all throughout the Gospels is that when some meets Jesus or has an experience with Him, they can't wait to tell someone about it. We see this is the calling of the disciples, we see it in the miracles He performed.  We see it all throughout the life of Jesus.

Today, in our lives, can we wait to tell someone about His grace in our lives?  Are we as excited about what He is doing in our lives as they were?  They rejoiced in His amazing grace in their lives. Do we?  

Sometimes life has a way of weighing us down, and we can forget all that we have to be thankful for. Today, may we rejoice in all that God has done, and may we tell others about it!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ordinary Time: Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Old Testament Lesson

One of the things that we see in this story of Adam and Even and their children is that sin has consequences not just for the one that commits sin, but for all those around. Cain's sin affected his parents, his dead brother (obviously) and his own children.  

That is one of the primary dangers of sin; it follows us around. One of the beliefs in our age that what is done in private has no affect on what happens in public.  This story reminds us that it is not so. Every misdeed can affect people all around us.  

New Testament Lesson

One of the neat things that the author of Hebrews does is that he lays out all the ways that Jesus is superior to all these other things and people.  He is superior to angels, to Moses, to all the things. For, He is the one through whom salvation comes and He is the one through whom life flows.  

Remember today, Jesus is above all and great than all. He is the one that we place our ultimate trust and faith, and He is the one to whom all praise is given.  

Gospel Lesson

Nathanael is to be commended in this text.  He is able to move past his original conception of who Jesus was and see Him for who He really is. First he said, nothing good can come out of Nazareth.  His original through was there was no way He could be the Messiah. But, when he met Jesus, he realized he was wrong, and followed. 

Let us not be too hasty in making up our mind about someone before we know them.  Nathanael did that, and it almost cost him. Thankfully he reconsidered and saw the truth.  May we not rush to judgment, and when we find that we make a mistake, let us have the grace to admit it and amend our ways.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ordinary Time: Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 3:1-24

There are so many things that we can talk about in the story of the fall. But, I want to reflect upon the response of everyone involved. God asked Adam, why? He said, not my fault, its the woman that you gave me. Then God asked why? She said, not my fault, its the snake. So, I guess it is nobodies fault?

And so it begins. The passing of the buck that continues to this day. Sometimes we feel like the easiest way to try to get out of trouble is to pass the buck to whoever we can. But, that doesn't solve the problem. It just keeps the cycle of blame and sin going.

Sometimes in our mistakes, the hardest, but the most essential thing to do is to say, I messed up. I made a mistake. Through God's grace, I'll do everything to keep it from happening again. Adam and Eve never did that. May we have the grace to do it when we make a mistake.

New Testament Lesson

Hebrews 2:1-10

We see in the end of this passage something interesting. The author said that God should make the pioneer of salvation perfect through suffering. What does this mean for us? We can learn something through everything we go through. Every experience in life can teach us something. Sometimes the lesson can be as simple as don't do that again. But, in all of life, we can learn.

Even through the hard parts. Event through the sufferings. Today, in all that we do, may we learn something for our good and God's glory.

Gospel Lesson

John 1:19-28

One of the important things to remember in life is that we all have a task. We all have a purpose. We all have something that God has called us alone to do. Sometimes it is something glamorous. Sometimes it is something fun. Sometimes it is something that we might not what to do. But, in every case, we must remember why we do what we do. We do it for God's glory and we do it for His plan.

Today, John did what he was called to do. His job was not to be the savior of the world. His job was to make ready the way for the savior of the world. Today, we each have something we were called by God to do. May we be faithful in that.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Epiphany: Monday, January 14 2008

Old Testament Lesson

One of the amazing things about the Genesis 2 account of creation is that the motivating force behind God creating Eve was so that Adam would not be alone. That's kind of an odd thought for an Almighty and powerful God to be concerned with. Why would He care if Adam was alone. Why did that concern Him?  After all, He's God, He can do what He wants. 

Yet, He was concerned. His concern and His heart was for His creation.  So, it matter to God if Adam was alone.  It mattered to God if things were not as they should be. The things of Adam's life mattered greatly to God.  And for that reason, He created Eve. 

What does this mean to us?  The things in our lives that we think God might not care about, He does care.  No concern of our is to small.  No issue of ours is to trivial.  If it troubles us, it will trouble God.  He wants us to bring our concerns, our worries, our hurts to Him.  For He cares for us.  

New Testament Lesson

We see here that God communicated to His people in many ways, but His greatest means to reach us was through His Son.  But, He did try many, many different things to try to get our attention and call us back to Himself.  But, it was only through Jesus that humanity finally got the message. 

Perhaps today, He will try to speak to us. But the thing is, it might be a way that we aren't expecting. The Lord can speak in some unusually ways and through some unusually people.  That means that we must be listening at all times to hear what He has to say.  Today, take time to listen.  If you do, you'll hear His voice.  

Gospel Lesson

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  I love that phrase.  It may be the most beautiful in all of Scripture to me.  In the beginning Jesus was there and He was God, He is God, and will always be God. Through Him all things were made, and through Him all things are held together. 

And, this amazing and strong and might God chose to walk as we walk, talk as we talk, live as we live, and die upon the cross for sake. 

My friends, that is love.  

Friday, January 11, 2008

Epiphany: Friday, January 11, 2008

Today, the rare Friday post!

Old Testament Lesson

Isaiah 55:3-9

The Lord once again tells His people that if they will turn to Him now, all this can be restored. Things may not be as they were before, but they can restored to wholeness. They can know what it is like to be forgiven and brought back home.

That's how it can be for us sometimes too. Sometimes we wonder if we've gone to far away. Sometimes our faithfulness wains. Sometimes our prayers are lacking. Sometimes we can feel like we've lost our way.

The Lord says return, come back home. You can know grace, mercy and peace. You can find your way again. No matter where we are, or who we think that we are, always know that God's grace is there, even in that moment.

New Testament Lesson

Colossians 3:1-17

In this passage we see what that renewal just promised look like. It will be a turning away from all those things that kept us from God, and a turning to all the things that bring us closer to God. As we return to God, we find that we are not as angry. We aren't as tempted to slander or gossip. Our language changes, our demeanor changes, in short, who we are changes.

We look to build up, not tear down. Instead of seeing the worst in each other, we can see God's grace. We learn that His grace is greater than any problem we may have with someone, and instead of slandering or becoming angry with each other, we pull together.

We find life, and not life to comes from within ourselves, but life that comes only through God's grace. We find hope and mercy and peace. All through God. All in Hid grace. Today, may we be renewed in His grace.

Gospel Lesson

John 14:6-14

Todays passages all lead together so well. What does the renewal look like? The New Testament shows us that. How do we get that renewal? The Gospel shows us. Only through Jesus. He is way, the truth, and the life. Only through Him, and through His grace, can we know mercy and life and hope.

Today, my prayer for each of us is this. That we know that abundant life that comes only through the grace of Jesus Christ, and that we life in the newness of life today, and each day!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Epiphany: Thursday, January 10, 2008

Old Testament Lesson

Jeremiah 23:1-8

We see in this passage the Lord condemning the false shepherds of His people. Those would be the ones that are put in charge of the sheep, but instead of thinking about the sheep, think only of themselves and what they can get from the sheep. But, this is what the Lord says in that situation. He will take care of the sheep. If the shepherds will not do it, He will.

He will look after His own. Right now, in this moment, He is working for you good. He is working to grow you closer to Himself and more in line with who He wants you to be. The only question is then, will we follow where He is leading?

New Testament Lesson

Colossians 2:8-23

We see in this passage what matters most is Jesus Christ. It is not sometimes the things that we think are most important, but it is the primacy of Jesus in our lives. That is what matters most, and that is what should come first. We can get so busy chasing so many things that are not as important. We can spend so much time focusing on things that are trivial in the big picture. But, what comes first is this: Jesus.

Paul says that if we are alive in Him, that must be our focus and what we look to first. Today, may He be our Lord and guide of our lives.

Gospel Lesson

John 10:7-17

Remember a few seconds ago when we read how God condemned the false shepherds that were only interested in themselves? In this passage, we see what a true shepherd looks like. He lays down His life for the sake of the sheep. He is more concerned with their go do than His own. He is more focused on helping them, than He may be in His own interests. He lays down His life for His sheep.

That is what Jesus did for us, and that is what He calls us to do for one another. Lay down our lives for each other. And in doing that, we will find His life. For in surrendering our lives to Him, we find life greater than we could ever hope to find anywhere else.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Epiphany: Wednesday, January 9, 2008

It is great to be back in the States. We had a great trip to Israel, but it is so good to be back with our children and with our church that we love so much. I hope that each of you had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and I look forward to seeing what will happen through God's grace in this New Year!

I'm having some computer issues this morning with my laptop,so this is coming to your thanks to the church secretary's computer. And for that reason, we'll just have a brief devotional thought today, but everything else should resume as normal tomorrow.

“Grace isn't a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It's a way to live.”

Jackie Windspear

My prayer is that each live grace filled lives today.