How Do We Speak to One Another???


(Photo credit here)

S (Scripture): Isaiah 9

1 Nonetheless, those who were in distress won’t be exhausted. At an earlier time, God cursed the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but later he glorified the way of the sea, the far side of the Jordan, and the Galilee of the nations.

2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned.
3 You have made the nation great;
you have increased its joy.
They rejoiced before you as with joy at the harvest, as those who divide plunder rejoice.
4 As on the day of Midian, you’ve shattered the yoke that burdened them, the staff on their shoulders, and the rod of their oppressor.
5 Because every boot of the thundering warriors,
and every garment rolled in blood will be burned, fuel for the fire.
6 A child is born to us, a son is given to us,
and authority will be on his shoulders.
He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
7 There will be vast authority and endless peace
for David’s throne and for his kingdom,
establishing and sustaining it with justice and righteousness now and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of heavenly forces will do this.

O (Observation): In Isaiah’s time, God was thought to be responsible for bringing blessings and consequences in the world.  Judah was the remnant of God’s people and God was going to find a way to bring hope for them.   Good news, indeed, with foreign powers closing in around them.   

The hope God provides is in the form of a child who is to come.  Isaiah speaks this promise for God, bringing good news to the people of God. This hope would take time to come to fulfillment,  but God’s promises would indeed come true for Christians as Jesus, descendant of David, would eventually be born in Bethlehem.  

A (Application):  We can have quite a hard time being a people of hope.   We can see political divides and social barriers all around us.   And when we hear of opinions the opposite of our own, we get defensive real quick.  

Why do we get so defensive?   Why do we feel like we have to teach other people what to think or how to think?   Instead, can’t we see a way forward that includes learning from one another, rather than forcing our opinion on another?   I’m not saying we shouldn’t all have thoughts and opinions.  Rather, we should continue to listen to one another and encourage discussion, rather trying to win every conversation.  

My hope lies in God, bringing us peace.  I lean not solely on my own understanding, but on what God has done, is doing , and will do in my life: namely, bring me grace and mercy.  May I entend that to others as we engage in potentially divisive conversations.  

P (Prayer): May we approach our conversations with grace and mercy this day. Amen. 

Trust the Pregnant One: “God with us”


S (Scripture): Isaiah 7:10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign from the Lord your God. Make it as deep as the grave or as high as heaven.”

12 But Ahaz said, “I won’t ask; I won’t test the Lord.”

13 Then Isaiah said, “Listen, house of David! Isn’t it enough for you to be tiresome for people that you are also tiresome before my God? 14 Therefore, the Lord will give you a sign.  The young woman is pregnant and is about to give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel [“God with us”].  15 He will eat butter and honey, and learn to reject evil and choose good. 16 Before the boy learns to reject evil and choose good, the land of the two kings you dread will be abandoned. 17 The Lord will bring upon you, upon your people, and upon your families days unlike any that have come since the day Ephraim broke away from Judah—the king of Assyria.”

O (Observation):  King Ahaz is the king of Judah, the remnant of God’s chosen people.  They are less than perfect, and God has called upon Isaiah (touching a burning coal to his lips, remember?) to speak truth to God’s people.   Isaiah called upon God’s people to trust God and believe that Judah is NOT beyond redemption.  

What will this redemption look like?  

The young woman is pregnant and is about to give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel [“God with us”].

Sound familiar?   See Matthew 1:23 : )

In Isaiah’s time and in the time of Mary’s pregnancy, God’s people are in a time of difficulty.   They are in need of salvation and help from the Lord.   

God remains faithful.  God gives them hope. 

Isaiah reminds King Ahaz that Judah’s enemies – in the span of about 2-3 years (or, about the time it would take for the pregnant woman to give birth and teach the child right from wrong) – will be no more.  They can trust that God will provide for them.   

A (Application): So many things to do and so little time and motivation.  We all hit roadblocks.  We see obstacles and challenges and don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.  We feel trapped. 

We want to be smart enough to figure a way out. We want to work harder to make the work “ours” – to put our stamp on it.    We want to prove to God how worthy we are.   

And the sad thing is, we sometimes make it not realizing that it was God who gave us what we need to make things work.  We forget that God gave us the relationships and the skills we need to make things work out.   We forget that God called upon others to provide us guidance and wisdom.  

We claim for ourselves what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do.  

We forget that hope came through a pregnant woman – Mary – which was not our doing.  We forget that God is our protector, choosing instead to protect ourselves by shouting on social media about how we need to be stronger as Christians.  We shout about how we need to really step up and claim God for this nation and to push back all others.   

Instead, I call for unity, in the midst of diversity.  We come together, people of varied nations and tongues, seeking goodness and mercy and justice for all.  We do this, confident that the Lord will provide us with merciful and just leaders.  

This starts with you.   Where do you see a need for justice?  Where do you see a need for mercy?

Remember that you need others to be just and merciful for you, too.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, make us wise not in the ways of the world, but wise in your ways.  Amen.  

AFFIRM – ELCA Youth Camp

I haven’t posted this week because I’m helping to lead a youth camp called AFFIRM, a youth-event of the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA.   

Here, we welcome people to come as they are as children of God, remind folks they are made in the image of God, embody forgiveness and grace, and make sure that ALL know that they have a God that loves them.  

I’ll be back to my regular devotional postings on Monday, June 26.  Peace!

True Gospel Authotity


From Richard Rohr’s daily meditation for Friday, June 16, 2017.  (His full meditation can be found here.)

True Gospel authority, the authority to heal and renew, is not finally found in a hierarchical office, a theological argument, a perfect law, or a rational explanation. The Crucified revealed to the world that the real power that changes people and the world is an inner authority that comes from those who have lost, let go, and are re-found on a new level. Twelve-Step programs have come to the same conclusion in our time.
Both Francis and Clare had this kind of inner authority that is still part of their essential message for the world. They let go of all fear of suffering, all need for power, prestige, and possessions, and the need for their small self to be important. They came to know something essential—who they really were in God and thus who they really were. Their house was then built on “bedrock,” as Jesus says (Matthew 7:24).

In the Face of the Bad, Practice the Better

S (Scripture): 2 Corinthians 12:Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.  8 Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

O (Observation):  Paul was said to have had a physical ailment that kept him from ever being fully healthy, physically.   I’d have to do more research on this, but regardless of the ailment, Paul makes a theological point.

Paul understands his physical ailment, or weakness, to be reminded that he is not whole…not without Christ.  Paul understands that even though he is weak, that simply makes room for Christ to show up and make him whole.  

What does it look like for Christ to make Paul whole?  Jesus’ grace, filling in where Paul is weak. 

A (Application):  When Christians throw around knowledge or Scripture to publicly condemn Christians or non-Christians, I get more than a little irked.   Maybe I get irked because I have a hard time with rebuttals.  I need time to think something through, and to consider all the angles before I respond.  When I respond too hastily, I find that I get too emotional in my responses, or too narrow-minded.   

We can all serve as Jesus did, sharing the Gospel, bringing healing and forgiveness, even bringing new life where there is none.   But when others criticize you for it, don’t feel like you need a rebuttal.   If you are doing something in Christ’s name that is giving life to something or someone else, fear not.  Embrace the apparent weakness, that Jesus’ grace might be sufficient to satisfy you.    

As we take the example of Jesus, we might simply turn from the negative attitudes around us, and do something GOOD in response.  Richard Rohr shares the core values of the Center for Action and Contemplation on their website.  One core principle is this:

“the best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better”

As Christians and non-Christians alike try to knock you down when you serve or speak in the name of Jesus…let them…for in your weakness, Jesus’ grace will fill you.  Practice the better. Let this be Jesus’ way of filling you with grace.  

P (Prayer): Lord, keep us filled with your grace, that we might practice the better in the face of the bad.  Amen.  

Theology of Work


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S (Scripture): Ecclesiastes 5:13 There is a grievous ill that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owners to their hurt, 14 and those riches were lost in a bad venture; though they are parents of children, they have nothing in their hands. 15 As they came from their mother’s womb, so they shall go again, naked as they came; they shall take nothing for their toil, which they may carry away with their hands. 16 This also is a grievous ill: just as they came, so shall they go; and what gain do they have from toiling for the wind? 17 Besides, all their days they eat in darkness, in much vexation and sickness and resentment.

18 This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot. 19 Likewise all to whom God gives wealth and possessions and whom he enables to enjoy them, and to accept their lot and find enjoyment in their toil—this is the gift of God. 20 For they will scarcely brood over the days of their lives, because God keeps them occupied with the joy of their hearts.

O (Observation):  Solomon has seen what wealth can do to a person.  Wealth can turn a person inward, caring only for himself or herself.   To what end?   To a cold and lonely end.    When a rich person dies, that person cannot take their earthly goods with them.   Toiling is not bad…but if one toils to gain more things…one does so in vain.  

But Solomon gives us another view of toil: joy in contentment.   Brooding over the work gains nothing.   Instead, find the work God has called each to do, and in that, find joy!

A (Application): I continue to be amazed at our capitalistic society in the US and the growing discontent we have in our lives.   The gadgets and gizmos and vacations we all desire can drive us away from contentment and towards a poor view of our work:  work = money for stuff.   

The joy of work gives us purpose and a way to contribute to society.   The wonderful part of capitalism is the opportunity to explore any of your callings and to seek to be paid for it.   However, the downfall of capitalism is that those who cannot work, or those who cannot see work as something to be enjoyed decide that they don’t fit in, and thus, end up on the streets or living off of handouts.  

I pray that everyone find the inherent dignity in all of humanity.   I pray that everyone find the calling God has instilled in them.  I pray that we are all compassionate enough help those whose work does not allow them enough pay to live on their own.   

I pray that we all enjoy our work for the sake of bringing God glory!

P (Prayer):  Lord, help us to be thankful and grateful for our callings in this world!  Amen.

What is This All For?

(Photo credit: here)

S (Scripture): Ecclesiastes  2:24 There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God; 25 for apart from him[d] who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the one who pleases him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner he gives the work of gathering and heaping, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.

O (Observation): In all of his wisdom, Solomon has tracked down the purpose and the results of all ventures: eating, drinking, toil, study, war, etc.  And what is his conclusion?  “Vanity!  All is vanity!”

Nothing will last forever, according to Solomon.   Not riches or fame or conquest or control.  Nothing.   So, in the meantime, what should one do?  Eat, drink, and be merry!

A (Application):  I try so hard not to feel like I have to convince everyone that my way is right…but some itch under my skin keeps me irritated.   I can disagree with someone in person, and not try to win that conversation…but for minutes, or sometimes for hours, I try to win the argument in my head, or figure out what I could have said differently or better.  

But to what end?   What difference would it make?   

I’m not advocating for giving up…just to shift the reason for keeping my wheels turning.  

Why not shift from “trying to win,” to trying to make more clear my reasons for believing what I believe.  In other words: my journey does not have to be for the vain purpose of “winning,” but simply for the enjoyment of the pursuit of truth and understanding of my faith.  

May we all pursue the work of the Spirit, which brings joy and hope.   May we avoid vain pursuits…or at least enjoy life as it comes.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, your wisdom is above all.  May we enjoy the pursuit of said wisdom.  Amen.