Faith in Action


Photo credit here. 

S (Scripture): Isaiah 43:1 But now, says the Lord—
the one who created you, Jacob,
the one who formed you, Israel:
Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when through the rivers, they won’t sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you won’t be scorched and flame won’t burn you.

4 Because you are precious in my eyes,
you are honored, and I love you.

5 Don’t fear, I am with you.
From the east I’ll bring your children;
from the west I’ll gather you.
6 I’ll say to the north, “Give them back!”
and to the south, “Don’t detain them.”
Bring my sons from far away,
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
7 everyone who is called by my name
and whom I created for my glory,
whom I have formed and made.

19 Look! I’m doing a new thing;
now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it?
I’m making a way in the desert,
paths in the wilderness.
20 The beasts of the field,
the jackals and ostriches, will honor me,
because I have put water in the desert
and streams in the wilderness
to give water to my people,
my chosen ones,
21 this people whom I formed for myself,
who will recount my praise.

O (Observation):  God’s people – scattered, tattered, and torn – are given words of hope through the prophet Isaiah.   Faith is not just a set of beliefs or doctrines, but a living reality in which God reigns.   

God sees the people of Israel as a parent looks upon one’s precious children.   Even though they have been conquered and scattered over the generations, God is preparing to call them back, to redeem them, to restore them…from the ends of the earth.  

This new thing God is doing is a hoped-for future.  A future in which animals even give praise to God for the waters God provides in the wilderness / desert.  A future in which all creation will give praise to God.  

A (Application):  So what does this future look like?  Perhaps we’ve see a glimpse!   A foretaste of the feast to come…in the person of Jesus Christ!

Jesus calls us to a way of hope, even in the midst of dire circumstances.   Jesus calls us to live peacably with all, even to love our enemies.   Jesus grants us direct access to God, even though we stray.  

Jesus was never about getting even.  He was about change through love.   When we live out love in response to hate, we see lasting change.  If not in this week or month…at some point others will see the witness we give of responding to hate with love.    And this witness is the new thing that God is doing.  Streams of water in the desert; God calling together many strains of humanity to care for one another.  

Let us live out this faith.  More than doctrine.  More than just some set of beliefs.  But a way of life led by love for God and for neighbor.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, I hope for peace through the witness of love for you and for neighbor.  Amen.  

Justice and Restoration

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S (Scripture): Isaiah 42:1 But here is my servant, the one I uphold; my chosen, who brings me delight. I’ve put my spirit upon him;
he will bring justice to the nations.

3 He won’t break a bruised reed;
he won’t extinguish a faint wick,
but he will surely bring justice.

6 I, the Lord, have called you for a good reason.
I will grasp your hand and guard you, and give you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations,
7 to open blind eyes, to lead the prisoners from prison, and those who sit in darkness from the dungeon.
8 I am the Lord; that is my name;
I don’t hand out my glory to others or my praise to idols.
9 The things announced in the past—look—they’ve already happened, but I’m declaring new things.  Before they even appear, I tell you about them.

O (Observation):  As God’s people of Israel stand almost totally decimated, a word of hope comes from God.   God declares that people can recount history’s, but only God can look forward in time to tell us what may happen.  

God declares that His servant will one day come to bring justice throughout the earth.  The servant will not fight for justice…but would live out justice, and in a new way.   The Servant will bring justice by restoring folks into community: the blind will see, the prisoners and those sitting in dungeons will be freed. 

These indeed are words of good news when you are sitting in a dungeon or cannot see, and are thus separated from one’s loved ones and friends.   

God is the one who will do justice through God’s own servant.  God will rely on no one and no other thing.   

A (Application):  In the battles that rage in our nation’s government, in the discomfort around the dinner table, God provides a ray of hope: Jesus Christ.   

Jesus wishes neither to conquer anyone nor command our words and actions.   Jesus – God’s servant described in Isaiah? – is the new thing that God has done in the history of the world.  Jesus, the Suffering Servant, has entered our governmental proceedings and sits with us at the dinner table.  

Do we let Jesus speak in these places?   Is Jesus’ version of justice allowed to be heard?

How will we live as people of hope?  How will we be living out Jesus’ justice?  Will we use our hands and voices in God’s name?   

How will we bring about restoration in the name of God?  I think of an old picture, tattered, beat up, maybe even torn…and some skilled person can reassemble the pieces and bring forth what was originally intended for the picture.    This is what justice means: being restored to our original intention, as God sees us.  

Let us remember this as we speak and act in the name of Jesus in our day.  And let us remember that OUR version of justice should always give deference to Jesus’ version: restoring outsiders to the community.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, restoration comes through you and you alone; help us to be your hand and feet and voice  Amen.   

Can We (Christians) All Get Along?

S (Scripture): Philippians 1:27 Most important, live together in a manner worthy of Christ’s gospel…29 God has generously granted you the privilege, not only of believing in Christ but also of suffering for Christ’s sake. 30 You are having the same struggle that you saw me face and now hear that I’m still facing.

2:1 Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, 2 complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. 3 Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. 4 Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others.

O (Observation):  Paul knows what it means to be persecuted because of following Jesus.  He has served Jesus ever since his Damascus Road experience.  And now, Paul is teaching his followers what it means to follow Jesus…that following Jesus brings joy, but also persecution.   The persecutions will not be experienced alone.  Jesus shares those persecutions with his followers.  

Getting along with other followers of Jesus will also be a challenge and will be a persecution in its own way, too.  Each will have to suffer his or her own ego to take a back seat to the needs of the other.    That means not only will they be called upon to experience joy with the world around them…they would have to figure out how to get along with other Christ followers!

A (Application): Following Jesus means suffering your wants and desires to have a lower priority than Jesus’ call to discipleship. This means thinking of yourself less (like CS Lewis’ famous quote), without thinking less of yourself.  

In our world, we have quite the scarcity mindset.  We think: “If someone else wins, I must be losing.”    If someone else’s needs are met before mine, then I am weak and the other is strong.    

This scarcity spills over into our spiritual beliefs.   Can someone else who follows Christ believe something different than me about, say…the end times…or what it means to be “saved”…or how to baptize (sprinkle or immersion)…or whether I can hang out and support those of other faiths…or the LGBTQ community?   To many, we cannot have different sets of standards and follow the same Christ.   This is why we have over 30,000 denominations.  We can’t get along!

I wonder what Paul would think?

I know what I think:  we let the good and bad mingle together, doing the best we can to listen to God and respond.  I hope this includes a wide variety of opinions about what it means to follow Christ, without making anyone feel like they can’t be in fellowship together.   Let us bring joy to the world, because Jesus brought us joy in the first place.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, help us to see that winning and losing are not the goal…but instead, following you wherever you may lead us…and to do so with great joy.  Amen. 

Comfort for God’s People

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S (Scripture): Isaiah 40

1 Comfort, comfort my people!
says your God.
2 Speak compassionately to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her that her compulsory service has ended,
that her penalty has been paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins!
3 A voice is crying out:
“Clear the Lord’s way in the desert!
Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!
4 Every valley will be raised up,
and every mountain and hill will be flattened.
Uneven ground will become level,
and rough terrain a valley plain.
5 The Lord’s glory will appear,
and all humanity will see it together;
the Lord’s mouth has commanded it.”

O (Observation): God’s people moved back and forth from faithfulness to unfaithfulness over and over again.   In the time of King Hezekiah, the king made many decisions that pleased the Lord.   The king sought the Lord’s guidance and protection from the Assyrians and the Babylonians.   

Now, on his deathbed, King Hezekiah – the king of Israel – listened to the prophet Isaiah once again.  And the king is rewarded.  God grants Hezekiah 15 more years of life!

And in the wake of his healing, God gives Israel some rest.    Things would still get worse before they got better, but God was not abandoning the people.  In fact, God calls the people of Israel to experience Comfort.  

Their long-term worries are over, though trouble would still come.  Isaiah prophecies that the rough ways would eventually become smooth.  Where there is mountainous terrain, a level and direct path.  (Remember, they didn’t have ATV’s back then : )

No more surprises.  No more arduous journeys back to the Lord.   God would find a way to give us direct access to grace and forgiveness.    

For us Christians, this prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  

A (Application):  I heard a song on the radio again this morning.  The song essentially said that once someone believes in Jesus…all sorrow and pain go away.  

Well…yes and no.  The idea that we suffer eternally goes away, yes.   But do we still feel the suffering of this broken world in both small and immense ways?  Absolutely, we do!   We don’t celebrate the pain, but we do experience it.  

What has changed for God’s people…the leveling of the hills and raising of the valleys…means that our access to God is now on a clear pathway.  God’s people didn’t know what that would look like in Hezekiah or Isaiah’s time…but today, we think this looks like Jesus.   

This leveling also means that in this life – as followers of Jesus – even though we will experience pain and suffering, we will do so under the yoke of Jesus, whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.  

Maybe the author of the song wanted to convey that life in Jesus has no eternal sorrow…that our pain will be transformed into joy.   I just didn’t hear that transformative move in the song.   My worry is that people will hear a song like this and come into the Christian life thinking: “well, all my problems are solved now that I have Jesus!”  

My friend, if you come into a life in Jesus, your problems are just about to begin.  Life in Jesus is great, but it’s not always a walk in the park : )

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to know that you are with us, and that even though this life is full of fears and worries, that you walk through them with us…bringing us comfort in the end.  Amen.  

We See Broken; God Sees Mended


S (Scripture): Isaiah 37:14 Hezekiah took the letters from the messengers and read them. Then he went to the temple and spread them out before the Lord. 15 Hezekiah prayed to the Lord:

16 “Lord of heavenly forces, God of Israel: you sit enthroned on the winged creatures. You alone are God over all the earth’s kingdoms. You made both heaven and earth. 17 Lord, turn your ear this way and hear! Lord, open your eyes and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words. He sent them to insult the living God! 18 It’s true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have destroyed all the nations and their lands. 19 The Assyrians burned the gods of those nations with fire because they aren’t real gods. They are only man-made creations of wood and stone. That’s how the Assyrians could destroy them. 20 So now, Lord our God, please save us from Sennacherib’s power! Then all the earth’s kingdoms will know that you alone are Lord.”

21 Then Isaiah, Amoz’s son, sent a message to Hezekiah: The Lord God of Israel says this: Since you prayed to me about Assyria’s King Sennacherib, 22 this is the message that the Lord has spoken against him:

The young woman, Daughter Zion, despises you and mocks you;
Daughter Jerusalem shakes her head behind your back.

28 I know where you are,
how you go out and come in,
and how you rage against me.
29 Because you rage against me and because your pride has reached my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth.
I will make you go back the same way you came.

33 Therefore, the Lord says this about Assyria’s king: He won’t enter this city. He won’t shoot a single arrow here. He won’t come near the city with a shield. He won’t build a ramp to besiege it.

O (Observation):  King Sennacherib is planning to attack God’s people in Israel.   He has conquered many people and taken many lands.   This time, he has his eyes set upon taking over the Israelites.   

King Hezekiah (of Israel) hears of these threats made by the Assyrian King Sennacherib, and takes the letters which contain Sennecharib’s plans…and Hezekiah lays them out before God.  Hezekiah seeks God’s discernment on this matter, which weighs heavy upon his heart.  

God’s response is priceless.  God says that the Assyrian’s will not get a single shot of an arrow off, let alone build a siege ramp.   Reading past these verses above, you will notice that God sends his messengers to slay 145,000 Assyrian soldiers and has Sennecharib’s own sons kill King Sennecharib!

God was pleased with his people turning to God, rather than to their own strength or wisdom.    In response, God protects the Israelites.  

A (Application):  When was the last time you relied on God?   We try to be self-made people…and yet we have a God who calls us to call upon and depend upon God.   The struggle we have is that we think we can make it on our own…apart from God.   

We think need is a sign of weakness in this world…like if I need childcare, or money, or help fixing a car or doing taxes.    Why?   What if we know people who can help with these things?   Isn’t that part of the reason why we have community?   Aren’t we here to help each other out?  If so, why the shame?

We’re not fighting an army or worrying about a pending attack, but we are facing our own challenges.   The biggest struggle is likely self-image.   When we think we have to rely on ourselves to get us through our problems, we will likely fail.   Or worse, if we get through it and forget to thank God, we find ourselves like so many of Israel’s kings…thinking “we” did it, no thanks to God. 

But I hope we can be like King Hezekiah: ready to lay out the world’s sinister plans for us, and seek God’s power and wisdom.   

In doing so, we become vulnerable, but vulnerable to God’s ways, which is a good thing.  We lay down our ways, and pick up God’s ways.  This is God’s grace for us.  A way forward that relies on God.  

I was listening to a song today on the radio: Matthew West’s “Mended.”   (Listen to “Mended” by clicking here.)  When we lay down our ways, and instead see ourselves and the world around us through God’s eyes, we see a world waiting to be mended.   

May you see the world through God’s eyes today: when we see broken, God sees mended.   

P (Prayer):  Lord God, we lay our plans and the world’s plans at your feet.   Guide us. Save us.  Amen.   

Happy 4th of July

In our lives as Americans, we typically see ourselves entrenched in a battle between Contemplation and Action.   Contemplation is seen as inactivity, which is seen as laziness.   Action is seen as the better route, as making a difference in the world today, no matter how hasty our action or what damage we might leave in our wake.  

The true genius, however, lies in the “and” of Contemplation and Action.  

We retreat so that we might act out of listening to the Spirit’s guidance.  We take the world with us into our time of retreat and then contemplate on what God is saying to us and wrestling with what God wants us to do.   Then, our action will have significance in the world…and it will be driven by God’s will.   

To further explain the linkage between a Contemplation and Action, I refer you to Richard Rohr’s daily blog from today, July 4, 2017.  

Peace!   Be safe today, y’all!

Thanking the Lord This Afternoon


S (Scripture): Isaiah 12:3 You will draw water with joy from the springs of salvation.
4 And you will say on that day:
“Thank the Lord; call on God’s name;
proclaim God’s deeds among the peoples;
declare that God’s name is exalted.
5 Sing to the Lord, who has done glorious things;
proclaim this throughout all the earth.”

O (Observation): God’s people sing a hymn of trust.   Sometimes they would speak words of trust to reassure themselves that God promises a good end for God’s people, even if current circumstances are bleak. 

A (Application):  Sitting with extended family on the lake.   Family reunion time.  Chairs on the edge of the lake.  Kids swimming out to the small island.   Laughing. Playing.  Teaching little ones how to skip stones on the surface of the lake.   

Thanking the Lord this morning.  Enjoying creation.  Trusting in the Lord. 

P (Prayer):  Lord, keep us trusting in you for all we need and have.  Amen.