S (Scripture): James 5: 13 If any of you are suffering, they should pray. If any of you are happy, they should sing. 14 If any of you are sick, they should call for the elders of the church, and the elders should pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health. And if they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 For this reason, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve.

O (Observation):  James reminds the community that they are called to lean on one another, pray for one another, sing with one another, forgive one another.

A (Application):  How can we pray for one another, if we don’t tell each other what ails us (physically, spiritually, economically, socially, mentally)?  We are in a society that views dependence as a weakness. 

Can’t dependence remind us that we have a God who heals us through many ways, including praying for one another?  When the community gathers around someone in need, the results are incredible!!!  Something happens in community that cannot be replicated or explained sufficiently.  For extroverts and introverts… community can be healing.  You don’t have to speak, you can just be present.  If you wish to speak, do so, respecting other’s level of engagement.   
Do all of this with great love for one another.  

Next Saturday, our community gathers under the umbrella of #MurfreesboroLoves to demonstrate to the white supremacists that our message of love for neighbor will be louder and shine brighter than their messgae of bigotry.  

Please pray for Murfreesboro on Saturday, October 28, 2017.   

As a pastor in Murfreesboro, TN, I repudiate the words and actions of hatred and bigotry, which will likely be spoken and acted out by the White Lives Matter group coming to our town.  

P (Prayer): Lord you watc over all of us.  Help us to lean one another.  Amen.  


Our Past Can’t Hold Us Back!

Photo credit here.  Pictured is a food shelter located in Murfreesboro, TN.   LoveGodServePeople.org.  

S (Scripture): Ezekiel 18: 14 But suppose [a person] has a child who sees all the sins that his father committed. He becomes alarmed and doesn’t do them. 15 He doesn’t eat on the mountains or pay attention to the idols of the house of Israel. He doesn’t defile his neighbor’s wife. 16 He doesn’t cheat anyone, either by seizing collateral for loans or committing robbery. He gives his food to the hungry and clothes to the naked. 17 He refrains from oppressing the poor by taking neither interest nor profit. He observes my case laws and follows my regulations. He won’t die because of his father’s guilt. He will surely live. 18 As for his father: If he exploited the weak or committed robbery, or did anything else that wasn’t good for the people, he will die because of his own guilt.

O (Observation):  Physical death awaits us all, but in this life, Ezekiel points out that true life exists in looking to serve the interests of others, and not just one’s own interests.   Ezekiel is sharing God’s message about sins not necessarily being visited upon sons and daughters simply by default.  

Rather, God is opening up the minds of God’s people to realize that one is not defined by one’s parents – or one’s own past, even.   Rather, one might have one’s eyes opened to see that – all around us – people need to be fed and clothed.  Acting on those needs brings life to the recipients of that food and clothing, and in return, new life is brought to the person who gives to others.  

Funny how “giving away” actually brings the new life promised by God.  

A (Application): Pretty soon, a group of white supremacists will rally at the courthouse square to raise their message of disdain against immigrants and all people of color.   They have already shared flyers in the campus of Middle TN State University to recruit more to these bigoted groups.  

The vision is bleak for this town, when people see this stuff.   And yet, hope remains. 

We repudiate the words and actions of any group showing hate for another.  We will engage in a nonviolent response, in an alternate physical location.    And we will show love and care for our neighbors.    And we will share a vision of a future that is colorful, where cultures will learn from one another…and maybe we will catch a glimpse of the Kingdom!

Our past does not define us.   Jesus made sure of that by taking on and overcoming our sins – once and for all!  A shared vision of the future will bring many of us together…a future that includes being kind to one another, regardless of skin color, nation of origin, or language.  This is Jesus’ way.  

God always keeps open the door to loving our neighbor.   And feeds us so that we can keep on feeding others for the rest of our days.  

Is your past holding you back?  If so, be free today, in Jesus’ name!  Shake off that burden by seeking forgiveness.   Then go…and feed a need in your community today. 

P (Prayer):  Lord, we thank you for setting us free to go and serve our neighbor in need.  Amen. 

Loving a Hostile Neighbor

Photo credit here. 

S (Scripture): Hebrews 13:1 Keep loving each other like family. 2 Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it. 3 Remember prisoners as if you were in prison with them, and people who are mistreated as if you were in their place. 4 Marriage must be honored in every respect, with no cheating on the relationship, because God will judge the sexually immoral person and the person who commits adultery. 5 Your way of life should be free from the love of money, and you should be content with what you have. After all, he has said, “I will never leave you or abandon you” (see Deut 31:6; Gen 28:15).

O (Observation):  So, the life in Christ looks like hospitality, caring for the neighbor, and not getting caught up in the love of money.   Being content is important, and is possible, since God promises to be with us.  

And this list is just a glimpse into the Kingdom life in Christ.   And also important to note, these are fruits of Kingdom life, not requirements for entry into God’s Kingdom.   We all slip and fall, and repentance is always near.  

A (Application):   White supremacists intend to rally on the square in my town on Oct 28.   What to do? How to show love in the face of discrimination? 

Do we engage?  Ignore?   This has me going in loops.  Where is God in this?  If we engage, violence will likely ensue.   If we don’t engage, are we endorsing or condoning their actions?  

How do we be the presence of God in such a volatile situation?  How do we stand in solidarity with those who have disdain for others?

Well, we can pray.   

P (Prayer):  Lord, watch over us as we discern how to respond to vitriol with hospitality, to return anger with love.   Amen.  

Us For Them – Sowing Seeds of Hope

Photo credit here. 

S (Scripture): Hebrews 12: 14 Pursue the goal of peace along with everyone—and holiness as well, because no one will see the Lord without it. 15 Make sure that no one misses out on God’s grace. Make sure that no root of bitterness grows up that might cause trouble and pollute many people.

O (Observation):  The author equates the life of a disciple with running a race.  We have work to do, but we are empowered by God to run this race.  

When running this race, God’s people are encouraged to avoid bitterness, lest that bitterness take root in others.  

A (Application):  Us.  Them.   Typically, Us vs. Them. 

This is how society wants us to see one another.  Culture wars cause us to take sides: north vs south, black or brown or “other” vs white, gay vs “straight”.    

When we strut around with our moral authority, holding doctrine above all, we feed into this “us vs them” mentality.  And the casualties?  Love.  Humanity.  

Jesus is the way, the truth, the life.  His way is compassion and love.   If my theology causes my to see someone else as less than human, then my theology is bad.   If my theology causes me to see someone as less than human, by how they vote, or because they are in a different demographic than I am, I sow bitterness and it takes root.   

(Hat tip to the the podcast called “Pass The Mic” for some of these thoughts today.  Specifically their episode entitled “Kill the Cultur Wars,” Sept 4, 2017.  Click here.

Instead of Us OR Them, Jesus shapes my view to be Us FOR Them.  Love for neighbor.  Love for even my enemies.   (Check out Gungor’s song, “Us For Them,” here on YouTube or iTunes.)

P (Prayer):  Lord, keep me pure, whiter than snow, as I repent of my part in lifting up the culture wars, in sowing bitterness.  Amen.  

Stepping Out in Faith

Photo credit here. 

S (Scripture): Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out without knowing where he was going.

9 By faith he lived in the land he had been promised as a stranger. He lived in tents along with Isaac and Jacob, who were coheirs of the same promise. 10 He was looking forward to a city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

11 By faith even Sarah received the ability to have a child, though she herself was barren and past the age for having children, because she believed that the one who promised was faithful. 12 So descendants were born from one man (and he was as good as dead). They were as many as the number of the stars in the sky and as countless as the grains of sand on the seashore.

O (Observation):  Faith is the result of God making promises and fulfilling those promises.  Here, the author of Hebrews shows how God made good on promises to Abraham and Sarah, and the resulting actions made based on faith.  

God promised Abraham that a new place would exist to which he and Sarah could go.  God promised that their descendants would be as numerous as the stars, as the grains of sand on the beach.   

Abraham and Sarah never could see the fullness of God’s promises…but then, many never do.  That doesn’t mean that the promises are not kept…just that we might not see the promises fulfilled with our own eyes.  

A (Application):  How often do we see the fulfillment of God’s promises in our own time?  

We see some promises fulfilled.   Others, we must trust that God sees them through.  

Often, we must recall the promises made by God to those in former times in order to see that God has been faithful.    We look to Abraham and Sarah, and see promises fulfilled.  We look to the dark ages, and see how monks and many others kept the faith.  We look to modern natural disasters and see God in the response efforts.  We see God comforting the afflicted in the wake of a mass shooting – the worst in US history.  

What a challenging line of succession to follow.  Seeing God’s promises fulfilled is tricky work sometimes, in the midst of the hazy fog of mass murder and natural disasters.  

In times like these, the long view is necessary.   We can feel like our small individual actions don’t amount to much.  But when we see God giving us strength, those small acts of love are effective, indeed.  

This is faith: doing the thing God called you to do.  And trusting that God will make it effective.  

Go.  Do.  Pray.  

P (Prayer): Lord, you call us out through faith to love and serve our neighbors.  Be with us.  Amen.  

Through Faith Alone

Photo credit here.  

S (Scripture): Hebrews 10:39 But we aren’t the sort of people who timidly draw back and end up being destroyed. We’re the sort of people who have faith so that our whole beings are preserved. 11:1 Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see. 2 The elders in the past were approved because they showed faith.

3 By faith we understand that the universe has been created by a word from God so that the visible came into existence from the invisible.

O (Observation): The author of Hebrews shares the absolute immense confidence that comes from faith.   While believers in Christ might experience difficulties in this life, hope awaits all believers in the end.  

Faith is so incredible that it causes us to believe that God created everything from nothing that we could see.  

A (Application):  My confidence in the faith given to me by the Holy Spirit, made most real for me in my baptism, helps me this day.   Natural disasters, death, shootings, chaos.   And yet, hope in things unseen.  Faith allows me to know that God will pave the way for us to a new day.  

I’m not looking for an escape.   I’m looking for a transformation.   I’m trying to be part of the solution.  

Soon, several members of the congregation I serve will be part of a mini-series of conversations regarding black and white race relations.   We will do our part to believe – through faith – that God will create something out of seemingly nothing.   That God will blaze a trail for us to follow.  That God will place people in our path who will be agents for positive change in Muefreesboro, TN, and beyond.  

Let’s pray for change.  

Let’s be the change.  

Through faith alone.  

P (Prayer): Lord, guide us into faith, into how, into joy, even in the midst of devastation and sorrow.  Amen.  
P.s. please keep the folks of Catolonia (in Spain) in your prayers, as they seek to become an independent state.  Much rotating and upheaval going on.  Many injured in riots.   See one article here.