What Can You Do To Me?

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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. 6 This is why we can confidently say,

The Lord is my helper,

    and I won’t be afraid.

What can people do to me?

O (Observation): The people of God give encouragement to those who believe. Living as if grace matters is key to the exhortation of God’s people this day. The word of grace comes at the end of this snippet. Jesus will never abandon you. As a result, all who believe know that Jesus will never abandon them. You can take my car, my stuff, my people, but what can you do to me? Nothing. For with God, we are never alone.

A (Application): We have so much to which we prostitute ourselves. (Hat tip to Ezekiel 16 for that imagery, btw.)

How easily we forget that God is with us.

Tomorrow, my son has surgery to repair his torn labrum in his shoulder after dislocating it a few weeks ago. He is in fair health and very athletic. Just a freak accident during football practice.

Now, we await surgery tomorrow. I’ll be sitting on the other side of the great divide. I will be receiving care from others via prayers, acknowledgments, and visits from family. (Actually, Dylan will be receiving these, but some will feel for us as parents : )

We will be hanging with Jesus in a sense, as the prayers and visits during surgery and / or in the days following come to us. We will receive hope in the one who shows us that we are already in relationship with God and the Spirit.

World, what can you do to us? Well, a lot, yes. But really. What can you do to us? By faith, we have Jesus as our exemplar and our hope.

We need nothing else.

P (Prayer): Lord, we thank you for showing us the way and for reminding us that we are enough, because of you. Amen.

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The Temptation that is Actually Bitter, Not Sweet

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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. 16 Make sure that no one becomes sexually immoral or ungodly like Esau. He sold his inheritance as the oldest son for one meal. 17 You know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected because he couldn’t find a way to change his heart and life, though he looked for it with tears.

O (Observation): God’s grace comes to all. Lead with it. End with it. Without leading in grace, people won’t see God’s grace for them. When others are leading with bitterness, people will not only receive bitterness, but they will then act bitter towards others.

A (Application): We are called to lead with joy, not grasping on to the nice shiny object in our faces, like Esau. He wanted that quick thing – a meal, forsaking his blessing.

We don’t need that quick fix. We have the grace of God to sustain us and fill us!!!

What is the shiny thing you are trying to get a hold of? Who around you is helping you to look at God’s grace, instead of the bitter reward of earthly gain?

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to look to you, not just to ourselves. Amen.

To Run the Race Before Us

(African Descent Lutheran Association giving blessing to Bishop Kevin Strickland and the Southeastern Synod Staff. I’m the tall one in the middle of the picture. : )

S (Scripture): Hebrews 12:1 So then, with endurance, let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, 2 and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne.

O (Observation): God has put before us a task, a life full of opportunity. Life is lived out in faith and hope, not focusing on our sins, but on Jesus, who has made us perfect.

A (Application): On Saturday, my bishop, Rev Kevin Strickland, was installed as Bishop of the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA. I was one of the Assistants to the Bishop to be installed that day, too. (I’m the one on the left…)

My son participated, too. Here he is as the Book Bearer, along with other youth and young adults who participated. (My son in on the left…)

What a glorious day. More importantly, what an opportunity to be set forth with challenge and grace. Promises were made by and to our bishop. Promises were made by and to me and the other Assistants to the Bishop.

We made mutual promises and we hope to run the race set before us! And to run the race by faith. No longer focusing on our sin, but on Jesus.

P (Prayer): Lord Jesus, guide us along the path of hope and faith. Bless Bishop Kevin Strickland and all of our Southeastern Synod staff. Amen.

Faith – Powerful and Scary

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S (Scripture): Hebrews 11:17 By faith Abraham offered Isaac when he was tested. The one who received the promises was offering his only son. 18 He had been told concerning him, Your legitimate descendants will come from Isaac.[Gen 21:12] 19 He figured that God could even raise him from the dead. So in a way he did receive him back from the dead.

O (Observation): The author of Hebrews lists many people of faith. Each had a different manifestation of God’s grace. For Abraham, he knew that the world would be blessed not only through him, but through his son, Isaac.

When God asked Abraham to trust God, he did. He may have been confused in trying to reconcile the death of his son with the legitimate descendants coming through Isaac’s lineage.

Yet Abraham had faith; he embraced God’s truth. Abraham figured his son would be dead, but that God’s plan was still viable…even if it meant bringing Isaac back from the dead.

Abraham had to let go and trust that God would carry them forward.

A (Application): Abraham had to let go. In letting go, he also began to trust that God would eventually step in at some point to make good on God’s promise to bring descendants of Isaac. Abraham thought God would bring him back.

That is a big kind of trust. How many of us can take God’s promises near that serious?

How do / can we let go? Through faith alone.

The problem is this: Faith looks like foolishness to the world. Faith gets you in trouble with the world. Faith is not logical.

Faith is God dwelling within you so that you are eternally in the moment and grateful for that moment.

Faith is God carrying you onward even though life seems bleak.

Faith is trusting that giving to God FIRST out of your paycheck will be a blessing to you.

Faith is knowing that things will work out, knowing you don’t have to dictate all the details of this life.

Faith is letting go in the confidence that God will see you through the best and the worst of times.

May your faith be strong. May God’s presence shine in you and through you, through faith.

P (Prayer): God, grant us faith. Amen.

God is ALIVE and ON THE MOVE

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S (Scripture): Psalm 115

1

Not to us, Lord, not to us—

    no, but to your own name give glory

        because of your loyal love and faithfulness!

Why do the nations say,

    “Where’s their God now?”

Our God is in heaven—

    he can do whatever he wants!

Their idols are just silver and gold—

    things made by human hands.

    They have mouths, but they can’t speak.

    They have eyes, but they can’t see.

    They have ears, but they can’t hear.

    They have noses, but they can’t smell.

    They have hands, but they can’t feel.

    They have feet, but they can’t walk.

    They can’t even make a noise in their throats!

Let the people who made these idols

    and all who trust in them

    become just like them!

O (Observation): God’s people do something seemingly irresponsible. They believe in what they cannot see. They believe God lives and moves freely. No hand-made likeness is necessary. (Remember the first commandment’s qualifier – no graven image is to be made.)

The non-God-fearers just don’t get it. Oh well.

A (Application): How many of our people in our churches speak the language of faith? For so long, we have been concerned with measurements of “butts and bucks” (or attendance and offering) that we quite often fail to see how God is a part of any of that.

We fail to see and hear and tell the stories of what God is doing in our ministries.

Yesterday, I spoke with a pastor friend who gets it, who wants to help her churchgoers to see what the Spirit is up to.

And so, that changes now.

Answer theses questions:

  • Where have I seen God today?
  • How has God used someone else to bless me today?
  • How has God used me to bless someone else?
  • I didn’t come up with these questions, but they have been foundational to my ministries.
  • May you discover how God is with you and is alive and well.

    P (Prayer): Lord, show us your presence. Amen.

    Encouragement

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    S (Scripture): Hebrews 10:19 Brothers and sisters, we have confidence that we can enter the holy of holies by means of Jesus’ blood, 20 through a new and living way that he opened up for us through the curtain, which is his body, 21 and we have a great high priest over God’s house.

    22 Therefore, let’s draw near with a genuine heart with the certainty that our faith gives us, since our hearts are sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies are washed with pure water.

    23 Let’s hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, because the one who made the promises is reliable.

    24 And let us consider each other carefully for the purpose of sparking love and good deeds. 25 Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near.

    O (Observation): Gathering together to remember God’s activity and to remember what has been done. God frees us from the idea that we must save ourselves. God frees us from thinking we need to live individually, to make it in this world, independently from one another.

    God frees from the notion that we must work harder to be free – we are already free.

    And so, we have the capacity to do good and to hold on to hope – not because we make our own way, because a way has been made for us.

    A (Application): we are free. We always have been. We just blinded ourselves to freedom. We think we need to make it apart from God and apart from one another to prove something. We don’t.

    Now that we are free, let us be beholden to one another.

    Let us encourage one another out of joy and hope.

    How can you encourage others this day?

    P (Prayer): Lord, bring me folks today to encourage me. Amen.

    Jesus Changes Everything

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    S (Scripture): Hebrews 8:1 Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We have this kind of high priest. He sat down at the right side of the throne of the majesty in the heavens. 2 He’s serving as a priest in the holy place, which is the true meeting tent that God, not any human being, set up. 3 Every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices. So it’s necessary for this high priest also to have something to offer. 4 If he was located on earth, he wouldn’t be a priest because there are already others who offer gifts based on the Law. 5 They serve in a place that is a copy and shadow of the heavenly meeting tent. This is indicated when Moses was warned by God when he was about to set up the meeting tent: See that you follow the pattern that I showed you on the mountain in every detail. 6 But now, Jesus has received a superior priestly service just as he arranged a better covenant that is enacted with better promises.

    O (Observation): God’s people are trying to reconcile why God established multiple covenants. The author concludes that the covenant of placing the Law on our hearts has been good, but is imperfect…not because God is imperfect, but because we are. The covenant is placed on us in our broken world.

    In Jesus comes the better covenant because it has better promises with it.

    A (Application): We are broken and frail. Our political systems are based on win-lose scenarios, our economic systems are based on greed, our Christian religious systems are based on proving others wrong and damning them for it.

    How to be a Christian in the world today?

    With Jesus. Only with Jesus do we move forward.

    We move forward in ways that help us towards win-win solutions in politics, seeking the uplifting of our political enemy. We can see that our economy can help us sustain those most challenged, by helping us to be generous towards the least of these. We can begin our conversations about Christ with love and compassion and empathy FIRST, showing God’s love for all people.

    These are counter-cultural moves. The Hebrews author sees that God can and does work in and through the person of Jesus. And Jesus changes our practical everyday lives!!!!

    We seek to help others. We seek to give. We seek to uplift.

    This is the change of Jesus being my hope and salvation. My priest who intercedes for me.

    What changes your life?

    P (Prayer): Lord, guide me in all my ways. Amen.