I’ve Got Everything I Need, Right?

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S (Scripture): 2 Kings 17:4b Hoshea (king of Israel) stopped paying tribute to the Assyrian king as he had in previous years, so the Assyrian king arrested him and put him in prison. 5 Then the Assyrian king invaded the whole country. He marched against Samaria and attacked it for three years. 6 In Hoshea’s ninth year, the Assyrian king captured Samaria. He sent Israel into exile to Assyria, resettling them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River, and in the cities of the Medes.

O (Observation): At this point in the history of the Hebrew people, we see a divided people of God: The northern kingdom (Israel) and the southern kingdom (Judah). Each kingdom had its own king.

Politics became the god of the people. They made decisions not based on what God spoke through the prophets, but rather what they felt was the best way to secure their own wants and needs. Sometimes, the needs were about protection from enemies (like Israel’s king paying the Assyrian king for protection). When this favor ends, so does the friendship. And Assyria conquered Israel, exiling (most of) the people of Israel through Assyria. (No better way of getting rid of a people than by making them become your people.)

A (Application): So, the more we rely on ourselves, the worse our predicament becomes. Yet, this is the battle we face. This is the temptation we succumb to time and time again.

To whom do we turn in difficult times? Ourselves? Our money to buy things to make us happy? Our work to help us feel like we are accomplishing something? Our chore list to make sure we get that done?

What makes us feel whole? None of the things I listed. We might get temporary satisfaction…but they don’t last.

Relying on God has been an “On again / off again” thing, if I’m honest. I do things from time to time just to show I can do them, like I’m proving my worth to God and others.

Yet, this is not what God requires of me. God simply calls on me to believe that Jesus came to show us that we have everything we need: gifting from the Spirit, a relationship with God, and disciples to journey alongside.

May you see your blessings this day.

P (Prayer): Lord, guide us this day, as always. Amen.

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You Can Do It!

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S (Scripture): Deuteronomy 30:6 Then the Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants so that you love the Lord your God with all your mind and with all your being in order that you may live… 11 This commandment that I’m giving you right now is definitely not too difficult for you. It isn’t unreachable. 12 It isn’t up in heaven somewhere so that you have to ask, “Who will go up for us to heaven and get it for us that we can hear it and do it?” 13 Nor is it across the ocean somewhere so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the ocean for us and get it for us that we can hear it and do it?” 14 Not at all! The word is very close to you. It’s in your mouth and in your heart, waiting for you to do it.

O (Observation): Moses speaks to the crowd. They wonder at the command God gives: Love God! Yet they and their ancestors have not obeyed God for quite some time (hence, the 40 years of wandering).

Now, though, God’s mercy comes back into view. The physical circumcision that was required is now a circumcision of the heart. (A helpful move, so that both male and female would now both fully enter the covenant.)

Loving God with heart and mind and being is a commandment that is not too far off. God will take the step to make this faith possible with the cardiac circumcision.

A (Application): My faith originates in what God has done and still does. After wandering for forty years in the wilderness, I would have a tough time thinking that God wanted to reach out to me. And yet that is exactly what is promised and still promises. The Hebrew people have had lives filled with devastation and disaster. I want to how this promise works for them.

I’ve had a pretty easy life. No discrimination. No catastrophes. My faith is what it is because somehow the Spirit moved (and still moves) me.

And the challenge of faith is very simple: loving God is as near to you as your heart and your mouth. Living out the commandment to love God starts and ends with God coming close to us. Regardless of our past or current status. All are welcome to receive God’s grace.

P (Prayer): God, you are amazingly full of grace. For that, we thank you! Amen.

P.s. Any fans of the Christian band, “Lost and Found”? They wrote a song called “Cardiac Circumcision.” I remember singing this song in my living room on a cassette tape after a camp called AFFIRM. I had no idea what it meant technically…but I had an idea that it meant something about changing my heart : )

Guessing these verses inspired their song.

Blessings and Curses

Photo credit here (I don’t always find a piece of art related directly to the text for the day, but today, we have found one! Read Deut 27:11-28:68)

S (Scripture): Deuteronomy 28:1 Now if you really obey the Lord your God’s voice, by carefully keeping all his commandments that I am giving you right now, then the Lord your God will set you high above all nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come upon you and find you if you obey the Lord your God’s voice…15 But if you don’t obey the Lord your God’s voice by carefully doing all his commandments and his regulations that I am commanding you right now, all these curses will come upon you and find you…

O (Observation): God’s people are established after having been slaves for so long…for generations! They have no understanding of healthy boundaries for a person or for property. So, God sets forth the boundaries and declares what types of things should be done and what types of things should be avoided.

They assume all good blessings and all bad curses come from God, so this only makes sense to God’s people. They need strong direction in their time of uncertainty. They got it!

A (Application): I think about my own children. When young, we set strict boundaries for them. “Eat all your food! No playing in the street! Follow directions and get a treat!”

In this way of looking at blessings and curses, God’s people needed what they got: treats and warnings. Yet, as God’s people became more and more established, the idea of blessings and curses became less and less about a strict way to live, and more a guide to healthy community.

In Jesus, we start to see the true intention behind blessings and curses: healthy community. And in Jesus, start to see that one’s blessings doesn’t necessarily coordinate with how “good” one has been and one’s curses don’t necessarily coordinate with how “bad” one has been.

Instead, filled with the Holy Spirit, and with Jesus as our Guide, we simply look to God to provide and we seek to serve others, first. May we all be strong in faith and humble in spirit.

P (Prayer): Lord, we look to you for guidance and love and mercy, whether we do good or bad – well…we do both…so…uh…have mercy on us, Lord. Amen.

A Liturgical Lesson

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S (Scripture): Numbers 6:22 The Lord spoke to Moses: 23 Tell Aaron and his sons: You will bless the Israelites as follows. Say to them:

24  The Lord bless you and protect you.

25  The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.

26  The Lord lift up his face to you and grant you peace.

27 They will place my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.

O (Observation): This 3-fold blessing is not something that some church leader made up a few years ago. This is a blessing handed down from God to Moses for Aaron and the other priests to use to bless the Israelites.

This is a big deal.

A (Application): We use much scripture in worship as a Lutheran congregation of the ELCA. More than you might think.

As we change some of our liturgy based on the church liturgical calendar, we incorporate the worship texts throughout each season into the words of our prayers and blessing or in our confession and forgiveness, and more.

The hymns also reflect certain scriptures, and typically reflect the season of the Church calendar and messages given through the sermon.

But when we need a tried and true blessing…we can go all the way back to Moses and Aaron.

P (Prayer): Lord, as you provide the words of blessing, help us to know we are in your ever-loving care. Amen.

How Absurd!

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S (Scripture): Mark 6:33 Many people saw [Jesus and the disciples] leaving and recognized them, so they ran ahead from all the cities and arrived before them. 34 When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he began to teach them many things.

35 Late in the day, his disciples came to him and said, “This is an isolated place, and it’s already late in the day. 36 Send them away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy something to eat for themselves.”

37 He replied, “You give them something to eat.”

But they said to him, “Should we go off and buy bread worth almost eight months’ pay and give it to them to eat?”

38 He said to them, “How much bread do you have? Take a look.”

After checking, they said, “Five loaves of bread and two fish.”

39 He directed the disciples to seat all the people in groups as though they were having a banquet on the green grass. 40 They sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 He took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed them, broke the loaves into pieces, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 Everyone ate until they were full. 43 They filled twelve baskets with the leftover pieces of bread and fish. 44 About five thousand had eaten.

O (Observation): The crowd recognizes that Jesus has some significant power and teaching for them. They wish to receive his wisdom and his healing.

As 5,000 had gathered, they hadn’t made dinner plans. Jesus’ disciples wish for them to be sent away to get their own dinner. Jesus makes sure they eat : )

Jesus asks the disciples to gather what they have, he blesses it, and all 5,000 are fed!

I love how Jesus takes what the disciples ALREADY HAVE and blesses THAT. With that blessed bread and fish, all are fed. The disciples never had to look further than what they already had…and Jesus uses PRECISELY that possession to bless the crowd.

A (Application): How are you already equipped for ministry? What is it about you that God has blessed and used for the good of others? Your money? Your pen? Your voice?

Think back to Moses and Aaron. They were not asked to take a huge test or scavenge for weapons or anything. They were simply to speak on God’s behalf. Even the staff Moses had…God used.

How far do we have to go to think about what God can use in me? In you?

Are we afraid? Do we doubt? Perhaps. That would make us normal. If we believe…that makes us weird…that’s absurd. Which may be the idea all along.

P (Prayer): Lord, remind us that you bless what has already been given to us. Amen.

Somehow…God Redeems

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S (Scripture): Genesis 27:5 Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau went out to the field to hunt game to bring back, 6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “I just heard your father saying to your brother Esau, 7 ‘Bring me some game and make me some delicious food so I can eat, and I will bless you in the Lord’s presence before I die.’ 8 Now, my son, listen to me, to what I’m telling you to do. 9 Go to the flock and get me two healthy young goats so I can prepare them as the delicious food your father loves. 10 You can bring it to your father, he will eat, and then he will bless you before he dies.”

O (Observation): Rebekah and Jacob (mother and son) conspire to steal Esau’s blessing as first-born son. (Yes, Jacob and Esau are twins, but Esau was born first. And in Hebrew tradition, first-born gets a double-portion of the inheritance.)

How conniving and under-handed is this! Rebekah leads this endeavor, and Jacob is not only complicit, he outright lies to his own father. And he succeeds in receiving Isaac’s blessing of Esau’s inheritance.

And over time, God is referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (and not Esau). How bizarre! Such a terrible act…and somehow, Isaac’s descendants are still blessed and numerous and destined to still have descendants who will honor God…one of whom will eventually bring salvation to all: Jesus!

Later on in Genesis, we will see a reckoning between Jacob and Esau…but the origins of this story are quite challenging.

(But we also cannot forget the Lord’s word to Rebekah when she was pregnant. God said to her in Gen 25:23 –

“Two nations are in your womb;
two different peoples will emerge from your body.
One people will be stronger than the other;
the older will serve the younger.”

Is this God fulfilling God’s prophetic word? Did God simply foresee this action by Rebekah and Jacob? Did this impact Rebekah’s decision to choose Jacob?)

A (Application): What can this mean? Should we go around bringing about thievery and deceit? I should think NOT!

Instead, I am led to think this: even through our deceit and misdeeds…God can still work through our crap and redeem God’s promises.

We make monumental mistakes at times, but God somehow finds a way to work within our systems and makes a way forward.

Where have you seen God working out a plan through your own faults and misdeeds?

Every day, as a husband and parent, I see my own mistakes and wonder how God will work through me and my family, even though I find ways to mess things up? And the church I serve…how does God cover my faults or the faults of our leadership (for none of us is perfect)?

Perhaps being the Church means we are redeemed and covered through God’s forgiveness. Yes. I believe this is the only way I can contribute to God’s work in this world – as a forgiven sinner, redeemed by God’s grace.

P (Prayer): Lord, our misdeeds do not define us. Being your daughters and sons define us. Peace.

From Spiritual To Material


S (Scripture): Romans 15:23 But now, with no further place for me in these regions, I desire, as I have for many years, to come to you 24 when I go to Spain. For I do hope to see you on my journey and to be sent on by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little while. 25 At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem in a ministry to the saints; 26 for Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to share their resources with the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27 They were pleased to do this, and indeed they owe it to them; for if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material things. 28 So, when I have completed this, and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will set out by way of you to Spain…

O (Observation): Paul is always on the move.  He is graced with the blessing of being an apostle – always out on the frontier.   And loving it, since this is his calling for the most part.  

In his travels amongst places where he was establishing churches, he found that the churches in Macedonia and Achaia were eager to offer their resources to the churches in Rome. Paul was carrying this offering and wishing to go to Spain, but to visit the church in Rome and drop off this offering as part of what he hoped to be an epic journey to Spain. 

The spiritual impact in the faith communities started and helped by Paul has led to material offerings and support to other churches.   

A (Application):  As a pastor, I have the blessing of sharing God’s generous spirit with the congregation I serve and with the wider community.  Our spiritual blessing leads us to material generosity.   

We have found that money follows ministry.  We like to get caught up in scarcity, but our God is always surprising us in ways unimaginable.   Where will the money come from?  I don’t know.  Maybe it will, maybe it won’t and we have to shift plans.   But we are always discerning our way forward…always wondering what God is saying to us, and wondering what God wants us to do.   

As we continue to wonder, we see fruit coming from our times of discernment.  We have a Cub Scout group and a home school co-op using our building during the week.  We host a quilting ministry, Bible study, worship, a Zumba class, a free exchange program, called Weecycle, which meets in our parking lot twice a month.  We give to the wider church, at a rate of 8% of regular offerings, and we donate to various local ministries.  We partner with other organizations to show love to our neighbor (as I wrote about in yesterday’s post).   

We are blessed, and we want to share this blessing with others.   We are not worthy, but for what we have, we give thanks.   And in our discernment, we sense God calling us to pay forward the blessings we have received so that others might experience the same blessings.   Sometimes that blessing is money, sometimes it is time, sometimes it is sharing a promotion of an event or such.  

We move from spiritual to material.   How about you?

P (Prayer):  Lord, you are generous.  Help us to be generous, too.  Amen.