Responding to the Call

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S (Scripture): Hebrews 5:4 No one takes this honor for themselves but takes it only when they are called by God, just like Aaron.

5 In the same way Christ also didn’t promote himself to become high priest. Instead, it was the one who said to him,

You are my Son.

        Today I have become your Father

O (Observation): The call to serve the people of God comes from God…even for Jesus. Aaron served God’s people by communicating with God and bringing the people’s joys and concerns to God. Also, for the sake of order, priests throughout the ages have spoken to God on behalf of God’s people. They offer contrite hearts to God.

Eventually, we have seen God’s desire more clearly. We no longer need sacrifices – Jesus made sure of that. God never needed sacrifices, just a people willing to admit their brokenness.

A (Application): Instead of sacrifices, we bring our collective broken heart to God. And priests help us to do that.

Who are our priests? These are people of God who sense that called has called them to carry these broken hearts and help them to connect to God. These people who are called by God to be priests are also acknowledged and accepted by the surrounding community. In other words, that call is both internal (sensed by the individual) and external (verified by the God-follower community).

In the Evangelical Lutheran Church In America, that process of discernment is aided by what we call the “Candidacy Process.” If you are sensing that your baptismal call is leading you into service of the Church, check out our resources on the ELCA website.

And if you do sense God’s call, let me know…I’d love to help you process that a bit.

Here’s my number: 615-617-9697.

P (Prayer): Lord, in our baptism, you call us. Help us to respond to your call. Amen.

The One Thing ☝🏼

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S (Scripture): Acts 20:21 You know I have testified to both Jews and Greeks that they must change their hearts and lives as they turn to God and have faith in our Lord Jesus. 22 Now, compelled by the Spirit, I’m going to Jerusalem. I don’t know what will happen to me there. 23 What I do know is that the Holy Spirit testifies to me from city to city that prisons and troubles await me. 24 But nothing, not even my life, is more important than my completing my mission. This is nothing other than the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus: to testify about the good news of God’s grace.

O (Observation): Paul knows the one thing that is most important, above all else:

To testify about the good news of God’s grace.

He knows that dangers lie ahead, and he testifies anyway. He testifies to both Jews and Greeks. And he does all of this based on his call to serve God.

Regardless of the danger that might befall him, Paul carries on.

A (Application): Ever seen City Slickers? You know, the movie with Billy Crystal and Jack Palance. Palance plays a rough and tough cowboy named Curly.

Curly keeps telling the city slickers that the most important thing was this: then he would hold up his hand in a fist and point his index finger skyward. He would say: “the one thing.” The one thing was the most important thing. The problem is, he doesn’t tell anyone what that ONE thing is.

The idea was that we all have “one thing” that is the most important thing in the world for each of us. And no one can tell you what your one thing is. Curly didn’t tell the city slickers what that one thing is for them, because they each had to discern that for themselves.

How about you? What is your one thing? We know what Paul’s was.

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to clarify our “one thing” that you have called us to. Amen.

Bonus: YouTube clip of the “one thing” conversation. (Disclaimer: foul language).

Fear Not, For I am With You

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S (Scripture): Acts 18:9 One night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, “Don’t be afraid. Continue speaking. Don’t be silent. 10 I’m with you and no one who attacks you will harm you, for I have many people in this city.” 11 So he stayed there [in Corinth] for eighteen months, teaching God’s word among them.

O (Observation): Paul listened. God said, “Fear not, for I am with you.” Well, pretty close to that. These words gave Paul encouragement to stay. He dug in some roots, enough to really help develop a base of disciples equipped with the Good News, and how to share it.

Paul did this because God said God would be with him.

A (Application): When is the last time you listened for God? What did God sound like? A voice? A sign? Peaceful and purposeful silence? Did God come to you through support of a loved one – or even a stranger?

Our ventures are never solo adventures. God journeys with us. And gives us confidence.

Trust in God’s promise. Listen out for God.

P (Prayer): Lord, help me see my path. Amen.

Hello? Are You There?

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S (Scripture): 1 Samuel 3:1 Now the boy Samuel was serving the Lord under Eli. The Lord’s word was rare at that time, and visions weren’t widely known. 2 One day Eli, whose eyes had grown so weak he was unable to see, was lying down in his room. 3 God’s lamp hadn’t gone out yet, and Samuel was lying down in the Lord’s temple, where God’s chest[a] was.

4 The Lord called to Samuel. “I’m here,” he said.

5 Samuel hurried to Eli and said, “I’m here. You called me?”

“I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go lie down.” So he did.

6 Again the Lord called Samuel, so Samuel got up, went to Eli, and said, “I’m here. You called me?”

“I didn’t call, my son,” Eli replied. “Go and lie down.”

(7 Now Samuel didn’t yet know the Lord, and the Lord’s word hadn’t yet been revealed to him.)

8 A third time the Lord called Samuel. He got up, went to Eli, and said, “I’m here. You called me?”

Then Eli realized that it was the Lord who was calling the boy. 9 So Eli said to Samuel, “Go and lie down. If he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down where he’d been.

10 Then the Lord came and stood there, calling just as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”

Samuel said, “Speak. Your servant is listening.”

O (Observation): Samuel is called by God. Wow! How special is this! Hearing a calling was rare back then. Even more so today.

Samuel wasn’t really ready for his call. He was young. He didn’t understand. He wasn’t yet equipped. But he was called.

And that makes all the difference.

A (Application): God doesn’t call the equipped. God equips those who are called.

We never know when or how we will be called, but we all can listen. We can ignore the call, but God will persist. We can step out in faith, knowing that the call means God is supporting us along the way.

The form of God supporting us might look like friends or loved one’s loving us or challenging us. The call may be short-term or long-term, easily discernible or complicated.

In any form, the call is true and present. In my baptism, I believe that God is calling me in many ways.

How is God calling you?

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to discern your call. Amen.

Called to Serve!

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S (Scripture): Luke 3:7 Then John said to the crowds who came to be baptized by him, “You children of snakes! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon? 8 Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire.”

10 The crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”

11 He answered, “Whoever has two shirts must share with the one who has none, and whoever has food must do the same.”

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. They said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”

13 He replied, “Collect no more than you are authorized to collect.”

14 Soldiers asked, “What about us? What should we do?”

He answered, “Don’t cheat or harass anyone, and be satisfied with your pay.”

O (Observation): John speaks for God – he is a prophet. Many come come to be baptized by John to show that they wish to receive forgiveness of sins and wish to change their lives. No longer does John think it sufficient to be a Jew – from the lineage of Abraham and Sarah. That “status” is of little significance should one not change one’s life.

John says that God expects a changed life in response to the grace given to each.

Life in Christ gives ALL people a chance – even a pile of rocks : )

Jesus forms a new way of life with God, one that is open to all.

A (Application): Complacency is our biggest threat as Christians in the world. “I’ve done enough. I’ve done my part. There’s nothing I can do about it.” These words are our excuses.

Instead of relying on our baptism as our “ticket home,” let’s also think about our baptism as our call to serve and our being equipped for mission in the world!

Rest not only on what God has done FOR you…through prayer and community discern how God is working THROUGH you!

P (Prayer): Lord, make me a channel of your peace. Amen.

“So How’s That Working Out for You?”

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S (Scripture): Numbers 14:1 The entire community raised their voice and the people wept that night. 2 All the Israelites criticized Moses and Aaron. The entire community said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt or if only we had died in this desert! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us to this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our children will be taken by force. Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 So they said to each other, “Let’s pick a leader and let’s go back to Egypt.”

10b Then the Lord’s glory appeared in the meeting tent to all the Israelites. 11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people disrespect me? And how long will they doubt me after all the signs that I performed among them? 12 I’ll strike them down with a plague and disown them. Then I’ll make you into a great nation, stronger than they.”

19 Please forgive the wrongs of these people because of your absolute loyalty, just as you’ve forgiven these people from their time in Egypt until now.”

20 Then the Lord said, “I will forgive as you requested. But,

25 Since the Amalekites and the Canaanites live in the valley, tomorrow turn and march into the desert by the route of the Reed Sea.”

26 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron: 27 How long will this wicked community complain against me? I’ve heard the Israelites’ dissent as they continue to complain against me. 28 Say to them, “As I live,” says the Lord, “just as I’ve heard you say, so I’ll do to you. 29 Your dead bodies will fall in this desert. None of you who were enlisted and were registered from 20 years old and above, who complained against me, 30 will enter the land in which I promised to settle you, with the exception of Caleb, Jephunneh’s son, and Joshua, Nun’s son. 31 But your children, whom you said would be taken by force, I’ll bring them in and they will know the land that you rejected. 32 Your bodies, however, will fall in this desert, 33 and your children will be shepherds in the desert for forty years. They will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies fall in the desert. 34 For as many days as you explored the land, that is, forty days, just as many years you’ll bear your guilt, that is, forty years. This is how you will understand my frustration.” 35 I the Lord have spoken. I will do this to the entire wicked community who gathered against me. They will die in this desert. There they’ll meet their end.

O (Observation): WOW! Some extremely harsh words from a God who is all-powerful and all-knowing. God gives the people a land…but they’d rather be back in Egypt…enslaved. So they complain to God…and God leaves them to their own devices. God is the one who saves and who lets people choose for themselves how they will live. Of course, choosing one’s own personal desires can cause harm to one’s self and the community.

But instead of focusing on missing the mark, perhaps we have a lesson on faith and trust in the Lord. Let us focus on this: when God provides vision, God also provides provision.

A (Application): I think Israel’s problem can be summed up by a question that Dr. Phil likes to ask: “So how’s that working out for you?”

This question comes when this television personality / counselor speaks to his guests and they share how they decided to heed their own advice, rather than seek wisdom from others. “So how’s that working out for you?”

You wanna provide for yourself? Go for it.

You wanna be enslaved? Let me know how that goes.

What are we doing that goes against God’s call in our lives?

Where is God leading us that we are too scared to follow?

Remember, where God provides VISION, God provides PROVISION! Go for it! Trust in the Lord! God will provide…whether we go straight into our call…or even if it takes “40 years” to get there.

P (Prayer): Lord, call us onward and provide. Amen.

The Promise of Divine Discipline


S (Scripture): Psalm 3
1b I will praise you, O Lord, for you lifted me up, and did not allow my enemies to gloat over me.

2 O Lord my God, I cried out to you and you healed me.

3 O Lord, you pulled me up from Sheol; you rescued me from among those descending into the grave.

4 Sing to the Lord, you faithful followers of his; give thanks to his holy name.

5 For his anger lasts only a brief moment, and his good favor restores one’s life.

One may experience sorrow during the night, but joy arrives in the morning.

O (Observation):  The study notes that come from the online Bible reader I use (Net.Bible.org):

The author thanks the Lord for delivering him from death and urges others to join him in praise. The psalmist experienced divine discipline for a brief time, but when he cried out for help the Lord intervened and restored his favor.

A (Application): I’m the kind of person that doesn’t like discipline much.  And I don’t like doling out discipline either, which can frustrate my spouse at times : ) (I’m working on this…)

My kids don’t always take heed to my discipline.  Hmm.  Wonder why?  Perhaps my power is limited?   I think my purpose is usually clear: they are moving outside of the boundaries of accepted behavior.  Ok…but then they want to know why that boundary is there.  “Why is that my bedtime?” “What did I do?” “Why?”

Is this testing coming from disrespect?   Or simple curioisity?   Or innocence?  Seems to me to be a bit of all of those possibilities.   With God, however, we have different elements at play. 

Discipline that comes from God is quite a bit different for a faithful Christian believer.   Divine discipline always has the promise that God is bringing us back around to our true and right calling.   As much as we might be experiencing divine discipline, we know that joy comes with the morning (v. 5 above).   My discipline that I give my children can at times be unfair or tainted with personal bias (and therefore may not bring the child into the desired path).

The hard part is that we can’t always see the joy coming down the road – even with divine discipline.  Instead, we rely only on the promise that God will be with us… the promise that all will turn out well.   

What discipline are you dishing out?  For what purpose?   Do you sense that you are receiving divine discipline?  And if so, for what purpose are you receiving that discipline?   

P (Prayer):  Lord, help us to see that joy comes in the morning. Amen. 

On the Road to Faith


S (Scripture): Acts 22:6 [Paul said,] “As I was en route and near Damascus, about noon a very bright light from heaven suddenly flashed around me. 7 Then I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Those who were with me saw the light, but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 So I asked, ‘What should I do, Lord?’ The Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go to Damascus; there you will be told about everything that you have been designated to do.’”

O (Observation): Paul recalls the time that Jesus came to him on the road to Damascus and completely turned Paul’s life upside-down.   Paul (Saul at the time) was an ardent student and enforcer of the Law and knew just what God wanted, because he was taught by all the right people and had more zeal for the Lord than anyone.  

But here, Jesus himself seeks out Paul, temporarily blinds him to get his attention, and changes his mission.   Instead of persecuting Jesus’ followers, he would become one.  And he would be led by the Spirit as we went out on mission for Jesus.  

A (Application): How many of you have had a “Damascus Road” experience?   I haven’t. Nope. For me, faith has come in bits and pieces…on retreats, in worship services, in nature, in these devotions, in visits with neighbors.  A little bit at a time, throughout my life: that’s how I have been (and am always being) transformed.  

Keep an eye out for what God is up to.  Sometimes God will come in the thunder and lightning.  Sometimes God will come in the whisper.  Just be ready.  Listen.  Love.   

P (Prayer):  Lord, help me to see you when you show up.  Amen.  

Serving With Nothing, With Plenty


S (Scripture): 1 Chronicles 22:5b So David made extensive preparations before he died.
6 He summoned his son Solomon and charged him to build a temple for the Lord God of Israel.

11 “Now, my son, may the Lord be with you! May you succeed and build a temple for the Lord your God, just as he announced you would. 12 Only may the Lord give you insight and understanding when he places you in charge of Israel, so you may obey the law of the Lord your God. 13 Then you will succeed, if you carefully obey the rules and regulations which the Lord ordered Moses to give to Israel. Be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic! 14 Now, look, I have made every effort to supply what is needed to build the Lord’s temple.”

O (Observation): David wanted to build a house for the Lord, but the Lord refused this request. David had too much blood on his hands to be the one to build a house for the Lord. Instead God had a plan to use his son, Solomon, to build the temple. 

God promised that Solomon would be in a place of peace and that God would keep his enemies from him while he was building the temple.  

While being one of the chosen ones through which a great lineage would come, David still had a rough go of it in his later years – especially with that whole thing with Bathsheba and her husband. Not to mention all of the people David killed at the Lord’s command.

Solomon, instead, through no doing of his own, would be the one to build this temple.  Not only this, but his supplies were pretty much already in place!  David had gathered tons of gold, silver, bronze, and many other building supplies.   

Solomon was born into this family, at this time, with these supplies…and a command from God.  He was born into quite the setting.  Sometimes, you just get put in the right situation.  (Yes, he had quite a lot of work before him, but he was setup quite nicely.)

A (Application):  Barry Switzer once said: “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.”

Barry Switzer was a college football and pro football coach who is a sort of rags-to-riches kind of a story, who related better to players who grew up poor (like himself) than to those born into riches.   

This is not a post about Barry Switzer, but I thought of this Switzer quote as I was reading this Old Testament text above from 1 Chr 22.  Sometimes we just find ourselves in a situation from which we will benefit greatly.  Sometimes we just find ourselves in a situation in which we are simply trying to survive.

David grew up as the runt of the litter, but eventually was called upon to serve God. Solomon found himself in the midst of riches and in a position of power, and was called upon to serve God.

Stories like that of David and Solomon – along with the Switzer quote above – remind me that we can find ourselves in either those situations throughout our lives. We may find that we don’t have much to work with, but we’re still called to serve. We may find that we have everything we need, and we are called to serve with those resources.  In either case, we are called to serve, and to do so humbly and with intentionality.  

We are called to take our current situation, give thanks to God for whatever we might have – even if it is only the air we breathe -and do what we can with that.  Coming from a life of privilege, these words may seem a bit empty, and I get that.  

I was most certainly born on third base, by the world’s standards.  So I see myself mostly as Solomon – given what I need and working hard to use those resources.  Part of my call, then, is to speak for those who have little, who have no voice, who are shunned or looked down upon.  In this way, I strive to steward my gifts and talents and position of power in order to help those who cannot get a seat at the table.   Not only this, but I strive to encourage others to do the same.  

I am far from perfect, but I strive to be a strong and humble leader for the Lord.    

What is your role?  Have you struggled with being more like David or like Solomon?   What are you doing to steward what God has given to you?

P (Prayer):  Lord, help me to use what you’ve given to me for the sake of others.  Amen. 

Who’s in Charge Here, Anyway?


S (Scripture): 1 Chronicles 17:1 When David had settled into his palace, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Look, I am living in a palace made from cedar, while the ark of the Lord’s covenant is under a tent.” 2 Nathan said to David, “You should do whatever you have in mind, for God is with you.”

3 That night God told Nathan the prophet, 4 “Go, tell my servant David: ‘This is what the Lord says: “You must not build me a house in which to live….
10b “I declare to you that the Lord will build a dynastic house for you! 11 When the time comes for you to die, I will raise up your descendant, one of your own sons, to succeed you, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He will build me a house, and I will make his dynasty permanent. 13 I will become his father and he will become my son. I will never withhold my loyal love from him, as I withheld it from the one who ruled before you. 14 I will put him in permanent charge of my house and my kingdom; his dynasty will be permanent.” ‘”15 Nathan told David all these words that were revealed to him.

O (Observation):  This is not the first time we have heard of God establishing David’s house.  We hear of this promise in 2 Samuel as well.

God has been satisfied to live in a tent, wondering with God’s people, up until now. Now that David wishes to establish a home for God, God quickly replies with the fact that God will now establish a dynastic house of David; through his offspring. 

From my commentary: Here the word “house” is used in a metaphorical sense, referring to a royal dynasty. The Lord’s use of the word here plays off the literal sense that David had in mind as he contemplated building a temple (“house”) for the Lord. In the translation the adjective “dynastic” is supplied to indicate that the term is used metaphorically.

As much as David would like to further establish God’s Kingdom…God’s got this under control.  And not only that, but God will now choose to work through a fallible human…and we will see God’s grace provide a way forward.  

A (Application): How do we do this discipleship thing?   How can I move forward?  What can I achieve?  

A lot of times I sense that my job is to keep moving forward.   That I need to take the right steps at the right time.  That I need to “build a house for the Lord.”  

And yet, repeatedly, I am reminded that my efforts are no match compared to what the Lord has in store.

So, the effort is good, but it’s not the answer. Instead, I am to repent, answer the Lord’s call, then move forward, having best discerned that call.  I work with close friends and family to help me determine those calls (small and large).

Should I call this person?  Visit that person?  Read?  Study?  Write?  Create a new ministry at my church to reach college students?  Run home to spend time with family?   The questions and calls are endless!

Thanks be to God for our ability to lean on one another and to discern together wha God has in store for us.    

How do you discern?  With whom do you take time to check in and discern?

P (Prayer):  Lord, heal us from our need to “have it all together” and lead us boldly into the night, taking our hand as we do so.  Amen.