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.

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The Priestly Role

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S (Scripture): Hebrews 4:14 Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

O (Observation):  The priests of the church were typically separated from the people in early times, so that they could properly observe liturgical rites (I.e. Worship).   The priest would be the “go-between” between the people and God.  

Of course, God has always been close to the people (never just far away).   Yet the priest helped God’s people see the connection between God and the people.  

With Jesus as the Great High Priest now, God’s people know a bit more fully that they can “approach the throne of grace with boldness” to receive mercy and grace.

A (Application):  The unfortunate outcome of having priests is the notion that one cannot speak directly to God, or that somehow the priest needs to be the elevated one who speaks to God on behalf of the people.  

For a time, this was something the Church took advantage of for selfish gain.  Think of it as “job security.”   

However, the Church has made it more clear over time that God is close to all, and has always been.  We have always had access to God through prayer and meditation.   And yet, most people say, “Oh, I’m not good at praying” or “I’m not good at meditations” or “I don’t have time to pray.”   Well, with that mindset, no, it will never work out for you.  

But let me ask you this:  Have you ever wanted something that someone else had (in terms of a peace or a spirituality that you admired, and wanted to make it your own)?   If so, have you approached that person?   If they didn’t respond, did you ask again?   

This is very important stuff.   Find someone who you think is someone God has put into your life to show you how to pray or meditate or give extranagavtly or build healthy friendships or serve selflessly.  Whatever the practice is that you are feeling God calling you to…go find someone who does that well.  

Then, once you’ve followed someone long enough, continue to adapt to your own style of prayer, service, meditation, giving, etc.  

The priest’s function – in my opinion – is to teach others how to pray, how to sense God’s closeness, how to pass on the gifts of grace in baptism and Commmnion, so that others can learn to do the same.   

So, what’s stopping you from taking the next step? From having that next conversation?  From seeing how close God and God’s mercy really are?

P (Prayer): Lord, you are close.  Show us.  Teach us how to connect.  Continue to send brace and patient leaders for your Church.  Amen.  

The Long Road Ahead

  

S (Scripture):
Psalm 44:
22 Yet because of you we are killed all day long; we are treated like sheep at the slaughtering block.
23 Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Wake up! Do not reject us forever!
24 Why do you look the other way, and ignore the way we are oppressed and mistreated?
25 For we lie in the dirt, with our bellies pressed to the ground.
26 Rise up and help us! Rescue us because of your loyal love!

&

Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

O (Observation):  The psalmist and the disciples hearing Jesus’ words have something in common:  the long, challenging road ahead.  The psalmist has experienced the difficulties of being a believer in a world that is full of folks looking out for themselves.  The disciples who followed Jesus and received the Great Commission were about to see what disciple-making is like, without Jesus being in their presence. 

Both the psalmist and the disciples were faced with great challenges.  And yet…

Neither were far from God.  Not because of their own doing, but because God doesn’t abandon those who are called to share the Good News of a God who is not of this world…of a God who’s peaceful Kingdom will come one day.  

The psalmist recognizes God’s loyal love (Ps 44:26) and the disciples know that Jesus will be with them, even to the ends of the age (Mt 28:20).   They know that God is with them, even in their call to witness to God’s Kingdom breaking into this world.  

A (Application):  So how is it for you? 

Where you work? Where you go to school? At home? 

Do you sense the challenge of being a disciple in a world that is full of itself? In a world that is scared of terrorists? In a world that thinks might makes right?

Do today’s words help you to know that you are not alone?   That other followers of God have experienced the same frustration and angst that you may be feeling right now?

Do you also sense God’s closeness this day, as well?   In your breathing?   In your time of prayer with me this morning?   

God is close!   God is merciful!   Share that Good News today…not only in word…but in action. 

P (Prayer):  Lord, help us to know that you are close today.  Help us to know that you are with us.  Amen.  

God is Close

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S (Scripture): Psalm 10:1 Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you pay no attention during times of trouble?

O (Observation): Bold questions addressed to the Lord astound me. The psalmist is asking God why God is not close at hand. God probably is close…but perhaps in the author’s woe, God doesn’t seem present.

A (Application): Our 2 & 1/2 year old daughter has officially begun the “Why?” stage. She doesn’t necessarily know “why” she keeps ending a conversation (or responding to a command from mommy and daddy) with “Why?”, but that doesn’t stop her.

Her insistence on wanting to know “why” reminds me of the psalmist asking God: “Why? Why are you so far off? Why don’t you pay more attention to me?”

My daughter and the psalmist have this in common: they are at the same time totally comfortable and somewhat naive. But then, that’s every single one of us.

I’m comfortable with my Lord and Savior. And I’m pretty naive about what God can do in this world – about how close God really is to me.

Do you like to question “Why?” What do you want to question today? Do you wonder if God is close at hand? Ask! Boldly declare your intention to know just how close God is to you this day.

P (Prayer): God with us, God close to us, help us to know that you are always near. Help us to always be bold to ask you “Why?” and humble enough to accept your response. Amen.