God Is Near

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S (Scripture): Isaiah 49

14 But Zion says, “The Lord has abandoned me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”

15 Can a woman forget her nursing child, fail to pity the child of her womb?

Even these may forget, but I won’t forget you.

O (Observation): God's people – in Isaiah's time – experience despair and challenge. Their homeland is mostly unrecognizable and foreigners roam the land. Their wayward actions have caused them to distance themselves from God. And they sense that God has been kept at arm's length, as if God has abandoned or forgotten them. Yet Isaiah reminds them of something important.

Isaiah reminds God's people that God has never abandoned them. God says a mother who is still nursing her child is more likely to forget her child than God is to forget God's people.

A comforting image to a people so forlorn.

A (Application): God has a way of bringing correction and righteous anger…as well as comfort and hope. This is God's way: when we are complacent and sinful, God shakes us up. When we are downtrodden and in despair, God picks us up.

I have friends who are downtrodden and in despair. I pray that they know that God is near, trying to bring them hope.

In this season, I am feeling a bit complacent, so I sense God calling me to step up my game in certain areas, like building relationships with the various communities within Murfreesboro: with Muslims, with the black community, with the LGBTQ community.

Thankfully, processes are in place for me to take some steps forward with all 3 of these communities: "Love Your Neighbor" potluck picnic on July 30, with our Muslim neighbors; I have a friend who invited me to build relationships with a black UMC church in town; and Boro Pridefest in September, which our congregation is helping to sponsor. (Note: the goal is to walk alongside these communities to show neighborly care, not to "fix" these communities.)

While many of us are on the same path, we may be in different places on the path: some in despair, some motivated to action, and still others, wandering or wild with enthusiasm. In each case, God is near.

May we all know God's presence is near.

P (Prayer): Lord, help me to know that you are near. Amen.


Depths of Despair

S (Scripture): Psalm 69:

13 O Lord, may you hear my prayer and be favorably disposed to me! O God, because of your great loyal love, answer me with your faithful deliverance!

14 Rescue me from the mud! Don’t let me sink! Deliver me from those who hate me, from the deep water!

15 Don’t let the current overpower me! Don’t let the deep swallow me up! Don’t let the pit devour me!

16 Answer me, O Lord, for your loyal love is good! Because of your great compassion, turn toward me!

17 Do not ignore your servant, for I am in trouble! Answer me right away!

18 Come near me and redeem me! Because of my enemies, rescue me!

19 You know how I am insulted, humiliated and disgraced; you can see all my enemies.

20 Their insults are painful and make me lose heart; I look for sympathy, but receive none, for comforters, but find none.

21 They put bitter poison into my food, and to quench my thirst they give me vinegar to drink.

O (Observation):  A plea, today.   A plea for God to rescue the individual from drowning in despair.   The author experiences pain and suffering at the hands of those who mock him. 

She knows that the mockers oppose her for her faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  

He feels as if the waters are rising above his head.  

But they know that the Lord is loyal to those whom the Lord has already claimed.   They know that the Lord will deliver them.  

A (Application):  Feeling overwhelmed today? You are not alone.  For two reasons.  1. Today, someone else you know is overwhelmed.   2. God is with you.  

Today is the first day of NO SCHOOL for our young ones (13 and 10 years old).   By the end of today, I may be repeating the words from the psalmist today : )

I jest. 

But for others I know, today can be difficult.  A friend or loved one has just passed away for some of you.  Preparing for life without a loved one is difficult.  

Some of you are openly mocked or scorned for your lifestyle or for your faith in a God of love.  

Whatever overrwhelms you today, know this: 

the most prolific command from Scripture (from Genesis to Revelation) is “Fear not!”

And what typically follows that command?  “For I am with you.”   

God calls on us to not fear, but backs it up with God’s very own presence.  

P (Prayer): Lord, make yourself known to me today. Amen. 

Feeling all Dried Up


 S (Scripture): Job 14:7 Job speaks: “But there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail.
14:8 Although its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump begins to die in the soil,
14:9 at the scent of water it will flourish and put forth shoots like a new plant.
14:10 But man dies and is powerless; he expires – and where is he?
14:11 As water disappears from the sea, or a river drains away and dries up,
14:12 so man lies down and does not rise; until the heavens are no more, they will not awake
nor arise from their sleep.”

O (Observation): Job is quite convinced that nothing can be worse than what he’s going through right now.  As he sees it, trees are better off than a person…surely a tree will have new shoots to spring up.  But a human?  Nope. No such hope. 

This is such a low point.   I have a hard time imaging this low. 

 Job is still trying to use logic to get to a point of understanding.  At this point, this task seems impossible.  The more he searches for a reason for this suffering, the more he searches for hope, the further he falls into the throes of despair.  This is difficult reading, indeed. 

A (Application): Talk about total depravity.  This image of a dried up river bed makes my mouth feel like all of the moisture has been sucked dry…like waking up in the morning with a dry mouth.

One time have I felt such a low…I was interviewing for a position as a pastor, and the whole thing went sour.  I couldn’t find the words to who I am, or what God has called me to be.  I stumbled all over myself.   It was bad…and I felt like a dried up river bed.  Hope was lost. 

I had a good friend/mentor who helped me work through the feelings and layers of self-doubt.  He reminded me that my one-ness with God was important…not some interview or position.  He reminded me that my identity was wrapped up in my baptism.  (A great way to combat being all “dried up,” no?)

As I further explore what it means to be a child of God, a part of the body of Christ, I see Jesus as my life source, as my living water.  

What is making you feel all dried up and without hope today?  I invite you to take a look at who and whose you are today.  Come, allow the Lord to care for you.   Let the Lord do a work in you and through you. 

P (Prayer): Lord, sometimes we just can’t see beyond his moment, this Pit, this circumstance.  Guide others to bring us along.   Give us something to learn while in the Pit. Bring us living water, that we may never thirst again.  Amen.