Battle of the Wills

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S (Scripture): 2 Chronicles 18:5 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, four hundred of them, and said to them, “Shall we go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?” They said, “Go up; for God will give it into the hand of the king.” 6 But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there no other prophet of the Lord here of whom we may inquire?” 7 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is still one other by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies anything favorable about me, but only disaster.” Jehoshaphat said, “Let the king not say such a thing.”…

12 The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, “Look, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king; let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.” 13 But Micaiah said, “As the Lord lives, whatever my God says, that I will speak.”

O (Observation): Micaiah is the lone prophet able to speak the truth to the kings of Judah and Israel. Seeking a prophet’s wisdom is always a good choice. King Jehoshaphat (of Judah) hears the 400 or so prophets saying, “Yes! Ride into battle!” But he wants a dissenting voice from the Lord. He wants to make sure that he has unanimity amongst the prophets.

This proves a wise move, because later on Micaiah reveals that God allowed an evil spirit to enter the ears of the 400 prophets. The Lord did not want a battle to take place. If they truly listened to the Lord – through Micaiah – they would have heard God’s true message: stand down, no battle today.

The pressure to want God’s word to match King Ahab’s word was tremendous. Micaiah allowed the pressure to sway his words, at first…but perhaps he did this simply to let God’s people fall on their faces. Or perhaps he did this because he was too intimidated.

The truth comes out, though. God does not desire battle. God’s will is laid bare. And still, God’s people choose their own will over God’s.

They have chosen poorly.

A (Application): But how much better are we? We know the things we shouldn’t do, yet we do them anyway. We know the things we should do, but do we do them? Not likely.

This battle of the wills (ours vs God’s) is an eternal struggle. The hope I see in this scenario is that Jesus Christ is our salvation, and that is not something we choose, but is something God has already done for us.

God choosing to redeem us is salvation. We still discern God’s will for us, and we gather in community to make decisions about our direction as faith communities. Our direction is something we prayerfully discern. We can fast and pray and talk.

We do this discernment not out of obligation to our God, but as a joyful response to the grace God has shown each and every one of us.

What is God’s will for you? Do you sense it is restrictive? Is it a release?

How about for your faith community? Where is God leading you?

P (Prayer): Lord, give us discerning hearts and minds. Amen.

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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).

I Want an Oompa Loompa Now, Daddy!

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S (Scripture): 1 Samuel 8:4 So all the Israelite elders got together and went to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “Listen. You are old now, and your sons don’t follow in your footsteps. So appoint us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.” 6 It seemed very bad to Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us,” so he prayed to the Lord.

7 The Lord answered Samuel, “Comply with the people’s request—everything they ask of you—because they haven’t rejected you. No, they’ve rejected me as king over them. 8 They are doing to you only what they’ve been doing to me from the day I brought them out of Egypt to this very minute, abandoning me and worshipping other gods. 9 So comply with their request, but give them a clear warning, telling them how the king will rule over them.”

10 Then Samuel explained everything the Lord had said to the people who were asking for a king. 11 “This is how the king will rule over you,” Samuel said:

“He will take your sons, and will use them for his chariots and his cavalry and as runners for his chariot. 12 He will use them as his commanders of troops of one thousand and troops of fifty, or to do his plowing and his harvesting, or to make his weapons or parts for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, or bakers. 14 He will take your best fields, vineyards, and olive groves and give them to his servants. 15 He will give one-tenth of your grain and your vineyards to his officials and servants. 16 He will take your male and female servants, along with the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys, and make them do his work. 17 He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and then you yourselves will become his slaves! 18 When that day comes, you will cry out because of the king you chose for yourselves, but on that day the Lord won’t answer you.”

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel and said, “No! There must be a king over us 20 so we can be like all the other nations. Our king will judge us and lead us and fight our battles.”

21 Samuel listened to everything the people said and repeated it directly to the Lord. 22 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Comply with their request. Give them a king.”

O (Observation): I want an oompa-lumpa now, daddy! You want it? You got it.

Oh, did we explain the ramifications???

Yikes! God’s people are so ungrateful! And yet, God still finds a way for grace. God’s grace is that no coercion will take place. God does not want followers who HAVE to follow…just those who are called to follow.

In the meantime…good luck with that king you want, people of Israel…

A (Application): I cannot explain to you how many times I’ve insisted my way was / is the right way. Sometimes I let God speak. : (

Notice Samuel’s first reaction to the desire for folks to have a king? What is the life-giving action that invites God into the picture?

Samuel prays! He prays…

Tapping into our source of hope and light, God speaks and we listen and discern and share this discernment with others. In so doing, we share the burden of God’s message for all people.

May we embrace God’s grace and share the burden of discernment this day.

P (Prayer): Lord, you guide us and love us through our failures. For this, we give you thanks. 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.

A Journey of Trust

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S (Scripture): Genesis 12:1 The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing.

3 I will bless those who bless you,
those who curse you I will curse;
all the families of the earth
will be blessed because of you.”

4 Abram left just as the Lord told him, and Lot went with him. Now Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. 5 Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all of their possessions, and those who became members of their household in Haran; and they set out for the land of Canaan.

O (Observation): What a brave, bold, trusting act of Abram! And even more so, what a great opportunity God gives to Abram and Sarai!

What do we know of Abram? Not much. Sarai? Again, not much. Only that they were descended of Noah’s line (since Noah’s descendants had to re-populate the WHOLE earth…hmmm). Anyway…

Abram and Sarai leave what is known and what is secure to enter something new and different…with God promising to guide them the whole way.

A (Application): I wonder what Abram and Sarai mentioned of this promise to their household? I wonder what the children thought? What the 2nd cousin twice removed thought? What the grandparents thought? (“We’ll never hear from them again!”)

God speaks to us…but can we hear God? When God calls, a response is appropriate. Sometimes the response is to NOT go. Sometimes the response is to act. Sometimes the response is to remain silent. We have no set type of response. The response is discerned. And that discernment is best done within the trusted community to which one belongs.

I have felt called over the last several years to take steps towards equal justice for various groups. As a white male, I feel not guilt, but a responsibility to make sure those on the margins are heard and respected. In doing so, I leave my own “Ur,” as Abram and Sarai did long ago. As Abram and Sarai, I, too, trust that God goes with me.

One such venture into justice occurs tomorrow, January 11, 2018, with the congregation I serve: Advent Lutheran Church, Murfreesboro, TN (Http://TheAdventChurch.com). We will host the Rev. Ron Bonner as he leads a presentation and conversation on race relations. The workshop details are in the graphic below:

If you’re a Murfreesboro person…come on out!

P (Prayer): Lord, we don’t know where the journey will end, just that you will be with us. Thank you for calling and leading us. Amen.

Hello.  Who is this?

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S (Scripture): Hebrews 1:1 In the past, God spoke through the prophets to our ancestors in many times and many ways. 2 In these final days, though, he spoke to us through a Son. God made his Son the heir of everything and created the world through him.

O (Observation): As God’s people move further and further from Christ in the flesh, they seek clarification of Jesus’ identity.  Many in Jesus’ day claimed to have messianic powers, but this text shows Jesus as the true Son of God, higher than the angels.  

Ultimately, Jesus – the Son of God, is God’s true Messenger.   

A (Application):  The author of Hebrews makes pretty clear that God is speaking through Jesus. We hear clarification of the law and prophets through the lens of Christ. We interpret the Scriptures and our personal and communal discernment through the lens of Christ.  

As such, I seek to share Old and New Testament scriptures through the lens of Christ. 

I seek other new revelations through the voice of Christ, God’s Messenger.  

I seek communal discernment regarding how we are to be a Christian community through the messages of Christ. 

I seek to share a position of welcome and acceptance, because I see the world (at least I try to) through the lens of Christ, the voice of Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit.  

Our world twists and turns, and the only steady presence is the Spirit. The Scriptures give us a glimpse of God and God’s grace.   Now, we must interpret the present times through the lens / voice of Christ.   

May we be humble, yet bold in this process of discernment.   

P (Prayer):  Lord, keep us steadfast in following your Messenger, Jesus Christ, through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  

Everyone’s a Prophet

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S (Scripture): Jeremiah 38:1b Jeremiah had been telling the people: 2 The Lord proclaims: Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine, and disease. But whoever surrenders to the Babylonians will live; yes, their lives will be spared. 3 The Lord proclaims: This city will certainly be handed over to the army of Babylon’s king, who will capture it.

4 Then the officials said to the king: “This man must be put to death! By saying such things, he is discouraging the few remaining troops left in the city, as well as all the people. This man doesn’t seek their welfare but their ruin!”

5 “He’s in your hands,” King Zedekiah said, “for the king can do nothing to stop you.” 6 So they seized Jeremiah, threw him into the cistern of the royal prince Malchiah, within the prison quarters, and lowered him down by ropes. Now there wasn’t any water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah began to sink into the mud.

O (Observation):  The message God continuously shared through Jeremiah, was that the Hebrew people would need to go with the Babylonians, if they wanted to live.  Not only would they live, but God’s promise is to bring God’s people back to their homeland one day.   

If they stay, they die. These are their choices: life or death.  

Jeremiah was called to stay and continue to prophecy to God’s people, so he was sort of exempt from the proclamation (he is after all, God’s mouthpiece to the people).   Several of God’s people chose life; they chose to give to Babylon. 

Yet the king and many of the king’s advisors and false prophets declared that God’s people would withstand another attack from the Babylonians.  They would be wrong.  And they were so adamant about their prophecies (Israel victorious in battle) that they had Jeremiah thrown into the cistern full of mud, just to shut him up.  

We see how things turn out.  God’s people defeated, and yet, God’s promises coming true:  God redeems the people of God.  God brings them back, but not before the prophetic witness of Jeremiah is heard and ignored.  

A (Application):  How many prophets exist today?  True prophets.    Does someone have to be famous to be a prophet?   Rich?  Poor?   Wear clothing of camel hair?

I think many of God’s people today have a gift of prophecy, in the sense that they receive feelings / visions / thoughts of what God is saying to them as individuals or about us as a community.  

How de we know which prophetic message to follow?   This takes discernment amongst the Christian community.   Once one receives a message, one would be most wise to share it with a trusted group such that the community (however large or small) may discern the vision together.   Then, move forward with sharing the vision with the people at large.  In this way, the community can discern the truth of the vision and move forward.  

We all can act like prophets behind our keyboards these days (even myself).   And we can make bold, prophetic statements.  My suggestion:  gather trusted folks together (or share with several individually) before we share the vision.   And then move forward humbly, and with a strong will.  Let God be your confidence. 

P (Prayer): Lord, give us the gift of discernment. Amen.