“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.

God Leads the Way

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S (Scripture): Exodus 13:17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God didn’t lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, even though that was the shorter route. God thought, “If the people have to fight and face war, they will run back to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people by the roundabout way of the Reed Sea desert. The Israelites went up out of the land of Egypt ready for battle. 19 Moses took with him Joseph’s bones just as Joseph had made Israel’s sons promise when he said to them, “When God takes care of you, you must carry my bones out of here with you.” 20 They set out from Succoth and camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21 The Lord went in front of them during the day in a column of cloud to guide them and at night in a column of lightning to give them light. This way they could travel during the day and at night. 22 The column of cloud during the day and the column of lightning at night never left its place in front of the people.

O (Observation): A reminder by Joseph – “When God takes care of you” – has multiple applications here. First, God has rescued God’s people from slavery in Egypt. Second, as they are set free, so too are they protected with a pillar of cloud by day and lightning by night (though I’ve always read “fire” at night… interesting to ponder).

Joseph knew of God’s promise of old. Moses knows God’s promise for the future.

A (Application): So, what is your pillar of cloud by day and pillar of lighting by night? Have you sensed God’s comfort in any way? God’s protection?

What do these things look like for you?

For me, the protection comes in the form of a caring family, trusted colleagues, and the plethora of continuing education options available to me. I am protected…and that also includes ways that I cannot yet see.

P (Prayer): Lord, we seek your protection. Help us to see it all around us. 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.

Glory to God

S (Scripture): Psalm 105

1 Give thanks to the Lord!
Call on his name!
Make known his accomplishments among the nations!

2 Sing to him!
Make music to him!
Tell about all his miraculous deeds!

O (Observation): God’s people sing praises because God delivered them from exile in Egypt.   God’s people sing to God’s glory…for remembering the covenant with Abraham and throughout the generations.  

So God’s people sing songs of praise. 

A (Application): From ancient times, praise and worship have been the hallmark of our devotion to God. We sing and give glory to God for bringing us this far, and promising so much more to us.  

May we find the goodness of God this day in creation – the skies, the hills, the people in our lives.   

P (Prayer): Lord, we thank you and praise you.  Amen. 

God With and In Us

  S (Scripture): Exodus 40:34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 36 But when the cloud was lifted up from the tabernacle, the Israelites would set out on all their journeys; 37 but if the cloud was not lifted up, then they would not journey further until the day it was lifted up. 38 For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, but fire would be on it at night, in plain view of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.
Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God…4 In the wilderness John the baptizer began preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins…8 [He proclaimed,] “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

O (Observation): God’s people in the Exodus are about to start a new chapter in their lives.  And God would be with them in the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.   The traveling tabernacle is set up and can be taken down and reset anywhere God leads them.  

Jesus is coming!  A victory is declared!  John is the voice crying out that a new day is dawning.   And how will they know that God is with them?  They will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.   God moves from being WITH the people to being IN the people. 

A (Application): Every time we embark on a new day (literally or figuratively), we have the opportunity to recall what God’s people have been through over time.   The Israelites stepping into a new way of life, post-Exodus.   The world receives a Savior in Jesus Christ, at a time when all seems bleak.  

We have a promise from God that God will be with us, shaping us along the way.  Every time I’ve stepped into something new (marriage, having children, a new ministry), I’ve sensed that God has been with me / us.   Being reminded of God’s presence is crucial for our identity.  God is WITH us, but also IN us.  

Are you having trouble seeing that God is with you on your journey?  If so, think about the resources around you (finances, material things, friends, family, good church or school, teachers, coaches, neighbors, health care, daily food, etc.).  God is the one who helps to bring all of these resources around us.  Those resources give us a tangible reminder that God is present with us, even when we have an unsettled spirit. 

Chat with a close friend or family member.  Get an outsider’s perspective on your life.  See what they have to say.  See if they can recognize God’s presence in your life.  I think you’ll find their answer to be refreshing and renewing. 

P (Prayer):  Lord, sometimes we cannot see you in our lives.  Thank you for giving us others who can point out your presence when we are blind.  Amen.  

O Lord, Hear My Prayer


S (Scripture): Exodus 2:23  During that long period of time the king of Egypt died, and the Israelites groaned because of the slave labor. They cried out, and their desperate cry because of their slave labor went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning, God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, 25 God saw the Israelites, and God understood….

O (Observation):  God’s people have become servants of the Egyptians because of the severe famine that occurred in Joseph’s time.  Now, the Pharaoh that was in charge has been replaced.    He does not recognize God’s people in a favorable light, but sees them as slaves only and treats them as such.  

God’s people cry out…and God recalls His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Kings and numerous descendants would come from Abaraham’s lineage – this is God’s solemn vow.   God would now set things in motion, because God heard the cries of His people…and God understood…

A (Application):  As parents of three, my wife and I have gained a sense of hearing for the cries of our children (when they were toddlers).  A room full of toddlers – laughing, playing, crying – and if our kid was the one crying, we could pick out our kids’ cries…and at the same time, the severity of the injury or insult.   

God has a way of hearing our cries, and discerning if they are from insult or injury, and how much love (or “tough love”) would be necessary. 

Love looks like freeing the people from Egypt. Tough love looks like allowing the people to lead themselves for 40 long years, but never letting go completely.   When the people cry out again, in the wilderness, God reveals Himself with acts of love and rescue. 

What was the last thing you cried out for?  Did you sense a response from God?  What was that response?

What are you crying out for today?

P (Prayer):  Dear Lord, save us from ourselves and hear our cries to you. Amen. 

Bonus:  The link below is for a song (“O Lord, Hear My Prayer”) developed in the Taize community.  Play this video and sit back and lift your prayers to God.  You can spare 5 minutes for this.   Abide.  Then, go.  

Click here to play.  

Exodus – my struggle (not really)

  S (Scripture): Psalm 106:6 They cried out to the Lord in their distress; he delivered them from their troubles.

7 He led them on a level road, that they might find a city in which to live.

8 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his loyal love, and for the amazing things he has done for people!

9 For he has satisfied those who thirst, and those who hunger he has filled with food.

O (Observation):  God’s people in the wilderness experience God’s mercy and grace…in the midst of their struggles.   And they recognize that God is faithful in their most dire times of need. 

A (Application):  I don’t want for much.  I have a pretty good life.  Wife. Kids. House. Enough money.  A great job (pastor at Advent Lutheran Church, Murfreesboro, TN, TheAdventChurch.com). 

I can relate to the fact that I’ve been challenged in my stewardship and the circle of people I run around with.  I mostly hang with people like me.   

To face this challenge, I ask God to guide me and lead me into places with people not like me.  Why?  So my eyes are opened.   So my prejudices are challenged. So I enhance my view of the world.  So I can see God in the face of people that are not just white, middle class people.  

And I know…God is with me.  And I know, this is in NO WAY comparing my life to the Exodus experience…but this is where God led me today.  

Where is God leading you today?

(P.s. God is leading me to Lutheridge retreat center with the ELCA-Southeastern Synod for the annual leadership convocation.  Please pray for my wife…she has all 3 kids! Love you, babe.)

P (Prayer):  Lord, you carry us through difficult experiences.  Help me to grow in my faith toward you and in my love towards others.  Amen.