Where is Hope?

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S (Scripture): Psalm 27

Lord, listen to my voice when I cry out—

    have mercy on me and answer me!

Come, my heart says, seek God’s face.

    Lord, I do seek your face!

Please don’t hide it from me!

    Don’t push your servant aside angrily—

        you have been my help!

    God who saves me,

        don’t neglect me!

12 

Don’t give me over to the desires of my enemies,

    because false witnesses and violent accusers

    have taken their stand against me.

13 

But I have sure faith

    that I will experience the Lord’s goodness

    in the land of the living!

14 

Hope in the Lord!

    Be strong! Let your heart take courage!

        Hope in the Lord!

O (Observation): The hope that comes into play at the end of this Psalm is almost like from a friend speaking to another friend who has lost hope. The psalmist seeks out God in the pit of despair. The friendly voice in v. 14 is a reminder that God – the Lord – is still there beside the person.

Hope is possible, not because the individual can get back on track “without help.” Rather, because the psalmist cannot help himself/herself, hope exists. Because the psalmist lacks comfort, the LACK allows space for him / her to hope.

A (Application): We like to think hope is something that we can grasp in this life, as if hope is something to be reached through hard work and effort. Yet the nature of hope is that it is precisely something we cannot reach. For if it is something we can grasp on our own, then we don’t hope for it…we just create a plan to reach it.

If we can reach the thing(s) we hope for…then it’s not hope. We hope for money, a new car, control, power, and more. These things we “hope” for – if attained – is quite the opposite of good news. It means we think we can satisfy our drive or appetite and pushes us to acquire more of the same (if not material things, than power or control).

Let us, instead, focus on the idea that God never leaves us and can be our hope. In. Our brokenness, God enters in and helps us to be okay with our brokenness. For God does not need us to prove anything. Rather, God focuses our hearts and minds on being with others who are also broken…and together we lean on one another for consolation and hope. Hope in the Lord.

P (Prayer): Lord, keep us filled with hope in You. Amen.

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Avoiding Failure? Or Embracing Forgiveness?

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S (Scripture): Psalm 32

1 The one whose wrongdoing is forgiven,
whose sin is covered over, is truly happy!
2 The one the Lord doesn’t consider guilty—
in whose spirit there is no dishonesty—
that one is truly happy!
3 When I kept quiet, my bones wore out;
I was groaning all day long—
every day, every night!—
4 because your hand was heavy upon me.
My energy was sapped as if in a summer drought.

5 So I admitted my sin to you;
I didn’t conceal my guilt.
“I’ll confess my sins to the Lord, ” is what I said.
Then you removed the guilt of my sin.

O (Observation): Something the psalmist recognizes is that what brings us to peace is not a life full of righteous deeds alone, but rather, a contrite heart – a heart willing to acknowledge its own brokenness and shortcomings. Full honesty with God brings true happiness.

The psalmist recognizes the pain that comes with NOT confessing (“my bones were out,” “groaning,” etc.). The way we are made is such that we confess our wrongdoings to God and to one another.

In confession, truth comes forth…and the truth will set you free.

A (Application): This all sounds good and well, but won’t God be disappointed in me? Won’t my neighbors be disappointed in me? When I confess, won’t I be admitting failure?!?!?

In a word, yes! Yes you will be admitting failure…but to whom is that failure a problem?

Is God disappointed when we fail? How did your parents react when you didn’t win the track meet? When you goofed up at the dance recital? When you forgot your line in the school play?

How did your friends react…your true friends…when you forgot you were hanging out over the weekend, and you made other plans?

We focus so much on failure and HOW TO AVOID IT!!! What if, instead, we focused on forgiveness and learning from our mistakes?

My parents have been (and continue to be) excellent examples of what forgiveness looks like. They showed it to me growing up, and they instill this in their grandchildren. They were always proud of us (and still are) and they help teach us to do work that we can be proud of…but to also know that failures can be lessons learned.

As we work through challenges in my family, we are trying to instill the same values of the psalmist. Come to one another in full disclosure. Admit when we’ve done wrong. Seek forgiveness in all things (instead of just getting defensive).

When we are honest and seek forgiveness… ain’t much more than that to make me a proud son / husband / father.

Peace…

P (Prayer): Lord, you encourage us to let you in and be honest with you. Give us courage to do this with you and with one another. Amen.

A Win-Win Scenario

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S (Scripture): Psalm 89

19 Once you spoke in a vision
to your faithful servants:
I placed a crown on a strong man.
I raised up someone specially chosen from the people.
20 I discovered my servant David.
I anointed him with my holy oil.
21 My hand will sustain him—
yes, my arm will strengthen him!

27 Yes, I’ll make him the one born first—
I’ll make him the high king of all earth’s kings.
28 I will always guard my loyal love toward him.
My covenant with him will last forever.
29 I will establish his dynasty for all time.
His throne will last as long as heaven does.

O (Observation): The author of this psalm recalls God's covenant with God's people through King David. God entered a promise and God holds God accountable. Of course, that doesn't stop the author from reminding God of this covenant from time to time 🙂

This psalm serves as a reminder to God's people that God chooses to bless and sustain them…forever. The hard part for God's people is that God's sustenance may look different than their picture of sustenance.

A (Application): As God's people of today, we certainly need to be reminded of God's everlasting covenant. I know of lots of Jesus-followers who grow tired and weary of the "right" or the "left."

God's covenant is for all of God's people. And those not in that covenant are to be recipients of neighborly love. So…we're all in this together.

But winning feels so much better to some. Winning is the only thing for some. And winning would be great, if we entered win-win situations. But our sinful pride kicks in and we look for a "win" for ourselves, and fail to think about how others end up – as winners or losers.

Being reminded of God's covenant is a reminder that God desires a win-win for all people. For believers and non-believers alike. God welcomes all people into the covenant. If they accept the invitation or not, is between them and God.

I lean on my Baptism and weekly worship and being in relationship with the community around me as reminders of God's grace in my life. I look around at my friends and worship liturgy and the sacraments…they constantly remind me that God has entered a covenant with me and all of God's people. I need not fear. I need not win if someone else is going to lose.

May we see our lives as being lived within a covenant that God has made with us…a covenant into which all people are welcome. It's a win-win.

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to see the covenant God has made with us, and help us to invite others in. Amen.

Oi Vay!..Friends…

 

 S (Scripture): Job 8:3 Bildad speaks: Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert what is right?
8:4 If your children sinned against him,
he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.
8:5 But if you will look to God,
and make your supplication to the Almighty,
8:6 if you become pure and upright,
even now he will rouse himself for you,
and will restore your righteous abode.
8:7 Your beginning will seem so small,
since your future will flourish.

O (Observation): Job’s friend, Bildad, makes an argument that Job’s children must have sinned, in order to have received the harsh punishment of their death. Bildad disagrees with Job – God doesn’t pervert “justice.”   Bildad believes that every sin deserves its own counteracting punishment.   Bildad thinks it’s time for Job to seek forgiveness again.  As if to say, he (and his children) brought this on themselves. 

Job hasn’t responded fed yet, but Bildad, the second friend to speak to Job, is trying to correct Job’s attitude that God is doing something wrong here. 

Job can’t reconcile why these bad things are happening.  And his friends don’t seem to be making things any better. 

A (Application):  I don’t have a whole lot of resolution here.  Just wondering, with Job, why God would allow this.  Actually…it’s kind of a strange thing to reconcile.  

God wants to prove to Satan that Job will not forsake God for these terrible things that have occurred.  Early on, so far so good.  Job is confused, but steady.  

We can ways doubt ourselves…and seeking God’s strength, intervention, and forgivness are always good things…but not as if we deserve punishment.  

We are to seek God because of the wealth of goodness that comes from the Lord.  In our baptism, we are joined to Christ, and we receive the forgiveness of our sins. We continually cycle through repentance and forgivness…but not as a hopeless cycle.  

Rather, we humble oursves before God and one another, for the sake of love.   We may not be clear on how or why things work out the way they do, but we can trust that the Lord will be looking out for us, and will give us peace and patience to make it through even the most difficult of circumstances. 

P (Prayer): Lord, we know that bad things happen all the time. Help us to remain faithful that you guide us through those times and bring others around us to help us through.   Amen. 

Service to the End

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S (Scripture): John 13:1 Just before the Passover feast, Jesus knew that his time had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end…13:4 he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself. 13:5 He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself.

O (Observation): While service to one another is an appeal Jesus makes here…loving one another, he points out, goes beyond service. Jesus, having loved his disciples, is now going to serve them to the very end (John 13:1b).

Jesus would eventually go to the cross for his friends/disciples (and all of us). But the witness here is that Jesus has formed relationships with a bunch of has-beens, never-beens, and never-will-bes. They’ve done nothing to earn his love. They goofed up along the way. Yet, Jesus knows that his relationship with the Father is to be made real and manifest here on the earth.

So Jesus makes his love known symbolically, with washing the disciples’ feet. And soon, the cross will make known Jesus’ love for all people.

A (Application): Over the years, I’ve learned how to take care of a lot of household projects. My dad taught me how to do these things. My mom demonstrated for us how to take care of a couple of rowdy kids, and mostly keep your sanity : )

It takes love for your children to do these things. And now, as parents, my wife and I are learning how to show love to our children, teaching them spiritual disciplines and household chores.

As members of the body of Christ, we can also try to establish relationships where we learn from one another – specific groups of people establishing real relationships. I do this through a process called “huddle.” This is a vehicle for making disciples who make disciples.

As families, these connections pre-exist. As members of the body of
Christ, we have a harder time seeing that we are indeed brother and sisters already. And as brothers and sisters, we should be able to go to one another for discernment, and prayer, and comfort…but, we don’t normally do this. Thus, huddle has become a way of doing this for me.

Who do you go to for discernment, and comfort, and prayer? Do you rely only on your own personal circumstances or the life circumstances of those around you? Is Scripture something that informs your life? Do others pour into you?

Jesus calls to wash one another’s feet. He calls us to lay down our lives for one another. Is anyone doing this for you? Are you doing this for anyone else?

Who can you seek out to join you on this journey of life?

P (Prayer): Lord, you make us your own, and you guide us. Help us to serve one another…to bear one another’s burdens. We do this, because you have first served and loved us. Amen.

Betrayal

S (Scripture): LK 22:3 Then Satan entered Judas, the one called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve. 22:4 He went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers of the temple guard how he might betray Jesus, handing him over to them.

O (Observation): Satan plays a role in Jesus’ death. Jesus rightly predicts that he will be handed over. The suffering of Jesus by betrayal of a close friend is quite disheartening to him, yet he knows what must be done. He must be handed over, suffer, and be killed…and be raised.

A (Application): We have times when friends betray us. We have times when those we’ve trusted stab us in the back. Disappointment. Anger. Frustration.

What do we do at that point?

First, it’s okay to go through these feelings. When friends betray, we can’t help but be frustrated and angry.

Second, wonder what that must have been like for Jesus. To bring someone in so close…to pour so much into someone only to be betrayed. And then realize that God overcame this betrayal and turned something evil into something good, glorious even!

God can take things and turn them around. We don’t have to like it. We don’t have to encourage evil. We simply trust in God to eventually work things for the good for those who believe in Him.

P (Prayer): Lord, when close friends betray us, remind us that you will continue to be with us through the pain, and carry us through to something good. Amen.

Picture source: http://www.wikiart.org/en/giotto/judas-receiving-payment-for-his-betrayal