Claimed

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S (Scripture): 1 Chronicles 17:1 When David was settled into his palace, he said to the prophet Nathan, “I’m living in a cedar palace while the chest containing the Lord’s covenant is under curtains.”

2 Nathan replied, “Go ahead and do whatever you are thinking, because God is with you.”

3 But that very night God’s word came to Nathan: 4 “Go to my servant David and tell him, This is what the Lord says: You are not the one to build the temple for me to live in…

10a “As for a dynasty, the Lord will build one for you! 11 When the time comes for you to die, I will raise up a descendant of yours after you, one of your own sons, to succeed you, and I will establish his kingship. 12 He is the one who will build me a temple, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will become his father and he will become my son, and I’ll never withdraw my faithful love from him as I did from the one before you. 14 I’ll install him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne will be established forever.

O (Observation): God was up to something. God’s people had been wandering for over 40 years in the wilderness and have now settled in the Promised Land. God’s presence was in the tent / tabernacle inside the ark. The ark held the stone tablets (for the 10 Commandments). God’s place on earth was mobile.

David wanted to honor God, because he thought his house was better than God’s.

Yet, God promises David to build out of David a “house” of sorts…a dynasty. God will claim David’s offspring and claim him and call him God’s own. Through that particular descendant, God will establish that descendant’s throne forever.

A (Application): We are challenged with the brevity of life. We come and we go. We learn along the way. David’s life was committed to God, but he erred. God saw David though it all.

And in the end, God establishes David’s throne not because of what David did, or because of David’s character. God establishes David’s lineage to make sure that Jesus’ throne will be established.

God claimed David. God claimed Jesus. God claims me and you. We are adopted by a loving and caring God.

So the hardships we face, the guilt for worshipping or not, reading Scripture or not, is unfounded worry. For God carries us through, like God carried David and others through. Like God carried Jesus through death and resurrection.

New life awaits us in adoption. Life that still has ups and downs, but this is a life established by God forever. That security brings us peace this week and next.

P (Prayer): Lord, give us hope for today and tomorrow. Amen.

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Is God Here in Difficult Times?

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S (Scripture): Psalm 143

1

Listen to my prayer, Lord!

Because of your faithfulness, hear my requests for mercy!

Because of your righteousness, answer me!

2

Please don’t bring your servant to judgment,

because no living thing is righteous before you.

3

The enemy is chasing me,

crushing my life in the dirt,

forcing me to live in the dark

like those who’ve been dead forever.

4

My spirit is weak inside me—

inside, my mind is numb.

5

I remember the days long past;

I meditate on all your deeds;

I contemplate your handiwork.

6

I stretch out my hands to you;

my whole being is like dry dirt, thirsting for you.

O (Observation): The author is in the midst of a most difficult circumstance. They realize their lack of control over the outside circumstances, and life is dry and numb.

Does this mean the author is not faithful? Does this mean the author doubts? Does this mean the author was unfaithful and caused this harm to himself or herself?

A (Application): So often, we think that blessings come in good times when we are faithful, and bad things happen when we are unfaithful. That correlation cannot be more wrong.

Sometimes, faithful folks encounter difficult times and good things happen to us when we are doubting God and others.

The psalmist gives us space to be in the midst of difficult circumstances and still feel like God is still present. Even though things aren’t going our way, we can still trust in God to be with us and walk us through the challenges.

This can look like a friend being with us, or a pot of soup being brought over on a cold day.

Be on the lookout for signs of God showing up where we least expect. Especially in our times of challenge.

P (Prayer): God, we are challenged, but looking for you. Amen.

Faithful Love of God

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S (Scripture): Psalm 136

23

God remembered us when we were humiliated—

God’s faithful love lasts forever.

24

God rescued us from our enemies—

God’s faithful love lasts forever.

25

God is the one who provides food for all living things—

God’s faithful love lasts forever!

26

Give thanks to the God of heaven—

God’s faithful love lasts forever!

O (Observation): Notice the pattern? For every verse in this Psalm ends with the phrase: “God’s faithful love lasts forever.”

This Psalm is a re-telling of Salvation History. By Salvation History, I mean going back to creation being ordered by God, God claiming a people and seeing them through changes, all the way through the present moment of the psalmist. The psalmist recognizes God’s presence in all things and sees that God’s faithful love lasts forever.

A (Application): I hope that God sees our everyday joys and trials. And in witnessing our lives, I pray that God opens our eyes to God’s presence in our decisions, in our routines, in our daily work (or schooling).

As you sit down to dinner this night, give thanks to God that you have food to eat. If you have too much, what can you give to another?

After all, God can and does work through you.

P (Prayer): Lord, help me to help others…not as I ought, but as I am able. And I am able, thanks to you. Amen.

A Thin, Quiet Place

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S (Scripture): 1 Kings 19:11 The Lord said [to Elijah], “Go out and stand at the mountain before the Lord. The Lord is passing by.” A very strong wind tore through the mountains and broke apart the stones before the Lord. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake. But the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake, there was a fire. But the Lord wasn’t in the fire. After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his coat. He went out and stood at the cave’s entrance. A voice came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”

O (Observation): Elijah is being pursued by those who wish to kill him, those who worship Baal. He goes into hiding, out in the desert/wilderness. He finds a cave. God speaks. God invites Elijah to the cave entrance. God will pass by.

God manifests in many forms. This time, God manifests in silence.

Why silence? Perhaps the stillness eludes Elijah. Perhaps God wishes to remind Elijah that nothing can move God, perhaps to encourage Elijah to be still. And therefore, nothing need be feared by any God-follower on this earth.

In the stillness, God reigns.

A (Application): My Apple Watch dings about once every hour to remind me to breathe. The watch emphasizes the importance of pausing long enough to engage in a one minute exercise of focused, meditative breathing.

Our spiritual life can use the same reminder. To pause…long enough…to allow God’s reign to sink in for you and for me.

Are you feeling like you’re hiding in a cave? Do you sense a lack of support? Do you feel like thugs are slowly (or quickly) unraveling?

God is here. God reminds us that we are cared for and loved.

May you know that God is waiting for you today…in a place of closeness…where the space between us is imperceptibly thin…quiet.

P (Prayer): Lord, be our steady guide, as always. Amen.

Can We See the Fruit?

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S (Scripture): 1 Kings 18:20 Ahab sent the message to all the Israelites. He gathered the prophets at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah approached all the people and said, “How long will you hobble back and forth between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow God. If Baal is God, follow Baal.” The people gave no answer.

22 Elijah said to the people, “I am the last of the Lord’s prophets, but Baal’s prophets number four hundred fifty. 23 Give us two bulls. Let Baal’s prophets choose one. Let them cut it apart and set it on the wood, but don’t add fire. I’ll prepare the other bull, put it on the wood, but won’t add fire. 24 Then all of you will call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers with fire—that’s the real God!”

36 At the time of the evening offering, the prophet Elijah drew near and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. I have done all these things at your instructions. 37 Answer me, Lord! Answer me so that this people will know that you, Lord, are the real God and that you can change their hearts.” 38 Then the Lord’s fire fell; it consumed the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up the water in the trench!

O (Observation): Israel’s kingship began to have a high turnover ratio. King Ahab settles in for 22 years, but he “did evil in the sight of the Lord.” He ushered in more Baal worship , forsaking the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

As such, the prophets of the Lord went into hiding, including Elijah. But the time came for Elijah to listen to God’s call to confront King Ahab.

Elijah announced that a test would be in order. Sacrifice a bull, and the god who consumes the sacrifice with fire is the one true God. (And for good measure, Elijah has the servants pour water over the wood around his sacrifice.)

Sure enough, Baal’s god does not show up, but Elijah’s God does!!!

And Ahab was on the run…fearful for his life…and quite possibly, afraid of the God he had forsaken.

A (Application): Why can I not be more clear in my faith? I am too often finding myself worshipping either Baal or God when the moment strikes. If we are all honest, we all do this: we find times when we trust God (like Elijah), and we find times when we trust only ourselves (like Baal prophets).

If I had to choose only one, I’d choose to be like Elijah. So that is what I strive for.

Yet many Christians look at my stances as being strictly that of Baal. As being “against God’s will,” or “going against ‘God’s Word’.” I admit I can err like anyone, but that is never my intention.

To these detractors, I say this: “Look to the fruit.” Is fruit for God’s Kingdom being produced? If so, then what of it? Just because my decisions and teachings don’t square with a traditional point-of-view, why shoot them down as if I am simply one of Baal’s prophets?

Perhaps we should call upon God to decide, instead of other Christians playing the part of God. Is what I do worshipful to God? I pray so. And when my actions detract from following God, I pray for forgiveness.

P (Prayer): God, continue to show us that you are God and can be trusted implicitly! Amen.

Helping Others Helps You!

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S (Scripture): Psalm 130

5

I hope, Lord.

My whole being hopes,

and I wait for God’s promise.

6

My whole being waits for my Lord—

more than the night watch waits for morning;

yes, more than the night watch waits for morning!

7

Israel, wait for the Lord!

Because faithful love is with the Lord;

because great redemption is with our God!

8

He is the one who will redeem Israel

from all its sin.

O (Observation): Once again, a Psalm brings forth hope and comfort in the midst of distress. God is watching over us. God will redeem our situation!

A (Application): A little bit of hope goes a long way. If you are feeling hopeless as Thanksgiving approaches, please pick up a phone and call someone…send an actual card…send a text or a tweet or a FB post. Go out and cook a meal for someone else! Help others know that you care about them.

Hopefully, you caring for them will return as a blessing to you. Whether or not they have acknowledged the note, perhaps you can be satisfied that you led the way. Maybe that – along with God’s presence – will give you hope this week.

(See y’all next Monday! Happy Thanksgiving!)

P (Prayer): Lord, we are thankful for what we have. Help us to let others know that we care for them – family and strangers alike. Amen.

Peace

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S (Scripture): Psalm 120

5

Oh, I’m doomed

because I have been an immigrant in Meshech,

because I’ve made my home among Kedar’s tents.

6

I’ve lived far too long

with people who hate peace.

7

I’m for peace,

but when I speak, they are for war.

O (Observation): the psalmist speaks of being cast out to a foreign place. In that place of uncertainty, the palmist speaks up for peace, but…the cry for peace returns with cries of war.

A (Application): A simple meditation today. What I did with this text was to simply dwell in vv. 6 and 7. I repeated them, slowly, over and over in my heart.

War doesn’t just mean guns and bombs and land. War can mean being unsettled, being in a prison of one’s own making. The battlefield might be for larger numbers, or more influence, or more stuff.

Hate peace? That’s like living in a constant state of discontent.

I’m for peace. Let’s see how long God grants me peace.

P (Prayer): Lord, peace…is your calling for us all. Help us all to see peace. Amen.