Our Past Can’t Hold Us Back!

Photo credit here.  Pictured is a food shelter located in Murfreesboro, TN.   LoveGodServePeople.org.  

S (Scripture): Ezekiel 18: 14 But suppose [a person] has a child who sees all the sins that his father committed. He becomes alarmed and doesn’t do them. 15 He doesn’t eat on the mountains or pay attention to the idols of the house of Israel. He doesn’t defile his neighbor’s wife. 16 He doesn’t cheat anyone, either by seizing collateral for loans or committing robbery. He gives his food to the hungry and clothes to the naked. 17 He refrains from oppressing the poor by taking neither interest nor profit. He observes my case laws and follows my regulations. He won’t die because of his father’s guilt. He will surely live. 18 As for his father: If he exploited the weak or committed robbery, or did anything else that wasn’t good for the people, he will die because of his own guilt.

O (Observation):  Physical death awaits us all, but in this life, Ezekiel points out that true life exists in looking to serve the interests of others, and not just one’s own interests.   Ezekiel is sharing God’s message about sins not necessarily being visited upon sons and daughters simply by default.  

Rather, God is opening up the minds of God’s people to realize that one is not defined by one’s parents – or one’s own past, even.   Rather, one might have one’s eyes opened to see that – all around us – people need to be fed and clothed.  Acting on those needs brings life to the recipients of that food and clothing, and in return, new life is brought to the person who gives to others.  

Funny how “giving away” actually brings the new life promised by God.  

A (Application): Pretty soon, a group of white supremacists will rally at the courthouse square to raise their message of disdain against immigrants and all people of color.   They have already shared flyers in the campus of Middle TN State University to recruit more to these bigoted groups.  

The vision is bleak for this town, when people see this stuff.   And yet, hope remains. 

We repudiate the words and actions of any group showing hate for another.  We will engage in a nonviolent response, in an alternate physical location.    And we will show love and care for our neighbors.    And we will share a vision of a future that is colorful, where cultures will learn from one another…and maybe we will catch a glimpse of the Kingdom!

Our past does not define us.   Jesus made sure of that by taking on and overcoming our sins – once and for all!  A shared vision of the future will bring many of us together…a future that includes being kind to one another, regardless of skin color, nation of origin, or language.  This is Jesus’ way.  

God always keeps open the door to loving our neighbor.   And feeds us so that we can keep on feeding others for the rest of our days.  

Is your past holding you back?  If so, be free today, in Jesus’ name!  Shake off that burden by seeking forgiveness.   Then go…and feed a need in your community today. 

P (Prayer):  Lord, we thank you for setting us free to go and serve our neighbor in need.  Amen. 


Loving a Hostile Neighbor

Photo credit here. 

S (Scripture): Hebrews 13:1 Keep loving each other like family. 2 Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it. 3 Remember prisoners as if you were in prison with them, and people who are mistreated as if you were in their place. 4 Marriage must be honored in every respect, with no cheating on the relationship, because God will judge the sexually immoral person and the person who commits adultery. 5 Your way of life should be free from the love of money, and you should be content with what you have. After all, he has said, “I will never leave you or abandon you” (see Deut 31:6; Gen 28:15).

O (Observation):  So, the life in Christ looks like hospitality, caring for the neighbor, and not getting caught up in the love of money.   Being content is important, and is possible, since God promises to be with us.  

And this list is just a glimpse into the Kingdom life in Christ.   And also important to note, these are fruits of Kingdom life, not requirements for entry into God’s Kingdom.   We all slip and fall, and repentance is always near.  

A (Application):   White supremacists intend to rally on the square in my town on Oct 28.   What to do? How to show love in the face of discrimination? 

Do we engage?  Ignore?   This has me going in loops.  Where is God in this?  If we engage, violence will likely ensue.   If we don’t engage, are we endorsing or condoning their actions?  

How do we be the presence of God in such a volatile situation?  How do we stand in solidarity with those who have disdain for others?

Well, we can pray.   

P (Prayer):  Lord, watch over us as we discern how to respond to vitriol with hospitality, to return anger with love.   Amen.  

Us For Them – Sowing Seeds of Hope

Photo credit here. 

S (Scripture): Hebrews 12: 14 Pursue the goal of peace along with everyone—and holiness as well, because no one will see the Lord without it. 15 Make sure that no one misses out on God’s grace. Make sure that no root of bitterness grows up that might cause trouble and pollute many people.

O (Observation):  The author equates the life of a disciple with running a race.  We have work to do, but we are empowered by God to run this race.  

When running this race, God’s people are encouraged to avoid bitterness, lest that bitterness take root in others.  

A (Application):  Us.  Them.   Typically, Us vs. Them. 

This is how society wants us to see one another.  Culture wars cause us to take sides: north vs south, black or brown or “other” vs white, gay vs “straight”.    

When we strut around with our moral authority, holding doctrine above all, we feed into this “us vs them” mentality.  And the casualties?  Love.  Humanity.  

Jesus is the way, the truth, the life.  His way is compassion and love.   If my theology causes my to see someone else as less than human, then my theology is bad.   If my theology causes me to see someone as less than human, by how they vote, or because they are in a different demographic than I am, I sow bitterness and it takes root.   

(Hat tip to the the podcast called “Pass The Mic” for some of these thoughts today.  Specifically their episode entitled “Kill the Cultur Wars,” Sept 4, 2017.  Click here.

Instead of Us OR Them, Jesus shapes my view to be Us FOR Them.  Love for neighbor.  Love for even my enemies.   (Check out Gungor’s song, “Us For Them,” here on YouTube or iTunes.)

P (Prayer):  Lord, keep me pure, whiter than snow, as I repent of my part in lifting up the culture wars, in sowing bitterness.  Amen.  

Through Faith Alone

Photo credit here.  

S (Scripture): Hebrews 10:39 But we aren’t the sort of people who timidly draw back and end up being destroyed. We’re the sort of people who have faith so that our whole beings are preserved. 11:1 Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see. 2 The elders in the past were approved because they showed faith.

3 By faith we understand that the universe has been created by a word from God so that the visible came into existence from the invisible.

O (Observation): The author of Hebrews shares the absolute immense confidence that comes from faith.   While believers in Christ might experience difficulties in this life, hope awaits all believers in the end.  

Faith is so incredible that it causes us to believe that God created everything from nothing that we could see.  

A (Application):  My confidence in the faith given to me by the Holy Spirit, made most real for me in my baptism, helps me this day.   Natural disasters, death, shootings, chaos.   And yet, hope in things unseen.  Faith allows me to know that God will pave the way for us to a new day.  

I’m not looking for an escape.   I’m looking for a transformation.   I’m trying to be part of the solution.  

Soon, several members of the congregation I serve will be part of a mini-series of conversations regarding black and white race relations.   We will do our part to believe – through faith – that God will create something out of seemingly nothing.   That God will blaze a trail for us to follow.  That God will place people in our path who will be agents for positive change in Muefreesboro, TN, and beyond.  

Let’s pray for change.  

Let’s be the change.  

Through faith alone.  

P (Prayer): Lord, guide us into faith, into how, into joy, even in the midst of devastation and sorrow.  Amen.  
P.s. please keep the folks of Catolonia (in Spain) in your prayers, as they seek to become an independent state.  Much rotating and upheaval going on.  Many injured in riots.   See one article here.  

Re-Blog: Lament as Mission in the Suburbs

So I’m taking some time off this week.  As such, I’ll be sharing some blogs that I read regularly. 

Today, this blog I’m sharing addresses the hope that comes from teaching suburbanites how to properly lament, because we like to live under the veneer of the American Dream and self-help. 

Please take some time to read this blog:

Gravity Leadership: Lament as Mission in the Suburbs



  Pr Michael Jannett

All-Access Pass

Photo credit here

S (Scripture):Hebrews 6: 13 When God gave Abraham his promise, he swore by himself since he couldn’t swear by anyone greater. 14 He said, I will certainly bless you and multiply your descendants. 15 So Abraham obtained the promise by showing patience. 16 People pledge by something greater than themselves. A solemn pledge guarantees what they say and shuts down any argument. 17 When God wanted to further demonstrate to the heirs of the promise that his purpose doesn’t change, he guaranteed it with a solemn pledge. 18 So these are two things that don’t change, because it’s impossible for God to lie. He did this so that we, who have taken refuge in him, can be encouraged to grasp the hope that is lying in front of us. 19 This hope, which is a safe and secure anchor for our whole being, enters the sanctuary behind the curtain. 20 That’s where Jesus went in advance and entered for us, since he became a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

O (Observation):  God promises to Abraham that God will bring about many descendants from Abraham.  Abraham had little to do with this, other than to be patient and let God prove trustworthy.  Generation after generation are born, and we have proof of God making good on a pledge.  

Knowing that God makes good on pledges, this gives God’s people hope.   That hope includes access to what was known as the “inner sanctuary” of the temple.   This was the “holy of holies.”   This space was where only the high priests could be admitted.   And this was also where God was believed to be most fully present on earth during the times of Temple worship of God.  

And yet, in Jesus’ death and resurrection, the temple curtain was torn, and God made it known that ALL have access to God – Jesus being the first with full access to God.  Now, Jesus makes it possible for all of us to access God fully.  

A (Application):  When was the last time someone broke a promise to you?   When was the last time you broke a promise you made to someone else? 

“Yeah, I’ll be there.”   “Yeah, I can help you move.” “Yeah, I’m open that day.”

Unfortunately, as a parent, I break promises to my kids: “I’ll be there in a second,” “we can go to the playground after school,” “we will go out to see that movie.”
Whether for time or budgetary issues, I break promises, and that hurts me and my kids.   My pledges are not always kept.  I repent of that and wish to be wiser in my commitments.  

But thanks be to God that God makes good on God’s pledges to us all.  God continues to bless the world through Abraham’s descendants.  And in some amazing turn of events, we are seeing many different groups of folks blessing one another.  

The world isn’t perfect, but I can see some perfect things in the world:  the innocence in my 5 year old; people helping in response to natural disasters; my wife, as she begins working as an educational assistant for special education (and putting up with me on a full-time basis).  

Blessings abound, since we have full access to God, just as Jesus does.  God promises to make many descendants from Abraham.  God also promises to bless the world through Abraham.  

What blessings can you see?   How has God blessed you?   Or perhaps a better questions is this: How is God working through you to bless others?

P (Prayer):  Lord, help us to have hope in your pledge to be present in the world and to have access to your full presence.  Amen.  

The Priestly Role

Photo credit here.  And you might want to click this time : )

S (Scripture): Hebrews 4:14 Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

O (Observation):  The priests of the church were typically separated from the people in early times, so that they could properly observe liturgical rites (I.e. Worship).   The priest would be the “go-between” between the people and God.  

Of course, God has always been close to the people (never just far away).   Yet the priest helped God’s people see the connection between God and the people.  

With Jesus as the Great High Priest now, God’s people know a bit more fully that they can “approach the throne of grace with boldness” to receive mercy and grace.

A (Application):  The unfortunate outcome of having priests is the notion that one cannot speak directly to God, or that somehow the priest needs to be the elevated one who speaks to God on behalf of the people.  

For a time, this was something the Church took advantage of for selfish gain.  Think of it as “job security.”   

However, the Church has made it more clear over time that God is close to all, and has always been.  We have always had access to God through prayer and meditation.   And yet, most people say, “Oh, I’m not good at praying” or “I’m not good at meditations” or “I don’t have time to pray.”   Well, with that mindset, no, it will never work out for you.  

But let me ask you this:  Have you ever wanted something that someone else had (in terms of a peace or a spirituality that you admired, and wanted to make it your own)?   If so, have you approached that person?   If they didn’t respond, did you ask again?   

This is very important stuff.   Find someone who you think is someone God has put into your life to show you how to pray or meditate or give extranagavtly or build healthy friendships or serve selflessly.  Whatever the practice is that you are feeling God calling you to…go find someone who does that well.  

Then, once you’ve followed someone long enough, continue to adapt to your own style of prayer, service, meditation, giving, etc.  

The priest’s function – in my opinion – is to teach others how to pray, how to sense God’s closeness, how to pass on the gifts of grace in baptism and Commmnion, so that others can learn to do the same.   

So, what’s stopping you from taking the next step? From having that next conversation?  From seeing how close God and God’s mercy really are?

P (Prayer): Lord, you are close.  Show us.  Teach us how to connect.  Continue to send brace and patient leaders for your Church.  Amen.