Called to Serve!

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S (Scripture): Luke 3:7 Then John said to the crowds who came to be baptized by him, “You children of snakes! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon? 8 Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire.”

10 The crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”

11 He answered, “Whoever has two shirts must share with the one who has none, and whoever has food must do the same.”

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. They said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”

13 He replied, “Collect no more than you are authorized to collect.”

14 Soldiers asked, “What about us? What should we do?”

He answered, “Don’t cheat or harass anyone, and be satisfied with your pay.”

O (Observation): John speaks for God – he is a prophet. Many come come to be baptized by John to show that they wish to receive forgiveness of sins and wish to change their lives. No longer does John think it sufficient to be a Jew – from the lineage of Abraham and Sarah. That “status” is of little significance should one not change one’s life.

John says that God expects a changed life in response to the grace given to each.

Life in Christ gives ALL people a chance – even a pile of rocks : )

Jesus forms a new way of life with God, one that is open to all.

A (Application): Complacency is our biggest threat as Christians in the world. “I’ve done enough. I’ve done my part. There’s nothing I can do about it.” These words are our excuses.

Instead of relying on our baptism as our “ticket home,” let’s also think about our baptism as our call to serve and our being equipped for mission in the world!

Rest not only on what God has done FOR you…through prayer and community discern how God is working THROUGH you!

P (Prayer): Lord, make me a channel of your peace. Amen.


You serious, Clark?

(Ok, I know Christmas has come and gone, but this quote from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation popped into my mind writing this devotion. Really, John? You serious? I don’t know ’bout dat.)

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S (Scripture): Matthew 11:2 Now when John heard in prison about the things the Christ was doing, he sent word by his disciples to Jesus, asking, 3 “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”

4 Jesus responded, “Go, report to John what you hear and see. 5 Those who were blind are able to see. Those who were crippled are walking. People with skin diseases are cleansed. Those who were deaf now hear. Those who were dead are raised up. The poor have good news proclaimed to them. 6 Happy are those who don’t stumble and fall because of me.”

O (Observation): John, of all people, should know who Christ is! Not only is he Jesus’ cousin, but shouldn’t John – the messenger – know of whom he speaks?

Nonetheless, Jesus’ response is not anger or frustration; rather, he invites John’s disciples to come with him to hear and see what Jesus has been up to. In this way, they will “see and hear” for themselves, and believe.

And to support the fact that Jesus is the promised one of God, he quotes Isaiah: the blind see, the deaf hear, dead are raised, the Good News is proclaimed. Jesus is the Christ – the promised, the anointed, the holy of God.

A (Application): Lots of promises and hopes in our world. We like to see these promises backed up with results / proof. If not, we become very skeptical. Perhaps this is what was going through John’s mind? Or maybe John knew, but his disciples needed some prodding.

What we are left with – in the wake of Jesus’ ministry – is hope for the hopeless and affliction for the comforted.

We seek God’s hope in this world full of criticism and self-righteousness. We seek healing for those born into challenging circumstances. We seek hope for the young people in our country being inundated with all kinds of narcissistic and self-indulging behaviors encouraged by so many. We pray we can learn from our older generations, that we might glean wisdom from their experiences and understand where they have seen God’s handiwork in their lifetimes.

Jesus walked this earth. His witness and the Spirit that burst forth at Pentecost still affect us this day. May we continue to hear and see the work of the Christ in our midst…and may we be the hands and feet through which the Christ continues His work.

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to hear…to see. Amen.

Lead With Love

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S (Scripture): 1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love because God first loved us. 20 If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen. 21 This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.

O (Observation): The community of 1 John is seeking to be a true community of followers of Jesus. In doing so, they are working out what that means, practically. They conclude that when one has faith to believe in and love God, one also will love their brother and sister. (Is that a brother or sister in Christ, or any brother or sister in the world? Not sure.)

Fear will not lead their decision making nor how they view their relationships. Love will define their words and actions.

A (Application): I once heard someone say, “Sometimes, the worst part about being a Christian can be…other Christians!” How true!

I know many Christians with whom I disagree. I know of many who think what I write and speak of is leading the flock astray and helping to condemn souls.

What will lead our relationships? Hopefully, love, and not fear. With love, we can start to see one another as brother and sister. When fear leads, we see a false future. When love is our lead, we see the best in one another. When Love is our lead, we see each other as God sees us.

Let’s choose love first. After all, God does.

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to see through the eyes of love. Amen.

True Fellowship

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S (Scripture): 1 John 1:1 We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– 2 this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us– 3 we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

O (Observation):  The community from which the author of 1 John is writing feels very strongly that they have a message to pass on to the recipients of this letter.  The author – and the community from which the author writes – is full of an overflowing excitement and spirit based on having had true life revealed to them. 

The desire of the author is an extraordinary fellowship, based not solely upon “common interests,” but upon true life revealed to them by being in fellowship with Jesus Christ and God.   

(I’ll assume that the Holy Spirit is the vehicle for this fellowship and this revelation.)  

A (Application):  The excitement that comes from a revelation of the Spirit is unexplainable.  I can think back to several times in my life when I FIRST sensed the Spirit joining me to a larger fellowship:

  • Becoming a part of All Saints Lutheran Church, in Lilburn, GA, after we moved to Lilburn from Lodi, NJ
  • Going to church camps in my middle school years
  • Seeking forgiveness from a friend in high school 
  • When I began dating Kelly (who is now my wife)
  • Entering seminary

So many times…some big moments and some smaller moments…I was acknowledging that God was up to something greater than just making me feel comfortable.  God was showing me what true fellowship can be like, what it can look like.  

Why did God do this?  Perhaps so that I can help create a welcoming environment for others, wherever I go (like those who were a part of the fellowship established in 1 John).  The most holy thing I know is true fellowship.  True fellowship makes room for those who have open hearts and minds to work together, to share our God-given gifts, and to welcome the new kid from New Jersey (the kid with the funny accent)…or to welcome anyone else.  : ) 

Can you name a time when you were welcomed in?

Can you name a time when you welcomed others in to your fellowship?

P (Prayer): Lord, you gather us together into one Spirit. Help us to know that oneness with you and with our neighbor. Amen. 

Little Children, Love One Another

S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 13:8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end…13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

O (Observation):  Paul understands that while many spiritual gifts are available to us, the greatest gift of all is love.   Some may speak in tongues, some may interpret tongues, some may prophecy…but nothing, no gift, is greater than love.  

A (Application):   The beloved author of this Gospel, John, is said to have preached late into his 90’s, mostly in the area of Ephesus.   Jerome (an ancient church historian) writes that in John’s late years, when he became too feeble to speak for long, John would be brought into a worship space or someone’s home on a mat.   And he would say this:   “Little children, love one another.” And then, without any further words, he would be ushered out.  

This small encounter, just these 5 words, would be repeated by John, week after week.   Finally, his disciples asked him one day, “Why is it that week after week you share only these words: ‘Little children, love one another’?”  And John replied: “Because it is enough.” 

If you want to know the basics of living as a Christian, there it is in a nutshell. All you need to know is: “Little children, love one another.”

Yes.  It is that simple.  

Love is evangelism.  Love is stronger than words or theologies or doctrines.   Love is what brings us all together. 

May you, little children, love one another.  

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to love.  Amen. 

Even Me?

S (Scripture): Acts 4:13 When (the rulers, the elders, and the experts in the law) saw the boldness of Peter and John, and discovered that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized these men had been with Jesus.

O (Observation): After having healed the lame man, the leaders of the church had a hard time figuring out how to control Peter and John.  They don’t necessarily deny the fact that a miracle took place, they just don’t want Jesus’ disciples gaining popularity over the leaders of the church.

The major threat seems to have been the fact that Peter and John are ordinary folks who did not study the Scriptures or the law as much as the scribes and elders had.   That meant that their position of power and privilege was no longer secure…not if these ordinary men could do miraculous signs in Jesus name.  No longer would people need to spend their whole lives studying scripture and the law in order to do God’s work.

A (Application): Who can God work through? Who does God work through? Is it helpful for the church to have pastors and bishops? I think so. But do we sometimes get caught up in the idea that pastors and bishops are the only ones doing God’s work?   Yes!  Absolutely!

God’s work is done through the body of Christ and in many, many other ways.   The joy of today’s text is that we don’t have to have seminary degrees or even a long resume of good deeds in order to do good this day!

Take a step back and think about what you’re feeling.  Let that feeling be shaped by God’s good will towards others.   Let that feeling win out.  Find a way to let that good feeling manifest itself in some positive way towards another person this day.  

Enjoy the fact that God can and does work through so many of us.    Yes, that includes you.  

P (Prayer):  God, continue to do a good work in me and through me.  Amen.  

God’s Work. Our Hands. 

S (Scripture): Luke 7:20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’” 21 At that very time Jesus cured many people of diseases, sicknesses, and evil spirits, and granted sight to many who were blind. 22 So he answered them, “Go tell John what you have seen and heard: The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news proclaimed to them. 23 Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

O (Observation):  John the Baptist is double-checking to make sure Jesus is the real deal.  Jesus’ response:  go and tell John what you see.   What do they see and hear?  Jesus has made the blind see, the lame walk…etc.  The proof is in the fact that God’s Kingdom is breaking in.

A (Application):  So often, we pray for help and for God to show up.   We pray that the poor be fed, the naked become clothed.   A wise person once explained prayers for the hungry and naked.   This person said: “We should pray for those that need food and clothing.   Then, we should go and feed the hungry and clothe the naked.”

That’s how this works for us.  We pray and we work.   We don’t just pray and hope for a miracle.  (Though miracles can and do occur.)

We pray.  And we realize that we are God’s hands.   So we work.  For God.  For others.  

And interestingly enough…when we work and give our time to others…we find that our deepest needs are met in serving others.  Weird.  God’s just weird like that : )

When was a time that God used you to bless someone else?

P (Prayer):  God, help me to trust that you are at work and that you call me to be a good steward of that work…and to get involved.  Amen. 


P.s.  Started my day yesterday by running a 5K in downtown Nashville.  39:50.  It was HOT!!!

Closed out the 4th with fireworks with my wife…