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.


Abundance – Giving & Receiving

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S (Scripture): Psalm 144: 9 I will sing a new song to you, God.
I will sing praises to you on a ten-stringed harp,
10 to you—the one who gives saving help to rulers,
and who rescues his servant David from the evil sword.
11 Rescue me and deliver me from the power of strangers,
whose mouths speak lies,
and whose strong hand is a strong hand of deception,
12 so that our sons can grow up fully, in their youth, like plants;
so that our daughters can be like pillars carved to decorate a palace;
13 so that our barns can be full, providing all kinds of food;
so that our flocks can be in the thousands—
even tens of thousands—in our fields;
14 so that our cattle can be loaded with calves;
so that there won’t be any breach in the walls,
no exile, no outcries in our streets!

O (Observation): The abundance found in God is described here by the psalmist – an abundance beyond joy, beyond measure. Hope springs eternal for the follower of God.

A (Application): The hope and abundance found in God comes in many forms. We hope our sons and daughters bear fruit in their own special ways. We pray that our storehouses are filled and that our jobs bring abundance.

This is our hope. Reality sometimes does not match this hope, however. But this still remains our hope. That all will be fed and that all who have need will be satisfied.

In the meantime, we will feed the hungry, we will gather together and do our best to make sure all are fed and that none have need.

In my church setting, we work with the Murfreesboro Cold Patrol, Roots for Refugees & Murfreesboro Muslim Youth, The Journey Home, Coldest Nights Women’s Shelter. These are some ways in which this psalm is coming to fruition for many people who have need in Murfreesboro. And this is also helping us to see our need to be humble, broken, and filled with the Spirit.

May we be God’s hands and feet this day.

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to be another person’s abundance. And help them to be our abundance. Amen.

The Journey can be Exhausting

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S (Scripture): Philippians 3:10 The righteousness that I have comes from knowing Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the participation in his sufferings. It includes being conformed to his death 11 so that I may perhaps reach the goal of the resurrection of the dead.

12 It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. 13 Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. 14 The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.

O (Observation): Paul is helping the faith community know that one's faith journey is always ongoing. And the strength to continue the journey does not come from one's own gut or power or inner strength. Rather, the power to run this race of faith comes from knowing (or being known by) Christ and the power of his resurrection. And not just this, but letting one's ego go is part of the faithful response to being in this race / on this journey.

The race / journey continues. We never reach the zenith. But we strive for it. Always.

A (Application): Martin Luther once said:

This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.

According to this quote, the journey of faith never ends. That can be exciting and yet exhausting.

If you are exhausted, take a breath, take a break, but let someone know you are going through this exhaustion. Don't just hold it in. Let close ones know your experience. Sometimes the church helps with this process. Sometimes it makes things worse. Find someone you trust and let them know. You are not alone. We are in this together.

And a little break is needed from time to time.

Catch your breath. Splash some water on your face…maybe have some wine and bread. Remember who and whose you are.

P (Prayer): Lord, give us strength on this journey of faith. Amen.

Difficult is the Road

S (Scripture): Acts 12:1 About that time (circa a.d. 42-43) King Herod laid hands on some from the church to harm them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, executed with a sword. 3 When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter too. (This took place during the feast of Unleavened Bread.) 4 When he had seized him, he put him in prison, handing him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him. Herod planned to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but those in the church were earnestly praying to God for him.

O (Observation): The early church certainly knew struggle.  Peter was telling the church that Gentiles were just as welcome to become followers of Jesus as were the Jewish people.  This certainly got the Jewish Christians riled up, not to mention the Jewish people themselves.  

As King Herod started to put pressure on the Christians, like Peter, the king saw how the Jewish people reacted positively. Making a political move, King Herod decided to put even more pressure on the followers of Jesus.  Herod arrested Peter, and planned on putting him on trial. 

A (Application):  We think we’ve got it bad here as Christians in America?  Just read the text above from Acts 12.  I don’t buy into the “Christians are being oppressed” stuff that a lot of folks bemoan.   In some ways, I welcome the challenge.  

Can’t say “under God” in the pledge.   We have “moments of silence” rather than prayer time in schools.  Can’t hang the 10 Commandments in the courthouses.  

I get it.  

But when did we have to rely on public institutions to do the work of making disciples?   When did we hand the reins over to politicians to decide how the Christian faith was to be lived out and taught to our children?  

Oh wait…we didn’t.   Or at least, we didn’t mean to.  

Passing on the faith to my children is the responsibility of me, my wife and my wider family, as well as the faith communities in which we are involved.   All of us in the Christian community have the joy and duty of helping to raise folks in the faith.   We do this not by only being a Sunday School teacher, but by also living out Christ’s love in your daily life.  We share faith not just by attending worship, but also by cooking a meal for your sick neighbor.  

We do not face the same challenges (in this country) of being persecuted for our faith, but I hear this sentiment quite a bit. 

Instead of blaming and pointing fingers, figure out what role you are playing to help build up disciples where you are.  Are you able to invest time in learning or teaching others the ways of discipleship?   I am both a student of discipleship and one who leads other disciples.  

If you are interested in taking a journey with me towards discipleship, committing to weekly times of growth and learning, please contact me through my Contact page.  Let us have a conversation to see if you would like to work towards this lifelong task and joy of discipleship, so that you can go and make other disciples.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, you strengthen us for this journey of discipleship.  Grant us courage and a heart full of your abundant grace.  Amen.  

God Won’t Give Up On You

S (Scripture): 1 Samuel 12:12 Samuel says to the people of God: “When you saw that King Nahash of the Ammonites was advancing against you, you said to me, ‘No! A king will rule over us’ – even though the Lord your God is your king! 13 Now look! Here is the king you have chosen – the one that you asked for! Look, the Lord has given you a king! 14 If you fear the Lord, serving him and obeying him and not rebelling against what he says, and if both you and the king who rules over you follow the Lord your God, all will be well. 15 But if you don’t obey the Lord and rebel against what the Lord says, the hand of the Lord will be against both you and your king.

16 “So now, take your positions and watch this great thing that the Lord is about to do in your sight. 17 Is this not the time of the wheat harvest? I will call on the Lord so that he makes it thunder and rain. Realize and see what a great sin you have committed before the Lord by asking for a king for yourselves.”

18 So Samuel called to the Lord, and the Lord made it thunder and rain that day. All the people were very afraid of both the Lord and Samuel. 19 All the people said to Samuel, “Pray to the Lord your God on behalf of us – your servants – so we won’t die, for we have added to all our sins by asking for a king.”

20 Then Samuel said to the people, “Don’t be afraid. You have indeed sinned. However, don’t turn aside from the Lord. Serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 You should not turn aside after empty things that can’t profit and can’t deliver, since they are empty. 22 The Lord will not abandon his people because he wants to uphold his great reputation. The Lord was pleased to make you his own people. 23 As far as I am concerned, far be it from me to sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you! I will instruct you in the way that is good and upright. 24 However, fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. Just look at the great things he has done for you! 25 But if you continue to do evil, both you and your king will be swept away.”

O (Observation): God’s people have to be reminded – AGAIN – that God is their king.   And to ask for an earthly king is to shift allegiance from GOD to an earthly ruler.  Now…God is NOT about to go against his promise to be with His people forever and to see his people through thick and thin…but this sure does test the limit, no?  God is saving His people NOT because they are good and holy, but to keep God’s reputation pure…to show that God will NOT go against His promise to keep the Hebrew people. 

Samuel calls out to God to bring thunder and rain as a sign AGAINST God’s people, and they start shakin’ in their boots and ask Samuel to hold off God’s anger.  They want to live!  This sign helps them to put their choice into perspective.  Samuel holds up the mirror to the people, and they are ashamed of what they see.  

And to Samuel’s credit, he keeps praying for the very people who have slighted God.  Samuel says he will continue to pray for God’s people, for to NOT pray for them would be a lack of grace…and Samuel knows…we all need a bit of grace.

A (Application):  I relate to Samuel AND the people.  I relate to Samuel, because at times I feel confident that God wants one thing, and the church / individual people of faith choose the opposite.  And yet, as certain as I am of being like Samuel, I then find myself on the other side…being blind to God’s will and choosing out of selfish, worldly desire.  

The deeper point in this text is that God does NOT give up on God’s people.   God corrects and chastises the people, but then also backs it up with a chance to show them grace and mercy.   Boy, do I need God!

As I struggle through the daily Moravian texts every Monday-Friday, I become more and more humbled at the grace and mercy of God.  Even in times when we are chastised by God for stumbling off the path, I still am drawn in by the promise of God, made clear here by Samuel:

1 Samuel 12:21 You should not turn aside after empty things that can’t profit and can’t deliver, since they are empty. 22 The Lord will not abandon his people because he wants to uphold his great reputation. The Lord was pleased to make you his own people.

I pray that you may come to know God more dearly…and realize that you need not be perfect, just believe that God wants you to be a part of shared journey called Life.  

P (Prayer): Lord, you are great and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Wow!  We don’t deserve you, and yet are very grateful for you this day.  Amen.  

My Promised Land

S (Scripture): Numbers 13:26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and to the whole community of the Israelites in the wilderness of Paran at Kadesh. They reported to the whole community and showed the fruit of the land. 27 They told Moses, “We went to the land where you sent us. It is indeed flowing with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 But the inhabitants are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. Moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the land of the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.”

30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses, saying, “Let us go up and occupy it, for we are well able to conquer it.” 31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against these people, because they are stronger than we are!” 32 Then they presented the Israelites with a discouraging report of the land they had investigated, saying, “The land that we passed through to investigate is a land that devours its inhabitants. All the people we saw there are of great stature. 33 We even saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak came from the Nephilim), and we seemed liked grasshoppers both to ourselves and to them.”

O (Observation):  The Hebrew people are approaching the Promised Land for the first time.   They send one representative from each tribe to scope out the land to get a look at its inhabitants, the land itself, and to bring back some fruit of the land.   

The land – beautiful.   The fruit – wholesome.   The people – scary!

The spies that scoped out the territory of the land promised to them by God is beautiful and grandiose…but it is also inhabited by some scary people.   How could they drive out these people from the land?

So the spies tell of the land, but have severe doubts about their ability to claim the land for themselves.  

Caleb speaks up to say that they can take the land.  

The people are left with conflicting sentiments about their ability to enter the Promised Land.  

A (Application):  What is your Promised Land?  Mine is a family with a house and great job.  A life in which I have the perfect balance of work and rest.  I’m able to dine out and go on vacations and have no student loans hanging over my head : )

My Promsied Land is a place where people follow me for what I teach and preach…a place where I’m smart enough to not have to be corrected and wise enough to help the congregation I serve to a major transformation.  

Now…notice what’s missing?   God.  Jesus.  The Holy Spirit.  

These things I mention are all about me…even the bit about the church I serve.  All of these statements center on what I can do and does not once reflect what God might want for me…where God might be leading me…what God is saying to me.   

The 12 sent to scope out the Promsied Land (even Caleb at this point) fail to discern God’s call, God’s presence, God’s voice. 

How often do we observe a kairos (a God-moment) and breeze right by it?   How often do we begin to follow a call from God, only to abandon our call to listen and to know that God is still with us, even when that doesn’t seem true?

We all end up wandering.  We all end up needing a time of repentance and forgiveness.  

This post today is not about making you feel guilty, but a reminder that God is always ready to hear your plea for grace and mercy and forgiveness.  Today.  Now.   

As a baptized believer, I’m made new everyday…by the gift of the Holy Spirit, and I’m reminded of this by my fellow believers in Christ.  

Do you have someone you are journeying with?   Someone to help you pause, reflect, listen?  Do you have someone who hears your plea for grace and mercy?   I pray you find such a person of peace today.   I pray God gets your attention and shows you a peace that surpasses all understanding this day. 

P (Prayer):  Lord, may you send your angels to guide us to your path.  May they open our ears to your voice this day…a voice of grace and mercy. Amen.