In Due Season

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S (Scripture): Ecclesiastes 3:

1

There’s a season for everything

    and a time for every matter under the heavens:

    a time for giving birth and a time for dying,

    a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted,

    a time for killing and a time for healing,

    a time for tearing down and a time for building up,

    a time for crying and a time for laughing,

    a time for mourning and a time for dancing,

    a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,

    a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces,

    a time for searching and a time for losing,

    a time for keeping and a time for throwing away,

    a time for tearing and a time for repairing,

    a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,

    a time for loving and a time for hating,

    a time for war and a time for peace.

O (Observation): King Solomon (supposed author of Ecclesiastes) sought wisdom from God – above all else. God granted Solomon wisdom – a double-batch of it, since he didn’t request strength or riches.

Solomon seems almost morose. Like life isn’t worth living after all. What’s the point? You live, you die. And what is different? Almost like asking: “So, universe…now that Michael is gone…what’s different?” The universe says: “Um…who’s Michael?”

A (Application): Maybe Solomon’s take was different. Maybe Solomon’s main learning was this: don’t take yourself too seriously, and enjoy life!

All things will happen. We don’t know when or how. Just don’t think the world revolves around you. Good will come and good will go. Bad will come and bad will go. But God will remain. God will see us through it all. For God dwells with us.

In the meantime, be excellent to each other!

P (Prayer): Lord, remains with me / us. Amen.

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Christ in Us All

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S (Scripture): 2 Corinthians 4:4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of those who don’t have faith so they couldn’t see the light of the gospel that reveals Christ’s glory. Christ is the image of God.

Proverbs 20:27 The breath of a person is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the inmost parts.

O (Observation): These two verses from very different times and situations bring forth the image of God dwelling in our very being. God is with us. God is in us. All have the ability to receive the Christ, who is already in us. The revealing of the Christ from within us makes sense as our very breath is like the lamp of the Lord. The lamp guides our way, from the inside out.

As Christ dwells within us, we cannot help but see the Christ in one another. As such, we start to treat one another as if we were interacting with the Divine Trinity itself.

A (Application): So what does all of this mean? It means that we get to see the Christ in one another. Seeing Christ in one another means seeing the hope of forgiveness in one another. The evil ones and the good ones. All are imbued with the Christ nature, for we are all one in Christ. We are all cut of the same cloth (as some like to say).

This means forgiveness is possible. This means that the chance of forgiveness and reconciliation is very high. This means that when we look on one another, we have hope to be forgiven or to forgive.

And when we cannot forgive, perhaps we hold on to the hope that the Christ dwelling in the other is still holding on strong. Even if we must let a relationship go.

Christ in us. Christ guiding us. This is my hope.

P (Prayer): Lord, guide us always…from the inside out. Amen.

Stewardship: Faith and Science

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S (Scripture): Psalm 65

You visit the earth and make it abundant,

    enriching it greatly

        by God’s stream, full of water.

You provide people with grain

    because that is what you’ve decided.

10 

Drenching the earth’s furrows,

        leveling its ridges,

    you soften it with rain showers;

        you bless its growth.

11 

You crown the year with your goodness;

    your paths overflow with rich food.

12 

Even the desert pastures drip with it,

    and the hills are dressed in pure joy.

13 

The meadowlands are covered with flocks,

    the valleys decked out in grain—

        they shout for joy;

        they break out in song!

O (Observation): The psalmist sees God as the one responsible for watering the earth and bringing forth vegetation and life itself. And not just life, but ABUNDANT life!

God’s stream brings sustenance to the earth!

Waters flow – strong or gentle – as needed.

Result? Desert and hills get what they need. Meadows and valleys rejoice.

This is legend AND this is science to the ancient ones who wrote these psalms. Perhaps science and legend are one and the same for this author.

A (Application): We are truly children of the Enlightenment. I’m all for science, but I believe the pendulum has swung too far. We are forgetful of the stories that brought us this far along the way. We fail to see our interconnectedness with other cultures and races. We fail to see how we are one with people who look and speak different from “us.”

Now that we “know better,” we don’t tell stories of the earth crying out or the animals having stories to share.

J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis have both been influential for me and my family as they bring stories that don’t make sense : ). Odd creatures exist in their stories – both good and evil. Trees walk and talk. Portals to other worlds!

Now, it’s the Marvel Comic Universe that brings stories of far off worlds and odd creatures to light. (And yes, I’m a HUGE fan 🔷.)

But when it comes to our faith, we have very little imagination. We disconnect faith from the earth or the very things we use on a daily basis: soap, water, transportation, air, mountains, and so on.

God is revealed to us in more than just the person of Jesus. And we rejoice in this fact. And we rejoice in the abundant forms of life all around us.

One area I have found to be extremely challenging and equally rewarding: MONEY.

Science and logic tell us one thing. Faith, another. What if we joined these two together? What if we saw paying our bills and giving money away as equally important? What if we let loose of our desire to make it all work out for us, only? What if we gave our money a voice? What story would it tell us?

Would it tell us how we buy more of the same stuff for ourselves, while others go hungry? Would our money tell us we have plenty, but ignore that sentiment and use it more for ourselves?

Or would our money explain how it sustains our faith communities and homeless shelters and food pantries???

Let science and faith work together for the good of all.

P (Prayer): Lord, the stories of what we give to you are distant from our hearts and minds. Wake us up to the joy of giving once again. Amen.

Gifted by the Spirit

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S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 12:4 There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; 5 and there are different ministries and the same Lord; 6 and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. 7 A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good. 8 A word of wisdom is given by the Spirit to one person, a word of knowledge to another according to the same Spirit, 9 faith to still another by the same Spirit, gifts of healing to another in the one Spirit, 10 performance of miracles to another, prophecy to another, the ability to tell spirits apart to another, different kinds of tongues to another, and the interpretation of the tongues to another. 11 All these things are produced by the one and same Spirit who gives what he wants to each person.

O (Observation): Paul’s famous words here echo through the ages. We – who are in Christ – are gifted. (Yet we cannot forget that others can be gifted, too!)

Paul is hearing that the followers of Christ in the churches he’s established are competing with each other or are showing disdain for those with gifts that different from their own.

A (Application): These verses are typically used when we install officers, council members, or other volunteers at church. We all share our gifts together for the good of all. The same Spirit leads us. The same Spirit equips us.

Are you finding yourself grateful for the gifts you’ve been given, yet also showing disdain for those with other gifts? Are you jealous?

Or are you in a place to appreciate the breadth and depth of how God has equipped you and those around you to build one another up to love God and neighbor.

P (Prayer): Lord, help me to know you are equipping is all. Amen.

Conversation, Not Judgment

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S (Scripture): Romans 14:13 So stop judging each other. Instead, this is what you should decide: never put a stumbling block or obstacle in the way of your brother or sister. 14 I know and I’m convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is wrong to eat in itself. But if someone thinks something is wrong to eat, it becomes wrong for that person. 15 If your brother or sister is upset by your food, you are no longer walking in love. Don’t let your food destroy someone for whom Christ died. 16 And don’t let something you consider to be good be criticized as wrong. 17 God’s kingdom isn’t about eating food and drinking but about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever serves Christ this way pleases God and gets human approval.

O (Observation): Paul encourages Christ-followers who have different opinions about customs to NOT let the customs get in the way of growing the community of faith. He’s not saying one should become a doormat and let other’s opinions reign…you can defend your position. And in that conversation go the way that brings peace, joy, and righteousness.

A (Application): So…don’t judge someone. Get to know why they are doing what they are doing. Hopefully, the conversation will be one in which both parties can understand the other party’s view-point. Ultimately, peace, joy, and righteousness need to be the markers against which our actions and thoughts are measured, not just our feelings or passion.

In Christ, we have one who guides us by example. In the Spirit, we have a companion to go with us to help us make these conversations happen.

P (Prayer): Spirit, guide us into the way of peace, joy, righteousness. Amen.

God as Parent

Photo from our family vacation in Jan 2019

S (Scripture): Psalm 30

When I was comfortable, I said,

    “I will never stumble.”

Because it pleased you, Lord,

    you made me a strong mountain.

But then you hid your presence.

    I was terrified.

I cried out to you, Lord.

    I begged my Lord for mercy:

“What is to be gained by my spilled blood,

    by my going down into the pit?

Does dust thank you?

    Does it proclaim your faithfulness?

10 

Lord, listen and have mercy on me!

    Lord, be my helper!”

11 

You changed my mourning into dancing.

    You took off my funeral clothes

        and dressed me up in joy

12 

    so that my whole being

    might sing praises to you and never stop.

Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

O (Observation): Does God hide Godself out of a sense of abandonment of the psalmist? Or is God nudging this follower out of the nest (so to speak)?

Is God abandoning or encouraging? Testing?

The follower is said to be comfortable and will never stumble. Perhaps in the follower’s lack of humility God allows the individual to go about their own way…without God’s help. Will the follower stumble? If so, what then?

Then, the follower senses a lack and cries out for mercy. And God makes Godself known to the follower again. And God’s renewed presence is like turning mourning into dancing.

The result: I will praise you Lord, and never assume I will never stumble.

A (Application): As my wife and I raise our three children, I can think of the many times we encourage our children. We help them see that they can ride a bike, cook a meal, wash their own clothes. We instruct and model for them how to do these tasks. Once they get a taste for it, the inevitable statement is: “I CAN DO IT BY MYSELF!”

Ok. Go for it.

Then comes the scraped knee, the burned toast, or the ruined clothes.

Then comes, “Why didn’t you tell me?” Or “Why didn’t you help?”

Ah. Parenthood.

I can only imagine what God continually goes through: Watching over us; entering our lives; encouraging us; setting us free…only to hear, “Where were you?” “Why didn’t you help?”

Sometimes we wish to be set free in order to prove we can make it on our own. Sometimes we wish to be set free to see how far we can fly with the gifts we’ve been given. Whether our desire to be set free comes from good intentions or selfish intentions, we can have a tendency to turn on God for the mistakes we make. “Couldn’t you have prevented this, God?”

As we cry out to God, God hears and comes to us. God has the immense capacity to absorb our selfishness and anger, and turn our sadness into joy.

What is left is whether or not we wish to receive God’s mercy and grace. When we do, the joy is indescribable.

May you call out to God in times of plenty and times of want. May you receive God’s merciful gift of grace. May God turn your mourning into dancing.

P (Prayer): Lord, we are selfish…we are set free…we are in need of your presence. Amen.

Appreciating God‘s Handiwork

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S (Scripture): Psalm 104

24

Lord, you have done so many things!

You made them all so wisely!

The earth is full of your creations!

25

And then there’s the sea, wide and deep,

with its countless creatures—

living things both small and large.

26

There go the ships on it,

and Leviathan, which you made, plays in it!

27

All your creations wait for you

to give them their food on time.

28

When you give it to them, they gather it up;

when you open your hand, they are filled completely full!

29

But when you hide your face, they are terrified;

when you take away their breath,

they die and return to dust.

30

When you let loose your breath, they are created,

and you make the surface of the ground brand-new again.

O (Observation): The immensity of God’s creativity in ordering creation is powerful. God is constantly nourishing, sustaining, and re-creating and bringing new life to all that inhabit the earth.

A (Application): When was the last time you acknowledged how things come together to nourish you? What was the last time you acknowledged the beauty and simplicity of something as seemingly insignificant as a glass of milk standing on your table? When was the last time you appreciated the complexity and the mind-blowing dynamics that have come together to produce your position at work?

What will it take for you to acknowledge these things? How much quiet time will you need to contemplate on these things? 5 minutes? 15 minutes? An hour?

Go ahead and take as much or as little time as you need this day to recognize God’s handiwork in your life, in the life of those around you, and all of God’s creation.

P (Prayer): Lord, help me to appreciate you and your work this day. Amen.