I’ve Got Everything I Need, Right?

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S (Scripture): 2 Kings 17:4b Hoshea (king of Israel) stopped paying tribute to the Assyrian king as he had in previous years, so the Assyrian king arrested him and put him in prison. 5 Then the Assyrian king invaded the whole country. He marched against Samaria and attacked it for three years. 6 In Hoshea’s ninth year, the Assyrian king captured Samaria. He sent Israel into exile to Assyria, resettling them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River, and in the cities of the Medes.

O (Observation): At this point in the history of the Hebrew people, we see a divided people of God: The northern kingdom (Israel) and the southern kingdom (Judah). Each kingdom had its own king.

Politics became the god of the people. They made decisions not based on what God spoke through the prophets, but rather what they felt was the best way to secure their own wants and needs. Sometimes, the needs were about protection from enemies (like Israel’s king paying the Assyrian king for protection). When this favor ends, so does the friendship. And Assyria conquered Israel, exiling (most of) the people of Israel through Assyria. (No better way of getting rid of a people than by making them become your people.)

A (Application): So, the more we rely on ourselves, the worse our predicament becomes. Yet, this is the battle we face. This is the temptation we succumb to time and time again.

To whom do we turn in difficult times? Ourselves? Our money to buy things to make us happy? Our work to help us feel like we are accomplishing something? Our chore list to make sure we get that done?

What makes us feel whole? None of the things I listed. We might get temporary satisfaction…but they don’t last.

Relying on God has been an “On again / off again” thing, if I’m honest. I do things from time to time just to show I can do them, like I’m proving my worth to God and others.

Yet, this is not what God requires of me. God simply calls on me to believe that Jesus came to show us that we have everything we need: gifting from the Spirit, a relationship with God, and disciples to journey alongside.

May you see your blessings this day.

P (Prayer): Lord, guide us this day, as always. Amen.

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I Want an Oompa Loompa Now, Daddy!

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S (Scripture): 1 Samuel 8:4 So all the Israelite elders got together and went to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “Listen. You are old now, and your sons don’t follow in your footsteps. So appoint us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.” 6 It seemed very bad to Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us,” so he prayed to the Lord.

7 The Lord answered Samuel, “Comply with the people’s request—everything they ask of you—because they haven’t rejected you. No, they’ve rejected me as king over them. 8 They are doing to you only what they’ve been doing to me from the day I brought them out of Egypt to this very minute, abandoning me and worshipping other gods. 9 So comply with their request, but give them a clear warning, telling them how the king will rule over them.”

10 Then Samuel explained everything the Lord had said to the people who were asking for a king. 11 “This is how the king will rule over you,” Samuel said:

“He will take your sons, and will use them for his chariots and his cavalry and as runners for his chariot. 12 He will use them as his commanders of troops of one thousand and troops of fifty, or to do his plowing and his harvesting, or to make his weapons or parts for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, or bakers. 14 He will take your best fields, vineyards, and olive groves and give them to his servants. 15 He will give one-tenth of your grain and your vineyards to his officials and servants. 16 He will take your male and female servants, along with the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys, and make them do his work. 17 He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and then you yourselves will become his slaves! 18 When that day comes, you will cry out because of the king you chose for yourselves, but on that day the Lord won’t answer you.”

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel and said, “No! There must be a king over us 20 so we can be like all the other nations. Our king will judge us and lead us and fight our battles.”

21 Samuel listened to everything the people said and repeated it directly to the Lord. 22 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Comply with their request. Give them a king.”

O (Observation): I want an oompa-lumpa now, daddy! You want it? You got it.

Oh, did we explain the ramifications???

Yikes! God’s people are so ungrateful! And yet, God still finds a way for grace. God’s grace is that no coercion will take place. God does not want followers who HAVE to follow…just those who are called to follow.

In the meantime…good luck with that king you want, people of Israel…

A (Application): I cannot explain to you how many times I’ve insisted my way was / is the right way. Sometimes I let God speak. : (

Notice Samuel’s first reaction to the desire for folks to have a king? What is the life-giving action that invites God into the picture?

Samuel prays! He prays…

Tapping into our source of hope and light, God speaks and we listen and discern and share this discernment with others. In so doing, we share the burden of God’s message for all people.

May we embrace God’s grace and share the burden of discernment this day.

P (Prayer): Lord, you guide us and love us through our failures. For this, we give you thanks. Amen.

Murfreesboro Cold Patrol – Justice for the poor


S (Scripture): Psalm 72

12 For [the King] delivers the needy when they call,
the poor and those who have no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
and precious is their blood in his sight.

O (Observation):  The King is addressed in this psalm.  The ideal picture of a king is laid out in this psalm.  The king is praised for serving the needy, he defends the cause of the poor and crushes the oppressor.   The ideal king rules with righteousness and governs the poor with justice. 

A (Application):  The cause of the poor and needy is always with us.  Sometimes, we even do some good in the cause of justice for the poor amongst us.  

We Americans live in a nation where we believe we get what we deserve.   We believe that if we are in a challenging situation – especially a financial one – we must deserve to be where we are.   We must have screwed up along the way…and there is little mercy shown. 

Well, thankfully, I know a group of people who respond differently to poverty.   Whether they follow the God I believe in or not, they are living the call of the King from this psalm: they deliver the needy, the poor when they have no helper.  

The folks I speak of gather under the name of the Murfreesboro Cold Patrol.  (Click link to go to their website, or here for their Facebook page.)

I went to their open house last night.  They now have a space for the staff or volunteers or homeless folks to sit and gather for a brief respite.   They are located in the heart of the city, close to folks willing to serve and close to folks in need.  

When asked how the Cold Patrol is different than other service organizations in Murfreesboro, one of the board members said the difference boiled down to one word:  relationships.   She said that “we go out and get to know these folks.”   The other organizations in town do serve a HUGE need in terms of supplying clothing, food, housing, etc. to the homeless population.   But the unique element of the Cold Patrol, is that they are intentional about going out into the streets and the woods and getting to really know the homeless population and are working on ways to connect the homeless in Murfreesboro with assistance and to find them some ways to help themselves.  

They are also doing some much needed work in gathering data for research on homelessness issues, that we might better serve the community, or at least to better diagnose the problems for the homeless in Murfreesboro. 

Well done, good and faithful servants.  Thank you for bringing justice for the poor.  

If you would like to make a donation to the Murfreesboro Cold Patrol, click here.   

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to walk with the poor and needy.  Might we be reminded that we are called to serve one another.  Amen. 

Open Our Eyes, Lord


S (Scripture): 2 Chronicles 22:10
When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she was determined to destroy the entire royal line of Judah. 11 So Jehoshabeath, the daughter of King Jehoram, took Ahaziah’s son Joash and sneaked him away from the rest of the royal descendants who were to be executed. She hid him and his nurse in the room where the bed covers were stored. So Jehoshabeath the daughter of King Jehoram, wife of Jehoiada the priest and sister of Ahaziah, hid him from Athaliah so she could not execute him. 12 He remained in hiding in God’s temple for six years, while Athaliah was ruling over the land…

23:1 In the seventh year Jehoiada made a bold move. He made a pact with the officers of the units of hundreds…

They came to Jerusalem, 3 and the whole assembly made a covenant with the king in the temple of God. Jehoiada said to them, “The king’s son will rule, just as the Lord promised David’s descendants….”

9 Jehoiada the priest gave to the officers of the units of hundreds King David’s spears and shields that were kept in God’s temple. 10 He placed the men at their posts, each holding his weapon in his hand. They lined up from the south side of the temple to the north side and stood near the altar and the temple, surrounding the king. 11 Jehoiada and his sons led out the king’s son and placed on him the crown and the royal insignia. They proclaimed him king and poured olive oil on his head. They declared, “Long live the king!”

O (Observation):  Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah was frustrated that her son, the king of Judah, died.  She was angry with God and wanted to destroy David’s lineage.  So, some folks hid Ahaziah’s son, Joash, so that he would not be killed by Athaliah.   

For 6 years, Joash was hidden and cared for, but then the priest, Jehoida, developed a plan to bring the king back into his rightful position.  He gave weapons to his allies and they anointed Joash in the temple.  

A (Application):  Sometimes, you just have no control over the situation.   You don’t know all the machinations of moving parts all around you and you just live oblivious to or powerless to the actions around you.  

The scriptures here are silent to Joash’s realization of what was going on.  He was hidden.  And then, 6 years later, he’s ushered in as king.  

Sometimes, God puts the people around you to make things happen.    

A part of the vision statement for the congregation I serve is: “to help each other discover the path God has chosen for us”.   God as hopes and dreams for each of us.  God sees each of us with purpose and calling.  

When Jesus tells the disciples to “be perfect” in Matthew 5:48, he’s talking about living your life in such a way that you are to be the YOU God called you to be!   

God gives us grace in the form of a calling and in the form of people around you.  We simply receive the grace and mercy.  We need but open our eyes to discern where God has been moving about us.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, open my eyes.  Help me to help others discover their paths.  Amen. 

Happy Lent!

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S (Scripture): 2 Chronicles 29:8 King Hezekiah continues: The Lord was angry at Judah and Jerusalem and made them an appalling object of horror at which people hiss out their scorn, as you can see with your own eyes. 29:9 Look, our fathers died violently and our sons, daughters, and wives were carried off because of this. 29:10 Now I intend to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel, so that he may relent from his raging anger.

O (Observation): So some kings follow God, and others outright disobey God. And while King Hezekiah starts off faithfully, going so far as to cleanse the Temple, one remains suspect. How long will Hezekiah obey God before he goes off the rails?

Hezekiah establishes a covenant, which is all good and well, but as a sinful being, we can’t put too much faith in that covenant.

A covenant we can put faith in is God’s covenant with Abraham. Kings come, Kings go…but the Lord remains.

A (Application): As a 36 year-old, I can remember several times re-committing myself to God in the Lenten season. I treat it too often like a New Year’s resolution. And as such, fall of the wagon, usually.

But over the last few years, I’ve been learning more about God’s covenant with all believers. This covenant establishes a relationship between God and us, essentially making us one with God, never to be separated. I’ve been putting more faith in that covenant than any covenant I establish.

Lenten disciplines are about being reminded that God is faithful, even when we are not. But putting forth some effort is NOT discouraged. Sure, we will fall short, but as Dallas Willard says, “Grace is not opposed to effort, just earning.”

I encourage you to re-commit your life, your finances, your time to the Lord. See where God is calling out to you. Respond accordingly.

I’d love to work with you through these thoughts and feelings. Leave a comment or contact me through the Contact page on this site.

Happy Lent! (Is that a thing? Maybe it is now.)

P (Prayer): Lord, we are frail, we are fickle. Remind us that you have established an everlasting covenant with us, made perfect in Jesus Christ. Remind us of this daily, and give us the guidance and strength necessary to dig daily into your Word and help us to see your grace come alive in your Word and in our lives. Amen.

Warmth…when Winter is Coming

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S (Scripture): 2 Chronicles 22:10 When Athaliah the mother of (King) Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she was determined to destroy the entire royal line of Judah. 22:11 So Jehoshabeath, the daughter of King Jehoram, took Ahaziah’s son Joash and sneaked him away from the rest of the royal descendants who were to be executed. She hid him and his nurse in the room where the bed covers were stored. So Jehoshabeath the daughter of King Jehoram, wife of Jehoiada the priest and sister of Ahaziah, hid him from Athaliah so she could not execute him. 22:12 He remained in hiding in God’s temple for six years, while Athaliah was ruling over the land.

23:12 When Athaliah heard the royal guard shouting and praising the king, she joined the crowd at the Lord’s temple. 23:13 Then she saw the king standing by his pillar at the entrance. The officers and trumpeters stood beside the king and all the people of the land were celebrating and blowing trumpets, and the musicians with various instruments were leading the celebration. Athaliah tore her clothes and yelled, “Treason! Treason!” 23:14 Jehoiada the priest sent out the officers of the units of hundreds, who were in charge of the army, and ordered them, “Bring her outside the temple to the guards. Put the sword to anyone who follows her.” The priest gave this order because he had decided she should not be executed in the Lord’s temple.23:15 They seized her and took her into the precincts of the royal palace through the horses’ entrance. There they executed her.

O (Observation) / A (Application): So this scene from 2 Chronicles sounds like a scene from the Game of Thrones. I’ve been re-watching the series since Season 5 is coming out soon.

Back to 2 Chronicles…

Athaliah is distraught, because her son – King Ahaziah – is dead. She goes on a rampage, killing her other children, wanting to destroy the line of descendants. Of course, God is the one that establishes this lineage…and no one can break that line. But that doesn’t keep Athaliah from trying. Athaliah’s daughter, Jehoshabeath, brother to the now-dead king and wife to the priest, hides Joash (heir to the throne) for 6 years!

Now Joash’s coronation comes, unbeknownst to Athaliah. She’s distraught…and is executed just a few minutes later.

This reaks of medieval justice and has a plot as thick as that of the Game of Thrones.

As one who believes that God has always kept God’s promises, I see things this way:

I don’t believe that God drives people crazy for fun, I don’t think God wants people to die just for the sake of dying. I think God establishes a covenant with God’s people, and nothing will get in the way of that. I believe also that God doesn’t control people. I think God instills faith, and highlights opportunities for folks to allow God to work in and through them.

For all of the misdirection and intrigue, God wins out. Sometimes that means death and misdirection. These are difficult for us to understand. Sin creates brokenness, and God brings wholeness.

Somehow, God’s direction brings clarity in the midst of despair. Light in the midst of darkness.

Warmth, when Winter is Coming.

P (Prayer): Lord, forgive us for trying to take control of things. When we use our power to control and destroy, correct us, and bring us back onto a healthy path. Amen.

Potential

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S (Scripture): 1 Chronicles 14:3 In Jerusalem David married more wives and fathered more sons and daughters. 14:4 These are the names of children born to him in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 14:5 Ibhar, Elishua, Elpelet, 14:6 Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, 14:7 Elishama, Beeliada, and Eliphelet.

O (Observation): So Solomon, at this point, is just another name in a list of sons of David. As David rose in power and God’s favor, he also fathered many children.

Solomon, a great and wise king in Israel’s history just stands here amongst others, no better, no worse.

A (Application): This listing of names stood out to me for some reason. The chronicler has an interesting way of recounting what was going on with God’s people. Solomon would one day be the wisest ruler of Israel, and yet, here his name is just one amongst many.

Perhaps this is here to help me see that God can raise up anyone of us to do great things. That we cannot predetermine from our own standards what God can do through a person. God chooses. We accept. God leads. We follow.

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to see the best in one another. Bless us with your perspective. Help us to see one another through your eyes, so that we can believe in the potential you see in us and in others. Amen.