God’s Covenant with Us

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S (Scripture): Genesis 15:7 [The LORD] said to Abram, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as your possession.”

8 But Abram said, “Lord God, how do I know that I will actually possess it?”

9 He said, “Bring me a three-year-old female calf, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a dove, and a young pigeon.” 10 He took all of these animals, split them in half, and laid the halves facing each other, but he didn’t split the birds. 11 When vultures swooped down on the carcasses, Abram waved them off. 12 After the sun set, Abram slept deeply. A terrifying and deep darkness settled over him….

17 After the sun had set and darkness had deepened, a smoking vessel with a fiery flame passed between the split-open animals. 18 That day the Lord cut a covenant with Abram: “To your descendants I give this land, from Egypt’s river to the great Euphrates, 19 together with the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”

O (Observation): This is one of the most intriguing covenants to explain, because of its very practical nature and because of the lengths God goes to show that God will make good on God’s promises.

At this point, God has already promised to Abram that he and Sarai that they would be established as the ancestors of a great kingdom and of a great many people. Yet, to this point, they have no offspring and Abram questions God’s resolve.

God’s response: Take the goats and others sacrificial animals. Kill them and spilt them in two. Lay the two halves opposite one another.

At this point, if two people were making an agreement, they would both pass through between the two halves of the animals – first one person and then the other. What they are effectively saying is: “should I break my part of the covenant, may I be as these animals that have been split in two.” This is a very serious agreement.

In Abram’s case, notice that Abram does NOT pass between the two halves. Only this “smoky vessel and fiery flame” passes through the animal halves.

In other words, this covenant between God and Abram / Sarai is ALL ON GOD to fulfill.

The Lord alone can make this happen…and eventually, fulfilling all righteousness, does make it happen. God’s people come from the line of Abram and Sarai. Bringing to us, Jesus, Savior of the world.

A (Application): As I venture around the 4 states of our Southeastern Synod of the ELCA – GA, AL, MS, and TN – I have the blessing of engaging with our campus ministries.

Yesterday I met with the good people of Tyson House – a joint Episcopal / Lutheran campus ministry – at the University of TN – Knoxville.

I saw young people and pastors working together to BE CHURCH the most faithful way they can.

They feed those who need food. They spend time in retreat. They go out for coffee or ice cream. They gather for worship and study, which grounds them for the work ahead.

And in all of this ministry they – and in all campus ministries – strive to know that God promises to be with them.

Be blessed people of Tyson House!

P (Prayer): Lord God, please remind me this thing called Church is always supported by You, our hope and stay. Amen.

The Call

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S (Scripture): 2 Timothy 4:I’m giving you this commission in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is coming to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearance and his kingdom. 2 Preach the word. Be ready to do it whether it is convenient or inconvenient. Correct, confront, and encourage with patience and instruction. 3 There will come a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. They will collect teachers who say what they want to hear because they are self-centered. 4 They will turn their back on the truth and turn to myths. 5 But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances. Endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the good news, and carry out your service fully.

O (Observation): Paul commissions Timothy for ministry. He gives him instruction, guidance, boundaries within which to do his ministry. The grace has already come in the form of a call to particular ministry. Now, the living out of that grace confronts Timothy: preach, be ready, correct, encourage, keep control. Above all, do the work of the good news – whether convenient or inconvenient.

A (Application): WOW! What. A wonderful reading as I turn a page in my life this day. I’m getting into my first full day of work as an Assistant to the Bishop in the Southeastern Synod. This will not be something I take for granted, nor will I take this calling lightly.

I will take Paul’s encouragement, knowing that this call is a continuation of God’s call for me in the Church.

May God bless us as we embark on this new journey together.

Many thanks to my mentor and leaders from my youth, young adult, and college and seminary years. Many thanks to the congregational members and friends whom I have served. I hear God’s voice through their caring words and wisdom. (Whether I was able to comprehend those words or not.)

May God be with us.

P (Prayer): Gracious God, you call us to ventures in which we do not know the ending. May your wisdom and guidance be with us. Amen.

Bound Together for Ministry

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S (Scripture): Numbers 11:10 Moses heard the people crying throughout their clans, each at his tent’s entrance. The Lord was outraged, and Moses was upset. 11 Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? And why haven’t I found favor in your eyes, for you have placed the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give birth to them, that you would say to me, ‘Carry them at the breast, as a nurse carries an unweaned child,’ to the fertile land that you promised their ancestors? 13 Where am I to get meat for all these people? They are crying before me and saying, ‘Give us meat, so we can eat.’ 14 I can’t bear this people on my own. They’re too heavy for me. 15 If you’re going to treat me like this, please kill me. If I’ve found favor in your eyes, then don’t let me endure this wretched situation.”

16 The Lord said to Moses, “Gather before me seventy men from Israel’s elders, whom you know as elders and officers of the people. Take them to the meeting tent, and let them stand there with you. 17 Then I’ll descend and speak with you there. I’ll take some of the spirit that is on you and place it on them. Then they will carry the burden of the people with you so that you won’t bear it alone…”

O (Observation): Moses is fed up with God and the people, because he feels all the weight of the people’s complaints squarely on his own shoulders…and he only has God to blame! Moses complains to God: “Where am I gonna get meat for them to eat?! These are YOUR people, God, not mine! Just kill me now, if this is what leadership looks like!”

God encourages Moses and tells him to gather everyone in the worship space. There, God will share the burden on Moses with 70 of the leaders in the community. They will do ministry TOGETHER! And God will provide the meat.

A (Application): As a seminary student, I was challenged with finding a story or person from Scripture that shaped my call into ministry as an ordained minister (aka “pastor”). I chose Numbers 11.

I chose this passage because it reminds me that I as I venture into all sorts of ministries, God will make sure that I am surrounded by those who are called to share the burden along with me.

In each venture into ministry (whether as a pastor or in the community) I have felt alone and abandoned…only to have the Spirit remind me that I am part of the BODY of Christ in which others are being called to come together to work with me.

And as I grow in faith, God has brought others outside of the body of Christ to share burdens with me. Burdens of the poor and the marginalized in our society.

Christ is still my savior and inspiration…and this has moved me to seek God out for strength and sustenance as I venture into the varied callings God has set out for me.

I am blessed.

P (Prayer): Lord, bind us together in love. Amen.

Are We There Yet?

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S (Scripture): Matthew 24:32 Jesus said to the disciples: “Learn this parable from the fig tree. After its branch becomes tender and it sprouts new leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 In the same way, when you see all these things, you know that the Human One is near, at the door. 34 I assure you that this generation won’t pass away until all these things happen. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away.

36 “But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the heavenly angels and not the Son. Only the Father knows.”

O (Observation): The community of believers are growing restless in terms of seeing the Kingdom come. They believed that they would see The End and the fullness of God’s glory in the Kingdom Come.

So, Jesus gives them some context: Others will come and say they are me, but they won’t be me; all are encouraged to endure any suffering done on account of Jesus’ name; the heavens will shake; a trumpet will sound. All of these will take place. You won’t miss it!

And in the meantime, says Jesus, stay alert. You keep an eye on the fig tree; so, too, keep an eye out for my return. Be alert. Be ready.

No one knows when this will all occur.

A (Application): We are not happy without deadlines. Well, some folks are happy with no deadlines…no deadline, no pressure…but also, no results.

With a deadline, we at least know what we are working towards. Now, we may not complete the project, but at least we will have this outside force (the deadline) on which to base our current activity: if the deadline is soon, we ramp up activity…if the deadline is far off, we can wait and relax.

Jesus is preparing the people in Matthew’s community to be ready at all times! They do not have a deadline (we do not have a deadline), but the signs will appear…but even with their appearance, no one knows exactly when all of this will usher in the Kingdom.

So, like we tell our children, get the chores and such done now. Completing those chores now mean more opportunities later on for us to serve or relax or embrace life or a new project.

Let us be ready. Let us be about the work of the Kingdom: using our gifts where the world needs them. Let’s do this until Kingdom come.

P (Prayer): Lord, remind us that we are always working towards the good of the world, regardless of the timing of your coming again. Amen.

Women: Quiet Please…(not really :)


S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 14:26 What should you do then, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each one has a song, has a lesson, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all these things be done for the strengthening of the church. 14:27 If someone speaks in a tongue, it should be two, or at the most three, one after the other, and someone must interpret. 14:28 But if there is no interpreter, he should be silent in the church. Let him speak to himself and to God. 14:29 Two or three prophets should speak and the others should evaluate what is said. 14:30 And if someone sitting down receives a revelation, the person who is speaking should conclude. 14:31 For you can all prophesy one after another, so all can learn and be encouraged. 14:32 Indeed, the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, 14:33 for God is not characterized by disorder but by peace.

As in all the churches of the saints,   14:34 the women   should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak.   Rather, let them be in submission, as in fact the law says. 14:35 If they want to find out about something, they should ask their husbands at home, because it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church.

O (Observation):  In 1 Corinthians 11:5, 10; 14:3-5, Paul makes it clear that women are indeed encouraged to be a part of public prayer and prophecy.  In this text, however, some difficulty exist in figuring out how to deal with Paul’s words about women keeping quiet in the church.

The disruptions that might occur in worship seem to be the only real problem that Paul has.   In Paul’s times, it was morally indiscreet for a wife to publically question her husband.  To keep the peace during a time of worship, Paul encourages these women to keep the silence and perhaps inquire more discreetly.  (Note, however, that Paul does encourage all to participate in v. 26.)

A (Application):  I see a big divide in Christianity, which comes down to the interpretation of Scripture.  We can’t deal with the issue of women having to keep silent in church, unless we first deal the interpretation of Scripture.

One school of thought is that the Scriptures are inerrant…that we must take, word for word, the instruction and admonition and invitations in Scripture.   I have trouble with this way of interpretation.  Taking Jesus at his word is fine.  But the further we move away from Jesus, the muddier things get.  What about creation?  Was it 7 literal days?  Perhaps.  But I won’t teach that as doctrine.  Instead, I see that God created and rested at the end of it.   What about Revelation?  I do not see a literal battle coming, but rather, this is a story of how Jesus wins in the end.

Those who see the Scriptures as inerrant also see verses like those I selected today to make it rather clear that women should be silent in church.   The inerrant viewpoint has problems, then, because Paul clearly invites women to be involved in other areas of faith development and worship, including names of women in his greetings and salutations in several of his letters.

The inerrant view also does not allow for context to be included in interpretation.   Including context seems a sinful way of interpreting the Scriptures (from an inerrant viewpoint).  Paul lived in a very different time and culture than that in which we live, though.   Separating a cultural matter from a doctrinal matter should be given quite some discernment.   Speaking about Christ as the body of which we are the members is very important doctrinally.  But women speaking in church seems to be more of a contextual issue that should allow for interpretation.

Seeing the Scriptures through the lens of Christ is the key for me and many others.   How would Jesus encourage us to see women in the church?   In Jesus we are one…men and women.  We are no longer slave or free, male and female… Oh, wait…Paul said that, right? (Galatians 3:27-28).  How would an inerrant viewpoint allow these two opposing views?

I’ll hang out here in the tension…in the Scriptures being the source and norm of our faith.  And I’ll enjoy the many female leaders in the church that have shaped my life and my faith these 38 years…

P (Prayer):  Lord, thank you for the many female church leaders you have sent into my life.  Amen.


Prophetic Calling


S (Scripture): 2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly concocted fables when we made known to you the power and return of our Lord Jesus Christ; no, we were eyewitnesses of his grandeur…
1:20 Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, 21 for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

O (Observation): From whence did the disciples receive their testimony of a risen Christ?  From their own imaginations?  No!  Rather, from their own eyes did they see Jesus alive, dead, buried, and resurrected!   

How do prophets receive vision?  From their own imaginations?  No!  Rather, they receive it from God, through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  

Peter declares these things to help those around him understand that as apostles they are not making up this “Jesus stuff.” 

Peter helps the people move from Revelation to Interpretation to Application. 

A (Application):  As Paul declares in  his letter to the church in Ephesus, we are called to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers.  Each one of us has a particular bent, or home base…but I believe we are also called to live through the other phases of this 5-fold ministry model.  

Prophet is one of my weaker areas. People still do receive revelation from God, and the wise thing to do in response is to bring along trusted disciples in the process.   Tell others (in close, trusted relationships) of the vision and this brings the community in to help you interpret the vision.   Once interpreted, action can be taken. 

As an apostle, I’m much more comfortable.  I’m willing to be out on the line, risk-taking and blazing a new trail.   Of course, doing this in conjunction with the faith community is best, so that we go along together : )

What is your best area of ministry?  Not sure, go here to find out:


For more clarity on what to do when you receive revelation, check out Mike Breen’s blog post “Revelation, Interpretation, Application.”

P (Prayer): Lord, bring us clarity and authority to do your will in the varied ministries into which you call us.  Amen. 


  S (Scripture): 1 Timothy 1:15 This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” – and I am the worst of them! 16 But here is why I was treated with mercy: so that in me as the worst, Christ Jesus could demonstrate his utmost patience, as an example for those who are going to believe in him for eternal life.

O (Observation):  Paul (author of our letter here to Timothy) used to be Saul.  Saul persecuted / killed those who claimed that Jesus Christ was Lord / Son of God. Why?  Saul was a Pharisee, and considered his slaughter of Christians a strong and powerful showing of the depths of his faith and loyalty to God.  

And Paul recognizes that God has done soemthing extremely special here:  God redeems Saul to show the world the depths of God’s saving power.  That even in the midst of his sin, Paul was redeemed.  

That was a big change from the popular thought of the Jewish (human-constructed) belief system.   One showed their obedience to God and then was identified as a trusted member of God’s household of faith.  

God, In Jesus, changed all of that.  

A (Application):  People make the wrong connections here. A lot of doubters say, “So I just do whatever I want, and God’s cool with that.  God will just say, ‘Oh, I love you, do whatever you want.’ And then they are saved and can do it all over again.”

That’s precisely NOT what grace is about.  Does God’s grace envelope you right where you are?  Yes!  Absolutely!  But is that where you stay?  No! Certainly not!

We are all called to repent and believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ.   But before we repent, we have to know that there is something for which we are called to repent.  

Usually, God catches our attention with a kairos – a moment in time that freezes us in our tracks, either a positive or negative experience.  We can dive into those moments to process what’s going on.   Since we mostly will NOT see Jesus face to face, as Saul/Paul did, we can share stories from the Scriptures and our own lives to help that person.  Those moments are best spent with others in the faith to help the person having the kairos.

Can you name a kairos from your life?   Can you point to a moment recently, that took your breath away, for better or worse?

My most recent kairos has to do with engaging in campus ministry at MTSU.   In pursuing what God is saying to me, my close disciple-friends helped me to discern that God is promising to lay out a path for me.  And God has done that.  We begin working with campus ministry later this month!!!  (The processing and communal support are key to dealing with a kairos!)

P (Prayer):  Lord, you come to us, always.   Remind us that we are yours and that we can hear from you any time and any place. Amen.