The Path Ahead

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S (Scripture): Psalm 107:
17 Some of the redeemed were fools because of their sinful ways.
They suffered because of their wickedness.
18 They had absolutely no appetite for food;
they had arrived at death’s gates.
19 So they cried out to the Lord in their distress,
and God saved them from their desperate circumstances.
20 God gave the order and healed them;
he rescued them from their pit.
21 Let them thank the Lord for his faithful love
and his wondrous works for all people.
22 Let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices
and declare what God has donein songs of joy!

O (Observation):  Funny how hunger and the smell of death can transform the faith of the folks spoken of in this text.   They wandered away from God’s ways, and suffered.   God didn’t punish them, they simply veered off from the path set for them.   And in veering off the path, the difficulties were more prevalent, the grace less apparent.  

And yet, God responds with grace when God’s people cry for help.  Now…having been saved yet again, the call is for God’s people to praise God again.  

Hope springs eternal!

A (Application): What about these hurricanes?  What about rampant racism?  What about terrorist bombings in populated areas?  What about same-sex marriage?  What about…<fill in the blank>?

We have a lot to worry about these days.  We have a political climate that is very divisive.  We have church leaders (myself included) all trying to speak the truth in love.  We have everyone blaming all kinds of things for “why” the crazy stuff happens:  sin, God, same-sex marriage, wealth/poverty divide, greed (or greedy people)…

The Bible speaks about brokenness in creation (which includes us humans).   The Bible also speaks of healing and grace.    

We can argue all day long about what got us here, but I hope we spend as much time on where we are going from here.   I don’t want to erase the past.  The past informs the present feelings and emotions of today.  And yet I’m trying to find a way to marry the past and the present to God’s unconditional love, so that a new path forward can be arranged…in peace.   

This is the hope that springs forth from God:  The possibility of a new day.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, help us not to talk past one another, but to hear and respect one another.   In that listening, soften our hearts to reply with compassion.  Amen. 


How’s That Working Out For You?

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S (Scripture): Jeremiah 2:20 Long ago I broke your yoke; I shattered your chains.
But even then you said, “I won’t serve you.”
On every high hill and under every lush tree, you have acted like a prostitute.

28 Where are the gods you have made for yourselves?
Let’s see if they will come through for you in your time of trouble.
You have as many gods, Judah, as you have towns.

3:6 During the rule of King Josiah, the Lord said to me: Have you noticed what unfaithful Israel has done? She’s gone about looking for lovers on top of every high hill and under every lush tree. 7 I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me, but she didn’t. Her disloyal sister Judah saw this. 8 She also saw that I sent unfaithful Israel away with divorce papers because of all her acts of unfaithfulness; yet disloyal sister Judah was not afraid but kept on playing the prostitute.

O (Observation): God sent prophets to the people of Judah and Israel, because they needed to hear from God regarding their actions and how they pleased or displeased God.   

In this case, Jeremiah – God’s prophet – warns God’s people that they are acting like a prostitute, giving themselves over to other gods, and dismissing the one, true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.    

God’s people invented other gods on every hill and under every tree, seeking their own will, dismissing God’s will.  

A (Application):  Dr. Phil – a day time talk show host – likes to hear people’s stories and offers suggestions for how to improve their lives.    When people explain their situation and how they are so sure of their course of action, Dr. Phil likes to ask: “So how’s that working out for you?”  Usually, the answer is that things are not going so well.  

Asking that question gives one pause – or at least it should give you pause.    Take stock of how things are so far.   Is this path working for you?   For others?  Who’s the author of this path?  You?  God / the Spirit?  

Is your path helping you to bear fruit for God’s Kingdom?  Are you growing in faith in God?  Are you welcoming others to join the path with you?  If you are not bearing fruit, perhaps you can take stock, listen for God, and see a clearer path forward.   

When you sense the Holy Spirit asking you, “How’s that working out for you?” maybe it’s time to step back into prayer and see what God has in store : )

P (Prayer):  God, remind us that you are our Savior, and will give us everything we need.   Amen.   

A Wide Door Awaits

S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 16:5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia—for I intend to pass through Macedonia— 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way, wherever I go. 7 I do not want to see you now just in passing, for I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

O (Observation): Paul trusts the Spirit to guide him.   He has a clear purpose: share the Good News.   But the strategy and the implementation of that strategy are guided almost completely by the Holy Spirit.   

Paul is listing out his travel plans to his brothers and sisters in Christ in Corinth.  He points out that a “wide door for effective work” has opened up for him in Ephesus.  The Spirit is opening the pathway for him to walk along.  He serves the purpose he has been given, and he does this most effectively when he follows the grace poured out for him by the Spirit.  

A (Application):  While we do the “hands and feet” Kingdom work, the Spirit is also constantly at work, preparing folks’ hearts and minds to receive the Good News.   No speech or tactic is in and of itself the factor that causes people to believe.  Rather, the Spirit guides this process.  The Spirit prepares people’s hearts and minds. 

The Spirit lays out a pathway for us, a roadway lined with vision and grace…and the Spirit has all the time in the world.   So the Spirit will wait for us.   

This pathway is a gift from God.   The pathway may lead where our hearts are already going; or where our minds are going; or where both heart and mind are headed.   And sometimes we get off that path.  Sometimes we are WAY off that path.   Or maybe we only recently took a wrong turn.  

This pathway is where our spiritual gifts lie in wait, ready to be used for the good of the Kingdom.  We need only to take the abiding time necessary to discern what gifts we are to use, when to use them, how to use them, where to use them.   

In all of this, the Spirit is busy guiding us and giving us hope that – no matter the circumstances – a wide door for effective work awaits us.  

P (Prayer):  Spirit, guide us.  Grace us all the way back to the path.  Amen.  

The Ancient Paths


S (Scripture): Jeremiah 6:16 The Lord said to his people: “You are standing at the crossroads. So consider your path. Ask where the old, reliable (ancient) paths are.   Ask where the path is that leads to blessing and follow it. If you do, you will find rest for your souls.” 

But they said, “We will not follow it!”

17 The Lord said, “I appointed prophets as watchmen to warn you, saying: ‘Pay attention to the warning sound of the trumpet!’”  

But they said, “We will not pay attention!”

O (Observation):  The Lord lays out the path that brings us life and rest.   Yet, God’s people have found their own ways…ways that have caused unrest and, ultimately, their downfall as a nation.  

They did not fall away from God.   Nothing can separate them from the covenant God has established with Hid people.  They’ve simply lost there sense of spiritual and physical rest. 

They’ve lost the ancient paths.  

A (Application):  As a congregation, we will be embarking on a series called Animate: Practices, which is a re-introduction to the ancient paths (or, practices of the Christian faith).   

Something about abiding in Christ gives me the desire and permission and joy of searching the ancient paths and seeking the rest that God promises for my soul.  

Now, I will have to say that none of us gets this right 100% of the time.  Yet the promise of rest remains.  And another point of transparency is that bad stuff will happen on our journeys. But again, the path is there for us.   

Now, sometimes traveling on the path can be a lot of work, but a work that gives us a deep peace in our souls.   

Have you found the work that brings you peace?   What is it?   It can be hard on your body or mind, but still bring a deep peace.   Does your job help to satisfy your soul?  If not, what can you change?

P (Prayer):  Lord, guide us into the ancient paths, paths that lead to life.  Amen.