A Practical Atheist Am I

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): 1 Samuel 17:32 “Don’t let anyone lose courage because of this Philistine!” David told Saul. “I, your servant, will go out and fight him!”

33 “You can’t go out and fight this Philistine,” Saul answered David. “You are still a boy. But he’s been a warrior since he was a boy!”

34 “Your servant has kept his father’s sheep,” David replied to Saul, “and if ever a lion or a bear came and carried off one of the flock, 35 I would go after it, strike it, and rescue the animal from its mouth. If it turned on me, I would grab it at its jaw, strike it, and kill it. 36 Your servant has fought both lions and bears. This uncircumcised Philistine will be just like one of them because he has insulted the army of the living God.

37 “The Lord,” David added, “who rescued me from the power of both lions and bears, will rescue me from the power of this Philistine.”

“Go!” Saul replied to David. “And may the Lord be with you!”

O (Observation): So what moves David to take up his sling and face Goliath? He had seemingly no advantage. He was younger, smaller, ill-equipped, and had no combat training.

Yet two things stand out to me: 1.) Goliath insulted God; 2.) David acknowledges that the Lord was and is with David.

Those two things are all David needed to get going.

A (Application): So…what do you need to get going? What motivates you? God sustains us all in many and varied ways.

The evils I seem to face are not giant men wanting to kill me (though for some Christians around the globe that may be true). My enemies rarely have skin on them: depression, poor self-image for me or loved ones, consumerism, and more.

These are hard to overcome alone, nigh impossible!

So I pray. For some unknown reason, instead of starting there, I usually end up there. Kind of makes me a practical atheist. (I can handle this – kind of like David putting on Saul’s armor.)

Prayer is where this can all begin. Prayer – a reminder that God is listening and responding in ways I cannot fathom. I don’t face these struggles alone.

May we all know the transforming power of prayer to God, before, during, and after our struggles.

P (Prayer): Jesus, guide us into a relationship with God like only you can. Amen.

Advertisements

I Want an Oompa Loompa Now, Daddy!

Photo credit here

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.

A Brief Word…Time to Abide

Hello good people of “Digging Daily with Pastor Michael”!

Thank you for following. As is my custom from time to time, I will be taking a break from public devotions through this blog. I will be in and out of town over the next several weeks, and I find that my time with this blog is best spent when I am in my normal routine.

So, through June and much of July, I will be posting, but only sporadically. I look forward to my travels with youth trips and vacation time with my family.

Blessings!


Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Numbers 23:25 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Don’t curse them or bless them.”

26 But Balaam answered and said to Balak, “Didn’t I say to you, ‘I’ll do whatever the Lord tells me to’?”

27 Balak said to Balaam, “Please come and I’ll take you to another place. Perhaps God will prefer it, so that you could curse him for me from there.”

O (Observation): Balak is King of the people of Moab, a place through which God’s people asked to march, on their way to the Promised Land. Balak said no…he did not give his permission. Moses spoke to God. God said, we are going anyway.

Balak wants to fight God’s people. So, in order to weaken God’s people, Balak sends messengers to Balaam (a sort of priest) to talk with God, in order to send a curse on God’s people. Balaam speaks to God. God says, “I blessed these people. They’re gonna march on.”

Balak’s like “no way.” Balaam’s like “way.”

Twice already, Balaam has blessed God’s people, since God has already blessed them.

Now, we have the text above. For a third time, Balak is seeking to curse God’s people. Nope. Not gonna do it. Not even if Balak sweetens the deal.

A (Application): Ever tried to go against a calling God has placed on your life? To move into a new thing? Ever tried to convince God to choose a different path forward?

We are so tempted to be like Balak…sweeten the pot. Convince God to get on our side.

Only to be disappointed when God doesn’t choose “our” path.

What is God saying to you today? How is God shaping your thoughts and heart today? Who are you in God’s eyes?

With that blessing, now ask yourself: What is God calling me to do? Now that I am reminded that I am God’s…which direction will I head towards now?

Seek wisdom from friends and trusted leaders around you. Share your thoughts and dreams. Seek prayer partners to help you in your discernment this day.

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to hear and see our place in your journey. Amen.

The Jesus Way

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): (A little more verses than I normally use, but important for the point that strikes me today.)

Mark 11:27 Jesus and his disciples entered Jerusalem again. As Jesus was walking around the temple, the chief priests, legal experts, and elders came to him. 28 They asked, “What kind of authority do you have for doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?”

29 Jesus said to them, “I have a question for you. Give me an answer, then I’ll tell you what kind of authority I have to do these things. 30  Was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origin? Answer me.”

31 They argued among themselves, “If we say, ‘It’s of heavenly origin,’ he’ll say, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 32 But we can’t say, ‘It’s of earthly origin.’” They said this because they were afraid of the crowd, because they all thought John was a prophet. 33 They answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Jesus replied, “Neither will I tell you what kind of authority I have to do these things.”

12:1 Jesus spoke to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the winepress, and built a tower. Then he rented it to tenant farmers and took a trip. 2 When it was time, he sent a servant to collect from the tenants his share of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they grabbed the servant, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again the landowner sent another servant to them, but they struck him on the head and treated him disgracefully. 5 He sent another one; that one they killed. The landlord sent many other servants, but the tenants beat some and killed others. 6 Now the landowner had one son whom he loved dearly. He sent him last, thinking, They will respect my son. 7 But those tenant farmers said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 They grabbed him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

9 “So what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10  Haven’t you read this scripture, The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 11 The Lord has done this, and it’s amazing in our eyes?”

12 They wanted to arrest Jesus because they knew that he had told the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left him and went away.

O (Observation): Normally, when we read scripture, the chapter numbers take on more meaning than they should. Notice that the transition from chapter 11 to 12 is not a change of setting or audience. The leaders of the church are trying to trap Jesus into an answer regarding his authority: if he says this is on God’s authority, perhaps Jesus will expose himself to criticism or if he does this ministry on his own authority, they can dismiss him.

Point is, they don’t see Jesus as being in line with God’s mission for the world.

But Jesus’ way is not to directly respond to the questions of those in authority. Instead, he turns the tables and asks the church leaders a question about authority. He makes them think. He exposes their desires. They just want to stay in power. So they are concerned with their own worldly authority gained by their position…not by the influence that God has on people through faith.

The parable Jesus shares seems to place Jesus in a long line of messengers, of which he is the Son, and John is one of the many prophets whom God has sent to God’s people. The prophets of old came before John. Jesus’ authority comes as one who is sent from God. God has been sending messengers to God’s people for a loooong, long time. And God’s worldly leaders have missed the messages time and time again.

Jesus never got defensive. Jesus didn’t attack his enemy. He simply bounced questions back and made people think…rather than just follow a doctrine or theology. Jesus asked people to discern their role in God’s mission in the world.

This is Jesus’ Way.

A (Application): How often do you find yourself following a theology…”just because”?

Probably quite a bit.

We all do it. We all fight off the landowner’s messengers and offspring coming back to collect and see how things are going. We fight off those with prophetic voices, because we don’t want to have our theology challenged. We’ve worked hard to get where we are. We are settled on lots of issues that have come to our attention. We don’t need to dust things up.

But as each day passes, we are called to reassess who God is calling us to be and what God is calling us to do. How? Through prayer, meditation, studying Scripture. By bouncing ideas off of close friends and loved ones. By going out into the world to walk with your neighbors of all differing identities. In this way, you will receive the Spirit’s guidance.

The authority will be God’s.

This is Jesus’ Way.

P (Prayer): Lord, guide us and help us to bear fruit for your Kingdom. Amen.

God…Is Us

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Psalm 44

8

So we glory in God at all times

and give thanks to your name forever. Selah

9

But now you’ve rejected and humiliated us.

You no longer accompany our armies.

10

You make us retreat from the enemy;

our adversaries plunder us.

11

You’ve handed us over like sheep for butchering;

you’ve scattered us among the nations.

O (Observation): How fickle the psalmist is. One line, praising God (v. 8); the next, calling out God for rejecting the psalmist and the rest of God’s people (vv. 9-11).

A (Application): How frustrating. Yesterday I was praising God for being with God’s people. Yay, God! Now…what? Cursing God for not being on “our” side?

So…when in times of prospering, God is on our side… And in times of desolation and fear, God is not on our side… Does that sum it all up?

Yes. But that doesn’t make sense.

Apply that to a third world country. Is God not on the side of the starving and the poor? Is God not for the oppressed being set free?

The theology of the psalms is much less about what God is doing or “not” doing, but is much more about the human struggle with providence. Some days, we can truly sense that God is doing good and overseeing us. Some days, God seems almost absent. The struggle is to identify that God can and does work with us through all of the confidence and all of the doubt…through our “wins and losses.”

So, what can we do?

We will trust. We will trust that God will guide us. We will lean on one another in difficult times so that we can begin to identify where God is. And if we can’t sense God, we will stand together…serving and praying and giving until we realize that we are God on earth. That all this time we were looking “up” for God…when God was always around us…that God is us when we serve and pray and give.

The Spirit calls us together…equips us…that we might be God on earth. So maybe we will realize that the times we don’t see God are the times we aren’t serving, praying, giving. For in these acts of discipleship…we are indeed God’s hands and feet on this good earth.

P (Prayer): Lord, let me be a servant of your peace. Amen.

What is Prayer?

A rarity occurs this day. Every once in a while, the Revised Common Lectionary lines up with the Moravian Texts.  The Gospel text assigned for Sunday, July 24, 2016, happens to be Luke 11:1-13. So, today’s devotion includes some thoughts that I will be sharing on Sunday, too. 

Hope this will be a helpful tool to help you through the day!


S (Scripture): Luke 11:1 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he stopped, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 2 So he said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father, may your name be honored; may your kingdom come.

3 Give us each day our daily bread,

4 and forgive us our sins,

for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.

And do not lead us into temptation.”

5 Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 because a friend of mine has stopped here while on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 Then he will reply from inside, ‘Do not bother me. The door is already shut, and my children and I are in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though the man inside will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of the first man’s sheer persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

9 “So I tell you: Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 What father among you, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

O (Observation):  The part of the text that strikes me most is the idea of the friend who comes asking for bread… shamelessly… persistent.   The idea that one can come to God and be so bold is a striking thing.   The promise then, is equally striking: “how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to this who ask.”

God promises to give the gifts of wisdom and discernment (a la the Holy Spirit) to any who ask.  

In the asking is a recognition that a relationship exists and that prayers are always heard…even if the one praying doesn’t necessarily get what they want.  

A (Application): The text doesn’t say, “Ask, and you will get what you want;” although, that is mostly how people see prayer. Almost like a vending machine: put in the quarter with your request, and your automated response will spit out what you pray for. 

The problem with this is that when we DON’T get what we want from prayer, we assume that God isn’t listening, or that God doesn’t care.  Perhaps, instead of getting what we want, God provides what we need (the Holy Spirit). 

Or some see prayer like a one-way message, just hoping that somewhere out there, God is listening. Like putting a note on a scroll and stuffing it inside a bottle and pitching it out to sea.  

So much can be said about prayer, and about this prayer in particular.  

I’ll leave my thoughts on this note:   Just pray. Don’t worry about form or correctness.  Just talk with God.  Or listen to God.  Or both.  Be bold in your request, and be ready to receive the Spirit.  For praying is also opening ourselves up to be changed…transformed.  

P (Prayer): Lord, we are open, at times, and closed, at times.   Help us to always be open to you and your gift of the Spirit.  Amen.  

God’s Work. Our Hands. 


S (Scripture): Luke 7:20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’” 21 At that very time Jesus cured many people of diseases, sicknesses, and evil spirits, and granted sight to many who were blind. 22 So he answered them, “Go tell John what you have seen and heard: The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news proclaimed to them. 23 Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

O (Observation):  John the Baptist is double-checking to make sure Jesus is the real deal.  Jesus’ response:  go and tell John what you see.   What do they see and hear?  Jesus has made the blind see, the lame walk…etc.  The proof is in the fact that God’s Kingdom is breaking in.

A (Application):  So often, we pray for help and for God to show up.   We pray that the poor be fed, the naked become clothed.   A wise person once explained prayers for the hungry and naked.   This person said: “We should pray for those that need food and clothing.   Then, we should go and feed the hungry and clothe the naked.”

That’s how this works for us.  We pray and we work.   We don’t just pray and hope for a miracle.  (Though miracles can and do occur.)

We pray.  And we realize that we are God’s hands.   So we work.  For God.  For others.  

And interestingly enough…when we work and give our time to others…we find that our deepest needs are met in serving others.  Weird.  God’s just weird like that : )

When was a time that God used you to bless someone else?

P (Prayer):  God, help me to trust that you are at work and that you call me to be a good steward of that work…and to get involved.  Amen. 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

P.s.  Started my day yesterday by running a 5K in downtown Nashville.  39:50.  It was HOT!!!


Closed out the 4th with fireworks with my wife…