Who Am I?

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S (Scripture): Romans 11:16 But if part of a batch of dough is offered to God as holy, the whole batch of dough is holy too. If a root is holy, the branches will be holy too. 17 If some of the branches were broken off, and you were a wild olive branch, and you were grafted in among the other branches and shared the root that produces the rich oil of the olive tree, 18 then don’t brag like you’re better than the other branches. If you do brag, be careful: it’s not you that sustains the root, but it’s the root that sustains you.

O (Observation): Paul speaks to Gentile Christians in a way that assured them that they, too (in addition to the Jewish Christians), received salvation in full. Any who believe in Christ are saved.

At the same time, they should not boast of their salvation as if they earned it for themselves. They are a branch grafted into salvation. The root sustains the branch.

A (Application): How many of us think we sustain ourselves? Don’t we just need to dig down deep inside ourselves to feel happy? To feel like we are enough?

I struggle with self-worth. To what is my identity tied?

Here are some suggestions of the “root” that Paul mentions…which point to my (and your) self-worth:

  • Child of God
  • Seal of the Holy Spirit on my forehead in my baptism.
  • Candle to remind me to shine God’s light before others
  • Luke 15 – the older brother (“everything I have is yours”)

In what ways do you sense your identity for the good?

P (Prayer): God, remind me that I am yours…and that is enough…for you are Good! Amen.

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Who are you Called to Be and Do?

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S (Scripture): John 16:5 [Jesus said to the disciples]: “But now I go away to the one who sent me. None of you ask me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Yet because I have said these things to you, you are filled with sorrow. 7 I assure you that it is better for you that I go away. If I don’t go away, the Companion won’t come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will show the world it was wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment. 9 He will show the world it was wrong about sin because they don’t believe in me. 10 He will show the world it was wrong about righteousness because I’m going to the Father and you won’t see me anymore. 11 He will show the world it was wrong about judgment because this world’s ruler stands condemned.

O (Observation): Jesus goes, but with a promise. Jesus moves from doing the preaching / teaching / healing to handing over these duties. And in handing over these duties, Jesus is also equipping the disciples. They will have the Spirit. (Not to mention, Jesus was mentoring these disciples all along.)

So, as Jesus goes, he also promises that this is for the best. Hard to trust, but trust we do.

And we will see the truth revealed: about sin, righteousness, and judgment.

A (Application): How often do we fret over getting things just right? How arrogant can we become to the point of pointing out the sins of others???

Or, perhaps we put in long hours as a volunteer at church, and fail to see others stepping up to help?

In both cases, we get complacent in the pathway towards discerning what one is called to be and do. We fail to see that the Spirit is busy equipping us. We like to short circuit the process of raising up leaders. We expect people to act like us (“the righteous”) and fail to see our own faults.

Leaders are born, they’re made. New leaders need existing leaders to raise them up. Self-righteous need to see the world through the eyes of others.

P (Prayer): Lord, give us discerning hearts and minds. Amen.

We See Broken; God Sees Mended


S (Scripture): Isaiah 37:14 Hezekiah took the letters from the messengers and read them. Then he went to the temple and spread them out before the Lord. 15 Hezekiah prayed to the Lord:

16 “Lord of heavenly forces, God of Israel: you sit enthroned on the winged creatures. You alone are God over all the earth’s kingdoms. You made both heaven and earth. 17 Lord, turn your ear this way and hear! Lord, open your eyes and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words. He sent them to insult the living God! 18 It’s true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have destroyed all the nations and their lands. 19 The Assyrians burned the gods of those nations with fire because they aren’t real gods. They are only man-made creations of wood and stone. That’s how the Assyrians could destroy them. 20 So now, Lord our God, please save us from Sennacherib’s power! Then all the earth’s kingdoms will know that you alone are Lord.”

21 Then Isaiah, Amoz’s son, sent a message to Hezekiah: The Lord God of Israel says this: Since you prayed to me about Assyria’s King Sennacherib, 22 this is the message that the Lord has spoken against him:

The young woman, Daughter Zion, despises you and mocks you;
Daughter Jerusalem shakes her head behind your back.

28 I know where you are,
how you go out and come in,
and how you rage against me.
29 Because you rage against me and because your pride has reached my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth.
I will make you go back the same way you came.

33 Therefore, the Lord says this about Assyria’s king: He won’t enter this city. He won’t shoot a single arrow here. He won’t come near the city with a shield. He won’t build a ramp to besiege it.

O (Observation):  King Sennacherib is planning to attack God’s people in Israel.   He has conquered many people and taken many lands.   This time, he has his eyes set upon taking over the Israelites.   

King Hezekiah (of Israel) hears of these threats made by the Assyrian King Sennacherib, and takes the letters which contain Sennecharib’s plans…and Hezekiah lays them out before God.  Hezekiah seeks God’s discernment on this matter, which weighs heavy upon his heart.  

God’s response is priceless.  God says that the Assyrian’s will not get a single shot of an arrow off, let alone build a siege ramp.   Reading past these verses above, you will notice that God sends his messengers to slay 145,000 Assyrian soldiers and has Sennecharib’s own sons kill King Sennecharib!

God was pleased with his people turning to God, rather than to their own strength or wisdom.    In response, God protects the Israelites.  

A (Application):  When was the last time you relied on God?   We try to be self-made people…and yet we have a God who calls us to call upon and depend upon God.   The struggle we have is that we think we can make it on our own…apart from God.   

We think need is a sign of weakness in this world…like if I need childcare, or money, or help fixing a car or doing taxes.    Why?   What if we know people who can help with these things?   Isn’t that part of the reason why we have community?   Aren’t we here to help each other out?  If so, why the shame?

We’re not fighting an army or worrying about a pending attack, but we are facing our own challenges.   The biggest struggle is likely self-image.   When we think we have to rely on ourselves to get us through our problems, we will likely fail.   Or worse, if we get through it and forget to thank God, we find ourselves like so many of Israel’s kings…thinking “we” did it, no thanks to God. 

But I hope we can be like King Hezekiah: ready to lay out the world’s sinister plans for us, and seek God’s power and wisdom.   

In doing so, we become vulnerable, but vulnerable to God’s ways, which is a good thing.  We lay down our ways, and pick up God’s ways.  This is God’s grace for us.  A way forward that relies on God.  

I was listening to a song today on the radio: Matthew West’s “Mended.”   (Listen to “Mended” by clicking here.)  When we lay down our ways, and instead see ourselves and the world around us through God’s eyes, we see a world waiting to be mended.   

May you see the world through God’s eyes today: when we see broken, God sees mended.   

P (Prayer):  Lord God, we lay our plans and the world’s plans at your feet.   Guide us. Save us.  Amen.   

Losing?

S (Scripture): Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,” (and if there is any other commandment) are summed up in this, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

O (Observation):  Life is not about a list of do’s and dont’s.  This is what Paul implies.  Are there laws that should be followed?  Spiritual and worldly?  Yes! But is that the focus?  No! According to Paul, the way is about loving your neighbor as you love yourself.  

If you love your neighbor, you will comply with them.  And this isn’t losing.   

A (Application): We tell ourselves if we don’t get our way, we lose.  So how do we define winning and losing?   If we define winning as “getting my way,” then we lose if we don’t get our way.  

But what if “your loss” turns out to actually be okay?   What if someone else’s idea works out?   This may mean that you lose out on the promotion or the praise…and that hurts.  Yet is this life about you?  Not particularly.  

Love your neighbor.   Love them even if you think you have a better solution.   Love them, and don’t sabatoge them.  

Would you want someone to dismiss you?  No! Would you want someone to sabotage you?  No!

Also, love can sometimes look like challenging a close friend or family member…but only someone with whom you have a close relationship.  I would want a close family member or friend to point out my faults and challenge me…but not some random stranger.  Maybe in this way, love can build us up…if you challenge a close friend in the name of love.  

Perhaps loving your neighbor will not only change your neighbor, but perhaps you will be changed in the process.  

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to see that you challenge us to reach out of our own bubbles into this world that is full of pain and hurt…may our hands be used as instruments of your grace and mercy.   Amen.  

So It’s NOT All About Me!?!?

S (Scripture): Mark 10:35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

O (Observation):  Jesus has remarked three times now, that he is heading to his death.   You would think that the disciples would be focused on what they can do to help or to carry on the ministry. Nope.  

James and John want to know who gets the power on the throne.  

Jesus reminds them: It’s not about you!

A (Application):  Ugh!   I can’t say I wouldn’t be without fault, if I was in James and John’s shoes.  They wanted to know that Jesus had a place for them…but it still is selfish.  

Which helps to understand the meaning of religion a little bit better.   If religion doesn’t shake you from your place of selfishness, then it is not a complete religion.  

The Jews and the Gentiles called together by Jesus were being formed in a religion that was selfless in nature.   

Richard Rohr, a theologian who writes a great deal in regards to the meaning of religion and the use of contemplation, points out that religion has 2 main purposes:  to help one find one’s “self,” and then to help us move beyond the “self.”

Most of us get the first part:  I am a child of God.  It’s the second part that gives us trouble.   The second part gave James and John some trouble.  The second part gives me trouble. 

With the celebration of Pentecost coming  up on Sunday, May 15, may we realize the usefulness of our religion: to establish our identity (“self”) and then to allow God’s Spirit to move us beyond our self, into serving and living for the  others around us.  

Has your religion helped you to find your self and then to move beyond it?

P (Prayer):  Lord, I am your child.  You have adopted me.  Help me to know that my self is not about me, but about loving and serving others, bearing witness to your love for me and for all of creation.  That can be really hard for me sometimes.  Amen.