Born From God

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S (Scripture): John 1:8 [John] himself wasn’t the light, but his mission was to testify concerning the light.

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The true light that shines on all people

was coming into the world.

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The light was in the world,

and the world came into being through the light,

but the world didn’t recognize the light.

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The light came to his own people,

and his own people didn’t welcome him.

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But those who did welcome him,

those who believed in his name,

he authorized to become God’s children,

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born not from blood

nor from human desire or passion,

but born from God.

O (Observation): The age-old tradition of being born into the right circumstance / religion is now overturned in the coming of Jesus – the Word incarnate.

God had always tried to remind God’s people that being saved was never about just being a part of “Israel.” Rather, being saved was always about trusting God for daily sustenance, and loving and forgiving your neighbor.

This way of life comes only through being born from God…not from blood, nor from human desire or passion.

A (Application): So what does relying on God for sustenance look like?

I think I still have to take care of what God has given me to oversee and to be a good steward, but I also have to look at what God has given to me in terms of resources: a good mind, loving friends and family, and empathy for my neighbor. Using these gifts, I hope God will bless me. At the least, I will apply these gifts to the world and seek to meet others’ needs in this world.

Other people have other gifts. Hopefully, they will use these gifts for God’s glory.

In sharing the gifts I’ve been given, I am being a witness of God’s redeeming love for all the world. As I work with others in the world, they will see God’s compassion and desire for all to encounter God’s love. And that will be my invitation to others. Let them see God’s love through my presence and hands and heart.

That may seem arrogant, but I hope it doesn’t come from human desire. I hope that desire comes from God!

P (Prayer): Lord, make me a channel of your peace. Amen.

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Serving With Nothing, With Plenty


S (Scripture): 1 Chronicles 22:5b So David made extensive preparations before he died.
6 He summoned his son Solomon and charged him to build a temple for the Lord God of Israel.

11 “Now, my son, may the Lord be with you! May you succeed and build a temple for the Lord your God, just as he announced you would. 12 Only may the Lord give you insight and understanding when he places you in charge of Israel, so you may obey the law of the Lord your God. 13 Then you will succeed, if you carefully obey the rules and regulations which the Lord ordered Moses to give to Israel. Be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic! 14 Now, look, I have made every effort to supply what is needed to build the Lord’s temple.”

O (Observation): David wanted to build a house for the Lord, but the Lord refused this request. David had too much blood on his hands to be the one to build a house for the Lord. Instead God had a plan to use his son, Solomon, to build the temple. 

God promised that Solomon would be in a place of peace and that God would keep his enemies from him while he was building the temple.  

While being one of the chosen ones through which a great lineage would come, David still had a rough go of it in his later years – especially with that whole thing with Bathsheba and her husband. Not to mention all of the people David killed at the Lord’s command.

Solomon, instead, through no doing of his own, would be the one to build this temple.  Not only this, but his supplies were pretty much already in place!  David had gathered tons of gold, silver, bronze, and many other building supplies.   

Solomon was born into this family, at this time, with these supplies…and a command from God.  He was born into quite the setting.  Sometimes, you just get put in the right situation.  (Yes, he had quite a lot of work before him, but he was setup quite nicely.)

A (Application):  Barry Switzer once said: “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.”

Barry Switzer was a college football and pro football coach who is a sort of rags-to-riches kind of a story, who related better to players who grew up poor (like himself) than to those born into riches.   

This is not a post about Barry Switzer, but I thought of this Switzer quote as I was reading this Old Testament text above from 1 Chr 22.  Sometimes we just find ourselves in a situation from which we will benefit greatly.  Sometimes we just find ourselves in a situation in which we are simply trying to survive.

David grew up as the runt of the litter, but eventually was called upon to serve God. Solomon found himself in the midst of riches and in a position of power, and was called upon to serve God.

Stories like that of David and Solomon – along with the Switzer quote above – remind me that we can find ourselves in either those situations throughout our lives. We may find that we don’t have much to work with, but we’re still called to serve. We may find that we have everything we need, and we are called to serve with those resources.  In either case, we are called to serve, and to do so humbly and with intentionality.  

We are called to take our current situation, give thanks to God for whatever we might have – even if it is only the air we breathe -and do what we can with that.  Coming from a life of privilege, these words may seem a bit empty, and I get that.  

I was most certainly born on third base, by the world’s standards.  So I see myself mostly as Solomon – given what I need and working hard to use those resources.  Part of my call, then, is to speak for those who have little, who have no voice, who are shunned or looked down upon.  In this way, I strive to steward my gifts and talents and position of power in order to help those who cannot get a seat at the table.   Not only this, but I strive to encourage others to do the same.  

I am far from perfect, but I strive to be a strong and humble leader for the Lord.    

What is your role?  Have you struggled with being more like David or like Solomon?   What are you doing to steward what God has given to you?

P (Prayer):  Lord, help me to use what you’ve given to me for the sake of others.  Amen. 

Faith and the Presidency


S (Scripture): Acts 14:8 In Lystra sat a man who could not use his feet, lame from birth, who had never walked. 9 This man was listening to Paul as he was speaking. When Paul stared intently at him and saw he had faith to be healed, 10 he said with a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And the man leaped up and began walking. 11 So when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 They began to call Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of the temple of Zeus, located just outside the city, brought bulls and garlands to the city gates; he and the crowds wanted to offer sacrifices to them. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard about it, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, 15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We too are men, with human natures just like you! We are proclaiming the good news to you, so that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them.”

18 Even by saying these things, they scarcely persuaded the crowds not to offer sacrifice to them.

O (Observation):  Paul and Barnabas – keen on sharing the Gospel and healing and giving God the credit – try to convince the people of Lystra that God works through God’s people.   Paul and Barnabas are not themselves gods…but rather, with God’s doing, anyone can heal and share the Gospel.  

Even after they explained that God was responsible for this miracle, the people still were convinced of their prior convictions that these disciples – Paul and Barnabas – were gods…and the people still made sacrifices to them, anyway.  

Paul and Barnabas know that the sacrifices should be made to God, not to humans, regardless of the good works done. 

A (Application): Today is the day our President-Elect Donald Trump becomes President Donald Trump.   What a roller coaster it’s been.   Friendships shattered; neighbors fighting.   Some say this presidential election is revealing everyone’s true colors; others say the outcries are much ado about nothing.  Some say what President Trump stands for is horrendous; others say his actions are what we should focus on, not his character.  

We can divide this all sorts of ways.   But regardless of what is said, in the next few hours, Donald Trump will be our nation’s President.  

So, where do we go from here?

As I look to the Scripture text above, I see that people can be convinced of their own thoughts, regardless of what is in front of them.  Paul and Barnabas tried to convince those around them that God was in control of the situation…that Paul and Barnabas are just stewarding God’s gift of healing.   

Whether or not President Trump is liked or not, we must still be convinced that God still reigns, regardless of votes and political motivations.   God is still on the throne, not Former President Obama, nor President Trump.   We live within this system, and we trust the Lord to lead us through.   

Will we experience turbulence or peace?  Time will tell.  But we need only to look to the history of God’s people, in the Scriptures, to see that God’s fallible people are carried forward, through thick and thin.   

We need not fear, but we also need not lay down our convictions to live out the Gospel.   We speak out where we see injustices.  We stand up for justice throughout the earth.   These are faithful and faith-filled actions.  

Most of all, we rely on God to carry us through.  We need not fear, only believe that God is with us this day.  

Support President Trump, or peacefully protest his presidency.  Either way, listen to how God is calling you to act and act out in faith and mercy.   

Godspeed, America!

P (Prayer):  Almighty God, we lift before you all who govern this country. May those who hold power understand that it is a trust from you to be used, not for personal glory or profit, but for the service of the people. Drive from us cynicism, selfishness, and corruption; grant in your mercy just and honest government; and give us grace to live together in unity and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Prayer for the Nation, from the worship resource Evangelical Lutheran Worship.)

Clever, Indeed


S (Scripture): Luke 16:1 Jesus also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who was informed of accusations that his manager was wasting his assets. 2 So he called the manager in and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Turn in the account of your administration, because you can no longer be my manager.’ 3 Then the manager said to himself, ‘What should I do, since my master is taking my position away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m too ashamed to beg. 4 I know what to do so that when I am put out of management, people will welcome me into their homes.’ 5 So he contacted his master’s debtors one by one. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 The man replied, ‘A hundred measures of olive oil.’ The manager said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ The second man replied, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ The manager said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest manager because he acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their contemporaries than the people of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by how you use worldly wealth, so that when it runs out you will be welcomed into the eternal homes.

O (Observation):  What an interesting text!  Seemingly, deceit is praised.  But there is more to this story. 

Luke says a lot about turning the world upside down: the haughty will be knocked down, the lowly will be lifted up.  Jesus reveals the absurd nature of the kingdom. 

A commentary on this text from WorkingPreacher.org says this about the text:

So why is our dishonest manager shrewd? Even though he is still sinner who is looking out for his own interests (6:32-34), he models behavior the disciples can emulate. Instead of simply being a victim of circumstance, he transforms a bad situation into one that benefits him and others. By reducing other people’s debts, he creates a new set of relationships based not on the vertical relationship between lenders and debtors (rooted in monetary exchange) but on something more like the reciprocal and egalitarian relationships of friends.

What this dishonest manager sets in play has analogues with what happens when the reign of God emerges among us (17:21). Old hierarchies are overturned and new friendships are established. Indeed, outsiders and those lower down on hierarchies now become the very ones we depend upon to welcome us — not only in their homes in this life, but even in the “eternal homes” (6:20-26)!

A (Application): Relationships are once again lifted up. How do we work with each other? What worldly ways can we use to build up relationships? In what ways can we take the hierarchies of this world and flip them on their ear?  

A strict capitalist would cry “foul” here, but Jesus lifts up the ways of the clever steward.   A bit absurd…but then, this is Jesus we are talking about…the one who pulled off the ultimate absurdity: death on a cross.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, you are the one who shows us the way.  Help us to see the way and help one another along the way.   Help us to use worlds ways to build relationships for your eternal glory. Amen.  
For another, more in-depth look at this difficult text, check out this blog post by Joel Kime.  

Hey!  That’s Mine!

  

S (Scripture): Psalm 37:

16 The little bit that a godly man owns is better than the wealth of many evil men,

17 for evil men will lose their power, but the Lord sustains the godly.

18 The Lord watches over the innocent day by day and they possess a permanent inheritance.

O (Observation): What a poetic description of faith in God.   So much evil exists around the author of the psalm that the standard thought is: “survival of the fittest.”   Evil and conniving people would be the rich and own the lands…but not according to God.  God sees things differently, and so do God’s people. 

God doesn’t necessarily make the poor folks rich; rather, God helps them to be content.  God also seems to protect their lands from being taken away permanently.   

God promises to sustain the godly. 

A (Application):  What does it mean to be “godly”?  Does it mean that we need to be perfect?…to be without sin?  Certainly not!  

Perhaps to be godly is to trust in the Lord, to allow faith in God to guide us…so that we don’t have to fight to get “what is ours.”  Heck, we might even need to release “ours” from our vocabulary, since we tend to huddle around what is ours, to the exclusion of all else. 

Maybe we can just accept that it is all God’s…and we just get to steward it for a while.  Yeah…I can go there. 

What is “yours” that you feel you have to fight for?   Imagine letting go and letting God guide you with what you have…what would that look and feel like?

P (Prayer): Lord, you just don’t make sense sometimes…you go against the ways of the world…and we trust that is best.  Guide us, always…Amen. 

Serving as Steweards of the Gift

  S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 4:1 One should think about us this way – as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

O (Observation): Paul is reminding Christ’s followers, who are in Corinth, that they are carrying a message of great import.   This message is not fully known or understood, even by those who carry this message.  

As a good steward, one has responsibilities. One must care for the message as if it is a precious jewel.  One must serve, rather than seek to be served.  

Rather than claim any certain privilege, Paul wants these church members to remember that the Gospel (the gift they steward) is for all.  As apostles, Paul let’s them know that trouble will lie ahead, that as apostles they may not be living the high life…but their call as stewards of the mysteries of God is of utmost importance. 

A (Application): I’m an apostle.  I’m not as much a shepherd, evangelist, prophet, or teacher…as much as I am an apostle.   Being an apostle, I like new things, new ideas, new directions.  So I get what Paul is talking about. Being a bit of a trailblazer myself, I can be confused over what’s most important: the technique or fad…or, The Message.  We stewards of the mysteries of God.  Regardless of the medium, the goal should be to lift Christ, not our own agendas. 

God equips us to be great stewards of the gift, that is: The Message, the mysteries of God.  I don’t fully understand God’s message of grace, but God gives me courage to move forward anyway with my responsibility to carry it forward.  

A mature apostle will share this Message, unapologetically, and with grace.  A mature apostle will not use this message to coerce others or to make others feel guilty.  Instead, The Message will be stewarded in such a way as to lift others up and show them a more excellent way, the way of Jesus Christ.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, we don’t always get your “mysteries,” but guide us forward anyway, trusting that you have our peace and hope secure in you.  Amen.