When the Paycheck Doesn’t Come

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Psalm 89

46

How long will it last, Lord?

Will you hide yourself forever?

How long will your wrath burn like fire?

47

Remember how short my life is!

Have you created humans for no good reason?

48

Who lives their life without seeing death?

Who is ever rescued from the grip of the grave?Selah

49

Where now are your loving acts

from long ago, my Lord—

the same ones you promised to David

by your own faithfulness?

50

Remember your servant’s abuse, my Lord!

Remember how I bear in my heart

all the insults of the nations,

51

the ones your enemies, Lord, use—

the ones they use to abuse

every step your anointed one takes.

52

Bless the Lord forever!

Amen and Amen!

O (Observation): Well…things don’t seem to be going so well for this psalmist. Like the world’s falling apart around him or her. This one seems troubled, as if the world is crashing down around them. And this trouble is about being conquered by a neighboring nation.

I almost hear an assumption that a life in God is meant to be without suffering or pain…and yet, here is pain and suffering.

A (Application): Juggling with work or purpose can tear us apart. If we are working, and we can’t quite find what we need…we can feel the weight, the burdens of this life. Pressure. Steady, unrelenting pressure.

We must produce! That is the mantra we Americans live by. We show our worth by what we produce in the next paycheck.

Yet, when the paycheck doesn’t come. When the child gets sick. When the parent’s dementia worsens. When we lose a loved one. We can feel defeated…just as the psalmist feels defeated.

Because we can’t see God through the pain and suffering.

But in those moments – however great or small – realize this: God is with you. God is not causing the pain or suffering, but God is with you.

God is with you through inspirational moments – like a ray of light shining through the clouds. Like a thought that inspires you to try something new. Like a new relationship that will guide you into a new connection for potential employment. Like a friend who knows a friend who has a job opening. Like a choppy sea that has been calmed.

We can and we will doubt along the way, but God will not doubt. Nor will God leave you. Even in the midst of your great pain. Allow God to bear the pain with you. And your burden will be light.

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to see you. Help us to reach out our hands and welcome the gifts that you bring us: time, grace, vision. Surround us with your peace. Amen.

Advertisements

Changing Perspective

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Mark 12:41 Jesus sat across from the collection box for the temple treasury and observed how the crowd gave their money. Many rich people were throwing in lots of money. 42 One poor widow came forward and put in two small copper coins worth a penny.43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than everyone who’s been putting money in the treasury. 44  All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had, even what she needed to live on.”

O (Observation): Jesus was all about reexamining the understanding of the Kingdom of God. Did God care more about the amount someone put in the offering plate? Or that someone was sensing that this money is first and foremost God’s money?

(Remember a few verses ago when Jesus was asked about paying taxes? How did he respond? Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Give to God what is God’s. Reevaluating. Perspective. One must struggle with what belongs to God.)

How was Jesus changing the perspective of the Kingdom for his disciples in this observation regarding the widow?

What is valuable in the Kingdom? What is valuable in the world?

A (Application): So money is an obvious connection here. My wife and I struggled to reach a point where we acknowledged that the money we have is indeed a gift from God. As such, we give 10% of our income. The weird thing is that as we reached this point, I feel like our capacity to give has increased even more! The perspective changed from “How do we get to 10%?” to “how does God seem to magnify the margin in my life?”

I think this is all about perspective. What is God’s? And in a way that is joyful, we have responded to God’s call to see that our finances are God’s.

Now, I am in a situation where I have money to give. (Odd perspective since I still have student loans…but God has moved us…).

So, what about those who have very little? Well…let’s remember perspective. If someone has less money…what can they do? They can also choose to discern – for themselves – what they can give. If it’s 1%, or 5%, or 50%…if that is what they sense is God’s…then so be it. (That’s not snarky…it’s acknowledging what God is up to in our lives.)

Please don’t take my application as a judgment based on amounts or percentages. Rather, I encourage you to know that God’s Kingdom is different than that of this world. Don’t let anyone tell you that your gift of time or money or resources is yours to exploit.

The world places expectations on our money and time. I encourage you to discern how to use the gifts you have for God’s Kingdom. You have to decide what that looks like for you and yours.

P (Prayer): God, take my life that I may be consecrated Lord for thee. Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise. Amen.

From Out of Nowhere


S (Scripture): Judges 13

1 The Israelites again did evil in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord handed them over to the Philistines for forty years.  

2 There was a man named Manoah from Zorah, from the Danite tribe. His wife was infertile and childless. 3 The Lord’s angelic messenger appeared to the woman and said to her, “You are infertile and childless, but you will conceive and have a son. 4 Now be careful! Do not drink wine or beer, and do not eat any food that will make you ritually unclean. 5 Look, you will conceive and have a son. You must never cut his hair, for the child will be dedicated to God from birth. He will begin to deliver Israel from the power of the Philistines.”

24 Manoah’s wife gave birth to a son and named him Samson. The child grew and the Lord empowered him. 25 The Lord’s spirit began to control him in Mahaneh Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.

O (Observation):  Israel goes back and forth between doing good and doing evil in the sight of the Lord.  This is part of how they operated for hundreds of years after the Exodus. 

Today is an example of God intervening for God’s people, regardless of their strength or devotion to the Lord.  The Lord always remembers the promise that He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Like a parent to a wayward child, God’s love is shown here. 

And who will help rescue them?  Not their great army, but God will rescue them, through Samson.   

A (Application): Sometimes, we just can’t find the strength or the will power to go on.  And in those times, we rely on the Lord.  

As I look back at my life, I see many people who rescued me from pain, from suffering, from my own stupidity.   These people came to me in the form of my parents, my wife, all of my family, my friends, my church family…

I can feel inundated with work or family issues.  I can feel like I don’t have enough time in the day for things to get done, or not enough money to make certain things happen.  

So many times, I wonder: “How am I going to make it?”  

And I try to think about texts like today’s.  God’s people were up to no good, but God chose to rescue them anyway.   Maybe I can see it around me.  Maybe I’m blind to God’s hand.  Either way, I know God’s got me.  

And finally, I can be at peace. 

P (Prayer):  Lord, rescue us again from our own faults.  Amen. 

To overdo…or Not to Overdo

  

S (Scripture): Psalm 119:161 Rulers pursue me for no reason, yet I am more afraid of disobeying your instructions.

O (Observation): The psalmist has a healthy fear of the Lord.  The psalmist conveys a sense that displeasing the Lord would be worse than displeasing people of power in this world.  

A (Application):  I think this is where my sense of conviction comes into play.   I would much rather displease the powers and principalities of this world than The Lord.   And moreover, this tells me that the Lord is more powerful and just than the rulers and powers of this world.  

This approach has a very practical impact on my daily life. My kids aren’t overdoing it in terms of activities.   They have chores and learn to save, spend, give with the money they earn from chores.  Being a good steward is a key value for us, and we try to live that out.  This also means that we don’t just spoil our kids, even though the trend is to have the latest phone or video game system, etc.   

For my wife and I…we put purchasing a new HVAC system on hold until we save a chunk of change large enough to pay for a new one with cash.  The world says we should put it on credit…but window AC units and (safe) space heaters do wonders : )

Our time, talent, and treasures are granted to us by God.   That is the Good News!   We have gifts and ministries to share.   Let’s use them for God’s glory, and not just for the world’s approval.  
When we focus on the world’s approval, we tend to be disappointed.   When we focus on what God calls us into, we receive grace upon grace.  

What “rulers” are you bumping up against today?  Are they financial bullies?   Emotional?  Spiritual?

P (Prayer): Lord, challenges lie all around us.  Keep us steadfast in your ways, which bring life and abundance. Amen. 

Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That

  S (Scripture): Isaiah 43:19 “Look, I am about to do something new.  Now it begins to happen! Do you not recognize it?  Yes, I will make a road in the desert and paths in the wilderness.
43:20 The wild animals of the desert honor me, the jackals and ostriches, because I put water in the desert and streams in the wilderness, to quench the thirst of my chosen people,
43:21 the people whom I formed for myself, so they might praise me.”

O (Observation):  God’s people are in exile and seek refuge.   God declares that a new thing will take place.  God sees His people in exile, and suffering, and promises that He will send a servant.  

Images that Israelites are familiar with (wild animals, desserts, etc.) are brought to mind.  God promises to tame the wild animals and bring water to the dessert.   God brings hope in the midst of despair.  

A (Application):  I’m sick.  I’ve had stuffy sinuses for a few weeks now, and chest congestion.   And I haven’t stopped.  From Birmingham, AL, to home (Murfreesboro, TN), to Atlanta, GA, to Rome, GA, to home, to Cartersville, GA, to Orange Beach, AL, to home, to Detroit, MI, to home.  

And I’ll be going to Atlanta, GA, to Asheville, NC, (to pick up kids from camp), to home.  I don’t have time to be sick.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.  And yet here I am.   Blah.  

Phew…

I need to stop for a little bit.  But I don’t have time.  Or do I?… That’s the rub.  We all have time…God gives us all time.  What will we do with it?

But I have hope that I will be made well.  I will look for God to make my way, and to slow me down, and to bring water in the midst of my dessert. 

How are you doing?  Like me, do you need to slow down???

P (Prayer): Lord, I seek your healing and your guidance.  Help me.  Amen. 

How long???

  

S (Scripture): Psalm 74:9 We do not see any signs of God’s presence; there are no longer any prophets and we have no one to tell us how long this will last.

O (Observation):  The psalmist has experienced the Babylonian attacks and now they are pushing God’s people out of their land.  This is the beginning of the exile to Babylon.   

God’s people yearn for a sign from God, some real presence of God.  And they wonder how long this will be.  

A (Application): Ever had your world turned upside-down?  

When my son was about 7, he fell off his bike and hit his head.  We didn’t know he was riding.  He just learned to ride his bike without training wheels.  

We were about to leave town, and he thought he’d sneak in a quick ride.  He wasn’t wearing his helmet.  

He came stumbling into the house, calling in a distant voice, “Daddy?  Mommy?”  We sat him down in the bathroom, cleaned off his slightly bloody knuckles, and I looked into his eyes. 

Then he said, “Daddy?  Where are you?  I can’t see you!  I can’t see anything!”

And for the next several hours, our son was blind.  I was horrified.  Like the psalmist, I asked, “How long would this last?”

I immediately tried to figure out the rest of our lives with a son who was blind. What kind of schooling would he need?  What special accommodations would we have to make at the house?  What extra burdens would this put on us?  He’s our son. We’ll make it work. 

Thankfully, within a few hours, he fully regained his sight.  But for those hours…I wondered…how long will this last?  My faith in a God of caring and love and mercy…carried my wife and I through that terrible moment in time. 

What fears have have you experienced that have led you to ask: How long would this last?  How did it affect your faith?   Who came around you to help you through it?

P (Prayer): Lord, you see us through the tough times and the good.  Help us  to know that the timetable is not our own, but yours.  How long?  We can’t be sure.  So give us peace and patience and faith in You.  Amen. 

KAIROS = God-time

IMG_3657.JPG

S (Scripture): John 14:2b [Jesus said,] “I am going away to make ready a place for you. 14:3 And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too. 14:4 And you know the way where I am going.”
14:5 Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 14:6 Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 14:7 If you have known me, you will know my Father too. And from now on you do know him and have seen him.”

O (Observation): Thomas hears that Jesus is changing course again. That is a “kairos” moment for him – a time to listen and pay extra attention to what God (Jesus) is saying. So Thomas chimes in, and wonders how the disciples are to make their way without Jesus?

A (Application): I’m sitting in an airport (as I type), awaiting departure for Detroit, MI, for an ELCA Youth Gathering training event. My flight was delayed a half hour. That was a kairos. A moment that catches my attention.

We all have lots of kairos moments. Sometimes we call it: coincidence, providence, happenstance, chance, aha moments, light bulb moments…I call them Kairos moments.

Kairos is a Greek word that essentially means “God-time.” Every moment that catches my attention is a moment for me to reflect on what God is saying to me, and to reflect on what I should do about what God has said to me.

Being delayed a half hour reminds me that rushing from one place to another is not healthy. “Abide, Michael. Sit. Wait. I have come to sit with you awhile as you write your devotion.” Cool. So I sit and reflect and share with you, now.

Thomas had a kairos. Jesus said he was leaving. “So where to, Jesus? We don’t have GPS. Or an iPhone.” Jesus responds that he is the way.

So maybe Thomas starts to realize (like we do, maybe) that following Jesus is not just a physical journey, but a physical AND spiritual one. That it’s about being shaped in a way of “being” that effects our actions and thoughts and beliefs, wherever we head…like Detroit, or home, or work, or school.

Next time a thought/event/whatever stops you in your tracks…pause…ask yourself, “What is God Saying?” And then ask yourself, “What would God have me do now?”

(Hint: if “what God says” tears you down and demoralizes you…that’s not God, that’s the devil. God brings life. God can bring anger or disappointment, but that message should be to a constructive end.)

Challenge: Share A kairos moment that had today. If you feel really bold, answer the two questions:

1. What is God saying to me? And,
2. What would God have me do?

P (Prayer): Lord, you have spoken to us through the prophets of old. Now you speak to us through your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to listen to your voice and believe that you have called us to do greater things than “these.” Amen.