Puny god

Photo credit here.

S (Scripture): Hosea 4: 12 My people take advice from a piece of wood,
and their divining rod gives them predictions.
A spirit of prostitution has led them astray;
they have left God to follow other gods.

O (Observation): In the book of Hosea, God encourages Hosea (a prophet for God) to go and marry a prostitute as an object lesson. Hosea obeys, but does not have sex. The point is not that Hosea should “sleep around,” but to make the point: engaging with a prostitute is akin to Israel being “married” to God, yet thinking that other gods hold sway, too.

God is upset with Israel, because so many of God’s people have turned to other gods to satisfy their needs. And those who do turn to God do so for all the wrong reasons (like simply to get what they want, or to get out of trouble without repenting).

A (Application): Good thing that kind of stuff doesn’t happen anymore : )

Yeah…following other gods…that’s a big one. In the Large Catechism, in his explanation of the First Commandment, Martin Luther writes that anything in which we trust is a god.

I love the Avenger movies. In the Avenger movie in which Loki is the main villain and considers himself a “god,” The Hulk beats up Lokey and as he walks away, The Hulk says, “Puny god.”

So, in what do we trust? Money? Power? Status? Salvation in Baptism? The Eucharist? Faith? The Avengers? (Sorry…had to throw that one in there : )

So many things to choose from…so confusing…because everything promises life and abundance. And that is the basis on which the makers of ads / commercials appeal to us: hope.

Get this brand-new lease… Buy this ring for your loved one… Get that new watch…

Will they provide everlasting hope? Nope. Not one bit. Yet we go for it, anyway. Where is God in the picture? Can you be faithful to God AND make big purchases? I think so…yet danger lies in the purchasing of goods for hope.

Think on Matthew 25…Jesus let folks know they fed / clothed / visited him (or didn’t). That makes a big impact on what you do with your money and time.

God is our hope. The Spirit causing us to believe is our hope. Jesus, the one who endured all things is our hope.

May we recognize this hope, and not pimp ourselves out to other gods. And when we do, may we be truly repentant. For God’s grace is always there…ready to be received.

P (Prayer): Lord, help me know how to avoid the dangers of slipping away to other gods and focus on how you call me to interact with these other gods in the world. Amen.

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Stepping Out in Faith

Photo credit here. 

S (Scripture): Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out without knowing where he was going.

9 By faith he lived in the land he had been promised as a stranger. He lived in tents along with Isaac and Jacob, who were coheirs of the same promise. 10 He was looking forward to a city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

11 By faith even Sarah received the ability to have a child, though she herself was barren and past the age for having children, because she believed that the one who promised was faithful. 12 So descendants were born from one man (and he was as good as dead). They were as many as the number of the stars in the sky and as countless as the grains of sand on the seashore.

O (Observation):  Faith is the result of God making promises and fulfilling those promises.  Here, the author of Hebrews shows how God made good on promises to Abraham and Sarah, and the resulting actions made based on faith.  

God promised Abraham that a new place would exist to which he and Sarah could go.  God promised that their descendants would be as numerous as the stars, as the grains of sand on the beach.   

Abraham and Sarah never could see the fullness of God’s promises…but then, many never do.  That doesn’t mean that the promises are not kept…just that we might not see the promises fulfilled with our own eyes.  

A (Application):  How often do we see the fulfillment of God’s promises in our own time?  

We see some promises fulfilled.   Others, we must trust that God sees them through.  

Often, we must recall the promises made by God to those in former times in order to see that God has been faithful.    We look to Abraham and Sarah, and see promises fulfilled.  We look to the dark ages, and see how monks and many others kept the faith.  We look to modern natural disasters and see God in the response efforts.  We see God comforting the afflicted in the wake of a mass shooting – the worst in US history.  

What a challenging line of succession to follow.  Seeing God’s promises fulfilled is tricky work sometimes, in the midst of the hazy fog of mass murder and natural disasters.  

In times like these, the long view is necessary.   We can feel like our small individual actions don’t amount to much.  But when we see God giving us strength, those small acts of love are effective, indeed.  

This is faith: doing the thing God called you to do.  And trusting that God will make it effective.  

Go.  Do.  Pray.  

P (Prayer): Lord, you call us out through faith to love and serve our neighbors.  Be with us.  Amen.  

Meditation: Trust in the Lord


S (Scripture): Psalm 94

16 Who will stand up for me against the wicked?
Who will help me against evildoers?
17 If the Lord hadn’t helped me,
I would live instantly in total silence.
18 Whenever I feel my foot slipping,
your faithful love steadies me, Lord.
19 When my anxieties multiply,
your comforting calms me down.

O (Observation):  A steady and reliable God is mentioned in today’s psalm, a sure and true presence in times of calm and in times of trouble.  

God’s faithful love steadies the psalmist, and all of God’s people, and comforts them in times of trouble. 

A (Application): Today’s application is more of an exercise than a written devotion.   

Take a deep breat in.  Hold for 3 seconds.  Breathe out for 3 seconds.  

Repeat this several times until you’ve reached a peaceful state.   

Read the psalm text above.   Let your mind focus on a phrase or even just a word.   Repeat this phrase or word slowly, several times, in your mind.  

What is God speaking to you through this phrase/word today?   Is God addressing a difficulty in your life?  Or a joy in your life?

Give thanks to God for being present with you.  Seek God’s guidance and lift up any concerns you might have for yourself and others.  

When you are done meditating on this phrase/word, and you are done giving thanks and lifting concerns, repeat the breathing exercise above.  

Be still for 5 minutes.   Concentrate on your breathing.  Slow.   Steady.  

Now, with God’s peace, set forth into the glory known as “this day”! 

P (Prayer): Lord, we are thankful for your presence.   Give us strength and courage to trust in you.  Amen.  

Thanking the Lord This Afternoon


S (Scripture): Isaiah 12:3 You will draw water with joy from the springs of salvation.
4 And you will say on that day:
“Thank the Lord; call on God’s name;
proclaim God’s deeds among the peoples;
declare that God’s name is exalted.
5 Sing to the Lord, who has done glorious things;
proclaim this throughout all the earth.”

O (Observation): God’s people sing a hymn of trust.   Sometimes they would speak words of trust to reassure themselves that God promises a good end for God’s people, even if current circumstances are bleak. 

A (Application):  Sitting with extended family on the lake.   Family reunion time.  Chairs on the edge of the lake.  Kids swimming out to the small island.   Laughing. Playing.  Teaching little ones how to skip stones on the surface of the lake.   

Thanking the Lord this morning.  Enjoying creation.  Trusting in the Lord. 

P (Prayer):  Lord, keep us trusting in you for all we need and have.  Amen.  

Helping One Another


S (Scripture): Psalm 70

4 Let all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you.
Let those who love your salvation
    say evermore, “God is great!”

5 But I am poor and needy;
    hasten to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer;
    O Lord, do not delay!

O (Observation):  The psalmist seeks deliverance from enemies, but also something to run to: a place, destination, or a great comforter. God is that comforter.   And while the psalmist cannot run to the comforter physically, the spiritual comfort effects the physical, emotional, and social well-being of the psalmist.  

A (Application):  On a day like today, I’m frustrated and in need of a deliverer.   It’s hard to be a pastor when your own father is in the hospital.   

The approach is different.  The questions are different.  The weight on my shoulders is different.  

I say quietly, and in my own mind and heart, “Hasten to me, O God.  Let me know you are near.   You are my help and my deliverer.”  

A quiet prayer.  From a state away.   Confident.  Trusting in God.  Advocating for care from afar.  

Trying to embrace the saying, “God is great!” on a day like today.    Maybe you can help me with that, good friends.   For we are all in this together!   

I and my family will receive strength from you.   

P (Prayer): Lord, you are great.  We receive joy in you alone.   Amen. 

Getting Out Ahead of God


S (Scripture): 1 Samuel 13:7 Some of the Hebrews crossed over the Jordan River to the land of Gad and Gilead. But Saul stayed at Gilgal; the entire army that was with him was terrified. 8 He waited for seven days, the time period indicated by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the army began to abandon Saul.

9 So Saul said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings.” Then he offered a burnt offering. 10 Just when he had finished offering the burnt offering, Samuel appeared on the scene. Saul went out to meet him and to greet him.

11 But Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul replied, “When I saw that the army had started to abandon me and that you didn’t come at the appointed time and that the Philistines had assembled at Micmash, 12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down on me at Gilgal and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt obligated to offer the burnt offering.”

13 Then Samuel said to Saul, “You have made a foolish choice! You have not obeyed the commandment that the Lord your God gave you. Had you done that, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever! 14 But now your kingdom will not continue! The Lord has sought out for himself a man who is loyal to him and the Lord has appointed him to be leader over his people, for you have not obeyed what the Lord commanded you.”

O (Observation):  Saul got out ahead of God.  In 1 Samuel 10:8, Samuel instructs Saul that when Saul gets to Gilgal, Saul is to wait for Samuel to offer burnt offerings to God.  Saul’s army starts to abandon him, and Saul gets a bit nervous.   So, instead of waiting on Samuel to offer up an offering to God, Saul takes action into his own hands.  Saul offers the offerings to God, because he’s afraid if he doesn’t, then his army will leave him and he won’t be victorious.   Saul puts no trust in the Lord.   That is his main error in this episode.  This error will ultimately cause him to lose his throne.  

A (Application):  Have you ever gotten out ahead of God?   Too worried about allowing God to take control?   Too sensible to see what God can do?   Too reasonable to see God establish abundant blessing in the midst of your scarce resources?

I’ve been worried about securing my future.   I’ve taken steps to secure my own future, while forgetting to ask God for help…sometimes choosing not to let God help.  

And yet in times of trusting in God, I’ve seen blessing.  Ever since my wife and I shifted to giving 10% of our income as a tithe to God, we have been blessed.   We didn’t come into a huge sum of money, but instead our attitude towards money and worries over money have shifted.  We see that God will provide, and we are teaching our children that the love of money is not something to get caught up in.   We will still seek ways to earn our income using the gifts we’ve been given, but our efforts are not in isolation.  God blesses us in what we do with what we have.  

Give some, save some, spend some.  In all, trust the Lord.  

You are not alone on this journey.  God is there.  Trust.  Believe. 

P (Prayer):  Lord, help us to see that you provide for us in times of plenty and in times of want.   Make your presence known on this journey. Amen.  

Faith and Trust

S (Scripture): Numbers 14:1 Then all the community raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the Israelites murmured against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had perished in this wilderness! 3 Why has the Lord brought us into this land only to be killed by the sword, that our wives and our children should become plunder? Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 So they said to one another, “Let’s appoint a leader and return to Egypt.”

5 Then Moses and Aaron fell down with their faces to the ground before the whole assembled community of the Israelites. 6 And Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, two of those who had investigated the land, tore their garments. 7 They said to the whole community of the Israelites, “The land we passed through to investigate is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, then he will bring us into this land and give it to us – a land that is flowing with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord, and do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection has turned aside from them, but the Lord is with us. Do not fear them!”
O (Observation):  Facing like what seems insurmountable odds, the Hebrew people would rather turn from the Promised Land and head back to the shackles they wore in Egypt.  Joshua and Caleb tear their garments to show their frustration towards God’s people who are choosing logic over faith.   As an act of intercessory prayer (and to stave off God’s wrath) Moses and Aaron fall prostrate on the ground and silently plead for mercy as the representatives of God’s insolent people.  

 The faith of God’s people is challenged in this moment.  And they have failed.   But not all.  

A (Application):  How many times have I chosen logic over faith?  Quite a bit.  But that’s not my Achille’s heel.   Mine is one of self-doubt.   

How could I accomplish something so insurmountable as serving as a pastor?   How can I believe that God has chosen me for this particular vocation?   What can I give of myself? 

Notice:  these are all the wrong questions. 

Thanks to a baptismal calling that I have the chance to live into on a daily basis, I consider what this calling means for me and for others.   I explore what God is saying to me and to other people.  We listen together.  We profess together.  We hold one another accountable.  

We are not perfect, but we have a God who is.  We have a God who says, “Go for it.  I am with you. Even to the ends of the earth, I will be there.  You see that lush valley over there?  That is yours.  You will wander, and I will let you, but not forever. I will entice you back with grace and mercy…whether you realize it or not.  So go!  Take the next step.  I will be with you.”

Let us hope that stepping forward will bring fruit and a new start.  Let that new start begin today.  

P (Prayer): Lord, you are a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.  Amen.  

Bonus:  Thy Word, by Amy Grant