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.

Advertisements

Destiny???

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Numbers 13:25 They returned from exploring the land after forty days. 26 They went directly to Moses, Aaron, and the entire Israelite community in the Paran desert at Kadesh. They brought back a report to them and to the entire community and showed them the land’s fruit. 27 Then they gave their report: “We entered the land to which you sent us. It’s actually full of milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 There are, however, powerful people who live in the land. The cities have huge fortifications. And we even saw the descendants of the Anakites there. 29 The Amalekites live in the land of the arid southern plain; the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the mountains; and the Canaanites live by the sea and along the Jordan.”

30 Now Caleb calmed the people before Moses and said, “We must go up and take possession of it, because we are more than able to do it.”

31 But the men who went up with him said, “We can’t go up against the people because they are stronger than we.” 32 They started a rumor about the land that they had explored, telling the Israelites, “The land that we crossed over to explore is a land that devours its residents. All the people we saw in it are huge men. 33 We saw there the Nephilim (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We saw ourselves as grasshoppers, and that’s how we appeared to them.”

O (Observation): So its time for God’s people to explore the land they thought God was giving to them. They figured someone lived there, so they were covert about this operation of scoping out the land. What the spies found was that the land was occupied and strongly fortified.

If that wasn’t bad enough, all of the spies (except Caleb) made up stories about how LARGE these people were.

The spies were intimidated, but they really resisted the idea that this was the land God set aside for them.

A (Application): Given our current climate of Israel vs. Palestine, I feel the need to be clear about something: modern-day Israel and the biblical Israel are two different things. Sure, the current day Israel descended from the people that helped to settle the area in which the country now resides, but they are separate in this: Israel as God’s people in Scripture is NOT the political entity and government known as Israel today.

One need only to look at the military means by which Biblical Israel took over. This comes later in the Scriptures, but Gideon blasts a trumpet, not a cannon from a tank.

Mercy and care for the orphan and widow were the main concern of God for the people, not where the border was.

I know this is more political, than biblical, but I need to struggle with this, because people are dying over the issue of Israel vs. Palestine. The hope is that the two can find common ground…I just don’t know how soon.

But then, Caleb found hope. He thought that those occupying the land were no match for God. Trust in God. Humility before God.

Perhaps we could be like Caleb…willing to face the challenges before us, and somehow remain humble enough to realize that if harm to others is part of the plan…that God would find another way.

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to follow you, but never to use your name to support harming others. Amen.

What Does God Require?

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Psalm 50

7

“Listen, my people, I will now speak;

Israel, I will now testify against you.

I am God—your God!

8

I’m not punishing you for your sacrifices

or for your entirely burned offerings,

which are always before me.

9

I won’t accept bulls from your house

or goats from your corrals

10

because every forest animal already belongs to me,

as do the cattle on a thousand hills.

11

I know every mountain bird;

even the insects in the fields are mine.

12

Even if I were hungry, I wouldn’t tell you

because the whole world and everything in it already belong to me.

13

Do I eat bulls’ meat?

Do I drink goats’ blood?

14

Offer God a sacrifice of thanksgiving!

Fulfill the promises you made to the Most High!

15

Cry out to me whenever you are in trouble;

I will deliver you, then you will honor me.”

O (Observation): What does God require? What is the list of things needed to please the Lord?

This one thing: give thanks to God.

Acknowledge that all we have and all that we are come from God. God is our protector through the joys and challenges of life.

A (Application): (See “Observation”)

P (Prayer): Lord, your requirements are good. Help us to follow them. 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.

A Journey of Trust

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Genesis 12:1 The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation and will bless you. I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing.

3 I will bless those who bless you,
those who curse you I will curse;
all the families of the earth
will be blessed because of you.”

4 Abram left just as the Lord told him, and Lot went with him. Now Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. 5 Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all of their possessions, and those who became members of their household in Haran; and they set out for the land of Canaan.

O (Observation): What a brave, bold, trusting act of Abram! And even more so, what a great opportunity God gives to Abram and Sarai!

What do we know of Abram? Not much. Sarai? Again, not much. Only that they were descended of Noah’s line (since Noah’s descendants had to re-populate the WHOLE earth…hmmm). Anyway…

Abram and Sarai leave what is known and what is secure to enter something new and different…with God promising to guide them the whole way.

A (Application): I wonder what Abram and Sarai mentioned of this promise to their household? I wonder what the children thought? What the 2nd cousin twice removed thought? What the grandparents thought? (“We’ll never hear from them again!”)

God speaks to us…but can we hear God? When God calls, a response is appropriate. Sometimes the response is to NOT go. Sometimes the response is to act. Sometimes the response is to remain silent. We have no set type of response. The response is discerned. And that discernment is best done within the trusted community to which one belongs.

I have felt called over the last several years to take steps towards equal justice for various groups. As a white male, I feel not guilt, but a responsibility to make sure those on the margins are heard and respected. In doing so, I leave my own “Ur,” as Abram and Sarai did long ago. As Abram and Sarai, I, too, trust that God goes with me.

One such venture into justice occurs tomorrow, January 11, 2018, with the congregation I serve: Advent Lutheran Church, Murfreesboro, TN (Http://TheAdventChurch.com). We will host the Rev. Ron Bonner as he leads a presentation and conversation on race relations. The workshop details are in the graphic below:

If you’re a Murfreesboro person…come on out!

P (Prayer): Lord, we don’t know where the journey will end, just that you will be with us. Thank you for calling and leading us. Amen.

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.

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.