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.  

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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

My Promised Land


S (Scripture): Numbers 13:26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and to the whole community of the Israelites in the wilderness of Paran at Kadesh. They reported to the whole community and showed the fruit of the land. 27 They told Moses, “We went to the land where you sent us. It is indeed flowing with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 But the inhabitants are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. Moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the land of the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.”

30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses, saying, “Let us go up and occupy it, for we are well able to conquer it.” 31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against these people, because they are stronger than we are!” 32 Then they presented the Israelites with a discouraging report of the land they had investigated, saying, “The land that we passed through to investigate is a land that devours its inhabitants. All the people we saw there are of great stature. 33 We even saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak came from the Nephilim), and we seemed liked grasshoppers both to ourselves and to them.”

O (Observation):  The Hebrew people are approaching the Promised Land for the first time.   They send one representative from each tribe to scope out the land to get a look at its inhabitants, the land itself, and to bring back some fruit of the land.   

The land – beautiful.   The fruit – wholesome.   The people – scary!

The spies that scoped out the territory of the land promised to them by God is beautiful and grandiose…but it is also inhabited by some scary people.   How could they drive out these people from the land?

So the spies tell of the land, but have severe doubts about their ability to claim the land for themselves.  

Caleb speaks up to say that they can take the land.  

The people are left with conflicting sentiments about their ability to enter the Promised Land.  

A (Application):  What is your Promised Land?  Mine is a family with a house and great job.  A life in which I have the perfect balance of work and rest.  I’m able to dine out and go on vacations and have no student loans hanging over my head : )

My Promsied Land is a place where people follow me for what I teach and preach…a place where I’m smart enough to not have to be corrected and wise enough to help the congregation I serve to a major transformation.  

Now…notice what’s missing?   God.  Jesus.  The Holy Spirit.  

These things I mention are all about me…even the bit about the church I serve.  All of these statements center on what I can do and does not once reflect what God might want for me…where God might be leading me…what God is saying to me.   

The 12 sent to scope out the Promsied Land (even Caleb at this point) fail to discern God’s call, God’s presence, God’s voice. 

How often do we observe a kairos (a God-moment) and breeze right by it?   How often do we begin to follow a call from God, only to abandon our call to listen and to know that God is still with us, even when that doesn’t seem true?

We all end up wandering.  We all end up needing a time of repentance and forgiveness.  

This post today is not about making you feel guilty, but a reminder that God is always ready to hear your plea for grace and mercy and forgiveness.  Today.  Now.   

As a baptized believer, I’m made new everyday…by the gift of the Holy Spirit, and I’m reminded of this by my fellow believers in Christ.  

Do you have someone you are journeying with?   Someone to help you pause, reflect, listen?  Do you have someone who hears your plea for grace and mercy?   I pray you find such a person of peace today.   I pray God gets your attention and shows you a peace that surpasses all understanding this day. 

P (Prayer):  Lord, may you send your angels to guide us to your path.  May they open our ears to your voice this day…a voice of grace and mercy. Amen.