Trust Me…I Got This

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S (Scripture): 2 Chronicles 20:2 Jehoshaphat was told, “A large army from beyond the sea, from Edom, is coming to attack you. They are already at Hazazon-tamar!” (that is, En-gedi). 3 Frightened, Jehoshaphat decided to seek the Lord’s help and proclaimed a fast for all Judah…

13 All Judah was standing before the Lord, even their little ones, wives, and children. 14 Then the Lord’s spirit came upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah son of Benaiah son of Jeiel son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the line of Asaph, as he stood in the middle of the assembly.

15 “Pay attention, all of Judah, every inhabitant of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat,” Jahaziel said. “This is what the Lord says to you: Don’t be afraid or discouraged by this great army because the battle isn’t yours. It belongs to God! 16 March out against them tomorrow. Since they will be coming through the Ziz pass, meet them at the end of the valley that opens into the Jeruel wilderness. 17 You don’t need to fight this battle. Just take your places, stand ready, and watch how the Lord, who is with you, will deliver you, Judah and Jerusalem. Don’t be afraid or discouraged! Go out tomorrow and face them. The Lord will be with you.”

O (Observation): Battles are a regular thing in the Old Testament. This text points out a foreign country coming into the southern kingdom of Judah. The people are faithful to God. They fast and pray and stand before God’s temple. A prophet shares God’s word:

This is God’s battle. You will go out and watch, but you will not fight. God will win this victory!

Even without knowing the end of this scenario, God’s people believe this strategy will work. It must work. For God is to be trusted.

A (Application): I trust God, but I don’t know how well I trust myself. My hope is that as my days continue, I will continue to seek God to fight my battles for me. If a foreign kingdom was coming to conquer me, I don’t know how I’d handle that.

But in more practical terms, I will wrestle with finances, local politics, being a parent, and much more. In all of these, I ask God to help me.

But will I let go? Will I listen to the prophetic voices in my life? How can I trust those voices?

This all takes time and prayerful consideration. We discern to the best of our abilities. After that, we go on faith.

May you hear God’s word speaking to your struggles today! Amen.

P (Prayer): Lord, hear my cry! Amen.

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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.

9

The true light that shines on all people

was coming into the world.

10

The light was in the world,

and the world came into being through the light,

but the world didn’t recognize the light.

11

The light came to his own people,

and his own people didn’t welcome him.

12

But those who did welcome him,

those who believed in his name,

he authorized to become God’s children,

13

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.

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!


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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.

Destiny???

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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?

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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

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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

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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.