Not Sure What to Do? Do Justice NOW

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S (Scripture): Jeremiah 22:1 The Lord proclaims: Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and declare this message: 2 Listen to the Lord’s word, king of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne—you and your attendants, and all those who go through these gates. 3 The Lord proclaims: Do what is just and right; rescue the oppressed from the power of the oppressor. Don’t exploit or mistreat the refugee, the orphan, and the widow. Don’t spill the blood of the innocent in this place. 4 If you obey this command, then through the gates of this palace will come kings who occupy the throne of David, riding on chariots and horses along with their entourage and subjects. 5 But if you ignore these words, I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that this palace will become a ruin. 6 The Lord proclaims concerning the palace of the king of Judah:

Though you are like Gilead to me,

    like the summit of Lebanon,

    I will turn you into a desert—uninhabited cities.

I will summon destroyers against you,

    who will use their weapons

        to cut down your finest cedars

        and hurl them into the fire.

O (Observation): The Lord seems to speaking in odd ways, here. God is threatening to destroy the Temple of the people STAY? Wouldn’t God wish for the people to stay?!?!

Well, God is more than disappointed in the people for worshipping other gods. God has allowed the Babylonians to come in and in a sense, God is inviting the people to trust in God again…this time by telling the people to leave the land God promised them and to trust that God would one day bring them back again.

The really challenging point is that some who will leave the Promised Land won’t survive to see it again…but their offspring will!!!

A (Application): Nothing in life is more difficult than saying goodbye to the old and waiting for the next thing (or taking the step towards that next thing). God’s people are called to trust God, once again, in the Scripture above.

As a person of faith experiencing major life changes (new jobs for me and spouse, moving, selling a house, new schools for kids), we are looking forward to getting settled soon.

We trust God. We have faith. But the stress exists all the same.

So – in the mean time – what to do? Well, do justice! Treat all people fairly. Don’t exploit or mistreat the refugee, the orphan, and the widow. Hmmm??

Well, let’s trust that God will lead us into the way of justice. Let’s trust that God will work through us to be kind to the most vulnerable in our society, instead of treating them like scum or the deplorable. Let us show mercy, that mercy might rule the day.

P (Prayer): Lord, soften the hearts of all of us towards compassion, that we might all benefit from your grace. Amen.

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In God We Trust

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S (Scripture): Isaiah 46

1

Bel crouches down; Nebo cowers.

    Their idols sit on animals, on beasts.

The objects you once carried about

    are now borne as burdens by the weary animals.

They crouch down and cower together.

They aren’t able to rescue the burden,

    but they themselves go into captivity.

Listen to me, house of Jacob,

    all that remains from the house of Israel

    who have been borne by me since pregnancy,

    whom I carried from the womb

    until you grow old. I am the one,

    and until you turn gray I will support you.

I have done it, and I will continue to bear it;

    I will support and I will rescue.

To whom will you liken me and count me equal

    and compare me so that we are alike?

Those who pour out gold from a bag

    and weigh silver with a balance

    hire a metalworker; then he makes a god.

They bow down; they worship;

    they carry the idol on their shoulders and support it;

    they set it down, and it stands still,

    unable to move from its place.

If one cries out to it, it doesn’t answer.

    It can’t save people from their distress.

O (Observation): Isaiah – God’s prophet – speaks to God’s people who are struggling with influences of foreign gods – many of which are made of bronze, or wood, or other inanimate objects.

How can it move? Oh…it can’t. How can it save? Oh…it can’t.

Yet God’s people get fooled into thinking that these “gods” are salvation.

A (Application): We think, “Thank God we don’t do that! Of course we don’t worship other gods…”

So, what is a god? Luther says that anything in which we look to for hope and in which we put our trust. More exactly, it states:

“Thus you can easily understand what and how much this commandment requires, namely, that one’s entire heart and all one’s confidence be placed in God alone, and in no one else.”

How much do we trust in our money or ourselves or our intellect? How much do we depend on our identity as friends of powerful people or our position in our places of work?

We have lots of gods in this world.

May we look to the one true God who created heaven and earth and empowered those who follow this God to love and serve all people on this earth.

Whether in death or life, we trust in our God. Whether in times of stress or peace, we trust in our God.

And when we don’t, for we will stray, may we know that God is bigger than our brokenness and that God always leaves the door to grace wide open.

P (Prayer): Lord, we thank you for providing for us and empowering us to be your Kingdom workers here to share your love and mercy with all people. Amen.

Trust in God: So Simple, so Difficult

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S (Scripture): Isaiah 30:

1

Doom to you, rebellious children, says the Lord,

    who make a plan, which is not mine;

    who weave a plot, but not by my spirit,

        piling up sin on sin;

    setting out to go down to Egypt without consulting me,

    taking refuge in Pharaoh’s refuge and hiding in Egypt’s shadow.

Pharaoh’s refuge will become your shame,

    hiding in Egypt’s shadow your disgrace.

    all will become shamed because of a people who can’t assist them.

They are no help; they are no profit;

    rather, shame and disgrace.

19 People in Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer. God will certainly be merciful to you. Hearing the sound of your outcry, God will answer you.

23 God will provide rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food the ground produces will be rich and abundant. On that day, your cattle will graze in large pastures. 24 The oxen and donkeys that are working the ground will eat tasty feed spread for them with shovel and fork.

O (Observation): God gives both correction and mercy. God guides people, reminding them that their earthly notions of protection are feeble compared to God’s reign.

Hide in Egypt’s shadow? Not gonna help!

Hide behind earthly armies? Futile!

But what does God’s mercy look like? Like a parent who cares for their crying child. Like rain for the seeds planted. So that an abundance comes forth from the ground – satisfying animal and human alike.

Trust in God’s mercies, not your own schemes, people of God…

A (Application): Trust in God. Sounds like a cop out.

Does that mean we don’t make plans? Certainly not!

Trust in God means to do the most loving thing you can do in any given moment. This is trust, because doing the most loving thing means we may be putting ourselves at risk: our finances, our physical or emotional well-being, our safety, our plans…

Trusting in God is a TALL order. It’s not for the faint of heart.

If you struggle with this, you are not alone. Just recall the words from Isaiah 30. Hear how God tells the people that their schemes of this earth are pointless, futile. Instead, God, who can move mountains, can and will work together all things in great love for you and me and all of us. This can be a win-win situation.

Trust in God. Let others in. Let the Spirit move you this day.

P (Prayer): God, help me listen to you and trust in you. Amen.

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.

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.