Plenty

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S (Scripture): Proverbs 11

24 

Those who give generously receive more,

    but those who are stingy with what is appropriate will grow needy.

25 

Generous persons will prosper;

    those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

O (Observation): Proverbs are snippets of wisdom. Sometimes a few verses run together to develop a theme. Wisdom here looks like good stewardship practices.

What happens to your state of mind when you are generous? You are in a position to receive! You see that there is plenty to go around!!! Money or gifts may go out, blessing comes in.

What happens when you are stingy? You are perpetually in a state of scarcity. You only see how little there is in the world, and if others have stuff, that’s less for you! It’s a win-lose scenario.

A (Application): Umm…See observation. : )

Nothing has changed in this regard.

Try giving. Receive joy.

Giving already? Give more!!!

P (Prayer): Lord, keep us mindful of the plenty you provide for me, for my family, for all of humanity, for the earth. Amen.

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S (Scripture): Psalm 49

10 

Everyone knows that the wise die too,

    just like foolish and stupid people do,

        all of them leaving their fortunes to others.

11 

Their graves are their eternal homes,

    the place they live for all generations,

        even if they had counties named after them!

12 

People won’t live any longer because of wealth;

    they’re just like the animals that pass away.

O (Observation): The psalmist is sick and tired of those with self-elevated status. Money and “wisdom” seem to be the hallmark for a great life. Money and wisdom are okay if used for mutual uplifting. But when money and wisdom are used to declare one’s self great…not so much.

What will one do with all wisdom and riches upon their death? Nothing!

Sure, you can leave a name and have a town or road named after you, but what can you enjoy in this life if you are not around to enjoy it?

A (Application): Why do we have the gifts of money and wisdom? If you could lay out the ideal response to having wealth and wisdom, what would that look like?

Ever thought of this?

Let’s make it simple: what do you do with the “wealth and wisdom” you have now? We like to dream about what we will do “when…”.

What if you stopped dreaming about when “that” time comes and started taking action TODAY!

You have gifts and you are a person who can do wondrous things. Money, wisdom…what are they for? As you wrestle with that question, ask yourself, “How can I serve others?”

You may advance your learning and training to make an impact. You may use wisdom to ask questions and listen, rather than just speak. You may bring peace to anxious situations. The possibilities are endless!

Use the gifts you have to help others in this world, and you will receive more than you have given.

P (Prayer): Lord, keep us mindful that the gifts you’ve given are not just for us. Help us to leave a legacy for others to live into. To empower others and lift up the lowly. Amen.

Baptism Changes Things

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S (Scripture): 2 Chronicles 6:24 If your people Israel are defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you, but then they change their hearts, give thanks to your name, and ask for mercy in your presence at this temple, 25 then listen from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel. Return them to the land you gave to them and their ancestors.

26 When the sky holds back its rain because Israel has sinned against you, but they then pray concerning this place, give thanks to your name, and turn away from their sin because you have punished them for it, 27 then listen from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the best way for them to follow, and send rain on your land that you gave to your people as an inheritance.

O (Observation): Solomon is dedicating the Temple to God. This is the temple David wished to build – for which he even had plans drawn up – but was told NOT to build it…that Solomon was to build it. And when Solomon was anointed king, he asked for one thing: wisdom. And in this prayer of dedication, Solomon shows wisdom.

Solomon knows that God’s people will err. He knows God’s people will drift away from the path. His wisdom is seeking not to excuse God’s people, but rather to make sure that God hears their cries of repentance. That God show mercy when God’s people need it the most.

And when they seek forgiveness, and they are sorry for what they’ve done…when land is returned and the rain comes…these will be signs of God’s mercy.

A (Application): The cycle: receive grace, live, sin, repent, receive grace…repeat. What makes us worthy of grace, if we are stuck in this pattern? Why even attempt to live a life of Christian freedom???

In a word: baptism. Our baptism starts into more than just the pattern listed above. Our baptism starts in us the gift of faith. From this faith we have opportunities to share faith with others, welcoming them into the Way.

Our faith also gives us hope. Even in the midst of our failings, we are all willing to do life without seeing ourselves as the central point around which life revolves. Instead, God dwells in the center of our being, and that drives us to serve God and our neighbor. By doing so, we instill hope and faith in other people.

We make stops along our journey to hear God, hear loved ones, and hear our own heartbeat. We give glory to God for bringing order out of chaos, for bringing peace to us in the midst of our tumultuous lives, for inviting us to live within the body of Christ.

May you reflect on your baptism today to see the many joys and struggles it brings. May you see that God enters those struggles with you. May you seek baptism, if the Christian faith is something new to you.

P (Prayer): Lord, we thank you for listening to us and forgiving us. Guide us. Heal us. Amen.

Parental Advice…Who Needs It?


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S (Scripture): Isaiah 63:15 Look down from heaven and see, from your holy and glorious perch. Where are your energy and your might,
your concern and your pity?  Don’t hold back!
16 You are surely our father, even though Abraham doesn’t know us, and Israel doesn’t recognize us. You, Lord, are our father;
your reputation since long ago is that of our redeemer.
17 Why do you lead us astray, Lord, from your ways? Why do you harden our heart so we don’t fear you? Return for the sake of your servants
the tribes that are your heritage!
18 Why did the wicked bring down your holy place?  Why did our enemies trample your sanctuary?
19 For too long we have been like those you don’t rule, like those not known by your name.

O (Observation):  God’s people, in a time of great desperation and feeling abandoned by God, call out to God.  They have never known Abraham or Israel (Jacob) directly, yet they feel a great kinship to these legendary people of faith…like the Lord is still their mutual Father.   

Isaiah calls on God to uphold the reputation as their redeemer.  God’s people feel as if God has abandoned them.  What if perhaps God has let them rule themselves for a while…not abandoning them…simply letting them rule themselves for a bit.   Perhaps it would seem as if God abandoned them…but really God may have just been waiting for the invitation to rule this stubborn people again, once they’ve seen they cannot rule themselves.  

A (Application):   What does it take to tell your parents: “You were right”?   How much pride does one have to swallow before allowing the parents’ wisdom to sink in?   

About 19 years, in my case : )  Now, don’t get me wrong…I obeyed my parents and I’m the goody-goody…but I also resisted much of the advice of my parents, until I was about 19…and a junior at Georgia Tech.  

My parents love me and raised me right.   They brought me to a faith community in the two main places I grew up: Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Hasbrouck Heights, NJ, and All Saints Lutheran Church, Lilburn, GA.   In those places, my faith was shaped and developed.  I entered many sacred spaces via these faith communities, and I learned a lot about how good and how destructive faith communities might be.  

In all, I learned of God’s favor, and I learned how to listen to God’s callings in my life.  

But until I was 19, I didn’t really, truly appreciate what my parents had to teach me about money and independent living.  I racked up lots of debt and I’m sure it tortured my parents to watch that.   But they knew I had to go and venture out.  Their wisdom was that I would need to venture out and explore how to apply my upbringing into my own independent living.  

I finally accepted and appreciated more and more of their advice.  They never abandoned me…they simply let me embrace my independence.   I realized, though, that I would never be truly independent from them, since I carry my upbringing with me and their wisdom, wherever I go.   Our memories we have made, and the memories we have still yet to make, will be treasured in my heart.  

And now, my wife and I hope to pass on our faith and wisdom to our children.   Let’s see how long it takes them to appreciate whatever wisdom we have collected and now are blessed to pass on : )

P (Prayer):  Lord, you never abandon us…help us to see your presence all around us.  Amen.  

What is This All For?

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S (Scripture): Ecclesiastes  2:24 There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God; 25 for apart from him[d] who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the one who pleases him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner he gives the work of gathering and heaping, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.

O (Observation): In all of his wisdom, Solomon has tracked down the purpose and the results of all ventures: eating, drinking, toil, study, war, etc.  And what is his conclusion?  “Vanity!  All is vanity!”

Nothing will last forever, according to Solomon.   Not riches or fame or conquest or control.  Nothing.   So, in the meantime, what should one do?  Eat, drink, and be merry!

A (Application):  I try so hard not to feel like I have to convince everyone that my way is right…but some itch under my skin keeps me irritated.   I can disagree with someone in person, and not try to win that conversation…but for minutes, or sometimes for hours, I try to win the argument in my head, or figure out what I could have said differently or better.  

But to what end?   What difference would it make?   

I’m not advocating for giving up…just to shift the reason for keeping my wheels turning.  

Why not shift from “trying to win,” to trying to make more clear my reasons for believing what I believe.  In other words: my journey does not have to be for the vain purpose of “winning,” but simply for the enjoyment of the pursuit of truth and understanding of my faith.  

May we all pursue the work of the Spirit, which brings joy and hope.   May we avoid vain pursuits…or at least enjoy life as it comes.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, your wisdom is above all.  May we enjoy the pursuit of said wisdom.  Amen.  

Wisdom Leads to Life… Pleasure…not so much. 

Eat

S (Scripture): Proverbs 9:1 Wisdom has built her house;
she has carved out its seven pillars.
9:2 She has prepared her meat, she has mixed her wine;
she also has arranged her table.
9:3 She has sent out her female servants;
she calls out on the highest places of the city.
9:4 “Whoever is naive, let him turn in here,”
she says to those who lack understanding.
9:5 “Come, eat some of my food,
and drink some of the wine I have mixed.
9:6 Abandon your foolish ways so that you may live,
and proceed  in the way of understanding.”

O (Observation): Net.Bible.org commentary will suffice for an observation for this post today: 

Chapter 9 forms the conclusion of the lengthy introduction to the book [of Proverbs]. Both wisdom and folly will make their final appeals; and both appeal to the simpletons. Wisdom offers life with no mention of pleasure; folly offers pleasure with no mention of death.

A (Application):  I love that wisdom and folly are described as they are in the commentary above.

Wisdom offers Life, with no mention of Pleasure.

Folly offers Pleasure, with no mention of Death.

This reminds me of a saying:  Sin is Death masquerading as Life.

We want the pleasurable in this world…and wisdom brings this…but without appeal to our simple understandings.   A simple understanding towards Pleasure is like wanting to fill your belly with dessert, without thinking about the stomachache that will come with it later.   The appeal is to Pleasure, but you don’t think about the Death (putting on extra weight, uncomfortable digestion).

We are simple and we often seek that which will please us.  But we must also think of the death that comes.  Choosing to spend money can be a short-term pleasure, but what dies when you do that?  The college fund for the kids?  The retirement fund?  Giving to God?

Folly offers pleasure, with no mention of Death.   We get sucked in…

But Wisdom offers Life, even though Pleasure is not mentioned.   The meal is set for us.  The food has been prepared.  We simply need to come and eat the free meal offered to us.

Come.  Worship.  Confess.  Receive forgiveness.  Pray.  Sing.   Eat the Bread.   Drink the wine.  Leave with Blessing.  Repeat about once a week.   Typically on Sundays.

Come.   We offer what God has first offered us.  Life, with no mention of Pleasure.   But you will be satisfied.

P (Prayer):  Lord, guide us into all wisdom.   Amen.

The Only Response to God: “I repent!”

dust

S (Scripture): Job 42:1 Then Job answered the Lord: 2 “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted;…3b I have declared without understanding things too wonderful for me to know.

4 You said, ‘Pay attention, and I will speak; I will question you, and you will answer me.’

5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye has seen you.

6 Therefore I despise myself, and I repent in dust and ashes!”

O (Observation):  Job has come to the conclusion of his trials before God.  He never blasphemed God, but he did assume wisdom beyond that of God.   Job thought he knew best, but God’s last couple of points about the weather and the Leviathan being beyond Job’s comprehension were enough to cause Job to come to one conclusion:  “I repent in dust and ashes!”

 

Job has sensed that he truly encountered God in this experience.  He’s heard about God…but he doesn’t think he’s ever heard from God directly.  Now he has.  He has now “seen” God (that is, he has “encountered” God).

A (Application):   Job’s response is the only possible response when in an encounter with God.   Nothing we say or do can ever please God in and of itself.  All that we do is tainted with a bit of sin.   But we act boldly, anyway, trusting that our Lord will guide all things together for those who trust in the Lord.

We can be as righteous as Job, but that still doesn’t make us worthy of God’s love.  Instead, God’s very nature is mercy and love.  And so, we come, humbly, into our encounters with God, trusting that God will pick us up from dust and ashes in which we repent, in order to wash us clean, fill us with the Spirit, and send us out to make disciples.

…but it all starts with the only response possible:  “I repent in dust and ashes…”

P (Prayer):  Lord, give us repentant hearts…and pick us up from the dust and ashes.  Amen.