Thursday, September 30, 2010

September 30th - Reflection

Revelation 2:8-11 (NRSV)
Be faithful until death

"And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life:

"I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death.

Be faithful until death. Persecution, suffering, illness, sin and then death. But there is a huge ray of hope in this passage. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. A ray of hope to those who listen to what the Spirit is saying.

As we live this life, either short or long, we are blessed with the lives of others that God graciously gives to us. As we live this life, sometimes in pain, other times in joy, we are surrounded by the lives of many that have come and gone and are present with us. We live in relationship with all of these lives. Lives here now and lives past and lives still to come. We are in some kind of bond of relationship.

In this relationship we have built, all of our lives are tied together to one common and huge ray of hope. That ray of hope that we listen to intently to hear what the Spirit is saying. God sent Jesus to tie that ray of hope back to him. God gave us the final relationship that wraps that ray of hope to us and amongst us and right back to God.

Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. The crown of life freely given through and because of that Ray of hope, Jesus Christ the Savior. Thanks be to God!

Lord, keep us faithful and ears open to see and receive your Ray of hope. --- Amen

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

September 29th - Reflection

Michael and All Angels
Daniel 10:10-14; 12;1-3 (NRSV)

But then a hand touched me and roused me to my hands and knees. He said to me, "Daniel, greatly beloved, pay attention to the words that I am going to speak to you. Stand on your feet, for I have now been sent to you." So while he was speaking this word to me, I stood up trembling. He said to me, "Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me twenty-one days. So Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, and I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia, and have come to help you understand what is to happen to your people at the end of days. For there is a further vision for those days."

"At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Pay attention...listen...the Word is about to speak. Don't be afraid. Set your mind to gain understanding and humble yourself. Speak the Word of God boldly to the people. Speak the Word God gives to you to those you meet this day. Some will hear that Word through you.

A Protector of the faithful has come to you and to me also. Through Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection, we will live. Sure, there will be a time of anguish. We must live our lives in these broken bodies and proclaim the hope and faith that Jesus has given to us through his life. We must bring disciples to Christ as we live. We must point to Christ as Savior and Friend.  We must listen to the Word made flesh as spoken, read and lived among others and in ourselves.

God has come! God is here now! Everlasting life has already begun in those who believe! Rejoice and shout the news and shine like the sun! For those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Rejoice in Christ and the Word made flesh. Shine like the and forever.

Lord, I give you thanks for the life of my friend Pastor Klafter and his wife Arlene. These two truly did shine like the Son. And you graciously have set before so many others that are shining the light on the Word. May your Light continue to shine through each one of them.  Be with me today as I humbly let you shine through me to lead many to righteousness and faith in you, the Word made Flesh. The Word, spoken, lived, read, and given for all. --- Amen

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

September 28th - Reflection

Hosea 10:9-15 (NRSV)
Reaping injustice

Since the days of Gibeah you have sinned, O Israel;
there they have continued.
Shall not war overtake them in Gibeah?
I will come against the wayward people to punish them;
and nations shall be gathered against them
when they are punished for their double iniquity.

Ephraim was a trained heifer
that loved to thresh,
and I spared her fair neck;
but I will make Ephraim break the ground;
Judah must plow;
Jacob must harrow for himself.
Sow for yourselves righteousness;
reap steadfast love;
break up your fallow ground;
for it is time to seek the Lord,
that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.

You have plowed wickedness,
you have reaped injustice,
you have eaten the fruit of lies.
Because you have trusted in your power
and in the multitude of your warriors,
therefore the tumult of war shall rise against your people,
and all your fortresses shall be destroyed,
as Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle
when mothers were dashed in pieces with their children.
Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel,
because of your great wickedness.
At dawn the king of Israel
shall be utterly cut off.

All power comes from God. It makes perfect sense to me with my background. Power is the source of energy done per unit of time. Or even in math power is multiplying a number by itself so many times. God to the infinite power.  Energy, force or momentum. So it makes sense to me that God is where all power comes from. We are only God's vessels that demonstrate his power.

When we become deceived, we believe that the power came from ourselves. It looks like maybe it did. So we think we can do whatever we want. Then God steps in to show us the source of power lies within God.

When we trust in the power we see coming through ourselves, we will meet with another human power that can defeat our deceptive power. Just look at the history of how humans have trusted in weapons to defeat one another. If you have the newest and biggest, most destructive powerful weapon, you rule the world for a while...until something bigger and better comes along.

But the real power to trust in is the power of God. In the power of God there is mercy and love. God's power produces steadfast love and righteousness rains upon us. God's power doesn't come freely. We must work at the trust. We must till the ground of faith. We must work at compassion. We must be humble disciples of Christ.

Jesus Christ showed power in action. Real power that went beyond any power of this world and crossed into the spiritual realm, leading all who believe in him to eternal life. That's power. That's power that came straight from God to you and to me. Trust in the power of God. That's power! Thanks be to God!

Lord, forgive me when I plow the field of my selfish, arrogant self to reap my own power in this world. Lead me to leave that power behind and trust in the power that you have displayed through Jesus Christ. --- Amen

Monday, September 27, 2010

September 27th - Reflection

Amos 6:8-14 (NRSV)
Justice turned into poison

The Lord God has sworn by himself
(says the Lord, the God of hosts):
I abhor the pride of Jacob
and hate his strongholds;
and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.

If ten people remain in one house, they shall die. And if a relative, one who burns the dead, shall take up the body to bring it out of the house, and shall say to someone in the innermost parts of the house, "Is anyone else with you?" the answer will come, "No." Then the relative shall say, "Hush! We must not mention the name of the Lord."

See, the Lord commands,
and the great house shall be shattered to bits,
and the little house to pieces.
Do horses run on rocks?
Does one plow the sea with oxen?
But you have turned justice into poison
and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood--
you who rejoice in Lo-debar,
who say, "Have we not by our own strength
taken Karnaim for ourselves?"
Indeed, I am raising up against you a nation,
O house of Israel, says the Lord, the God of hosts,
and they shall oppress you from Lebo-hamath
to the Wadi Arabah.

Don't think you don't need God in your life. We all need God. God created this universe and all that is in it. We are God's creation. We need God. God gave us wonderful talents to build walls, forts and buildings to protect ourselves with. God gave us talents to take care of ourselves and to defend ourselves from outside forces and influence. But the ability to do all of these things does not mean that we don't need God in our lives.

God is the only reason we have these abilities. Everything that we have was created and came from God. We need God. When we begin to believe that we can control events of this world through our own power and strength, without the hand of God involved, we need to be aware of our sinful and fallen nature. We are easily influenced into sinful action. Events involving many lives need prayer and direction from God. In our actions we must pray along the way, be willing to correct and take correction from God, and live out that event with constant conversation with God.

God wants to hear from you and me. God wants into our lives all day long. We need that relationship with God. We need that correction and that love that only God can provide. Don't be afraid of God's direction. It's the direction of mercy and love. Just look at what God has done for us through his Son! Thanks be to God!

Lord, when I think I can go it all alone, stop me and correct me and lead me back to you. Forgive my sinful pride and fill me with the Spirit of relationship with you and those you give to me day by day. --- Amen

Sunday, September 26, 2010

September 26th - Reflection

Time after Pentecost - Lectionary 26
Luke 16:19-31 (NRSV)
Poor Lazarus and the rich man

"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.' But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.' He said, 'Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house - for I have five brothers - that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.' Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.' He said, 'No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"

Don't let that great divide of trust keep you from being separated from God. It happens to all of us at some time or another. We fail to trust in God and decide that the only way to handle the situation is to take control of it and settle the issue once and for all time. That doesn't always work!

The problem is, sometimes it does work. So we feel that we are in control of our own destiny to the point of having too much confidence in ourselves and no confidence in God. Trust is absent and we are left standing on the wrong side of the chasm.

See what God has done for you through the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus in this world. Open you ears and listen to the word. There are some finite things in life that you are not in control of. You must depend on God for these situations. God comes to us and calls us and wants us to be in relationship with him. Like it or not, you and I were created for God. God was not created for you or I but we were created to please God.

Lord, open my ears to hear and see the Word. Let my life please you and may your will be in all my decisions. --- Amen

Saturday, September 25, 2010

September 25th - Reflection

Luke 9:43b-48 (NRSV)
Welcoming little ones

While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples, "Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands." But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, "Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest."

I'm not sure we ever did let Jesus' words sink into our ears. The disciples didn't understand, and I know that we don't completely understand. Instead of asking questions, the subject was avoided. But Jesus would not let this be avoided. For a time he remains patient. Jesus continues to teach and heal. Jesus continues to demonstrate that the least are the greatest.

Look around yourself and think of the least. Walk among the least in the standards of this world. In the least you will clearly see the Light of God shining most brightly. They are not concentrating on their own goods and material resources. The least are living life moment by moment. In the least you will find Jesus.

And Jesus became the least and hung from that cross, in order that the least may become the greatest. The least live life. Live life to the fullest. See the spark in the eye, the smile on the face and hear the laugh. You have witnessed Jesus. Love the least and celebrate that Love with them. You will one day be the least. Keep that hope and faith in life with Jesus and let his words sink into your ears.

Lord, let your Word sink into my ears that I may be a vessel to serve as you serve and love as you love. --- Amen

Friday, September 24, 2010

September 24th - Reflection

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NRSV)

God is rich in mercy

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God - not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

We all were dead. We all live in a world of sin. We all live sinful lives. We all began as children of wrath.  Thanks be to God, through Christ Jesus, we all have received the mercy of Christ. At great cost Jesus came to this world of sin in which we live. He lived and died and paid the price for our sin. Jesus has graciously given us salvation. Do you believe? Do you accept? Do you place your trust in this action of God?

It's not about our actions. It's about our relationship with God. If you truly believe in this gracious act of God, you will not be able to contain the joy you have. You will not be able to contain the love you have for God. If you believe and understand that you just came from death to life, changes will take place.

You will have a deep desire to follow Jesus. You will be passionate about your sin. You will be bold enough to face your sin and know that you have a Savior to turn to. He will help you deal with that sin. He will guide you through those dark days, teach you about your sin, change you and help you to grow to love him for dying for the very sin you committed.

You will be prepared for good works because of this grace given. Not because of what you did, but because of what God did through Jesus. God has a plan for your life. God has made you wonderfully and is about to prove why.

Hang grace you have been saved - and raised up with him and seated  with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Thanks be to God!

Lord, lead my actions out of the grace of faith that I too, may be rich in kindness towards those you give to me this day. May they see and know the love of Jesus in and through my life. Guide me to those in need and turn my prayer of love for them and you into active love. --- Amen

Thursday, September 23, 2010

September 23rd - Reflection

2 Corinthians 8:8-15 (NRSV)
Christ became poor

I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something - now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has - not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,
"The one who had much did not have too much,
and the one who had little did not have too little."

Just as the poor widow gave all she had to give, Christ out of his awesome power and richness, gave all he had to give for you and for me. We need to come to the realization of our poverty. We need to understand that we are in great need also. We cannot, by our own reason or strength, come to know Christ Jesus or come to him. We cannot by our own reason or strength save ourselves. We must realize our poverty in this respect.

Then we will see that Jesus has come to us out of his abundance to give us his life out of poverty. Jesus took on our poverty and sin and saved our very life through the giving of his own life...

But...the Father saw that in this act would come resurrection and new life. Resurrection and new life for Jesus and for you and for me. Out of your poverty and realization to sin, give your life, and see that new life in Jesus come to fruition. Thanks be to God!

Take this life and make in yours. --- Amen

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September 22nd - Reflection

Help for the poor

Help, O Lord, for there is no longer anyone who is godly;
the faithful have disappeared from humankind.
They utter lies to each other;
with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
the tongue that makes great boasts,
those who say, "With our tongues we will prevail;
our lips are our own - who is our master?"

"Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan,
I will now rise up," says the Lord;
"I will place them in the safety for which they long."
The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure,
silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.

You, O Lord, will protect us;
you will guard us from this generation forever.
On every side the wicked prowl,
as vileness is exalted among humankind.

The poor and needy...God loves them so much. God moves into action. God moves into action on his own and through us. When called to get up and move for the poor and needy, then get up and move for the poor and needy. God's children are taught to love God and one another, and when our poor and needy neighbor is in want we are to rise up to protect and guard and lift up these fellow children of God to full life and health.

Lord, as I hear the call to serve the poor and needy may I respond in joy that others may follow. --- Amen

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September 21st - Reflection

Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
Matthew 9:9-13 (NRSV)

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him.
And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard this, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."

I'm so glad Jesus chose to eat with sinners! If this weren't true, then I would be lost. If Jesus chose not to be around sinners, then there would be no calling, there would be no baptism, there would be no teaching, there would be no relationship with my Savior.

But Jesus chose to surround himself with sinners. Jesus chose to teach, heal, pray, and die for sinners. I am a sinner, and Jesus chose me!

I gotta go follow Jesus! Thanks be to God!

You chose me! I can't get over that! I will gladly follow. --- Amen

Monday, September 20, 2010

September 20th - Reflection

Proverbs 14:12-31 (NRSV)
Oppressing the poor

There is a way that seems right to a person,
but its end is the way to death.
Even in laughter the heart is sad,
and the end of joy is grief.
The perverse get what their ways deserve,
and the good, what their deeds deserve.
The simple believe everything,
but the clever consider their steps.
The wise are cautious and turn away from evil,
but the fool throws off restraint and is careless.
One who is quick-tempered acts foolishly,
and the schemer is hated.
The simple are adorned with folly,
but the clever are crowned with knowledge.
The evil bow down before the good,
the wicked at the gates of the righteous.
The poor are disliked even by their neighbors,
but the rich have many friends.
Those who despise their neighbors are sinners,
but happy are those who are kind to the poor.
Do they not err that plan evil?
Those who plan good find loyalty and faithfulness.
In all toil there is profit,
but mere talk leads only to poverty.
The crown of the wise is their wisdom,
but folly is the garland of fools.
A truthful witness saves lives,
but one who utters lies is a betrayer.
In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence,
and one's children will have a refuge.
The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
so that one may avoid the snares of death.
The glory of a king is a multitude of people;
without people a prince is ruined.
Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,
but one who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh,
but passion makes the bones rot.
Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker,
but those who are kind to the needy honor him.

The fear of the Lord was always such a puzzling expression to me in my early years. Pastor Bergdahl helped me understanding this. A fear that brings forth awe, honor, a desire to obey, and an expression of spontaneous love that overflows from the soul. Those were the components of his definition.  And in that definition I can see how you would have a strong confidence in God. A confidence that builds a faithful hope in an outcome that God has prepared in your favor. Not an easy path to the outcome, but an assurance that lives will be saved and you will change in such a great way that life will be brand new.

Funny how God takes the word fear and changes it all around into something great.

Thanks be to God!

Lord, I am filled with that awesome fear of awe, honor, desire to obey and your vast love for me and your people. May that fear overflow into your world this day. --- Amen

Sunday, September 19, 2010

September 19th - Reflection

Time after Pentecost - Lectionary 25
Luke 16:1-13 (NRSV)
Serving God or wealth

Then Jesus said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.' Then the manager said to himself, 'What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.' So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' He answered, 'A hundred jugs of olive oil.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.' Then he asked another, 'And how much do you owe?' He replied, 'A hundred containers of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill and make it eighty.' And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

"Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."

Sounds a bit like multi-tasking to me. Multi-tasking that doesn't work at all!

This guy was on the ropes. He was about to lose his job and his means of living. So he made some friends by using what little power he had left. He gave up that power on his friends knowing that all that he had remaining would be lost in a very short time anyway.

Sure, it was a dishonest move by this world standards, but when you think about the reasons for his actions, the story takes a twist. He was really giving up all he had, even if the money wasn't his, he was giving up the power that he had as a manager. Would he have done the same if he weren't in a pinch? I really don't think so.

Sometimes we need to get into a pinch to figure out that we must give up all that we have. We must give it up and concentrate on our relationship with God and neighbor. We must give our lives over to God, because, without a doubt we all have mismanaged the life God has given us.

But thanks be to God, through the giving up of ourselves to God, God sent his Son, knowing that we couldn't do this on our own. So we turn and follow Jesus. We turn and listen to Jesus. The Spirit moves and grows within us and we are changed. Changed into something new and wonderful through the love of God through Christ Jesus. Under new management, not of our own, we become disciples of Jesus and give freely, not on loan, the love of Christ.

Thanks be to God!

Lord, take my life and make it yours. Pin that note on the door of my heart --- "Under new Management" --- Amen

Saturday, September 18, 2010

September 18th - Reflection

Mark 12:41-44 (NRSV)
A widow's offering

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."

Out of her poverty, she put in all she had to live on. We are all in poverty in this respect. We all deserve death and eternal damnation. We all fall short of the mark. There is absolutely no way we could ever make up for our sin and enter heaven based on our own actions. And I think in God's love God saw this. God loves us so much that God provided a way for us. But, I also believe that in most cases, it comes to the realization of our own poverty.

We can live life oblivious to eternal life. We could, if we chose to, believe that this is it, we live and we die and that's that. We could if we chose to believe that sin is just some fabricated way of controlling people and keeping order. We could if we wanted to ignore the Bible, Jesus, and all of the ways of God. But what would life be? I can hear now the responses. All how great life would be. But the end...then what?

Life is tough at times. Sometimes life is tough most of the times. But through the love of God and the gift of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can, if we choose and sometimes when we don't choose, fall into a wonderful relationship of love with our Creator and our neighbors.

We can give out of our poverty this life of ours and choose to let God take it. We can live in relationship with our Creator, Savior, Redeemer and neighbors in this same love God chose to freely give  to us. We can live, not under the threat of eternal death and damnation, but live under and in the Love of God.

Listen to the Word and contribute your life out of your poverty...all of your life to God, and this will be much more than you could ever imagine or expect. You have received a wonderful gift and opportunity through the love of Christ, respond with joy. Thanks be to God!

Lord, thank you for your contribution of all your life. Thank you! --- Amen

Friday, September 17, 2010

September 17th - Reflection

Romans 8:31-39 (NRSV)
It is God who justifies

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
"For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered."

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It's not about our action, it's about God's action and our reaction. How will you react to the love of God? You can turn away and make it on your own...up to a point. You can turn to God...but that doesn't guarantee a life without hardship, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword.

But, when we turn and face our Savior, believe and accept what he has done for us, nothing will pull apart that relationship with God...not death, life, angels, rulers, things present, things to come, powers, space, creation...nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It's about God's loving action of love through Jesus Christ. It's not about our action of being "good" that draws us to God. It's about our choice in believing and our reaction to that love of Christ. It's about becoming a disciple of Christ and listening to the call to action and going. It's about the love he has for you and the love you have for him. It's about that same love that radiates through our beings in expressions of love to our neighbors. It's about relationship and love and a call to action.

What's your reaction to God's love? Face the Savior, get up and follow, react to the call, live the love for God and for your neighbor. Nothing will separate you...nothing...Thanks be to God!

Lord, as you teach me this love of yours, may it fill my being and radiate to my neighbor that they may see your love for all people and react to follow you. --- Amen

Thursday, September 16, 2010

September 16th - Reflection

Romans 3:1-8 (NRSV)
The justice of God

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written,
"So that you may be justified in your words,
and prevail in your judging."

But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my falsehood God's truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), "Let us do evil so that good may come"? Their condemnation is deserved!

No-No-No ... We just don't go running out and sin, claiming that we have been saved through the grace of faith and will be forgiven. And if we freely sin and are forgiven, we make God's act of grace even bigger! It's not about us! It's about what God did for us in Jesus. We can't make God any bigger than God is already, certainly we can't if we think that sinning more and more would make his act of love through Jesus bigger.

In accepting Christ and the love we have been given we respond to God's first act of love. We love because he first loved us. We love because of God's action. That's the grace part of it all. We don't respond by sinning freely knowing that God will forgive. We respond knowing that our sins are forgiven. So now we are bold to act on God's Love through our actions. We are bold to follow Christ knowing that all is cared for. We are bold to love neighbor knowing that God uses even sinners to do the work of the Kingdom. Sinners who will slip up and sin but in that sin we can always be forgiven.

Sin no longer is the focus of what brings us closer to God. Jesus is the focus of what brings us closer. Jesus took care of the sin for us, so that now we don't have to make sin our only focus, our only focus now is Jesus and sin was taken care of through Jesus. We will now turn to the Law to obey the Law knowing that our failures in the Law will be reconciled through Jesus Christ, not reconciled through our good works. And now our good works become that response to what Christ first did for us.

Jesus gets us to heaven --- our good works won't. So focus on following Jesus and the call of the Spirit. Work on the actions of Love for God and neighbor, as Jesus calls us daily into the Kingdom to be his disciples. All our trust, faith and hope lie in our Savior! Thanks be to God!

Lord, may my actions make you happy. Lead me this day as I follow your teaching, your calling and your way. You are my are my lead. And only you are my joy. --- Amen

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September 15th - Reflection

Psalm 73 (NRSV)
God is my portion

Truly God is good to the upright,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant;
I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

For they have no pain;
their bodies are sound and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not plagued like other people.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them like a garment.
Their eyes swell out with fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against heaven,
and their tongues range over the earth.

Therefore the people turn and praise them,
and find no fault in them.
And they say, "How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?"
Such are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
All in vain I have kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
For all day long I have been plagued,
and am punished every morning.

If I had said, "I will talk on in this way,"
I would have been untrue to the circle of your children.
But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I perceived their end.
Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
They are like a dream when one awakes;
on awaking you despise their phantoms.

When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
I was stupid and ignorant;
I was like a brute beast toward you.
Nevertheless I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me with honor.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Indeed, those who are far from you will perish;
you put an end to those who are false to you.
But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
to tell of all your works.

Being close to God is wonderful. And one of the wonderful things about it is that God chose to be close to me. After all, how could I, ever on my own, draw close to God? But, God chose to be close to me. God chooses to be close to you also. For me, Jesus comes knocking at the door day after day. Can Billy come out to play? Each day we relive our baptism. Life giving water and Word are abundantly poured onto us, washing over us and onto the world in which we stand. The old man is washed away and a new man arises for another day. Each day God comes to us and we are gifted with the presence of God. Each day we are provided for in ways we can't even imagine or anticipate. God is truly our refuge. God is our shelter and protection from danger and trouble. God is our safety net of aid, relief and escape when needed. The things and ways of this earth will fail, but our relationship with God never fails. What more could I or you ever need? Thanks be to God?

Lord, draw me close to you...never let me go. You are all I need. --- Amen

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

September 14th - Reflection

Holy Cross Day
1 Corinthians 1:18-24 (NRSV)

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Today is Mom's 88th birthday. My early memories of my Mom include a time when I would I would observe her reading this coffee table bible. Every day at the same time of day, Mom would stop housecleaning and read that Bible. I figured there must be something pretty important in that Bible, so I began to read the Bible at an early age.

There was another time that Mom and I read the passage on the fruits of the Spirit. We made "word" fruits out of each word and talked about why each were fruits of the Spirit and created a Fruits of the Spirit Tree.

Then all the talks on the car trips to church for activities of all sorts, Junior Choir, then League Choir, Luther League and Catechism, all kinds  fun stuff.

I remember taking home an older lady, one of the Jordons, can't remember her first name, we took her home after every Lenten service. She sat in the back of the car with me, and she showed caring and love.

It's these acts of faithfulness that set in my mind to this day. Acts too many to record here. But the point is, that to some, these may seem to be just acts of parenting, to others they may be foolishness, but to me and my faith life, Mom became a saint in my mind. She nurtured me to read the Word, both in scripture and the spoken word through so many of the saints of the church. She was faithful in bringing me up in the faith and permitted me to make my own choosing as to what I believe through catechism. And then that wonderful moment...

During confirmation...I accepted all that Jesus had done and gives...I accepted Jesus as Savior..and confirmed my faith publicly in the gifts of the Spirit...I became a new creation in Christ...right before the eyes of my Mom who had planted all those seeds, not knowing if any would take root.

Well, Mom, they did! From early childhood to today...what may seem like foolishness to some...was life changing for me. Thanks be to God! Thanks for the faith of Mom!

Lord, I know I'm both saint and sinner. Teach me through the sinning and lead me in the saintly. I give you thanks for my Mom and her witness to me to the power of the gospel and the saving grace of Christ. I give you thanks for her dedication to acts of love. Just as Jesus protected the children, my Mom protected me and led me to you. Make me an example for my children that they may see you in my life and invited you into theirs. And fill us all with the fruits of the Spirit that we may boldly act as you have planned for each of us to act in your Kingdom day after day. --- Amen

Monday, September 13, 2010

September 13th - Reflection

Amos 7:1-6 (NRSV)
God relents from punishing Israel

This is what the Lord God showed me: he was forming locusts at the time the latter growth began to sprout (it was the latter growth after the king's mowings). When they had finished eating the grass of the land, I said,
"O Lord God, forgive, I beg you!
How can Jacob stand?
He is so small!"
The Lord relented concerning this;
"It shall not be," said the Lord.

This is what the Lord God showed me: the Lord God was calling for a shower of fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land. Then I said,
"O Lord God, cease, I beg you!
How can Jacob stand?
He is so small!"
The Lord relented concerning this;
"This also shall not be," said the Lord God.

I am so small too. When I think of the Creator of the Universe, what am I? I am so small! And then I don't follow or obey the Lord's commandments. Why not destroy? But someone has pleaded my case for me. Someone has spoken for me. Against my destruction the heart of God was touched. God relented and had compassion for me and for you. God had love and sent his Son to plead my case and your case too. And...the Lord relented concerning this destruction...and...the Lord brought forth life out of death. Thanks be to God!

Lord, I know that I deserve death and eternal damnation. But I also know of a Savior in Jesus Christ who came with compassion and grace to give me new life. I choose to live that life with Jesus. Forgive my sin, teach and correct me and use me in the calling you have prepared for me in your Kingdom. --- Amen

Sunday, September 12, 2010

September 12th - Reflection

Time after Pentecost - Lectionary 24
Luke 15:1-10 (NRSV)
Lost sheep and lost coin

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."

So he told them this parable: "Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

"Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

I can see this passage going at least two ways. Jesus finds me and I find Jesus. I think first off, that I'm so glad that Jesus came to find me. But there are times in life when I have left the flock and wandered off in my own direction. When I turned back towards the direction of Jesus, I thought I was going back to look for and find him. Yet to my surprise, the moment I turned around, there he was. There was Jesus even in the midst of my sin, ready to take me back to the flock and nurture me back to healthy life. Wow! What a discovery for me and what a discovery for Jesus. Jesus finds me and I find Jesus all at the same time. Thanks be to God!

Lord, when I run off, shake me and please come to find me, so that when I turn back I may fall into your arms. --- Amen

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11th - Reflection

John 10:11-21 (NRSV)
Jesus, the good shepherd

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away - and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father."

Again the Jews were divided because of these words. Many of them were saying, "He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?" Others were saying, "These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"

Lay down your life to take it up again. When I lay down my life for Jesus, I know that his life, death and resurrection, has cut the path and saved my life for me to take it up again. Jesus will take my life and make it into what he intended for it to be before I got in the way. I will become close to Jesus day after day and the change takes place. New life and growth and involvement in the life of the flock of his Church takes place and grows. I become that life that did not belong to the flock through Jesus gift of life that now belongs! Thanks be to God!

Lord, as you gave your life, take my life and make it yours. Bring me into the flock and grow my faith. --- Amen

Friday, September 10, 2010

Setpember 10th - Reflection

2 Peter 2:1-10a (NRSV)
God judges and rescues

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions. They will even deny the Master who bought them - bringing swift destruction on themselves. Even so, many will follow their licentious ways, and because of these teachers the way of truth will be maligned. And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced against them long ago, has not been idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment; and if he did not spare the ancient world, even though he saved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood on a world of the ungodly; and if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example of what is coming to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by their lawless deeds that he saw and heard), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment - especially those who indulge their flesh in depraved lust, and who despise authority.

God knows how to weed things out. Many chances we are given to turn to our loving Savior. Many chances! But God knows how to weed things out. Weed things out first to persuade us to turn and face our Creator. God tries so many times to save us. We should be embarrassed! But at some point God will weed it all out.

Hell is real. Make no doubt about it. Heed the warnings. Listen to the Word. hell is real and God does not want us to go there. That's why he gave his Son to die on a cross for us. Jesus took on sin, death, and the devil in our stead. But if we refuse to turn to God and accept this gracious gift of love, we choose to leave God. God loves us so much, we are given the choice.

Take the choice and open that door daily to the presence of Christ in your life. You will still sin, but the Teacher will be there to teach you, to lead you, to guide you, to gift you and to send you out in the love that he has shown. It's a new life and an ever changing life that has more meaning than death and hell.

Thanks be to God for the gracious act of sending Jesus and the Spirit to be with us each and every day. Thanks be to God! Forever!

Wow! What a gift! As I accept this gift of Love and Life may I use it to your and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, September 09, 2010

September 9th - Reflection

1 Timothy 1:1-11 (NRSV)
About false teachers

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,

To Timothy, my loyal child in the faith:

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I urge you, as I did when I was on my way to Macedonia, to remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach any different doctrine, and not to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations rather than the divine training that is known by faith. But the aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith. Some people have deviated from these and turned to meaningless talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make assertions.

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

The Law is good. The Law drives us to the realization that we could never fulfill the Law. The Law shows us the need for a Savior. The Law points out how awesome God is in sending the Son to die on that cross, bearing our sinful failure to the Law. Jesus died and rose again that we also may die to the Law now and rise to eternal life in him.

We are now disciples of Jesus. Followers who are glad to follow the Law because it is good. Free from the chains of the Law, because our punishment has been paid. So as new disciples we freely follow the ways of Christ and move in and about this Kingdom in which we have been placed doing the calling Jesus has sent us to do.

What is that calling? Through the written Word, the spoken Word and the active Word we listen and follow the call. Follow the call and check that we are Spirit led. Follow the call and act in good conscience, pure heart and compassionate love for God and neighbor.

Lord, open my mind this day to hear and understand and see your Word and know your call. Lead me to put that love into action today. --- Amen

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

September 8th - Reflection

Psalm 101 (NRSV)
Choosing God's law

I will sing of loyalty and of justice;
to you, O Lord, I will sing.
I will study the way that is blameless.
When shall I attain it?

I will walk with integrity of heart
within my house;
I will not set before my eyes
anything that is base.

I hate the work of those who fall away;
it shall not cling to me.
Perverseness of heart shall be far from me;
I will know nothing of evil.

One who secretly slanders a neighbor
I will destroy.
A haughty look and an arrogant heart
I will not tolerate.

I will look with favor on the faithful in the land,
so that they may live with me;
whoever walks in the way that is blameless
shall minister to me.

No one who practices deceit
shall remain in my house;
no one who utters lies
shall continue in my presence.

Morning by morning I will destroy
all the wicked in the land,
cutting off all evildoers
from the city of the Lord.

In our desire to walk the way of the Lord, we begin with good intentions. But how do we sustain those good intentions? It always seems to me, I can start the way with this attitude but sometime throughout the day, and sometimes more quickly than others I fall down. I fail the path. I sin.

All I know to do is pick myself back up, refocus on the cross, realize that I have sinned, repent and pray for forgiveness and continue on in the knowledge that Jesus died for my sin and knows that I am a sinner and chooses to use me anyway. Sure, I'll try not to sin again...but I always do! If not the same sin, then another sin.

Once again, get back up, think of my baptism, repent and go on. Seems like a hypocrite to me. But in another way, I realize that my salvation is fully dependant on Jesus. I can't save myself. But I can give my life to Jesus, warts, sin and all and be used in the Kingdom. Thanks be to God!

It's another day Lord...use me today...forgive my sin...and take me warts and all...create me into what you want me to be. --- Amen

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

September 7th - Reflection

2 Kings 18:9-18 (NRSV)
Transgressing the covenant

In the fourth year of King Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of King Hoshea son of Elah of Israel, King Shalmaneser of Assyria came up against Samaria, besieged it, and at the end of three years, took it. In the sixth year of Hezekiah, which was the ninth year of King Hoshea of Israel, Samaria was taken. The king of Assyria carried the Israelites away to Assyria, settled them in Halah, on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes, because they did not obey the voice of the Lord their God but transgressed his covenant - all that Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded; they neither listened nor obeyed.

In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, King Sennacherib of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. King Hezekiah of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, "I have done wrong; withdraw from me; whatever you impose on me I will bear." The king of Assyria demanded of King Hezekiah of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king's house. At that time Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord, and from the doorposts that King Hezekiah of Judah had overlaid and gave it to the king of Assyria. The king of Assyria sent the Tartan, the Rabsaris, and the Rabshakeh with a great army from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem. They went up and came to Jerusalem. When they arrived, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is on the highway to the Fuller's Field. When they called for the king, there came out to them Eliakim son of Hilkiah, who was in charge of the palace, and Shebnah the secretary, and Joah son of Asaph, the recorder.

They didn't turn to God! They didn't turn to God in prayer on the approach of the enemy. They needed help and they didn't turn to God! All they did was use the blessings God had given them in the past to feed the hunger of the foreign king.

I do the same at times. I don't turn to God when I need help. Pride and arrogance take over and I figure I can handle this on my own. I don't even involve a little prayer to God. Selfish attitude overtakes me and I become the god of my own world. I don't turn to God and things don't quite work out.

Why? Lessons in the past demonstrate how futile this is. I sin and then for a while it takes me to notice that in my sin things won't really work just right. Then I turn from my sin and turn to God. I'm thankful that God has been patient with me and takes me back. Then I work on that trust and faith and obedience and sin.

Prayer keeps me in communion with God. Reflection on the Word...prayer alone and in community with other believers...worship and putting the Word to action. Focus and face my Savior and how he would live my life, are central to learning how to live in God's grace. Turn to God. Face God and involve God in even the smallest of decisions of life. Be intimate with the Savior and let him into all the places of your life.

Lord, forgive me when I turn away. I want to be your friend, your son, your brother and your disciple. --- Amen

Monday, September 06, 2010

September 6th - Reflection

2 Kings 17:24-41 (NRSV)
The Assyrians worship other gods

The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria in place of the people of Israel; they took possession of Samaria, and settled in its cities. When they first settled there, they did not worship the Lord; therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them. So the king of Assyria was told, "The nations that you have carried away and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the law of the god of the land; therefore he has sent lions among them; they are killing them, because they do not know the law of the god of the land." Then the king of Assyria commanded, "Send there one of the priests whom you carried away from there; let him go and live there, and teach them the law of the god of the land." So one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and lived in Bethel; he taught them how they should worship the Lord.

But every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the shrines of the high places that the people of Samaria had made, every nation in the cities in which they lived; the people of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, the people of Cuth made Nergal, the people of Hamath made Ashima; the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak; the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim. They also worshiped the Lord and appointed from among themselves all sorts of people as priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. So they worshiped the Lord but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away. To this day they continue to practice their former customs.

They do not worship the Lord and they do not follow the statutes or the ordinances or the law or the commandment that the Lord commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel. The Lord had made a covenant with them and commanded them, "You shall not worship other gods or bow yourselves to them or serve them or sacrifice to them, but you shall worship the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm; you shall bow yourselves to him, and to him you shall sacrifice. The statutes and the ordinances and the law and the commandment that he wrote for you, you shall always be careful to observe. You shall not worship other gods; you shall not forget the covenant that I have made with you. You shall not worship other gods, but you shall worship the Lord your God; he will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies." They would not listen, however, but they continued to practice their former custom.

So these nations worshiped the Lord, but also served their carved images; to this day their children and their children's children continue to do as their ancestors did.

The Lord sent lions? Why not? I guess God can do whatever is needed to correct people, but lions? Totally unexpected! But the people still didn't get it. They knew that they needed to get to know the God of Israel, but in their human ways it still was all wrong. The king sent a priest, but this priest couldn't even straighten this mess out. These people were foreign to the ways of the God of Israel and a priest was unable to straighten it all out. It all ended in a mish-mash of religions.

But at some point the Father sent the Son, a real priest. Jesus didn't bring order either. People still choose all kinds of wild ways to worship gods of all sorts. But more than just sending a priest, God sent his son. We have the answer before us in the life of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit. We look to our God for direction and actions to take. We must maintain that focus on Jesus and be the disciples we are called to be.

There will continue to be noise around us as we live here in this world. Noise that brings with it all kinds of religions and gods and actions that are contrary to the way Jesus would wish for his disciples to follow. But that's why the focus on Jesus has to be maintained.

Lord, as I walk through this world be with me and help me weed out the noise that doesn't follow you. Help me to keep my focus on you and the path you desire for me to take. --- Amen

Sunday, September 05, 2010

September 5th - Reflection

Time after Pentecost - Lectionary 23
Give up your possessions

Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

Give it up! We sit at football games and cheer on the team to give it up, give it their all, but we don't really mean this literally.

But I think in this passage, Jesus is asking us to give it all up. Give it all up and follow him. I think of the disciples called from their boat, who left their father sitting in the boat, as these two brothers gave it all up and left to follow Jesus. What did poor ol' dad think of Jesus? I could imagine a couple of thoughts going through his mind at least.

He may have been upset with his sons for leaving all that he had built up in business, for his sons to up and leave him behind to follow this stranger named Jesus.

But he may have also thought, that if his sons were willing to leave all he had built up in business, to up and leave him for Jesus, that his sons must know something he is not aware of and that he too should up and follow Jesus.

As we go through life and we give it up for Jesus, it is my hope and prayer that others would take on the second opinion of my life or the lives of others that I have seen give it up for Jesus. Follow Jesus! Be a disciple and give it up. You will one day give it all up one way or another, why not give it up now and live! Thanks be to God!

Lord Jesus, I see how you gave it up...what an example of love! Make my life an example of your love as I give it up. --- Amen

Saturday, September 04, 2010

September 4th - Reflection

Matthew 10:34-42 (NRSV)
The cost of discipleship

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one's foes will be members of one's own household.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

"Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple - truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward."

Set and keep your priorities straight. To be a disciple of Jesus, we are to set our sights on him. We look to God as our all. We cannot let worldly distractions get in the way. Father, mother, sister, brother, friend and neighbor are all invited to make the same decisions to be followers. It is up to each individual to make that decision. But as this decision is made we focus on Christ, the cross, the Spirit and our Father. We focus on one God and we live for that one God and worship and glorify that one God.

It's not about the reward either. The reward is taken care of. We don't need to earn it, we don't need to justify it through our actions. The reward is not our focus. Our focus must remain on God and what God would do with our lives. It's not about us any more. It's about God and what God intends to do through us. The reward is not the goal. The goal is in God's hands and God will take care of that. It's not about the reward.

It is about a changed life. It is about renewal. It is about a relationship with God and the Church through the Spirit. It is about love through Christ and love to neighbor. It is about personal relationship with God and a corporal relationship with God through the Church. It is about a changed life.

Set and keep your priorities straight. There is a cost to discipleship. There is an awesome cost. And why not...look what Jesus paid for that cost! Thanks be to God!

Lord, I look to follow you at all costs. --- Amen

Friday, September 03, 2010

September 3rd - Reflection

Colossians 4:7-17 (NRSV)
A faithful and beloved brother

Tychicus will tell you all the news about me; he is a beloved brother, a faithful minister, and a fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts; he is coming with Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you about everything here.

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, as does Mark the cousin of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received instructions - if he comes to you, welcome him. And Jesus who is called Justus greets you. These are the only ones of the circumcision among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you. He is always wrestling in his prayers on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in everything that God wills. For I testify for him that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas greet you. Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters in Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you read also the letter from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, "See that you complete the task that you have received in the Lord."

This passage makes me think of the power of prayer. We can connect on so many levels through prayer. One may not know that you are praying for them, but we are all united in the same Father, Son and Spirit. Prayer reaches out in love  to those we pray for. We ask guidance, safety, health, well being, and encouraged hearts through prayer. We go to God over and over in prayer for one another and ourselves. And God touches lives through prayer. As God provides the words needed and the thoughts and the sounds and the smells and the tastes that fill our lives through prayer. Prayer with God and one another goes beyond the physical to the spiritual and permeates space and time. So, say hello to God, to each other, in person and through prayer. It's our way of connecting and a wonderful gift from God. Thanks be to God!

Lord, teach me to pray...    --- Amen

Thursday, September 02, 2010

September 2nd - Reflection

Philippians 2:25-30 (NRSV)
Welcome a faithful servant home

Still, I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus - my brother and co-worker and fellow soldier, your messenger and minister to my need; for he has been longing for all of you, and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. He was indeed so ill that he nearly died. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, so that I would not have one sorrow after another. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, in order that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. Welcome him then in the Lord with all joy, and honor such people, because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for those services that you could not give me.

Honor, respect and love those who serve. Honor especially those who serve through the graciousness of Christ. Those who intentionally shine the light of Christ in the work and the deeds that they perform in humility to their neighbors. Love those who put God and neighbor first. These are the people that God has mercy on. Mercy that radiates to those around. Honor, respect and love those who serve. Thanks be to God!

For those who serve as Jesus taught, I give thanks and praise. Teach me this value, that I may exhibit your love. --- Amen

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

September 1st - Reflection

Psalm 119:65-72 (NRSV)
God blesses the humble

You have dealt well with your servant,
O Lord, according to your word.
Teach me good judgment and knowledge,
for I believe in your commandments.
Before I was humbled I went astray,
but now I keep your word.
You are good and do good;
teach me your statutes.
The arrogant smear me with lies,
but with my whole heart I keep your precepts.
Their hearts are fat and gross,
but I delight in your law.
It is good for me that I was humbled,
so that I might learn your statutes.
The law of your mouth is better to me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

When you go through the depths of your sin, you will learn to be humble. You will learn compassion for all of those your sin has hurt. You will learn the reason that sin is harmful. You will learn the love of your Savior. You will learn to grow and be renewed. You will grow into something more wonderful and new through Christ's forgiveness. When you go through the depths of your sin, you will learn to be humble and delight in the law.

When you go through the depths of illness and pain, you will learn to be humble.  You will learn that it's more that just about you. You can't fix yourself and need help. You will learn to ask for help and prayer and directions to follow. You will learn love and compassion from the face of Jesus in another. When you go through the depths of illness and pain, you will learn to be humble and to trust in the Lord.

When humbled, you grow into the creation God intends for you to be. Thanks be to God!

Lord, it's great to be taught humility. Strengthen me so that I may strengthen others with compassion, love, and understanding. --- Amen