Friday, August 30, 2013

August 30th Reflection - It's Mutual Love - by Bill Lynch

Hebrews 13:1–8, 15–16
Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?” Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

I remember a church attendance sign-up sheet that would be passed down the pew that referenced this passage above. You never know who may attend church with you. You never know who God will place into your life. You can't tell what may happen in a relationship from day to day. It seems that God wants us to be aware of the people around us. People instead of things, the relationships we have with people always take priority and bring a closeness to one another and to God.

God acts in and through the people he sets in our lives. Sometimes as mentors and teachers and guides, that action seems good and a relationship flourishes. But God also acts through some other people in our lives that seem like sandpaper. They rough us up and make life difficult. In the roughing up of our own lives we learn how to deal with one another. If it's from God, love eventually shines through the actions. Sometimes it takes time. Sometimes love is slow to follow. But love with eventually show, maybe the love of a God that guides us or the first hand instruction of how to deal in difficult situations.

In all of our relationships we must be thankful. There is something to each relationship we have. If we look for the hand of God in our dealings with one another, we can be thankful for each person that God has placed in our life. I know it's easy to stand back and say "Well, what about so and so? I can't see the love!"

But, I think the love is there. All people are created by God and all people can come to God in love. Sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's hard and other times it feels impossible. The love of God can transcend all issues.

That's exactly what God did with his son Jesus. Jesus came for all creation. Jesus came to this earth for each and every one of us. Jesus came to save all y'alls. And he did it. So respect and honor is due to Jesus and to one another, because God cares and loves enough to come for all people.

So we praise God in Jesus for a love that covers all. We honor God and seek the Holy Spirit's guidance in our lives. We live in relationship with God and with one another and seek a common ground of love. Love freely given to us through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

"Let mutual love continue."

Lord, it's easy to love you and it's easy to love those who are like minded with me. I need help with those sandpaper people. I need help in my love towards them and you in them. Lead me and guide me to love all people as you have loved each one of us... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, August 29, 2013

August 29th Reflection - God Feeds - by Bill Lynch

Psalm 81:1, 10–16
Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob.

I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.

“But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels.
O that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways!
Then I would quickly subdue their enemies, and turn my hand against their foes.
Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him, and their doom would last forever.
I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

God feeds me. God feeds me and nourishes me with his Word. And God blesses me with daily bread. Daily bread and everything I need to exist here in this place. God feeds me with food, with education, with work, with fellowship, as well as with Scripture. God feeds me with the bread and wine, the body and blood of his saving grace. God feeds!

Will I listen to his voice? Will I open my mouth wide to be fed by God? I will and I must. I must to live. I can't live without God feeding me. I can't live without God's walk with me. I can't live without God to save me and care for me. Sure, I can exist, but I can't live without God.

For those who abandon God; I pray for them. I pray that they will come to see the need to be fed by God. I pray that they may come to that point when they open their mouths full wide open to take in the food God has to give. Yes, the food that sustains real life and joy. The food of God.

This psalm is associated with the Feast of Tabernacles. A time where God's law was placed before the people. A celebration of the Israelites journey in the wilderness. Sometimes this feast was called the Feast of Booths, when the Israelites would build temporary shelters just like they had while wandering in the wilderness. It is a time of joy and thanksgiving for God's loving care and blessings while in the wilderness.

Yes, God fed the Israelites in the wilderness just as God feeds me and you in the wilderness of our lives. God always loves his people. But, if his people choose to be stubborn, God grants the will to let them choose for themselves if they will willingly receive the food God has to offer. God awaits our obedience and response to his love.

And to those that choose to receive, God grants not only food for the body but also food for the spirit in abundance. God grants food rich with honey from the rock. God grants his love and grace. Yes, in the bread and the wine, the body and the blood, God gave himself in Jesus to save us and grant us real and true life. Life in him.

God feeds me and God feeds you. All are welcome to take in the food of God. Let's eat!

Lord, my mouth is open with... feed me with Jesus... feed me with your love and compassion... feed me the bread and the wine... feed me the body and blood... feed me, that I may live in you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

August 28th Reflection - Walk with God - by Bill Lynch

Psalm 112
Praise the Lord! Happy are those who fear the Lord, who greatly delight in his commandments.
Their descendants will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever.
They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright; they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.
It is well with those who deal generously and lend, who conduct their affairs with justice.
For the righteous will never be moved; they will be remembered forever.
They are not afraid of evil tidings; their hearts are firm, secure in the Lord.
Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor; their righteousness endures forever; their horn is exalted in honor.
The wicked see it and are angry; they gnash their teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked comes to nothing.

Yes, it's a walk with God.

Sometimes it's a walk to a wedding feast and other times it's a walk towards the cross.
Sometimes it's a walk to school and a walk to be with someone that listens.
It's a walk with God that is full of satisfaction, challenge, joy and fulfillment.
It's a walk with the person in Jesus that teaches and understands.
It's a walk with the Holy Spirit that guides and points out gifts to use in service.

It's a walk with a God that is close and a God that rescues.
Yes, it's a walk with God that's just plain fun.
It's fun in the times of blessing and fun in the times of hard work.
It's fun in the times of pain, because you know that God is there anyway.
God is there when you cry out in agony and God is there to lead you through.

Yes, it's a walk with God that calms fears.
It's a walk with God full of thanksgiving.
It's a walk with God to stand up for those oppressed.
It's a walk with God in the triumphs.
It's a walk with God that leads towards a trot and then off to a run.

A run towards the goal God has set before.
A run with purpose and meaning.
A walk of joy and a run of passion.
Yes, it all starts with a walk with God.
A walk of love and purpose and mission.

Yes, it's a walk with God.

Lord, hold my hand on this walk... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

August 27th Reflection - Walk - by Bill Lynch

Jeremiah 2:4–13
Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord: What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves? They did not say, “Where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that no one passes through, where no one lives?” I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruits and its good things. But when you entered you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination. The priests did not say, “Where is the Lord?” Those who handle the law did not know me; the rulers transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after things that do not profit.

Therefore once more I accuse you, says the Lord, and I accuse your children’s children. Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look, send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has ever been such a thing. Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for something that does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.

God comes to me and walks with me. God is faithful and just and true. Yet, how quickly I forget that walk. How quickly, once things have turned for the better, do I forget God's presence. I turn from God in my blessings and give myself the credit. I turn from God in my blessings and seek something new and different. I turn from God to sex and money and what I believe will bring pleasure. I forget God's presence and go it all alone. How foolish! How foolish a man I can be!

This is just the character traits that Jeremiah speaks of in the passage above. Let's face it, we all do this at some time and in some way. We should be ashamed of ourselves and run to God in confession seeking forgiveness. I need to learn from this passage.

God is merciful and gracious and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Do a word search in the Bible and you will be amazed at how many times these words appear throughout Scripture. Stop it and think about that. Think about that and let it sink in really deep. Without God there is nothing, absolutely nothing.

In the passage above; there was a time when Israel was steadfast in love towards God. They were careful to follow God and watchful of their own failings. God reminds the Israelites of his love. God was on that walk with the Israelites in Egypt and in the desert and upon the entry into the promised land. God was on that walk with the Israelites in the tough times. God richly blessed the Israelites. God did not break the trust.

But, once in the Promised Land, the Israelites turned to pagan gods. They turned to the ways of all the people that were around them and some of whom were with them. The Israelites abandoned God for what was false and even made up by other men.

Here is the lesson for me to learn. In the midst of the blessings, continue in praise and thanksgiving to God. Don't let sin and the devil fool me into turning from God to worship other gods. Look around! God is still there. God's there in the blessing to share a laugh. God's there in the blessing to lift me up and make me a blessing to someone else in need. Don't stop in the good times my walk with God. God doesn't stop the walk and I shouldn't either.

God paid the ultimate price in the life of Jesus to walk with me. Jesus didn't have to do this. Jesus came to me for my sake. The Holy Spirit descended to fill my life with gifts I didn't deserve. To fill me with gifts that could be used in service to God's plan and God's will and God's way through me. The walk with God is life and love and compassion and service and faith and hope. What a walk! And God chose to walk with me... now how great is that?! Thanks be to God!

Lord, forgive my selfish attitude that turns me from you to pagan gods. Walking with you is all I want to do... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, August 26, 2013

August 26th Reflection - Humility - by Bill Lynch

Proverbs 25:6–7
Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence
or stand in the place of the great;
for it is better to be told, “Come up here,”
than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.

This passage speaks to humility in my opinion. I remember a conversation that I had about twenty years ago about being humble with a person I worked along side of. I felt it was important to be humble. He felt that being humble displayed a weakness and should be avoided and hidden. After we spoke a while I made my case that humility was rather a strong character trait in that you knew that you were there to serve and honor others in God's presence. God would raise you up if God so chose to do so and that to be raised up by humans was a result of God's action in your life. It was a wonderful conversation and this comes up from time to time. I love to be open to new viewpoints and can learn from another and do learn from others every day.

A humble person does not claim more for themselves than what has been given to them in life. A humble person feels blessed with what God gives in the present. A humble person doesn't try to presume to be something they are not. A humble person honors other's and does not better themselves at the price of another.

A humble person does not humiliate another human. A humble person does not exhibit an arrogant attitude towards others.

God exalts the humble.

Being humble is to be highly valued in life and in people.

Lord, you bring down the arrogant and the proud and raise up the humble. Grant me a spirit of humility. For your creation is good and right. Walk with me in this life of humility and give me the strength and wisdom to learn from the times when I am arrogant and proud and hurtful to others. Forgive me for my arrogance. Show me your will and your way in life... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, August 25, 2013

August 25th Reflection - The Touch - by Bill Lynch

Luke 13:10–17
Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Unless I miss something, I don't read that the woman even asked to be cured at that moment. But, Jesus, came to the woman and Jesus chose to set her free. Once Jesus set her free the woman stood up straight and praised God.

That's how God works it seems. God comes to us. We can't cure ourselves. We are in need of healing. God sees our need and comes to us with compassion and mercy and lays his hands on our lives. God may not even cure our bodies, but God does lay his hands on our lives and we stand up straight. We change our position. We praise God not necessarily for the curing, but more for his presence in our lives and his love and compassion. We now know that God loves us. Yes, even us crooked and bent over people like myself.

Bent over by age and bent over by sin and death and selfishness. I can't save myself. I need that touch of God in my life. I need God!

What a better day for God to come to us than on the sabbath. Why not? But the leader didn't understand, or he didn't want to acknowledge that Jesus was God. If God chooses to come to us and touch our lives, does the day or moment make any difference? I'll take the loving touch of God at any moment that God chooses to touch me. And it doesn't matter if I'm in a life or death situation. I long for God's touch. I long to reach out and touch God out of my own love and gratitude and faith in my Father, my Brother, my Spirit.

Finally, on top of it all, I along with so many other children of God will break out in praise and honor of God when we witness God's touch on the life of another person. I'm moved to joy at the baptism of another person. I'm moved to an "Amen!" at the witness of God's touch in the life of another person.

These emotions bring smiles and laughter into life. God loves us! God loves you and God loves me and God loves all that he created. God loves so much that he came in flesh and blood to touch. To touch through the hands of Jesus and save his people from the clutch of sin, death and the devil. God loves us and saves us.

"And the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing."

Jesus touch me, my neighbor, my family and all people... touch your people as we touch another with your love and compassion through our new lives... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, August 24, 2013

August 24th Reflection - The Light - by Bill Lynch

Hebrews 12:18–29
You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. (For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”) But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.

Do you ever think about approaching the Throne of God in heaven? The beginning of this passage makes me think about this. What would it be like to come to God in all of his glory? I can only relate with things that I know. It's hard to think about approaching something that I can't see, hear, touch, feel or taste. This passage makes me think about a God that goes beyond my senses to something else. Something that is beyond my ability to describe.

I wonder if when Moses met with God that he experienced this feeling also? This summer during vacation in the Smoky Mountains we stayed on top of English Mountain. At the bottom of this mountain was the Forbidden Caverns. Talk about extremes. At one moment it seemed we were above the clouds and in the sunlight, and the next we were in the bowels of the earth. In our tour of the Forbidden Caverns, I experienced total darkness. Total light and total darkness are hard to take into our senses. Have you ever accidentally looked directly into the sun? You can't stand it, so you look away. The same happens with total darkness. You can't stand it and need even just a candle to lead the way. I think of this when I read this passage and think about standing before the Throne of God. I can't take it for long. It's too much for me as a man to take.

But, out great God chose to come to us. God chose to come to us in flesh and spirit. God sent his Son, Jesus to walk a life with us. God sent the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us at all times. Even though I can't stand alone and take the presence of God very long; God chooses to stand with me in my presence all of the time. Even though I shed the blood of man through the death of Abel in my sin; God chooses to shed his blood in Jesus for my sin.

God comes to us to save us and change us and to be with us, even when we can't stand in God's presence on our own. But it's not about my ability to stand before God. It's about God's choice to stand with me and you and to save me and you. This is about God's presence. I would never be able to stand before God's Throne on my own merit. But God chooses to stand with me and you on his own merit.

And in this we are thankful. In this action of God we give our thanks and honor and praise to a God that stands with us. In this we place our hope and trust. In this God that comes to us, we have faith.

God has reversed it all! Now as a believer, I stare at the Light. I hold my gaze on that blinding Light that is Jesus my God and my Savior. I run to the foot of the Spirit to hear God's Word and receive my daily calling in life. I am focused on the Throne of God because I can't help myself. I can't stand not to look at the Light of God. For by the blood of Jesus, by the love of the Spirit, by the compassion of the Father; I am drawn to follow God throughout life and into eternity.

Yes, God is way more than I can fathom. God is completely beyond my thinking. God is so far above and beyond me. But God comes to you and to me. God comes and is present. How could I but not help to be present with God. Thanks be to God!

Lord, you leave me speechless... hear my prayer... today... tomorrow... and forever, may you always be in my presence and I in yours. --- Amen

Friday, August 23, 2013

August 23rd Reflection - Hold On - by Bill Lynch

Psalm 71
In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me.
Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.
For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.

I long to cling to something. I need to cling to something. I need to hold on tight at times. Especially when I'm afraid or in danger. I look for someone or something to take hold of that gives comfort. When I was young, it was my pillow. At night and through the day, I would cling to that pillow. It was always with me when I wanted it to be. Even Mom, knew the importance of my pillow and would keep it in good condition. But, as happens through time and growing, the pillow is set aside. In fact, when cleaning out my Mom's basement, I found the pillow. It was hard as a rock! I guess it was petrified for all time. So, the pillow is gone now. But the desire to cling, to hold tight to someone or something returns.

God is always present. God is with his children in all circumstances. God is that rock of a pillow that is always there to hold on to, to cling to, to go to for comfort. But, even knowing the presence of God, I attempt to run and cling to false gods for comfort. I cling to money for security. I cling to someone or something else that couldn't ever save me in the first place. And then I turn to God. Turn to God and repent of my sin. Turn to God and cling to Jesus my Savior. Jesus, God's Word made flesh for me and for you. That's all I need and that's all you need also.

This psalm is the prayer of an old man. A man that lived long and hard and depended on God throughout life. A man that has learned that God is the only thing that can save. An old man that knows the traps and failures of clinging to false gods. A man, unafraid to ask for God's help in life. This is a psalm of an old man that appreciates God. An old man with God as his focus in life.

I think this old guy has it right.

"For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you."

Lord, I run to you and cling tight in trust and hope all lifelong. I will always praise you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, August 22, 2013

August 22nd Reflection - Redeemed - by Bill Lynch

Psalm 103
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits—
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

God, I love everything about you.
You pay attention to me when I expected nothing.
You show me love and blessing.
All my days I praise you and give thanks.

In the depths of my sin you came to me.
You came to me and showed me a new way.
You rescued me from myself.
All my days I praise you and give thanks.

You come to those in need and rescue.
You know the needs of all and have compassion.
You are patient and kind and always loving.
All my days I praise you and give thanks.

I open my heart and kneel before you.
All your blessings overwhelm.
You have changed death into life.
All my days I praise you and give thanks.

You alone can cure all disease.
You care for body and spirit with love.
You have rescued and saved your children.
All my days I praise you and give thanks.

Lord, you have taken my place in the Pit and pulled me out and crowned me. You are wonderful. I came to you for salvation and you have responded. Hear my praise and receive my thanksgiving for this new life... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

August 21st Reflection - God's Touch - by Bill Lynch

Jeremiah 1:4–10
Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you, Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

We are called to action. We are blessed by God as his children and called to action. And when we are called, God reaches out and touches us. God touches us in some manner and puts the words and actions into our lives. At first we are afraid. But, God's most frequent command is "Fear not." So, we overcome our fears and trust in God to do what God has planned and willed for our lives and we act.

Just with the Word of God we are equipped to action. It seems as if God has already planned what he has for us to do. That's love! The love of a God that thought about our lives even before we were born and set in motion all that it would take for our call and our blessing and our way. God's call is that personal. God's call is that unique. Each of us mean that much to God. All of us mean his Son's life to save us. That's love!

It's not the person that makes God's Word and his actions in our lives. It's the authority of God as God. We don't need to worry about our status, our weakness or anything else. If God says he wants us then that's good enough. After all, we are called to action by a God that comes to us and touches us and saves us from death.

So, we act boldly, confidently and passionately on the call God has given us.

Lord, I place myself into your hands. Touch my lips, my hands, my heart and my very being that I may boldly act upon the call you give... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

August 20th Reflection - Daylight, by Bill Lynch

Isaiah 58:9b–14
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

It's about perspective. If I focus on myself and my own needs, I'm lost. But if I focus first on God and then on my neighbor and if I act upon the needs of another; God leads me and guides me to a positive outlook on life. When I do this, the negative yoke of burden is lifted and the Light of God shines brightly to me and through me and in me.

With Jesus in my presence day after day, I don't need to search in the midst of broad day Light. Why act like I'm in the dark when the light of Jesus is present?

Lord, you show yourself to me each and every day. You are present each and every moment. Forgive me when I grope as in darkness when I'm in broad daylight. You are here... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, August 18, 2013

August 18th Reflection - Take the Plunge - by Bill Lynch

Luke 12:49–56
“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

The blacksmith takes the molten metal and plunges it into cold water. The impurities of the metal are cast away when this is done and the metal is hardened. See the sweat of the blacksmith, doing what needs to be done. It's not easy work. It's tough, yet needed. It's work that must be done to create something new.

Jesus comes into this world of ours on fire with the Holy Spirit deep within and all throughout him. Jesus comes to us and is God. He brings the fire of the Holy Spirit into our world and our place.

In Psalm 69, I am reminded of the water in the passage above. We come to a place when we are in over our head and our feet are stuck in the mud. We cry to God for help in the midst of the water. We cry to God for rescue as we go under the water to death.

The fire of the Holy Spirit and Jesus and our own baptism remind me of the passage above. Jesus has come to plunge us into the water. Plunge us into our baptismal waters that will wash away the impurities and harden us for the battle that we are to encounter in life with sin, death and the devil. Jesus comes to us to prepare us for a journey to a better place. We must live by faith in God's salvation to follow Jesus to this better place.

The journey won't be easy. The journey will cause us to die to ourselves and come out of that water alive in Christ. Alive to live a new life in purity and a hardness to sin. It's a dividing water. A dividing water from death to new life. A wonderful water. A life giving water deepened by the fire of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

But this passage really speaks of Jesus journey on this earth. Jesus cast division on this earth. On fire, he came and was nailed on the cross, he gave his life for all people. Jesus plunged into his own baptismal waters to arise to an eternal purpose of saving God's people. Jesus had to die for you and I to live. See it! Acknowledge it! Believe it! Have faith in Jesus, our Lord and Savior!

Filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit at our baptism, we too, take the plunge into a new life. A new life that follows Jesus to that better place.

Lord, your rule is at hand, here and now, today. Come into my heart, my life, my will and my way and take me. Heat me in your Holy fire and plunge me into your gracious baptismal waters that my impurities may scale away and that I may be hardened to sin and my life may please you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, August 17, 2013

August 17th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Hebrews 11:29—12:2
By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.

And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Wow! What a pep talk! This passage gives you the strength to go on. This passage encourages when you are down and out, when you hurt and are in pain. This passage is a grand display of our God, our Father, our Brother and the Holy Spirit with the people of God throughout all time. God is with his people through all of it. God is with us in the times of blessing and in the times of pain and suffering and crying. God is with us and in this we can be sure. Yes, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Witnesses that not only include those mentioned above, but witnesses that include the faithful people in my life as well as yours.

As we walk up to our own Red Sea in life, that seemingly impassable place; we can have faith that God will lead us through. When we see  the battle ahead in our own Jericho; we can have faith that God will make those walls fall down with a shout. God moving in our lives in unseen ways through a shout of faith. And as we are all the Rahabs of God's people, Gentiles and sinners, we can rest assured of God's promise to new life in obedience to God in faith; that we will be rescued and saved while in the midst of that city Jericho.

God was with Daniel in the lions den. With the three in the midst of the fire. God was with all those in the Maccabean times who endured persecution for the faith.

And God came in flesh to give to us the victory of faith in the resurrection from death in Jesus, God himself in flesh and blood. Even some have experienced a small taste of this great victory in the dead being raised to new life. Yet for some the resurrection is to come. The world is not deserving of their resurrection, they will be resurrected to that city that God has prepared for all of his people.

We move towards a goal we will never reach in the resurrection. We can never reach this goal on our own. For the resurrection is a gift from God. A gift given to us not because of anything we have or can do but a gift given to us out of God's deep love and compassion for each of his people.

Therefore we live in this realm of faith in God. Christian believers live in a different realm. A realm of trust and hope that God will bring us through it all, to be one with each other and one in God. Jesus is the perfecter of our faith.

So, we face into the contest of this life with faith. We face into all the realms of earthly living with faith. We face the pain, the illness, the suffering, the crying, the dying, the laughter, the blessing, the joy in the faith that God has already taken care of it all and saved us through Jesus Christ that we may live as One in him and with him. Our future is secure and safe in God.

By faith we can look around us in that great Cloud. Look around and see God in flesh and in Spirit all around us and all in us. We can see God's witnesses in the faithful friends and relatives, past, present and even future. Such a great cloud of witnesses, to a God that begins and finishes in Love, in Jesus.

Thanks be to God!

God, you are great and are to be praised eternally. Thank you for living with and in and all around me in life and in death that I may see your Love in flesh and blood and Spirit and Life... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, August 15, 2013

August 15th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Psalm 80:1–2, 8–19
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us!

You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches;
it sent out its branches to the sea, and its shoots to the River.
Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it.

Turn again, O God of hosts; look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine,
the stock that your right hand planted.
They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance.
But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself.
Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name.

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

When we are in trouble we look to God. We look to leadership from the Shepherd. We look to the Light.

We call, yes we cry out to God and he comes down. I've heard the expression before... "God always comes down." God comes to us in our darkest moments. God comes down with a call to be obedient. We turn to God and seek his will and his way. We turn to God and seek healing and salvation. We turn to God as God comes down to us.

But, oh our stubborn hearts. There are those times that we are too stubborn to turn to God. We are too stubborn to cry out for help. We turn everywhere but to God for the solution. Sometimes we turn inward and think the solution is within ourselves. Sometimes we reject God.

But, God is willing to come to us anyway. God comes to us even though we are stubborn. God comes and shows himself. God reveals himself to us in the promise he has always had. And then it's up to us. What's our response to this loving God that always comes down?

Lord, open my mind and clear my stubborn heart. I see your blessing and seek obedience to your will and your way... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

August 14th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Psalm 82
God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk around in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

I say, “You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, and fall like any prince.”

Rise up, O God, judge the earth; for all the nations belong to you!

Sometimes we think we are a god and make judgments on people. We make false judgments on people with our own points of view.

God's judgment however is just and true. Human judgment easily brings cause and reason to why a person is poor or lowly or weak or destitute. Human judgment and false judgments are based on false beliefs that the judge is right and everyone else is wrong or at some stage of being on the wrong path. Human judgment can be made without understanding or knowledge of the situation of the person being judged. Therefore, as gods, in our judgment, we fail.

God's judgments are just and true. God will judge all. We all have fallen short. But thanks be to God, our Judge has compassion and grace. Thanks be to God, our Judge sends salvation. Thanks be to God, the only true Judge came to this earth to live and die for all those who have fallen short and rescued the weak, the needy, the destitute and the lowly. God, our Judge, rescues you and me.

Lord, keep me from passing false judgment on another person this day. Open my eyes to compassion and love and grace. You have shown such Love that leads all your people to love you and one another... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

August 13th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Isaiah 5:1–7
Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!

This is a love song with a twist. A love song that reminds us of sin, our own sin. A love song that beckons us to make a decision, make a judgment in the end. A lover who cares for his beloved only to have the one he loves change and bear the fruit of sin.

The response of the lover is to let the vineyard go on it's own. To turn the vineyard loose to the wild. This is what we would do in such a situation. We would judge the sinner and turn the sinner loose to his own accord. We would separate ourselves from the sinner and cast him aside.

But, this love song with a twist is not how God has treated us in our sin. Our God has continued to love us and take us in and bring us back from sin. God has brought us from death to new life through the gift of his Son, Jesus, to live and die for the very sin that should cast us away. God came to us in the midst of our sin and saved us.

A love song with a twist and a God with a twist. God's twist saves us and makes us new. Thanks be to God!

God, I know how you have tried with me. I know how you have cared for me. Forgive my sin. Forgive my wildness and save me. Save me that I may be yours and do your will. May I be made new... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, August 12, 2013

August 12th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Jeremiah 23:23–29
Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!” How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back—those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the Lord. Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?

You can't hide from God. Adam and Eve tried it and didn't get it. I try it when I know that I have sinned. We all try to hide from God. God is always closer than you think. God knows us intimately and is beside us at all times. God fills heaven and earth. After all God created all that exists, both seen and unseen.

You can't even hide from God in your dreams. You can't propose to know something special all by yourself through some made up story or dream. God knows all things and even knows what lies at the depth of your heart. If you deceive, God knows this.

We have been given God's Word. God's Word opened to us and revealed through the Holy Spirit in Scripture. God's Word revealed to us and shown to us in the Sacraments. God's Word brought into our lives in the flesh and blood of Jesus. We have been given God's Word.

In this passage we are given the sound of advice of caution against the lies of the false prophet. A false prophet that deceives and leads astray. We have God's Word and don't need to listen to the false prophet. We have God's Word to test the dreams and words and lies of the prophet. God's Word and the word of the prophet are eternally separated. But be careful of the words of the false prophet.

Lord, I depend on your nearness to me in Word. Be with me as I walk in this world of false prophets. May I hear and see and be guided by your Word alone... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, August 11, 2013

August 11th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Luke 12:32–40
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Through the years of reading this passage, I've taken the last sentence in many different ways. "You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour." I always think this may refer to the parousia, that is, Jesus coming or arrival or presence. But how is this going to happen? That is the question that lingers in my mind. I've know Jesus coming occurs and has occurred.

Jesus came to us in flesh and blood. That we know from the Bible and history. So, God does come to us. And God has come to us in ways throughout history as well. God came to us in creation, with Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Elijah and on and on throughout all of the people of the Old Testament. God came to all of these people and walked through life with them. God comes to us in the past and in the present and in the future. Of this, I am certain. God comes in flesh and spirit. Pause and think of all of the stories in the Old Testament especially and think of how God was present in flesh and spirit. Think of the Old Testament and you will see "Jesus" all over the place. Jesus, God in flesh, is present throughout the Old Testament as well as is obvious in the New Testament. Too many people have recorded the presence of God in their lives for me not to believe it. There's just too much evidence for doubt.

God also makes his presence known to me personally. He comes to me in Scripture, God comes to me in the Sacraments, God comes to me through the words and actions of people, God comes to me in creation, God comes to me in those moments of silence and those moments of disruption. God comes to me in the daily things of life and the daily meetings of life through people expected and unexpected. God comes to me in the eyes of another person. Look... you can see God in your neighbor and in your friends and in your family. God dwells with us and is present.

When you pause to think about it; God comes frequently. God is with us always. God's presence is all around us but we choose to not see the obvious. This passage makes me also think of Jesus' coming again. Jesus coming in the future to fulfill the kingdom of God. Jesus coming to gather the faithful under his wings lead us to that place he went to in the ascension. Jesus coming to take us to the place he has prepared for us. I look for this coming as well. I look for Jesus to come again for the resurrection of the dead. I look and wait.

As I look and wait for this and am focused on Jesus, I find that his presence has already been. He's here with me now. God is always closer than I think. Closer than I could ever imagine. When I think I'm away from God a moment will occur that makes me aware that God is with me. Turn and see God! He's there even when you think he's not!

Am I ready? That's what puzzles me. No, I'm not ready! He's just here! He's always been here. God's presence isn't due to my actions. Unless you consider that God had to come because of my sin. But God didn't have to come because of my sin. God's presence is due to his love for me and all his people.

I'm prepared in the sense that I believe that God is here with me. I'm prepared in the sense that I know that my life is in God's hands. I'm prepared for God in the sense that I eternally appreciate God's presence now and forever.

In this sense, I'm ready for God to come again. I'm ready for God now. I need God now and forever. I love the fact that God comes at the unexpected hour! That's what I love about God! He comes and is with me even when I don't expect him to be with me. He comes to me while I'm in the depths of sin, pain, death, crying, mourning and separation. He comes to me while I'm blessed and happy and joyous. God comes to me when I don't expect it. That's God! That's my Savior! That's love beyond everything. Yes, I'm ready and excited that God comes to me when unexpected!

Jesus is coming! Thanks be to God!

Come, Lord Jesus, come... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, August 10, 2013

August 10th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Hebrews 11:1–3, 8–16
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

Faith deals with the future and those things that we can't see or know. We come close to God in faith. We come close to God trusting that God takes care of our future. God takes care of what we don't know about or even can't see. We come to God in faith and trust with hope.

Our lives are a witness to our faith in God. Through faith in God things may not always be blessings. There are ups and downs and ins and outs of life that greet us daily. With faith we trust God with our lives with our future and what we can't see. We trust God in the trials. We trust God in the blessings. We walk our lives as a witness to our faith in God.

God walks in faith with us as well. We can see over the hill, over the trees, and into the Light of God the promised rewards of God's walk in faith with us. Rewards beyond this life on earth and into eternity is the triumph of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ our Savior.

These unseen things we speak of are real and true. These unseen things are the proof of God's love for all his people. Without faith in the unseen things of God we could never rationalize or explain creation or our own very existence. We would be lost for words and unable to explain our own being without the faith in the unseen things of God.

Our faith in God is our conviction that we believe in what God has told us. We believe with our very lives and trust God through the pain and in the blessings. We trust God to the unseen and we trust God with our future.

Our faith is in God's Word. We can live assured that the Word made flesh in Jesus will lead and guide us in our walk. We can live assured that our conviction to God and what God has done for us will take us to that reward God has prepared for each one of us. In this, our faith in God will lead us to look beyond death for an experience that will be seen and realized in all of God's grace and glory.

Lord, I place all of my life in your hands in the faith and trust and with the hope of what you have in store for me... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, August 09, 2013

August 9th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Psalm 50:1–8, 22–23
The mighty one, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.

Our God comes and does not keep silence, before him is a devouring fire, and a mighty tempest all around him.
He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
“Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge. Selah

“Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God.
Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me.

“Mark this, then, you who forget God, or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.
Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me; to those who go the right way I will show the salvation of God.”

You are God, mighty and powerful.
You are God, the judge of all created.
You are the God of glory.
You alone are God.

You gather your people.
In the presence of all you call.
You are the righteous Judge.
You will judge your created with truth.

All people hear your Word.
The Word is Light to all.
Light for all to see your coming.
You come to your people.

The godless tremble in your presence.
Take heed and hear the warning.
Only you can offer salvation.
You are God, mighty and powerful.

Give me pause, Lord, to hear your voice and see your Word. Give me pause, to know your will and your way in my life... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, August 08, 2013

August 8th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Psalm 33:12–22
Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.

The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all humankind.
From where he sits enthroned he watches all the inhabitants of the earth—
he who fashions the hearts of them all, and observes all their deeds.
A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
The war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might it cannot save.
Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love,
to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.

Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and shield.
Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

How blessed we are to have you Lord.
You have chosen to live with us.
You have graced us with your presence.
Morning, noon, evening and night you are here.

You see us from heaven and come to us.
Of all creation you see into our hearts.
You read our thoughts and capture our love.
You have chosen us to be your people.

The source of true life is you alone.
We can't save ourselves with our own might.
Not with words or bombs or mind or will.
But only can we be save by the Lord of all.

All our faith and hope is in you for life.
You save us out of your goodness and mercy.
You save us out of your gracious love.
Praise, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

God of the Universe, God of life, God of all love, God of salvation; you are my God. You are my source of life. You are my hope. My faith is in you alone... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

August 7th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Isaiah 1:1, 10–20
The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation— I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

God is upset with his children. Upset enough to make the message loud and clear. God is letting his children know just how he feels about how they are acting. In no uncertain terms, God is upset with his children. God is sick of our sinful actions and hates our sin. God hates the evil that we do and can't stand it when we try to cover it up with sweet lies and actions to please him or to try to tell God what we think God wants to hear or see us do.

But when we argue it out with God, we will be convinced of our need to repent, of our need to be reconciled to God. We will be convinced of our love for God and his love for us. When we argue it out with God we are the ones that will be changed by his gracious love and salvation. We will turn with our bloody sins and God will wash us clean. God will pick us up and clean us up just like new.

What a contrast the two halves of this passage have with one another. God hates our sin and takes care of it for us. No need to lie our way back into his presence. We can come to God with our sins and bring them to him for cleansing and a change in our lives. No lies... no stories... only tell God the truth... and receive the blessings of his love.

Lord, when I fall down, I come to you. Help me with my sin. Help me change. Help me do your will... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, August 05, 2013

August 5th Reflection by Bill Lynch

Genesis 15:1–6
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”

But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

"And he believed..." Just a few words. A few mighty words of faith. A few words that brought forth an eternal relationship with God. How did God come to Abram? In a vision. God comes to us in many and varied ways. We look for God's presence and we even search for God. Usually we are surprised to find out that God was there all along. We just couldn't recognize God's obvious presence because we were spending too much time in our own little world to see beyond or even within it that God was there all along.

Was Abram in a trance? Possibly a dream, or having just gotten up in the middle of the night in confusion. I don't know, but God comes to Abram with the most common command of all... "Do not be afraid..." God comes to us and calms our fears. God comes to us and settles us down. God comes to us and grants blessings of love and grace. God comes to us and commands us to not be afraid. We don't need to fear when God is near. And God is near all the time.

But we have questions. We don't understand what God wants from us. We love our Father and want to do his will in a way that pleases him. It's good to ask the questions. It's okay to doubt and speak. It's fine to converse with God so that we get the message of his will and way.

In love God responds with a demonstration. Abram looks at the stars and God gives Abram a promise. Abram's descendants will be like those stars Abram is counting. The children of Abram are those that believe and have faith in God. The children of Abram are descendants of his blood and spirit.

"And he believed..." A few words from Abram and for me and you as well. Hear the command... "Do not be afraid..." Receive the blessing of a relationship of a Father that is always with you. Thanks be to God!

Father, be present with me to lead and guide me... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, August 03, 2013

August 3rd Reflection by Bill Lynch

Luke 12:13–21
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

Jesus isn't talking about the lazy people here. He is talking to those that are worried. This is not a passage to encourage one to be lazy and not care about anything. This is a passage that speaks to those worried about possessions and the needs of life such as food and clothing. This is a passage about the greedy and the rich in money and possessions.

What is important is the person. The goods that a person has, the food, the clothing, the shelter and the abundance are all blessings and gifts from God. Sure, it took work to compile these things. Work is good. But better than work is our calling from God to use the gifts and talents God has graciously given to us to bring glory to God. Better than work is our ability to praise God with what God has given us, not to acquire and hoard more and more for ourselves. For in a moment, our lives could cease and these worldly possessions would mean nothing. Our efforts to obtain more and more would come to nothing and cease... just in a moment.

The richness of life comes from God. It does not come from anything we can do or earn. So, we live our lives in relationship first with God and then with those God gives to us. The value in our lives comes from God and the people God gives to us. These relationships are the richness of life and the richness towards God.

Lord, help me to keep my priorities straight. Help me to see what really counts. Keep me from falling into the trap of the rat race. Calm my greed for earthly things and build me up to come close to you and to those you give to me in the love of Jesus... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, August 02, 2013

August 2nd Reflection by Bill Lynch

Colossians 3:1–11
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.

But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

It feels like a lifetime of seeking the things that are above. I want to do all of those things, yet those things that I wish to get rid of keep jumping up in my way. I do those things I want to get rid of. So, I continue to seek the things that are above, while trusting that God will put to death the earthly in me.

I live to put off the man in me and live to put on Christ. I must die with Christ in order to be raised with Christ to new life. When I was baptized I was buried under that water in my sin. An old life died with Christ on the cross and under that water. As I came out of that water I was raised to a new life with Christ in Christ's resurrection. In my baptism, God transformed me. In my baptism God began something new in me. So, now I seek those things that are above where Christ is.

I'm in a constant walk with Christ and Christ is my goal. I am united with Christ in death and in new life. I set my eyes on Christ as I walk in this life. Always struggling to die to myself and live to Christ. So, even though I'm not there yet, Christ is leading me there. There to where he will always be. There to that new life fulfilled, resurrected and triumphant in Christ.

So, for now... I'm in a lifetime of continuous renewal. I'm living my baptism day by day, as God puts to death the man in me as Christ died on the cross and raising the new life in me as Christ rose from the dead. It feels like a lifetime of seeking the things that are above all along with the Christ that is here and now. I focus on Christ here and now and into eternity in the newness of life. God has done it all for me and for you. All in his love... all in Christ's salvation... all in the Spirit of new life.

Lord, help me keep the focus on you. What else can I do? I need you to lead and guide me along this way. Only you can save me and make me new... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, August 01, 2013

August 1st Reflection by Bill Lynch

Psalm 107:1–9, 43
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to an inhabited town;
hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress;
he led them by a straight way, until they reached an inhabited town.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.
For he satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.

Let those who are wise give heed to these things, and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

God is Good.
God is steadfast in his love.
God is both faithful and affectionate.
God is Good.

God is Father.
God is close and loving.
God rescues from misfortune.
God is Father.

God is Savior.
God comes close in love.
God saves.
God is Savior.

God is Good.
God is Father.
God is Savior.
Consider the Love of God.

Lord, your steadfast love endures... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen