Monday, September 30, 2013

September 30th Reflection - Hold On! - by Bill Lynch

Habakkuk 1:1–4; 2:1–4
The Prophet’s Complaint

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
   and you will not listen?
Or cry to you ‘Violence!’
   and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrongdoing
   and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
   strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack
   and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—
   therefore judgement comes forth perverted.

God’s Reply to the Prophet’s Complaint

I will stand at my watch-post,
   and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me,
   and what he will answer concerning my complaint.
Then the Lord answered me and said:
Write the vision;
   make it plain on tablets,
   so that a runner may read it.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
   it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
   it will surely come, it will not delay.
Look at the proud!
   Their spirit is not right in them,
   but the righteous live by their faith.

Just read the papers. Listen to the local and national news on television. It's all around. We kill each other for what we believe to be just causes day after day after day. It's been going on forever it seems. It never stops. Were we created to kill and destroy one another because of stands that we take believing that only we are on the right? Why? Why doesn't the Creator of this world step in and make all things new? Why does God permit all of this death and violence to continue in our cities, in our factories, in our schools, in our nation, all across this planet we seek to kill one another? Why?

It's not God's fault is it? It's our own sinfulness. God did not create us to kill one another. God created us to be a pleasing site. God created us to live in harmony with one another and with all creation. But we stepped in with our selfish need for power and the wisdom of God and took of the fruit of the devil. We did this. God gave us the ability and the choice to do this and we did it. No one else did this but ourselves. And I dare you to think that you didn't. I dare you to try to exclude yourself from this sin. We all have sinned and we all have brought this death upon ourselves. We all have brought this hatred upon this world.

Yes, we need a Savior. We need a God. We need someone  to clean up this mess we have made of ourselves and one another. We need a God that can defeat, sin, death, the devil and our sinful, selfish selves. We need Jesus!

And God has told us to wait. We have Jesus and we know what God has done through our Savior, but there is more. There is more to be done on this earth. The more we are called to do. We are called to wait and listen and obey and follow Jesus. God sent Jesus to save us and God is sending Jesus again to rescue us and make it all final. But we must wait.

The passage above is a revelation to the prophet Habakkuk. Habakkuk cries out to God on the behalf of a nation of God's people who have sinned and separated themselves. Why? Why oh Lord does this continue on in this manner? Why do your people continue to sin? Why don't you intervene, O Lord, on the behalf of your people?

The world at that time believed in a host of gods who were at war and fighting with one another. They didn't believe in just one God as the Israelites proclaimed. The world, in general, believed in many gods. The wicked surround the righteous, so why doesn't God step in?

Only integrity lasts in this world of sin, death, the devil, selfishness, and many many gods. Only the integrity of God lasts. Those with integrity, the righteous, shall live by faith. Maintain integrity with God and faithfulness to God our Father and Savior and through Jesus, you will come to the end. But, you must wait on the Lord. It's the Lord's time, not yours. All you have is a gift from God, your time, your talent and your treasure comes from God. So, wait! Trust and believe and have faith in God and wait! The time of deliverance has come and will be fulfilled. So, wait and God will fulfill the promise. Have faith! Thanks be to God!

Lord I wait. I wait on you. You have come down from heaven, lived, ministered, healed, suffered, died and rose again. You ascended into heaven and promise to return. So, I wait in faith and love for you and for those you give to me day by day. I wait for your return, knowing by faith that what you say you will do... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, September 29, 2013

September 29th Reflection - It's Too Hot Here! - by Bill Lynch

Luke 16:19–31
The Rich Man and Lazarus

 ‘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.” ’

Now, I don't know about this rich man, if he was a good man or not. But, it aggravates me that even while he is in Hades, he assumes the right to order the poor man, Lazarus, to come to his side and cool his tongue because he is in agony. If the rich man wants to treat the poor man, Lazarus, in this way even after death; how did he treat Lazarus in life? Next, the rich man requests that Abraham send Lazarus to warn his brothers of the place of torment. This rich man must presume that he can order poor Lazarus around throughout eternity!

This passage is a story of the fates of the rich and the poor being reversed in the next world. A world where a great chasm exists between those in heaven as we would say today and those in hell.  I don't know if heaven and hell were literally meant, but it does point out a great divide between two places. One place with the angels of God and the patriarchs of the faith and one place of torment.

This story eludes to the belief that the rich man did very little while on this earth to ease the pain and the suffering of the poor man, Lazarus. But, when Lazarus died he ended up at the feast of heaven with the angels and Abraham. When the rich man died, he ended up in hell. The rich man shouted out to Abraham across the great chasm seeking help, but Abraham could not, or would not, offer any help to the rich man.

But, what about my brothers, the rich man inquired. Could they be warned of hell? And the answer came back. They have been warned. Look at what God shows us even in Old Testament books. It's not our position, it's not our riches, it's not our power that leads us to heaven. It is God that leads us to heaven. We can only trust and have hope and faith in God to be rescued from our sinful state and our selfish being to be taken to heaven. It's not our actions that take us to heaven. We can't get to heaven on our own. It's God's action that takes us to heaven.

If people shut their ears to God, not even some person returning from the dead, such as the poor man Lazarus, can take you to heaven. Only God can take you to heaven. Look to God for love and mercy and seek forgiveness in the here and the now, the today and this moment, for God to be gracious and merciful and slow to anger to take you to heaven. Repent and turn around... NOW!

The message is clear and right before the eyes of those Jesus is speaking to through this story. Jesus is the way to heaven. Jesus is God's Son sent to rescue us from our sinfulness, our selfishness and take us to heaven. Not Lazarus, but Jesus will take us to heaven. Jesus IS God. And Jesus is the way. Listen to him! Listen to God's Chosen Son! Hear him and follow him to the place of Abraham, Lazarus and God.

Lord, may I, in this life, see across that great chasm to eternity with you. May I see and follow your will and your way. Take my life and make it yours that I may live with you. Use me this day to proclaim your glory and your power and your grace and your love for all people. May all look to you and place all hope and trust in your actions that we may have eternal life beginning today... continuing tomorrow... and on forever. --- Amen

Friday, September 27, 2013

September 27th Reflection - Viewpoint - by Bill Lynch

1 Timothy 6:6–19
Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

The Good Fight of Faith
 But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will bring about at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen.

 As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.

So, what's your viewpoint? Do you look at what you have gained and accomplished by the end of this life on earth, or the end of this day, or the end of a project, or the end of something that is well defined? Do you have a different point of view such as life with God and what God would have in you? Do you seek accomplishments and rewards such as money and power and prestige and rank and view those things as the ultimate satisfaction? Maybe your viewpoint is in eternal life with God. Does your viewpoint bring you happiness when you have been rewarded or when you have come to the completion of your goals? What is your viewpoint?

I know one thing for me at least. I didn't ask for life. Someone gave me life. I believe God gave me life. So, the life I live is not my own to begin with. I live this life for God. I don't live this life for myself. The joy and comfort I receive, the reward I receive all comes from God. This life, freely given to me, was granted to me from my Creator and therefore my God. So, this life I live is for God's purpose. In my life there is pain, there is joy, there is sorrow, there is laughter, there is all types of experiences. I live a life full of rich experiences that were given to me by God. Some experiences bring happiness and other experiences do not, but all experiences are rich and full of life. I think that is what God desires for me. God desires that I live my life, his life, to the fullest and that I experience the gift of life only he could give to me, that I may be his and be with him through all of life. Life with a point of view that is in the here and now, yet goes beyond the here and now into eternity with my God and my Creator. Life that is rich and full and meaningful and a life that brings God joy and gives me all that I would ever need. A viewpoint from eternity that proceeds through the daily and the moment by moment life with God.

So, I am called to live my life for and with God. Who sent Jesus and the Holy Spirit into my life to save me from myself, my sinfulness and my selfishness and from sin, death and the devil, in order that I may spend an eternal life with my God, my Creator, my Savior, my Lord, in a rich and a full expression of life that God has graciously given to me and to all people who believe on his name and on his power and on his grace and on his love. God IS life!

In this passage, Paul is encouraging Timothy to keep his viewpoint straight with God. To avoid wasting time on the pursuit of the happiness found in riches, power and the things of this world. Timothy is encouraged to pursue the qualities of godliness seen in Jesus. Timothy is encouraged to confession and deliverance from the sinfulness of man and this world to the life of God, and the qualities of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.

And Timothy is encouraged to use any worldly wealth and joy gained, for the advancement of care of God's people and God's creation. Do something good with the gifts God gives to us in this life on earth in the here and now for another in need, so that all people may come to set their hope and joy on the eternal viewpoint of God and live abundant, rich and eternal life with our Savior.

Lord, forgive me when I turn my viewpoint inward and only upon myself and my gain and my joys. Help me to see and understand your viewpoint and your desire for my life in this place and in this moment that I may realize eternal life with you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, September 26, 2013

September 26th Reflection - Security and Blessing - by Bill Lynch

Psalm 91:1–6, 14–16 
Assurance of God’s Protection

You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
   who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress;
   my God, in whom I trust.’
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
   and from the deadly pestilence;
he will cover you with his pinions,
   and under his wings you will find refuge;
   his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
   or the arrow that flies by day,
or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
   or the destruction that wastes at noonday.

Those who love me, I will deliver;
   I will protect those who know my name.
When they call to me, I will answer them;
   I will be with them in trouble,
   I will rescue them and honour them.
With long life I will satisfy them,
   and show them my salvation.

In you alone O Lord, I receive security and blessing.
You keep me safe and shelter me from eternal harm.
You protect me as your guest.
It all seems backwards, for I welcome your presence.
Yet you keep me as an honored guest.

But, yes! I am your guest in this life.
I am your guest and place all of my trust in you alone.
You are my hope for life and love.
You are my place of rest and safety from the storm.
In you I find my safe haven, my home.

With you O Lord, I find a safe place.
A place to live eternal life with you.
You keep me safe and guide me through life.
You point out the traps and pitfalls of life.
You, O Lord, teach me your will and your way.

Day by day you build character into my life.
You teach me and show me what you would have me be.
You change me and mold me into your delight.
Yes, you are my Teacher and I am your student.
Lord, I am grateful for all you have shown to me.

You bless me with your presence day by day.
I live in the joy of relationship with you by my side.
Each moment, each second, each event of my life,
You are there by my side granting me with your presence.
I am eternally thankful for your everlasting presence, my Lord, my Savior!

Lord, you grant security and give blessing. I am richly blessed with your presence. Lead me, guide me and show me your will and the way that I should take... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

September 25th Reflection - Trust - by Bill Lynch

Psalm 146
Praise for God’s Help

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
   I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Do not put your trust in princes,
   in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
   on that very day their plans perish.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
   whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth,
   the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith for ever;
   who executes justice for the oppressed;
   who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
   the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
   the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
   he upholds the orphan and the widow,
   but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The Lord will reign for ever,
   your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!
No doubt about it!
Praise the Lord!
Lay all of your trust in God.

You can't trust man.
You can't trust rulers or presidents.
You can't give all of your trust to humans.
But you can trust and Praise the Lord!

God is the Creator.
God is the Redeemer.
God is the giver of all life.
Praise the Lord!

Jesus came in love for me.
Jesus came to save me from myself.
Jesus came to me and rescued me from my sin.
Praise the Lord!

The Holy Spirit descended upon me.
In baptism and every day I get a visit.
The presence of the Spirit is lifelong in my life.
Praise the Lord!

God rescues those in need.
The sick, the homeless, the prisoners, God saves.
God's saving power is eternal.
Praise the Lord!

God's power is shown corporately.
God's power is displayed personally.
God's power is moral.
Praise the Lord!

God's love is complete.
God's compassion is everlasting.
God's life is eternal.
Praise the Lord!

Praise to the Father!
Praise the the Son!
Praise to the Holy Spirit!
Praise the Lord!

Lord, all praise and glory and honor belong to you and you alone... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

September 24th Reflection - Take it to the Bank - by Bill Lynch

Jeremiah 32:1–3a, 6–15
Jeremiah Buys a Field During the Siege

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him. Zedekiah had said, ‘Why do you prophesy and say: Thus says the Lord: I am going to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it;

 Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.’ Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.

 And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

Jerusalem was about to collapse. Times of doom and gloom all around for God's Chosen. Jeremiah is a prisoner. He is a prophet that was optimistic yet realistic. Jeremiah relayed God's Word but appeared to King Zedekiah as too pro-Babylonian.

Jeremiah's optimism led to a vision from God of the return from exile for the people of Jerusalem. Jeremiah proclaimed hope and deliverance in the midst of doom and gloom and the message was too much for the people to accept. Jeremiah came with a message of hope and salvation in the midst of pain and suffering. Jeremiah fully believed in the word that God gave to him to proclaim to the people.

So the test of faith came when Jeremiah's cousin, Hanamel offered to sell a field to him at Anathoth. The field now belonged to the enemy, how could it be sold? But the sale went on in the hope that the field would be a future possession and the sale documents were put in order. So, Jeremiah bought the field with funds he had even though he was still in prison. The field sold for about one year's wage. What hope and trust and faith in God's Word!

This example of believing in God is a wonderful example for me and for you. We can take God at his Word and take it to the bank. God has given us his Word in written form, in spoken form and in the flesh of Jesus. We can believe in our salvation through Jesus because God said so. I don't need any more proof than that. I know that God sent his Son into this world in Jesus to save me from sin, death and the devil. I can turn to God and proclaim that I believe. I can follow in Jesus' footsteps as a joyous disciple through any kind of storm and in the midst of his Light. I can do all of this just because God said so in and through his Word.

That's all the Word that Jeremiah needed to believe and that's more than enough for me to believe and for you as well. Thanks be to God!

Lord, open your Word in my heart and show me the face of my Savior... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, September 23, 2013

September 23rd Reflection - A House of Cards - by Bill Lynch

Amos 6:1a, 4–7
Complacent Self-Indulgence Will Be Punished

Alas for those who are at ease in Zion,
   and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria,
the notables of the first of the nations,
   to whom the house of Israel resorts!
Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory,
   and lounge on their couches,
and eat lambs from the flock,
   and calves from the stall;
who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp,
   and like David improvise on instruments of music;
who drink wine from bowls,
   and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
   but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile,
   and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away.

A warning to those living at ease. We can't  assume and consume all the spoils and blessings of God without taking care of those in need. We must raise up all God's people in God's love. If we do live in our own luxury and assume that this is our own doing and our own reward; hear the warning of these verses given to a people long ago.

Selfish pride becomes a downfall. Selfish living becomes a curse. We are not only carried away into exile physically, we are carried away from God by being lost in ourselves. We think that we have made it on our own. But, in reality all could tumble down in a moment. All we have is a gift from God. Even our life.

Lord, protect me from my own selfish pride and lead me to do your will in your way... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, September 22, 2013

September 22nd Reflection - A Ponzi Scheme - by Bill Lynch

Luke 16:1–13
The Parable of the Dishonest Manager

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 account 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.’

My own life does not belong to me. Life did not come from me and I can't say that I asked for this life on earth that I now live. So, my own life does not belong to me or come from me. The question comes to mind then... Do I value this life I live? Do I appreciate this life? If I answer yes, then I am living the treasure of someone else's gift to me. If, I answer no, then I have to wonder why am I alive? If I'm not alive for myself, am I alive for someone else?

Questions to ponder that seem to lead in circles to more questions.

The parable above is a puzzling parable of Jesus. At first glance it appears that Jesus is encouraging crooked actions. But I think Jesus is taking us to something deeper yet. I think Jesus is taking us to the center of life and our being and purpose.

I'm caught guilty of squandering this life God has given to me. First off, as I Child of God, I'm taking that God is my source of life. Thinking this way then, I know that I'm guilty before God and deserve to have this life of mine taken away. I deserve to lose this life I live because of my inaction, my lack of love, my selfishness, my sin, my separation from God. I deserve to lose my life.

And, just like the dishonest manager, I go out and work the angles I can work. I go out to those that I know who also deserve to lose their lives to God for the same reasons I have. And I work a deal. I work a deal on God's behalf. I take their accounts and let my clients pay them off for less than what they owe. I give these other people a free gift from God. I lessen the burdens of their lives on behalf of God. I work the Ponzi scheme.

And it works! God likes me for what I have just done! I can't believe it! Until I considered what God has already done for me, for you and for everyone. God really didn't need me to lessen the burdens of lives lost to sin. God really didn't need me, but I was acting just like the One he sent to do this very same thing. The One that would completely clear the account. The One that came to all who would receive him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of the blood or the will of the flesh, or the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-14)

God sent his Son, the One, Jesus, to give his life for us. To me the purpose of my life is to give it away. Jesus came not to be served but to serve and give his life as ransom for many. (Mark 10:45) God gave us new life through Jesus. The complete debt that we owed was wiped clean in Jesus. Jesus was the source of money that the dishonest manager used to relieve our debts.

So, I give my life away, to you and to God. I give it all away, so that when my life on this earth is spent and gone, I can look forward to my life with all God's Children and my brother Jesus and my Father in heaven. I give my life because God gave his life in Jesus away for me. And therein lies the true riches. The true riches of life in Jesus. The true riches of life in relationship with God and with God's people. Call it heaven or call it the eternal reward, call it whatever, God calls us to give of ourselves first to him and then to one another in love. God calls us with a purpose and with the purpose of life. God turns it all upside down, inside out and takes it all the way around in love for his creation and in life for all that God has made.

My life belongs to God. My life comes from God. I use my life for God to fulfill God's purpose, God's joy, for God. That's life that I can live happily and in joy and in honor and praise to God my Creator, Redeemer, my Life. Yes, I live my life on this earth for God and for you. I live my life to give it away, all because of Jesus. All because Jesus gave his life for mine so that life could come through death. I couldn't do any of this on my own. There is no way! Only through Jesus can I live and give my life away. Thanks be to God!

Father, I give you thanks for new life in Jesus. I give you all the praise and glory for what you have done for me and for all who would receive Jesus gift of life. As I move and breath and travel in this life, make me a blessing to you and to others, that all may see your glory and your love and your wonderful gift of life... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, September 20, 2013

September 20th Reflection - Unity - by Bill Lynch

1 Timothy 2:1–7
Instructions concerning Prayer

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For
there is one God;
   there is also one mediator between God and humankind,
Christ Jesus, himself human,
   who gave himself a ransom for all
—this was attested at the right time. For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Jesus came to save all people, not just a single group of people, but all people. In this passage Paul urges prayer. Prayer in which we are bold to go to God, because of Jesus coming in the flesh. Bold to go to God with requests and thanksgiving for all people. Jesus came to save all people and through him the throne of God is open to us in prayer.

In Jesus we come closer and closer to the knowledge of truth. God leads us through a Savior to himself. Jesus gives himself a ransom for all. The "all people" salvation comes from God's desire for unity with his people and for the people's unity with God and one another.

I love this passage because it is concise and to the point. Jesus came for all, to save all, that we may be united in Truth with God.

May I be united with you and united with those you give to me in the salvation freely given through your Son, Jesus, my Lord, my Savior, my God... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, September 19, 2013

September 19th Reflection - The Battle is Won - by Bill Lynch

Psalm 79:1-9
Plea for Mercy for Jerusalem
A Psalm of Asaph.

O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
   they have defiled your holy temple;
   they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
They have given the bodies of your servants
   to the birds of the air for food,
   the flesh of your faithful to the wild animals of the earth.
They have poured out their blood like water
   all around Jerusalem,
   and there was no one to bury them.
We have become a taunt to our neighbours,
   mocked and derided by those around us.

How long, O Lord? Will you be angry for ever?
   Will your jealous wrath burn like fire?
Pour out your anger on the nations
   that do not know you,
and on the kingdoms
   that do not call on your name.
For they have devoured Jacob
   and laid waste his habitation.

Do not remember against us the iniquities of our ancestors;
   let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
   for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation,
   for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and forgive our sins,
   for your name’s sake.

We cry out to God from the depths of our despair, knowing that we have failed and cannot save ourselves. We cry out, sometimes wanting God to redirect that anger and hatred God has for our actions to our enemies. What desires we have as we cry out to God. Yes, we admit we need God, but do we need to ask God to punish our enemies? Do, we need to request that God would pour out anger upon the nations that do not know him?

We are wicked at heart, but we are also God's children. God comes to us and takes our anger towards our enemies and moves us towards his grace. God's grace for all people to save and make all things new. There will be that day when we will hear from the one seated on the throne... "See, I am making all things new (Revelation 21:5)." These are the words that God wants us to hear. This is the praise and honor and glory due to the God of all creation. This is the grace of God who comes to us in our own flesh to live and die for us and to bring us to him. This is the God of anger against the sin, and the death and the devil that separate us from him. This is our saving brother, Jesus Christ who saves us and brings us together as one in a new creation. This is the God that delivers us and forgives our sins.

Psalm 79 is written as an expression of a people in exile in Babylon. They were separated from their home land and in agony. This psalm was written in distress. This is a cry to God for help among those that came and defeated a nation and moved a people to a place that they did not wish to go to. This is a people who have just witnessed their family members strewn dead around Jerusalem. Memories that haunt and torment. A people desiring that God judge their enemy harshly.

These were a people that considered the events that unfolded were the hand of God for punishment on themselves and their ancestors for years of rebellious actions. Yet in all of this the appeal comes down to an appeal for forgiveness and salvation.

How we all need God to save us, his people. How we need God's saving grace and forgiveness. We can't continue without God to save us. Our battles, our greed, our inconsiderate actions and selfish ways cannot save us from ourselves. We need God!

Lord God, you have shown your mercy and grace through what you have already done in Jesus. As you come to us and we turn to you, redirect our lives to live in harmony with you and with one another in a new creation as a forgiven and redeemed people... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

September 18th Reflection - Praise God - by Bill Lynch

Psalm 113
God the Helper of the Needy

Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord;
   praise the name of the Lord.

Blessed be the name of the Lord
   from this time on and for evermore.
From the rising of the sun to its setting
   the name of the Lord is to be praised.
The Lord is high above all nations,
   and his glory above the heavens.

Who is like the Lord our God,
   who is seated on high,
who looks far down
   on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust,
   and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes,
   with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a home,
   making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!

God is wonderful in power and authority.
Praise God with all your being.
Praise God with spirit and flesh and mind.
Praise God the King of Creation.

God comes down from the highest of heights.
God comes the greatest distance possible.
God reaches out beyond time and space.
Praise God the Creator of time and space.

God raises up the needy and sinful.
God brings life to those in despair.
God recreates, renews and restores creation.
Praise God the Giver of life.

Jesus comes close in flesh and blood.
Jesus gives himself to all people.
To those who believe and claim the name of Jesus.
Praise God the one who grants power to be Children of God.

Holy Spirit, sweep through my soul.
Clean my mind of sinfulness.
Gift me and prepare me for God's work.
Praise God the Spirit of all God's Children.

Praise Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Praise God with life and love.
Praise God with honor and glory.
Praise the Lord!

Unique God of the Universe, You are worthy of our praise throughout all time and in every space. In joy we sing praise to you and rejoice in your loving blessings. Nothing tops you. I make myself low in your presence and you continually reach out in love. I bow before you for you are mighty and great. Draw near I pray as I sing your praises... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

September 17th Reflection - In Your Face - by Bill Lynch

Jeremiah 8:18—9:1
The Prophet Mourns for the People

My joy is gone, grief is upon me,
   my heart is sick.
Hark, the cry of my poor people
   from far and wide in the land:
‘Is the Lord not in Zion?
   Is her King not in her?’
(‘Why have they provoked me to anger with their images,
   with their foreign idols?’)
‘The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
   and we are not saved.’
For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt,
   I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.

Is there no balm in Gilead?
   Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of my poor people
   not been restored?

O that my head were a spring of water,
   and my eyes a fountain of tears,
so that I might weep day and night
   for the slain of my poor people!

Jeremiah feels deeply the compassion and love of God for his people. The Israelites have fallen deeply into sin and separated themselves from God. They have chosen sinful lives over a relationship with the God that has saved them all along. Jeremiah, in this passage, expresses in compassion, the feelings of God for his people. The pain that God feels in our absence when we choose to turn from him. Jeremiah feels the anguish and agony that God feels when we choose sin over God.

When I turn from God and pick my own will and my own way over his; this passage reflects the feelings of God as God hurts for me. When I turn to any other god than God, God is in pain. When I'm in my sin, that painful suffering of Jesus is in my face. The blood running down from that crown of thorns brings pain to my Savior. I caused Jesus to feel pain and submit to abuse and punishment for my sin. This was God's answer to sin. God took the compassion of the pain of separation and united himself with us in the flesh of Jesus and the spirit of the Holy Spirit and came to us. God took action for our separation and closed the gap on his own. God took on that pain of separation in Jesus and made a way for unity in him and with him and through Jesus.

So, what now? Now, I feel the pain of Jesus. I see the love of God right in my face and before my eyes. I know of God's love and see how deep and impossibly wide this love is and love God right back. I turn around and face my Savior and run to him and cling to him for life. I give myself to God in Jesus out of compassion and love. I repent and bow before my King.

Lord, thank you! Thank you for your love and compassion. Thank you for feeling the separation that I have caused. Thank you for closing the gap and showing me what I have done to you. Thank you for your in my face compassion and love that I can't refuse. Thank you for spinning me around in my sin to see your love. I love you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen 

Monday, September 16, 2013

September 16th Reflection - It's Tough out There - by Bill Lynch

Amos 8:4–7
Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
   and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
saying, ‘When will the new moon be over
   so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath,
   so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
   and practise deceit with false balances,
buying the poor for silver
   and the needy for a pair of sandals,
   and selling the sweepings of the wheat.’

The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

Greed and power and gain uncontrolled by government and self breed this trample on the needy. It breeds selfish desires that seek to widen the gap between those that have the means to live in abundance and those that can't live on what they can gather through work. It's when greed has gone too far and the community suffers for the gain of one or two living in abundance way beyond need.

But when those that have mock and antagonize those that need; it becomes shameful. The needy are taken advantage of in this case. It has become a commercial racket for the rich to sell to the poor and take what little the poor do have in order to live. Weights and scales are deceptive and honesty is lacking in all deals.

This is the situation of the passage. Less was being sold for what was promised for more than what they said it would cost. Especially with the grain needed for food. So, the purchases were soon made on credit. Silver for a loan for the poor person for the purchase of sandals leading to the rich taking the poor into slavery at some point, because the poor would default on the loan.

Needless to say, God loves the poor and abhors the actions of the rich in taking from the poor.

Lord, it almost sounds like today. I see products and goods at expensive price that the poor can't afford. I see the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. I see greed in companies for more and more and more. Make me rich in compassion and love to those you give to me this day. Make me to see the times that I take advantage of the needy and change. Make the needy and the poor full of life and vitality that they too can reap the rewards of pay for work that enables them to survive and flourish. Give us all the respect we need, one for another. Let us see and welcome the poor, the oppressed, the sinners and the tax collectors and bridge the gap between one with another with love and respect. Show me your will and your way in the difficult situations of life... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, September 15, 2013

September 15th Reflection Rescue 9-1-1 - by Bill Lynch

Luke 15:1–10
The Parable of the Lost Sheep

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 neighbours, 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 people who need no repentance.

The Parable of the Lost Coin

 ‘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 neighbours, 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.’

God will seek you out and hunt you down. Even in the midst of your sinful self. Especially in your sin and the way you are, God will hunt you down. God knows more about you than you do and God still wants you to be with him throughout all eternity. God also gives you free will and permits you to make decisions on your own. Decisions that may even harm or hurt you and decisions that may hurt God, but God still loves you. God loves you so much that when you stray or get lost, he hunts you down to bring you back with him.

God loves us so much that he hunts us down in the flesh, in Jesus Christ and in the spirit, in the Holy Spirit. God hunts us down to save us from sin, death and the devil. God hunts us down to bring us back to him and to those who are his. What a love of God! A love that gives life for our life, a love that gives time for our time, a love that gives eternity for a moment with us. God comes to us, in love for us, to save us.

How will you respond, as a lost sheep, or a lost coin, to God's hunting? Will you resent being found and brought back? Will you run away or get lost again? Will you rejoice with God in the finding? How will you respond? God permits you to respond. Think about it, but realize that God loves you so much that he gave his Son to die for your being lost forever. Lost forever with no chance of survival. You can't continue to live on your own. You can't save yourself. Only God can save you and he does. But, how will you respond?

This passage of scripture comes on the heels of the parable of the heavenly banquet where the poor were invited. The Pharisees and the scribes were upset with Jesus and his presence with sinners. Why would Jesus, if he was a religious person, take company with the sinners? Why would Jesus go to the sick and the poor? Why would Jesus bother to seek those types of people rather than seek the approval of the religious leaders of the day? It's an insult!

But here in these two short parables, God speaks to his love for the lost through and in Jesus. Jesus reveals God's plan with Jesus' presence and God's presence in the flesh of Jesus on this earth. God will go to any and all means to reach out in love to sinners. God wants us sinners to be his. God comes to us, you and me, in our filth to be with us, to love us, to cure us, to live with us, to walk with us, to experience life with us and to suffer and die with us. Jesus is put to death for us and we give our life to God and die to self to live with God throughout eternity. Eternity that begins when God finds us and saves us. Eternity that begins here in this place and time. That's God's love. That's what is so real and important about being found and brought back.

God is overjoyed when he finds us and brings us back as lost sinners. God just loves to find us where we are and in the condition that we are in. Jesus' one desire is to save the sinner, of which I'm one. And Jesus will do whatever it takes to rescue me from my sin. Thanks be to God!

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

Saturday, September 14, 2013

September 14th Reflection - Thanks! - by Bill Lynch

1 Timothy 1:12–17
Gratitude for Mercy

 I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

You gotta love this passage! At least I really do! When something is stated plain and to the point that directly relates to me, or to you as well. Jesus came to save me, a sinner, one of the greatest of sinners. God came here to this place out of and beyond a universe that is beyond size and imagination to save me! How great is that? God in Jesus came for me with patience and mercy to save me from myself, sin, death and the devil. God came through time even though God is beyond all time, in Jesus for me! Jesus gave his life for mine and became the awfulness of my sin and hung it all on that cross for me! And God did this not just for me... "But to all who receive him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of the blood or will of the flesh, or the will on man, but of God." (John 1:12-13)

In this passage Paul encourages Timothy in his calling to be humble yet devoted to what God called him to do in his new life in Christ. God calls me and God calls you, as his children to proclaim the Gospel to those he gives to us and live our lives devoted to the calling and the gifts God gives us to proclaim that Gospel. For as Children of God, we know of our salvation in Jesus Christ. We are each called. And we live out our faith and hope and trust in God on our sleeves, in word and action and our way of being alive. We live a new life in Christ and are powered by the Spirit of God. We are changed people living in a sinful world. We are both sinners and saints in this place with our judgment taken care of through Jesus. God the Father sees us as his children. God the Father looks at us and sees Jesus. Wow! What freedom to act out God's love, free of the chains of enmity and unbelief. We know that Jesus took care of our sins.

Sure, we confess our sins. We are being made new. We are growing in Christ, yet we are still living in the freedom of God's love day after day. We don't wish to sin and even when we do sin, God uses our sin to change us and teach us and lead us towards the Light of Jesus. We live on in God's overflowing grace, trusting in the Gospel of Jesus in God coming to save all people from sin, death, the devil and our sinful selves.

So, if God comes for me or for Paul or for so many other sinners to save us; feel free to join in our belief in Jesus and become Children of God. It's an easy step that God gives to all people. It's a wonderful life of change. It's a fantastic walk with Jesus leading on the way to eternal life with himself and all believers.

"To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen."

Thanks for a new life! Thanks for the fantastic journey! Thanks for Jesus! Thanks for salvation! Thanks be to God... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, September 13, 2013

September 13th Reflection - New Life - by Bill Lynch

Psalm 14
Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is no one who does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.
They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse; there is no one who does good, no, not one.

Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the Lord?

There they shall be in great terror, for God is with the company of the righteous.
You would confound the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge.
O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.

I can't imagine your disappointment O Lord.
When you look down from heaven and see my sin.
When you see the sinful nature of man before your eyes.
The tears you must cry thinking of the life you have granted.

You see foolish actions and heartless hatred in all of us.
You see each one of us as we turn from you.
You see us reach out to man-made things for comfort.
You see us turn and run from you.

Yet, you came to us in flesh and blood.
You sent your son, Jesus to rescue this fallen people.
You grant forgiveness and grace to all who turn.
To all who turn and repent and own up to their sin.

And then you hang from a cross.
You become the sin that we are.
You die on that cross abandoned from God.
You put to death sin, hatred and evil.

Only to raise a new man to new life.
Life formed by your hands with new breath.
Breath of the Holy Spirit alive and renewed.
New life, changed life, for your people.

To once again look down on your faithful.
You look and see Jesus acting in love and faith.
You look and see Your Spirit alive and well.
In all those who have faith in you and you alone.

Praise to You, Spirit, Jesus, Creator, Father!
Praise to you our God of life!
Praise to new life, changed life, awesome life in you!
Praise and glory to you alone!

Lord, I know you care about how I act. You care about my sinful nature. You care about me and love me as I love you. Forgive me dear Lord. We all go astray and need your gracious love. We all are evil. Forgive all man-kind. Lord. You alone are righteous. You alone can judge. You see us and know that we need you to live. As I turn from my evil ways to face you, I fall to my knees in fear and love. For my life is in your hands. You alone are my refuge, my joy, my only hope. Restore me to your grace and lead me to eternal life with you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, September 12, 2013

September 12th Reflection - The Plea - by Bill Lynch

Psalm 51:1–10
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

For the most part, I know my own sin. I know when I have failed God. I know when I have left something undone. Yes, there are those sins that I'm not aware of. There are those sins that I commit that I really don't find out about until sometime later, but for the most part, I know my sin.

I hate the thought that God sees my sin also. I really don't want God to know about my sin. I know I'm wrong and I want God's praise, not God's condemnation. I, like the psalmist wish God would just look away and not see me as I am in sin.

It's even worse to think that I was born into sin. I'm sinful from the beginning. I was born from a fallen race. Like Adam, I want to run and hide from God in my nakedness. But God finds me every time. God finds me and makes me face my sin. God finds me and then teaches me. When God disciplines me for my sin, I know that God loves me. God doesn't want me to become a victim of sin but wants me to see and learn about God's compassion and love. This attention brings me joy, even in the midst of my sin, God loves me.

And God changes me as he teaches me how to live. I change in my sinful life, learning and growing to please God and seek God's love and compassion. And God freely gives that love. God comes close to me and walks through this life with me, changing me all the way and washing me clean of that awful sin that I hate.

For the most part, I know my sin, and God has made me desire to run to him now with my sin. I run to God and confess the sin I know. I run to God and seek instruction and guidance in the midst of my failure. I run to God because I need God to live in this sinful world I'm in. For God is merciful and gracious and slow to anger. God listens to me and corrects me and holds me responsible for my sin, yet at the same time God sets me free to live for him. I don't want to sin against God, so I run to God in my sin and repent.

Only God can purge me. Only God can wash me that clean. Only God can forgive me of my sin against him. And only God can apply the blood of the Sacrifice with hyssop. Oh, yes, only God could send his Son, Jesus Christ to be the sacrifice for my sin. Only God could bleed and die for my sin upon that cross. Only God could apply with hyssop his own blood to his own self upon that cross as he hang to die in my sin. So, I see Jesus and I see my sin hanging there by my only hope of salvation. Only God in Jesus can save me from myself, my sinful ways and my sinful life. And God does this in love for me, a sinful man.

So, I plead, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me."

I'm still, I'm motionless in your presence and in awe of your deep love for me and all of your people. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11th Reflection - Wind - by Bill Lynch

Jeremiah 4:11–12, 22–28
At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse— a wind too strong for that. Now it is I who speak in judgment against them. “For my people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good.” I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. I looked, and lo, there was no one at all, and all the birds of the air had fled. I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger. For thus says the Lord: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. Because of this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above grow black; for I have spoken, I have purposed; I have not relented nor will I turn back.

Now that's depressing, threatening and sad all at once. Seems a message from God that he is about to give up on everything. Or, maybe it's a message of warning. I become foolish and stupid towards my God at times. When I turn to sin instead of turning to God; my actions are foolish and stupid. When I think I can take care of it all by myself because of myself, my actions are sinful and selfish. We all fall into the trap of sin from time to time. We all become that desolate land and there is mourning for our soul. But God gives a ray of hope at the end. God has decided not to make a full end because of me. God has decided and acted in a different way. God comes down in flesh and spirit to me and all the sinful people and gives us a new chance, a new beginning and a new way to live.

The hot wind is the sirocco from the desert. It's a scorching wind that is cyclonic and is used for winnowing. Winnowing is when threshed grain is separated from the chaff. This all was thrown into the hot air and the heavier grain fell to the ground while the rest blew away. You were left with useful grain. This metaphor is sometimes used for judgment. The wind mentioned at the beginning of this passage, however, is a wind that blows it all away It's not a useful wind but a destructive wind.

During Jeremiah's time this judgment on Jerusalem was of doom and gloom. The people and the very land had all turned from God and Jeremiah was sent with a message of warning and God's judgment. God wants to be gracious, but in the circumstances of this direct and purposeful sinfulness and the obnoxious turning away from God, there is little room for grace. So, God warns the people through Jeremiah's words.

And our loving God gives the people a second chance. If only they repent and turn back to God; God is waiting with saving grace.

This same idea applies to me daily. When I rise, I come to God and place my life in God's hands. I seek God's will and way for the day. I listen to what God has directed for the day and seek him throughout the day. But, I fail at times. I leave something undone or don't even address something I should have addressed. I fall into sin and must repent and turn to God. So, yes, I relive my baptism day by day. God drowns me in his saving, graceful waters and I come up new and refreshed, ready to live in God's grace. No, I'm not talking about a cheap grace either. This grace was given to me through the blood and suffering death of God in flesh through Jesus Christ on the cross. This grace was given to me through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, my constant companion that calls me and directs me. This is the grace of God, not something to be taken advantage of, but something to be cherished and loved for what God has done for me and he has done the same for you and all people too. Thanks be to God!

Lord, lead me and guide me this day. Forgive my sin of yesterday and keep me from being separated from you forever by that hot, dry, destructive wind... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

September 10th Reflection - A bunch-a-bull! - by Bill Lynch

Exodus 32:7–14
The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt! The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.” But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’“ And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

They turned on God. They lost all hope and turned to something they could easily see and easily understand. They turned to something tangible, something made from their own hands. They backed away from the rich love of God and turned to what was easy for them. After all Moses had abandoned them and hadn't returned for a long time, so why not try something different that was easy to understand. This calf could be formed from their own hands. They could understand how this god began and how this simple little god could bring all of the people together as one, to celebrate their own accomplishments.

But the God of heaven and earth is far more mysterious and impossible to understand. So, why not make it easy on ourselves. Today, we turn to other gods as well. We turn to things that we can understand and lay our life on the line for, such as, money, prestige, power, wealth, boats, cars, houses, wine, alcohol, sex, drugs, parties and on and on. Things we can deal with. Things we can understand. Things that bring instant satisfaction. But, we only seem to turn to God if none of this works. That's wrong!

God wants us to turn to him in all things. Even if we can't understand God, we are to turn to God first and always. I hate the expression, "When all else fails, try God." I can't stand that statement. It develops an attitude that we can do most everything for ourselves and only need God as a last resort. We need God as the first resort, as the only resort, we need God in order to live and breathe. We need God first!

In this passage God refers to the people as your people. That is Moses' people. God does not claim their current condition. How could he? They don't claim God and he can't claim them. God once again has to start all over. Like with Adam and Eve, and the people of Noah's time, and the clay in the potter's hand, God has to start all over. And thus Moses turns to God first. Moses turns to God in prayer and conversation. Moses looks for God's mercy on the people. Moses comes to God for a new beginning for the people. Moses refers to these people as God's people. Just the opposite of God's reference to Moses' people above. So, we repent of our sin and come to God, humble and in need of God's saving grace.

And God changes his mind. Thank God that God changed his mind. God changed his mind yet still hated the actions of the people. God took that clay once again to form it into the image God chooses for it to be. And so it is with you and me. We come to God after having abandoned God for our simple little gods. We come to God and repent and seek forgiveness. We come to God and realize that God is not there for that time when all else fails, but rather God is there first and foremost and through all of our failure. God is there with us and for us to form us into what pleases God.

And we pray. We pray to God and with God and talk about it. We listen to God's advice and feel God's touch on our human clay to form us and reform us and mold us into what he wants. Yes, we turn to God to walk with God at all times. If all else fails, we look and listen to God throughout all of those failures all along the way, knowing for certain that God does not fail in the first place. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might." (Deuteronomy 6:5)

Lord, when I get away with myself and my selfish thoughts and ideas of all sorts of "other gods," may I see you by my side to reshape me into what you would have me be... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, September 08, 2013

September 8th Reflection - Shaped by Tough Love - by Bill Lynch

Luke 14:25–33
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.

We know that Jesus is coming again. At least as children of God, that's what we profess and believe. Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. If we truly believe this and we have faith in Jesus' return; why don't we act like it?

We walk through this life with God by our side. We can read the Bible and see God's Word. We can look all around us and witness the miracles of God's creation from the largest of suns to the smallest of particles that we can see through lenses that we have made. And knowing that the large and small of it all is a limit to our own eyesight; we know God exists. So why don't we act like God exists.

I think that we tend to get wrapped up in ourselves. We get lost in our own selfish needs to have time to pick up a cross and carry it for the life of another person, or to prepare our lives for Jesus' coming again. Jesus may come today, who knows? So, why don't we act like it?

We can easily reach out to the homeless, we can easily go to the sick, we can easily visit the imprisoned, we can easily care for one another in such a way that we don't encourage handouts and a give-away, but a freedom to live life in God and in service to one another. Giving in such a way that we don't create dependence, but giving in such a way that we create a relationship. A relationship that frees the sick, the homeless, the prisoner to live life in God and in service to yet another person. This isn't making the other person dependent on yourself or drugs or homes, but rather giving the person the same opportunity you have had to live life in God and in service to another. Why don't we make disciples who see the value in the cross, instead of binding them up with your own money, your own drugs, your own power over the other person?

In this passage Jesus just told the story about a heavenly banquet where it was opened up to the poor, the sick and the outcast. Jesus was preparing himself to be the offering of God on that altar of the cross for all people. Jesus was also preparing his disciples for what was to come. Jesus was teaching preparedness to his followers.

Jesus invites us to the banquet of the lost and prepares us to face death for the sake of Jesus. We need to consider the cost of denying oneself of self. We need to really know the true cost and act it out in flesh and blood, not in words and a fake spirit or by making someone dependent on yourself. Sometimes it's tough to pull up the lost. Sometimes it takes an honest tough love to free oneself from drugs, or poverty or even illness. Sometimes the therapy hurts, the denial is tough, the stopping seems impossible. We can't condone this in any way. We can be compassionate, but we can't make people dependent upon the very things that are killing them. We can't and Jesus came to stop all of that.

We are all part of that "lost" in some manner. So, we pull together in the cross of Jesus. We pull together in our sin and are dependent on one person, Jesus Christ is our only Savior. And Jesus must face the cross... our cross. He doesn't deserve this nor does he need the cross. We need the cross and we need Jesus. Jesus is not going to give up on this mission. Jesus is not going to buckle under to the temptation.

So, this passage is Jesus' tough love speech to all of his disciples. A tough love speech that Jesus is going to live out himself for us.

If we truly believe this and we have faith in Jesus' return; why don't we act like it?
Jesus may come today, who knows? So, why don't we act like it?
Why don't we make disciples who see the value in the cross, instead of binding them up with your own money, your own drugs, your own power over the other person?

"So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions."

Wow! That's some tough love! That's Jesus preparing us for our walk and his walk. A walk right to the cross. And a walk of life and salvation through Jesus himself. Thanks be to God!

Lord, thanks for the bold message. Thanks for the tough love. Thanks for setting it all straight about that cross that you willingly gave your life up for the sin of all people. Thanks for your act of salvation. Help me to live out that tough love you have set before me. Give me the fortitude to stand in your grace only through your actions of love and compassion. And when needed direct me in tough love for another that I don't make anyone weak, but point each person towards your grace and compassion and love and salvation... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, September 06, 2013

September 6th Reflection - Send - by Bill Lynch

Philemon 1:1–21
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and co-worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus. I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother.

For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love—and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

Paul was giving Onesimus to Philemon. Paul was sending his dear friend to Philemon when Paul could have used the company of Onesimus the most. Paul was giving of himself a person that had turned their life around through the Gospel of Jesus. Onesimus had changed and become a Child of God, it seems right in front of Paul's eyes. You can tell from this short letter that Paul loved Onesimus and cared for Philemon.

You can also pick up on something between the slave Onesimus and Philemon. Perhaps a dispute or a separation of ways. I have heard it said that Onesimus had stolen from Philemon in the past. I can't tell by this passage, but Paul had enough love for Onesimus that he was sending him to Philemon with account paid in full, personally by Paul if necessary.

When we become Children of God, and I think even at that moment of judgment in the end; I think Jesus will speak up for us. Jesus will say, "Here is Bill. I endorse his life through my own blood and sacrifice. I paid the price in full for Bill." You can substitute the name of any Child of God in place of mine. Jesus sends us out each day with a blessing and a call. Jesus sends us out as his ordained disciples to live our lives to his honor and glory. It's through what Jesus did that we are endorsed.

Sure, I slip up. I sin. I get angry and pitch a fit. But that just gives Jesus that much more to work on. And Jesus does work on me. I return to Jesus day after day and seek his teaching, his will, his way. Jesus changes me and he can change you. It's work. It's difficult. But, Jesus is there all along the way to work with you. Anyone who thinks they have it all figured out and are the perfect "Church Lady" are sadly mistaken and lost. They are lost into themselves and their own selfish actions. They need help and guidance and the love of Jesus to lead them through.

So, we look to Jesus to send us out. We look to Jesus to endorse and save us from our sinfulness. We look to Jesus our flesh and blood, our brother, our Savior for new life in eternity. Yes, we look to Jesus and trust in his actions of love and grace. We look in hope to the future that God has planned for us into eternity.

Lord, teach me the way. Teach me the Truth. Teach me all about you that I may go out in your name to live the life you have planned for me. You are my blessing and my life... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, September 05, 2013

September 5th Reflection - Known - by Bill Lynch

Psalm 139:1–6, 13–18
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.
How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end—I am still with you.

Lord, I can't go anywhere without you.
When I turn and run away, you are there.
You are with me even when I think you're not.
You have always been present since before my flesh was formed.

Wonderful is your presence to me each day.
You lead and guide and comfort me along the way.
You know my steps before I take them.
And when I stumble, you are there to pick me up.

How secure you make me feel.
Your Love is overflowing in my heart.
Your compassion and understanding never cease.
Thanks for being my partner in life.

Lord, you show wonderful, supernatural powers to all.
I look at the heavens and rejoice in your handiwork.
I gaze from the mountain at the intricacies of the earth.
Your power and wisdom and might surround me all the day.

Yet, you know my inward parts by heart.
You know my thoughts and see my soul.
You cultivate my faith with love and hope.
You are intimately close to me each moment.

Your knowledge of me is my love for you.
Your constant presence is my hearts desire.
For you are my Savior, my Redeemer, my God.
I give my praise to you with all my life.

God, you are with me even in my absence. You are there in the good and the tough times. Thank you my Savior! Thank you my God! May I be as near to you as you are to me... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

September 4th Reflection - Resolve - by Bill Lynch

Psalm 1
Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.

The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

How pleasing it is to be around someone that puts a positive spin on life. Not someone that is blind to the evils of this world, but rather someone that doesn't exhibit sarcasm at every action that another person takes. Someone that knows the blessings they have received and lives into those blessings and is thankful to God.

Yet, I fall to this sarcasm. I fall into the trap of the scoffer. And when I do this I hate it. All it does is make things worse. So, instead of being fed by this, I seek to be fed with the water of God's Word. I change and look at the blessings God has granted and give thanks. I stop and take a drink of that wonderful baptismal water that God freely gives to sustain life with and in him.

The psalmist vows to stand with God and walk with God. This isn't to say that the psalmist is always the godly person that he wishes to be, or even that this walk with God will always be pleasing. It has more to say about the psalmist's resolve to be faithful to God. The psalmist delights in the Lord.

So, in my walk with God, I resolve to stand with God and walk in his will and his way. It's like a promise. God gives life and purpose and gracious love. So, I delight in God's commands and in God's Word and seek to live a pleasing life to God. I resolve to study and meditate on God's Word and listen and act upon God's call in my life. I draw rich life from God as he feeds me through his Word in Scripture, the Sacraments and his call in my life. God knows the way of the righteous and I seek God's will in my life.

What's your resolve?

Lord, thanks for the blessing of your Son, Jesus, in my life. Thanks for the gifts you have given me through the Holy Spirit. Thanks for that daily call to action you give to me. Thanks for your walk by my side as I learn your will and your way in my life. Walk with me and feed me from the stream, that my leaves may not wither but bring joy to you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

September 3rd Reflection - Human Clay - by Bill Lynch

Jeremiah 18:1–11
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.

Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the Lord: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.

This summer, while on vacation in the Smokys, I visited Alewine Pottery. I wanted to purchase a coffee mug for a souvenir. It was a difficult choice to make. Not two mugs were alike. I had to find the mug that was large like I wanted and one that just felt good to me. It has since become my favorite coffee mug. I was fortunate enough, while on my visit to the pottery house, to be able to see the owner making bowls at the time. I think he was in the business for around thirty years now. He made bowl after bowl. All the bowls were similar but none were identical. Even with this, once the firing took place the finish would always be slightly different. Each piece was unique, yet each piece was formed by the hand of the artist in multiple ways. If a bowl didn't begin or finish as desired the potter would rework the clay into what he wanted to see, or toss the clay aside for something else. All of this control was with the potter and his wishes. I had a wonderful time talking to the owner about his years of work and learning his passion for his trade. This experience just made the mug I purchased that much more special.

In this passage, God commands Jeremiah to visit the potter's house, in order that God could give Jeremiah understanding into the mind of God. God is working with human clay in this passage. Jeremiah witnessed the potters failure to make a vessel more than once. In this passage the potter chose to make the failed clay vessel into another vessel. God is the master of the human clay. God can choose to make the human clay into whatever God chooses. We peek into the mind of God and see the vessel he intended when God forms the human clay into a unique vessel that pleases God.

God can do this very same thing with me or with you. God can do this with the Church, a nation, a group or anything that God has created. We don't seek permission from God to change. God changes me. God changes me into what God wishes for me to be. I can respond to the change, just as God chooses to permit, and God does choose to permit us to respond. I can follow God's lead in change and seek to continually please God or I can walk away. But, even that, doesn't fail to give God the right to change me once again.

Sometimes the change feels good and sometimes the change hurts. It's not my choice but rather God's hand directing the change into something that pleases God. God can also shape something else for me to lead me to make up my mind to follow him. God is the creator and has choice also. So, I can use the change God makes in me to please God, or I can run from God. That is my choice so granted by God, but God still has his choice to continue changing me. I'm glad God is persistent with me in changing me into something he desires. Even when I try to run. I'm glad God pulls me from the wheel and goes at me again. Even if it hurts. God loves me and you enough to keep on working us.

I will respond to what pleases God. How about you?

Lord, don't give up on me. Change me into what is pleasing to you... I'll listen and seek to make you happy... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen