Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 31st Reflection by Bill Lynch


Romans 9:1-5
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

Reflection
Paul is on his way to Jerusalem. He has collected some gifts from the Gentile churches and is headed to Jerusalem with these gifts from the Gentiles. The reality of the situation in Jerusalem is that not a large percentage at all have believed in the idea of Jesus as the Messiah. Not many Jewish Christians to this point. So, Paul is going to Jerusalem and the Christians in this city are not a large percentage of the total population. Paul's confidence is a little low at this time. Paul needs some courage for the journey. Paul needs to focus on what is important. Paul needs the Truth.

Paul reaches back into the faith that the Holy Spirit has built in him. The Israelites themselves were gifted and blessed by God... yes, chosen by God to be God's people. They were chosen not due to any action that they performed but rather chosen because God has all the rights to choose. In a sense the Israelites were adopted by God. And this is the argument that Paul intends to make while in Jerusalem meeting with the Christian leaders.

Gentiles also now have been adopted as God's chosen. They have been adopted not because they can or will follow the Law of God handed down through Moses. They will fail at keeping the Law just as the Israelites have failed to follow the Law. The Gentiles have been adopted as God's chosen through the blood of Jesus. Jesus life, ministry, teachings, suffering, death and resurrection have permitted all people access to God through Jesus. The Gentiles are now also chosen by God to be in God's fold as well as the Israelites.

Yes, the Israelites were truly blessed by God... but the Gentiles also now have been blessed by God through Jesus. This is the focus and the confidence and the message that Paul must take to Jerusalem. And the Holy Spirit continues to lead Paul and this message forward into eternity.

This message of Paul is not only for Paul's time... but lives on through you and through me into eternity.

Thanks be to God!

Song
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwsvqVmFV6Y

Prayer
Lord, keep me focused on your message for all the people, that I may proclaim your truth and not my imagination... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

July 26th Reflection by Bill Lynch


Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
 He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’
 He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’
 ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
 ‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’

Reflection
"We went walking in the bushes!" This is a common quote from my grand-daughter Kaiya when she talks about any hike we take in any woods. In the bushes which for sure there are bushes, there are trees, there are small plants and even animals of various kinds.

Jesus parable tells us about the mustard seed and how it becomes a bush and even a tree. The mustard seed develops into something that even other animals can sustain life from when needed. Something small over time develops and becomes something new and different and useful and valuable. Not that it wasn't so very valuable even when it was small. Even then it had great value. Just as the pearl has great value when found and just as the yeast brought forth great growth.

All this talk of smallness that gets pulled into the net of the love of Jesus and developed into something far beyond what any one of us could ever imagine. Yet as the small seeds and the small pearls exist, they exist likewise with the good and the bad. Not all of the "bushes" are wonderful "bushes. Some things of this world have been tricked into sin by the wiles of the devil. Sin still exists and we have to deal with it like it or not.

This is where the separation of good and the bad takes place. Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea. The angels will come and separate the good from the bad, the evil from the righteous. And the evil will be thrown into the furnace of fire. Yes, it will be a grand time when evil will be cast out forever. A time we can all look forward to. Even the sinful will have the evil cast out forever. And we know that we all qualify as being one of the sinful.

How we need Jesus to cast out the evil from this earth! How grand it will be when we can walk in the bushes and all will be just as God intended for it to be from the beginning. But until that time, we must live with the evil in this world and the evil within ourselves and live in the hope that a time will come when Jesus will cast out evil from this world and from our sinful selves once and for all.

Now that's some hope to live for! That's our God! The one who loves us like a pearl and hunts us down to rescue us from sin, death and the devil through the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. All for you! All for me! All for all the people of this earth!

Parable to Art and Music
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvFU69u0mjM

Prayer
Lord, as I walk in the bushes of life, help me to get over myself and live my life for you. Guide me and direct me. Give me pause to stop and hear your Word and heed your commands. Give me pause to live my life for other's as you gave your life for me. Show me how to walk among the bushes of this life of mine in my own sinful nature that my faith may grow into that great and awesome tree that brings forth fruit that gives glory to you. May I see and love those you give to me with the love you have for the smallest of the pearls of life... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, July 25, 2014

July 25th Reflection by Bill Lynch


Romans 8:26-39
 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;
   we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Reflection
Oh how we groan! I groan, you groan we all groan, and not just for ice cream. We groan because we are sinners. This world is not the world that God intended in the beginning. So, God groans right along with us. But God's groaning is for something new. Sure, our groaning is for something new also but we are the cause of God's groaning and our own. God did not intend on groaning from the beginning.

But thanks be to God, God thought of a solution right from the start. A Savior was spoken in the Word and the Word became flesh. The Word and Savior were right from the start and then at just the right time that Word became flesh and dwelt with us here on this earth and in this place. A Savior that would take on the source of our groaning and the groaning of all creation due to our sinfulness and our need to separate ourselves from God in a vain attempt to save ourselves.

Jesus came as God and lived and died and rose again taking on the sin of each and all of us. Jesus put that sin to death on the cross and rose again to live in heaven and with us forever. Even as we continue to groan we live in the hope that Jesus will come again and take us to be with him in heaven. This is the promise of God and God keeps promises.

So just as Paul lives in the hope of the Savior; we too also live...

"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. "

So groan on... groan on with the Holy Spirit... but groan in the knowing that God has chosen to bring us through it all and unite us in the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Song
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdFzB4MQgEA

Prayer
Lord, hear my groaning as I live this life you have blessed me with. May my life be a continual shout out to you and your glory. All praise and honor and glory are to you for your saving grace... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July 23rd Reflection by Bill Lynch


Psalm 119:129-136
Your decrees are wonderful;
   therefore my soul keeps them.
The unfolding of your words gives light;
   it imparts understanding to the simple.
With open mouth I pant,
   because I long for your commandments.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
   as is your custom towards those who love your name.
Keep my steps steady according to your promise,
   and never let iniquity have dominion over me.
Redeem me from human oppression,
   that I may keep your precepts.
Make your face shine upon your servant,
   and teach me your statutes.
My eyes shed streams of tears
   because your law is not kept.

Reflection 
Blessings you pour out from day to day, O Lord.
   Response is my thankfulness for all you do.
      You are my Light!

Blessings you give even when I don't deserve it.
   Response is my human act of love for you alone.
      You are my Light!

Blessings you provide when I stand in need of forgiveness.
   Response is my turning towards your shining face in repentance.
      You are my Light!

Blessings you shower upon the good and the evil.
   Response is the love I show to those you give to me.
      You are my Light!

Blessings you anoint my head with in the sign of the cross.
   Response is my fervent panting and listening to your Word.
      You are my Light!

Blessings you give freely in the body and the blood.
   Response is my taking of the bread and the wine with a humble heart.
      You are my Light!

Blessings you shout out through the sight and sound and smell of your creation.
   Response is my love for all your handiwork.
      You are my Light!

Blessings you pour out from day to day, O Lord.
   Response is my life dedicated to following your will and your way.
      You are my Light!

Song
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXZ1C79uJX0

Prayer
Lord thank you for blessing my life with your presence and saving me from death. Yes, you, Lord are my Light! Hear and see and feel the hug of my response with a thankful heart and life... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

July 22nd Reflection by Bill Lynch


Genesis 29:15-28
 Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?’ Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.’ Laban said, ‘It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.’ So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

 Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.’ So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?’ Laban said, ‘This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me for another seven years.’ Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.

Reflection
When we serve out of love it seems that the time flies by. Jacob was serving seven years to have Laban's daughter Rachel as his wife. Yet at the end of the seven years, Laban pulled a switch on Jacob unknown to Jacob. Laban gave his oldest daughter Leah to Jacob instead of Rachel. Kind of like a bait and switch.

It's complicated to understand how Jacob must have felt but how did the sisters feel? Jacob was a trickster himself and now he was at the other end of the deception. You could play this one out yourself but in this situation, I wonder how the sisters felt.

As this story unfolds beyond the passage above, it seems we are into another wrestling match. Jacob wrestled with with his brother Esau for the birthright and blessing and he wrestled with an angel now his wives will wrestle with one another. So... here we go!

But once again I go back to the thought of how the sisters must have felt. They were pawns in a marriage bargain. This was common at the time, but how would they have felt. It's no wonder they were placed opposite one another in a wrestling match. It's no wonder that marriage and childbearing turned into a competition. Nor was the marriage to sisters legal at the time. This was not marriages set up by the rules from the start.

Jacob loved Rachel very much. So much that he continued to serve another seven years. How would you feel if your were Leah to all of this? Relationships seem to get so complicated when deception is involved. Then throw on top of all of this the fertility of Leah and the infertility of Rachel. Let the wrestling match continue. Was there hate between the sisters? Did Rachel and Leah despise one another? Did Leah laugh at Rachel's infertility? Did Leah feel ugly compared to Rachel? Did Rachel make fun of Leah's looks?

How did the sisters feel? Yet, it seems that God has some humor in all of this too. Out of this grand wrestling match between Jacob, Esau, an angel, God, Laban, Rachel and Leah... God draws forth his Chosen People. And through his Chosen People all the people of the world will be saved from sin, death and the devil by the coming of God in Christ Jesus to live, teach, suffer, die and rise again for all the people of this world.

I guess we all have the same question. How did the sisters feel? In the end... I think they were amazed with what God can make out of things. Truly amazed...

Yes, out of a wrestling match God will eventually save all the people of the world.

It doesn't surprise me that when I'm in the midst of a life struggle that seems to never end that God makes something out of it that I would never expect. God takes the flawed of this world and creates something new and wonderful. God does this with me and with you as well.

Are you ready to wrestle? Let's get ready to rumble!

Something Dumb
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsy33p2Ir1w

Prayer
Lord, take me and use me that I may glorify you and all you have planned for me through those people and situations with which I wrestle... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen






Monday, July 21, 2014

July 21st Reflection by Bill Lynch


1 Kings 3:5-12
At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, ‘Ask what I should give you.’ And Solomon said, ‘You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart towards you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?’

 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.

Reflection
Ask what I should give you. What if God were to ask me such a question. How would I respond? It's not as easy as you think at first. You must pause and give thought. Is God like a wishing well? What if I really get what I ask for and what I ask for is not what I thought I was going to get?

Solomon considered the position he had been placed in by his father, David. Solomon was now a king over the chosen people of God. So, Solomon knew he needed help in governing these people who at times could be stubborn. Solomon requested wisdom to handle the situation in which he was placed. Solomon asked for an understanding mind to govern God's people and the ability to discern between good and evil.

God granted Solomon his wish. Some of the wish was turned to evil as Solomon fell to the trap of sexual lust and power with the wisdom he was granted. I don't think Solomon had seen this part of his wish coming at the time of the question. Ask what I should give you...

What a generous question God proposes. How the question in itself displays the love of God and God's vast power and generosity and love. God shows Solomon and all of us love beyond our imagination and even beyond our expectation. Ask what I should give you...

Let's look at what Solomon does right with this question. First he humbles himself before God. Solomon realizes that his position is not a result of his own effort or strength. Solomon was not in line to receive the throne, he was given this position. Solomon also humbles himself by admitting that he was lacking in understanding and young and new to this great job. I think Solomon also knew that he needed to listen to God and listen carefully. God had given Solomon his Chosen People to care for and to govern.

Ask what I should give you... So we consider what Solomon asked and now I consider what I would ask. I would ask for God's blessings. God's blessings in how I think and act and love for those God has given to me. God's blessings in teaching me what to say and what to do. God's blessings in how to be compassionate and caring for all God's people. God's blessings in saving me and all people. God's blessings in forgiveness and forgiving. God's blessings in living and loving. Yes... for me... I would ask for God's blessings in my earthly life, that would take me on a journey with God here and now and forever... wherever that may lead.

Think about it.... What if God were to come to you and propose ... Ask what I should give you...

Humorous Clip
Be careful what you wish for... it may not be what you expected.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkU9FAxUE1Q


Prayer
Lord, I ask for you to teach me, lead me, guide me and take me along in this life. I ask for you to bless me with your presence... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, July 20, 2014

July 20th Reflection by Bill Lynch


Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
 He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’
 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

Reflection
Remember how Jesus had told us that the seed was the Word. From this we also know that the Word is Jesus because the Word became flesh and dwelt with us. Also we hear of the Word of God being spoken at the creation. With this in mind, I pause and think how rich Jesus' parables really are. They seem to be like a diamond in the light and when turned in different directions all colors of light sparkle in all directions. With this in mind I pause to think about this parable.

Perhaps this parable is like the life of one of God's Children. Jesus states the the field is the world. Well and good and that the one who sows good seed is himself, the Son of Man. This seed being the Word, the Gospel, Jesus himself brings forth life and produces the righteous who are like wheat.

If you just take the thought of the wheat being in the Bread and the Bread of Life being Jesus, you can take off into a different realm of hearing God's Word spoken. And then ponder that the meaning for Bethlehem, the city of Jesus birth, means House of Bread; you will start to see the Light of that diamond sparkle in all sorts of different directions. But Jesus' explanation to the parable in this passage doesn't mention the wheat, so I'll leave that behind for another time.

Jesus explanation talks more about the collection of the weeds than anything else. The weeds are the children of the evil one. I think this is those that have purposely chosen to turn their backs on God and walk and perhaps run away from God towards their own gods or their own salvation or a salvation by one who has tricked them into thinking that truth is something other than what comes from God.

In the end, Jesus will send his angels to collect all the ways of sin. The angels are the reapers.

 "...and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers..."

What the reapers collect is not the weeds but rather what has caused the weeds to be weeds. So when collected it is the weeds that are thrown into the fire.

This makes me think of how the wheat is in the Bread which is Jesus but the wheat is not Jesus. Likewise what causes the the weeds to grow as weeds is sin and the evildoers become sin and are separated from God and thrown into the fire. In the collection of all that causes sin out of what I assume to be the devils kingdom, what will be left behind is the good wheat. Throw that group of "left behind" into your thinking and the diamond will sparkle once again with a different color of Light. Maybe... just maybe if you're left behind you are in the group of the righteous, because...

"Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!"

In my life, I have sin and I sin. At times I am both weed and wheat. But if I place all of my hope and faith in God, God chooses to claim me and save me as God's own. God sent Jesus as God into this world and my life and in the life of the Church to save all people, even the weeds. In my life are weeds, but when God removes all of the causes of sin, I change.

I change not because of myself. I change because Jesus came into this world and defeated sin, death and the devil. I change because of God in Jesus. When I take this gift into myself and place all of my hope and trust in this gift from God; I will change. There is no doubt about this... I WILL change.

That change will be brought forth from God and from my response to the love of God. The change won't take place because I'm such a goody person now with that ol plastic smiling face but because of what God has freely given. In this change a smile comes to my face. A smile that knows that I was lost to be weed and God took my life and made me into wheat. My ol plastic smiling face changes into a face with a real smile. A smile that is not fake but a smile that is thankful for what God has done in my life and the life of the Church.

I change and I have become righteous. I'm righteous not because of anything I could ever do but righteous because of what God has done for me through Jesus and through the gift of the Holy Spirit. How wonderful it is to think that even what the devil sows, that may become weed, God can take and cast out the causes of sin and create wheat. Wheat that will be left behind at the end of the age by the angels that come to reap. Wheat that are now with the righteous through what God has done in Jesus Christ. Wheat that will

"...will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father."

Listen... stop... pause... move that diamond around... hear the Word... see the Seed cast... become part of the Bread... be one of the left behind... and shine like the Son!

Thanks be to God!

Song
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8levIxTKYk

Prayer
Lord you give me pause. May I stop to listen. May I hear. May I change. Remove from my life the causes of sin. Guide me in your way that I may shine like you, to your glory... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen


Saturday, July 19, 2014

July 19th Reflection by Bill Lynch


Romans 8:12-25
 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Reflection
Now to the plastic face of myself. I must admit that I can't bring sin under control in my life by my own reason or strength. To many Lutherans this may sound a little familiar. This is in the New Testament people's way of thinking what the Romans brought. That we can control ourselves by reason. I also admit that I can't bring sin under control in my life by obeying the Law. This is what the Jewish community would have thought. Plain and simple I can't bring sin under control in my life by anything that I say or do. If I believe that I can; I may as well just put on the plastic face and smile away to all around me and live the fake life of a "saved" Christian. Don't those people just get under your skin though? Get real!

The words of Luther's explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles Creed ring true in my ear at this point. Was it because this is what I was always taught? Maybe, but after many years of thought I have come to believe the truth of Luther's words. I can't do this on my own (my words). I can't get it with out God's help (my words). "But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with gifts, and sanctified and kept me in true faith." (Luther's words)

If I live according to the flesh by my own reasoning and strength, by keeping the Law, then I will die. But if I live according to the Spirit, putting to death the deeds of the flesh... the Spirit... not me... will grant me life. I can be honest with myself and with those around me, yes, even those in the Church and take off that smiling plastic face and get real.

I'm sinful yet sanctified through God. I no longer need to fear my sinfulness and fear the judgment of those around me because I know and live in the hope of the Spirit that I have been saved by God, not by myself or any plastic smiling face I wear. This is real! This is hope! This is why I can stand judged before man as condemned and sinful. This is why I can stand before God and call out to my Savior and live out the calling the Spirit has called me to in using the gifts that the Spirit of God has entrusted to me to live life on this earth and look towards my heavenly life in hope. It's not about me or my smiling, plastic, face. It's about Jesus and his pure loving face and about the Spirit that has come to me to lead me and guide me through this life I live in Christ and in the Spirit all to the glory of God.

Yes, my sin hurts me and hurts those around me. Yes, my sin has an impact far and wide. But I know that I have a God that has taken care of all that. I have a God that has defeated sin, death and the devil. I have a God that knows that I am flesh and earth and knows from where I come and knows the sin within me, yet still chooses to love me and save me and fill me with the Spirit. So, I live in hope.

"We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved."

It is by this I stand. By this I remove the plastic, smiling, face and live in the hope of God. It is by this that I can live my life as a sinner and a saint and smile for what God has done for... yes, even me. Thanks be to God!

Song
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF5RAlBt50s

Prayer
Lord, may I live my life in the hope that only you can give... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 17th Reflection by Bill Lynch


Psalm 86:11-17
Teach me your way, O Lord,
   that I may walk in your truth;
   give me an undivided heart to revere your name.
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
   and I will glorify your name for ever.
For great is your steadfast love towards me;
   you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

O God, the insolent rise up against me;
   a band of ruffians seeks my life,
   and they do not set you before them.
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
   slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and be gracious to me;
   give your strength to your servant;
   save the child of your serving-maid.
Show me a sign of your favour,
   so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame,
   because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Reflection
For a Child of God we want so badly to learn what God wants for our lives. We want to please God in our thoughts and our actions. Yet, there is this inkling in the back of our heads that tells us what we really know about ourselves. We really know that we sin and don't always do what God desires. It's not a secret but it's a secret we would rather no have made public. So we struggle in our hearts with wanting to do what God teaches and living a life that praises God, with the knowledge of our sinful failures when we do what we don't want to do as a Child of God.

So, we come to depend on God's love and faithfulness and patience and steadfast love. We come to realize that these characteristics are abounding in our God because we sin and sin again even though we hate the sin we are doing. Oh, what a battle sin causes to rage within our minds and hearts!

And we turn to God. God how can you love me? How can you put up with me? I can't even put up with myself let alone ask you to put up with my sinful ways.

Some people pretend to ignore there sin and put on these pious faces and smile even though the sin lies just beneath the surface. I would rather be honest with God and come to God with my sin. I would rather be the one to listen than to put on the smiling face and ignore God's teachings and continue on in my own "happy" little world. At some point I would rather fall to my knees in the presence of God and humble my proud, pious self and repent. I would rather wait for God to forgive than to live the life of a "fake."

I think the psalmist feels this also and has come to realize just the beginning of God's love. I think the psalmist in this passage is honest with God and seeks God's help. I think the psalmist as well as myself hear and learn from God and the lives of one another throughout the centuries that we truly do have a God we need for our salvation...

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
   slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and be gracious to me;
   give your strength to your servant;
   save the child of your serving-maid.

No need for the fake, happy, pious face... we are free to be humble and loving and thankful for a God that chooses to love us and saves us... warts and all. Now that brings a smile to my face! Thanks be to God!

Song
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csq8sR2-6Qk

Prayer
Lord, it's me again. I come to you warts and all. I come to you sinful and seeking forgiveness. I come to you to learn your love, that I too may love those you give to me. I come to you asking that you give me your ability to look past those fake smiling faces and love those very same people and explain their actions in the kindest way. I come to you for your mercy and steadfast love and your faithfulness and your gracious saving grace... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

July 15th Reflection by Bill Lynch


Genesis 28:10-19a
 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went towards Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’ Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’

 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

Reflection
A stone for a pillow? No wonder Jacob dreamed about angels ascending and descending and heard God give a promise. This stone would become a monument and a symbol of God's presence and promise.

God's presence and promise... it seems that when we finally realize that God is present we know that God is standing right beside us. God is right next to us when we finally realize that God is present. It's not like God wasn't there all along but more like we couldn't see or hear God all that time. We weren't expecting God to be present that close to us and then we find out that God is right next to us.

Next to us on the journey. Next to us as we wander. Next to us as we run from danger or strife or sin or defeat. Next to us in the midst of the night when all we can find for a pillow is a rock. God is present with us if we know it or not. And God is present with a promise. A promise that give us the hope of a vision or a dream of angels ascending and descending into heaven. Yes, God gives us a peek at the gate of heaven.

God became flesh in Jesus and Jesus has been ascending and descending that ladder ever since. Jesus descended the ladder in flesh to save the world from sin, death and the devil. Jesus ascended into heaven for a time and Jesus will descend to come again. The Holy Spirit has been ascending and descending that ladder from the beginning. The Holy Spirit comes to us and makes us aware of God's presence and God's promise.

God has promised through Jesus that he will be with us always. Jesus has promised to lead us and guide us through this life to eternal life with him in eternity. God's presence and promise... realize the awesome gift from God and turn to God for God is right by your side. Pick up that rock for a pillow and see and hear God's direction and promise for you today. Thanks be to God!

Song
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMEPHKmCAFQ

Prayer
Lord, as I awake from sleep may I always notice your presence right next to me. May I always seek your will and your way and may I always receive your blessing and hear your promise that I may go out each day in the love you have given to me to give to those you set before me in life... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, July 14, 2014

July 14th Reflection by Bill Lynch


Isaiah 44:6-8
Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel
   and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
I am the first and I am the last;
   besides me there is no god.
Who is like me? Let them proclaim it,
   let them declare and set it forth before me.
Who has announced from of old the things to come?
   Let them tell us what is yet to be.
Do not fear, or be afraid;
   have I not told you from of old and declared it?
   You are my witnesses!
Is there any god besides me?
   There is no other rock; I know not one.

Reflection
First and last and beginning and eternal. All those who come to believe and place all of their hope in God will declare this same thing. God is it! God is all! God is everything! We live our lives in the hope of what God has done and place our lives in this hope in Jesus Christ that life is in God. And we will tell the story of God active in our lives all of our days. It's this way.

Song
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PTvr755V8s

Prayer
Lord, in this world of many distractions may I always keep and know you as the one and only God. Keep me from making idols of things. Lead me to listen to your Word and proclaim your saving grace to all you give to me. In you there is no other rock... I know not one... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, July 13, 2014

July 13th Reflection by Bill Lynch


Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!’
 ‘Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’

Reflection
The seed always feeds. The seed feeds in each of the situations, it's just what happens with the person that the seeds feeds after receiving the seed that makes all of the difference.

Jesus has come to us. There is no doubt that Jesus has come into this world and brought his Word with him. God has come to people even before Jesus came into this world in flesh. God has been in this world from the beginning and so has God's Word. Right from the start God's Word set all that we know into place and into action.

This parable, told by Jesus, relates the Word to the seed thrown. And the Word feeds everyone. The Word always feeds. The Word feeds those who hear and don't understand. The Word feeds those who hear and respond joyously but don't take the Word to heart when persecution happens, as persecution always will occur in life. The Word feeds those who live in the midst of sin but the sinfulness overcomes them. And finally the Word feeds those who are fortunate enough to be in a place or situation that they can hear and understand the Word and bear much fruit. In each case the seed always feeds.

Remembering that the Word is also referred to as Jesus in the Word made flesh that dwells among us... and thinking about how the seed is related to the Word or yes, even Jesus in this passage... I realize that no matter what my situation in life has been... on the path or on the rocky ground or among the thorns or even in the rich soil... Jesus has always been there to feed me and sustain me and give me all the chances I could ever desire to walk with him... on the path... on the rocky ground... through the thorns... and in the rich soil.

Yes, Jesus has always fed me in whatever circumstance of life I have found myself. But the question becomes... In all of those times and situations, did I stop and listen and think about what God would have me do? Did I stop and take heed and receive the Word and permit the Word to feed me and nourish me? Or did I just think of myself and my own sinfulness and my own way of solving the situation that I found myself in at the time?

Jesus always feeds us. Do we stop and listen? Do we pause and take it in? Do we seek to do his will in each and every place of life? I'm sure not. At least not for me. I wish I could say that yes, I did stop and listen all of the time but that wouldn't be true.

Jesus was sent into this world not only to save us from our sin but to also feed us. We are granted a freedom to choose what we eat. But this one thing stands true... God's Word... the seed... Jesus... always feeds us.

I think it's time to stop, pause, listen... in whatever situation life has presented you or me... and take and eat... for this is Jesus' body and blood... the bread and the wine... given and shed for you and for all people.

The Seed always feeds us. Thanks be to God!

Song
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74z71SgPoKM

Prayer
Lord, in all the situations of life that I find myself; help me to stop and pause and listen and feed upon the seed of your Word in my life that I may please you and do your will... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, July 12, 2014

July 12th Reflection by Bill Lynch


Romans 8:1-11
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Reflection
Don't get this wrong, I'm not against taking care of yourself and your body. God created something wonderful in the human body. In fact, at least for me, all that God created brings a curiosity and an expression of awe and wonder. I look at creation and am highly entertained by exploring all the details involved. I see how things work and apply those processes to my daily living. I'm amazed at what we as humans have done with what God, as the Creator, has given to us to enjoy. Think of all of the engineering and all of the medical advances and all of the discoveries we have made of this world and this universe. And yes, even pause and think of all the times we have come to discover that we misunderstood something and that we were in error with our understandings.

As all of this applies to the flesh we should take care of the flesh. But when we focus solely on these things alone, we fail to see another aspect of God that is hidden to our scientific eyes. Not only did God gift us with creation and our fleshly bodies, God gifted us with his Spirit. We too are like God in spirit. And we too have been given the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

When we focus on the flesh alone, we realize either quickly or throughout a lifetime that we are in decay. We live in a fallen world to sin and a fallen world to the decay of our bodies. We are not what God intended for us to be because, long ago we as humans chose to become independent from God. And that just doesn't work. We are dependent on God. We are God's dependents after all. We are created to be like God and God did not want us to become God but rather to be in his likeness.

With this in mind our fleshly bodies decay. No matter how many boob jobs we have or how many tummy tucks we get or how many gyms we join to keep our bodies fit and proper, we decay. We age and become sick and ill and we die. But that's not the end of it for those God chose as his dependents and for those who have either ran after God or followed God and place all of their hope in God. For all of those...

"But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you."

What an assurance we have from this decaying and sickly flesh we live in! What a hope we have in the Spirit that God places and dwells within us! What a victory God gave to all of us through the fleshly body of God himself in Jesus who overcame death, the devil, the grave and hell to save us from sin! I am free to live in this fleshly body, this body of decay, knowing that the Spirit of God has saved me in and through the life of Jesus fleshly existence on this world in which, I too, walk and live and breathe. I am free from the worry of death and full of the hope of life in this body of mine today and in a body which God will make like new in the Spirit of life through Jesus. I am free to live life knowing that either in flesh or in spirit, God loves me so much that he saved me, not by my own actions but by God's own actions in Jesus.

With this Spirit that dwells in us, we are "in" Christ Jesus. Yes, we are saved and held in Jesus. We are believers but more than that we are "in" Christ Jesus and God's Spirit dwells "in" us. We are in community with God and we are dependents of God "in" Christ Jesus. What a unity to have, either in the flesh or in the spirit or in both. We are "in" God as God's Church and as God's dependents.

Now that's true life and true freedom... Thanks be to God!

Hymn
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNRyGGSOQLQ

Prayer
Lord, guide me in taking care of myself. Guide me to doctors that use the gifts you have provided to heal and give medicines that extend my life in this place in order that I may sing your praise to all you give to me. Lord, guide me here and now and into eternity through the saving grace of the Word made flesh in Jesus and the Holy Spirit that dwells within me from you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

July 8th Reflection by Bill Lynch


Genesis 25:19-34
 These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, ‘If it is to be this way, why do I live?’ So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her,
‘Two nations are in your womb,
   and two peoples born of you shall be divided;
one shall be stronger than the other,
   the elder shall serve the younger.’
When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterwards his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.

 When the boys grew up, Esau was a skilful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.
 Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!’ (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, ‘First sell me your birthright.’ Esau said, ‘I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?’ Jacob said, ‘Swear to me first.’ So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

Reflection
Two nations and two babies and two men born of God's plan to lead very different lives. Both of the same family yet both so different yet both from the same mother at the same time. One ahead of the other for sure, but both the same yet very very different.

Isn't this how God works with us? Doesn't God treat us in our own unique ways? Both men would struggle and wrestle with God. In each own's way the struggle with God would continue. Yet in the end both would reunite some time later in life and find that they both have so much in common. Both have so much in common and so much different.

It seems a story of the lives of families and siblings and people everywhere throughout time. Yet all of us have something in common. We were all created and formed in the womb of God. We all have been given the gracious gift of salvation through God in flesh, Jesus Christ. We all are so different yet have so much in common.

Why can't we get along? Why do we struggle and grab the heel of another to try to gain upon one another? Why do we take from one another and trick one another? Why does sin overtake what we have in common? Why don't we all see and hear the call of Jesus to come to him? Why did God make us so different? What leads some back to God and others run away? Why?

So, we not only struggle with one another but we also struggle with God. Why? Perhaps the hope of salvation comes in the form of one that God sent. Perhaps the struggle continues as we walk with God by our side. Perhaps our "Why?" questions form the relationship that God wants us to have. Perhaps we wrestle with God to come to know God better and better. Perhaps we grab hold of Jesus not to get ahead but rather to cling to our God and follow him.

Why? and Perhaps... As Rebekah questions  The children struggled together within her; and she said, ‘If it is to be this way, why do I live?’

Why? Perhaps God wants it this way to show us Jesus.

Song
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN6GMQTQksk

Prayer
Lord, as I struggle with family, friends and you, may I hear your voice, may I question why and may I hear your perhaps... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, July 07, 2014

July 7th Reflection by Bill Lynch


Isaiah 55:10-13
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
   and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
   giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
   it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
   and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out in joy,
   and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
   shall burst into song,
   and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
   instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,
   for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

Reflection
What God sends forth produces fruit. God does not send forth uselessness and wasteful words or actions. When I think of Jesus coming to earth, I recall the perfect example of this thought. Likewise when we become children of God in the waters of baptism and the Spirit is poured out upon us and salvation is made real in our lives; we are sent out from God. We are gifted and called and sent and what God sends out will be fruitful. Sometimes we forget this and dwell only on our faults and our insecurities but God has a way of even using these characteristics to make something good and wonderful of our lives as we live out life on this earth in the presence and in the company of all the people God has created.

And then I think of the joy of returning to my father, yes even my earthly father, after having gone out with the skills and abilities and character that my earthly father taught me and the joy in his eyes upon my return. I feel this same way with my own children. When I see them experience life the hardships and the joys using the tools and abilities that I taught them to survive with; when they return, I am happy to see them and hear about their ventures in life.

How much more joy we must bring to our heavenly Father when we return from using the gifts and abilities he has placed within us to bring him glory and joy. What we may have thought was going to produce thorns we return with cypress. What we may have thought was a brier comes back as myrtle. We can see this glory in Jesus and we can see it in the baptized and gifted children of God as well.

When God's Word is placed upon our hearts and God's everlasting water is placed on our head and the sign of the cross is placed upon our forehead and we are gifted and sent in faith, we will return to God with all glory and honor and praise. It's just that simple. All because God said so and not because we were worthy. Yes, it's all a gift from God for which we give eternal thanks and praise.

Song
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-SI_HRWooA

Prayer
Lord, rain down your Word upon this earth and upon your children that your purpose may be accomplished... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, July 06, 2014

July 6th Reflection by Bill Lynch


Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
 ‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
   we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’
 At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

Reflection
It was such a fog of a memory on one hand, yet on another, the vision seemed so clear and repeatable. We had worked hard all that night. And it all happened just like you have heard it would happen. I remember being with my son in the basement. Yes, it sounded like a train coming and then the crash and the destruction. As we came up the basement steps, suddenly we noticed a light rain and daylight. The roof of the house was gone. Really much of the house was gone with it, but Tom and I were both safe.

We walked outside and heard voices shouting from what seemed a great distance. Shouts for help. Shouts of pain. You can tell the difference. Dogs barking and running around free. So, Tom and I followed the voices. It was one after another it seemed. We would work together and clear debris and pull someone out of the rubble. Soon, the fire department and police arrived. It was getting dark and hard to see anything. But Tom and I continued to help the fire fighters, the paramedics, neighbors and the police, follow the voices of those in pain and pull them free.

We worked late into the dark of the night until we couldn't hear another voice. Yet we still wondered if somewhere there may have been a whimper, even a plea for help. As we scoured the neighborhood and listened closely we became aware that for tonight we had accomplished all that we could.

It was now time to seek shelter for ourselves. Tom and I stared at one another wondering what to do next. We were alone in this town. We were new to this town. We were tired and exhausted and weary and worn out from the work of the night. We were nervous and upset with all that had occurred in just a couple of hours. And then we saw and heard something.

It seemed like a shadow, yet the voice became clear. It was a voice bidding us to come. Much like we had been calling out to all of those voices in the night that we had pulled from the wreckage of homes, we heard the voice from the shadow of a figure that said come.

You see, just as we were new to this neighborhood, so was the new Salvation Army Major in town. He had just moved in across the street from us. Amazingly, just as some say of a tornado, his house had not been touched. Major Leonard had been calling out our names to us. Tom and Jerry, come! Come through the darkness. Come, for I know you are weary from all of the work of the night. Come, for I know you are in need. Come, for I can see your house and the devastation this storm has caused. Come, for I know you need rest and sleep and comfort. Come, for I have prepared a place for you. You have been faithful servants of God this evening. Come to my voice. Come, for I will give you drink and food and restoration.

So, we followed Major Leonard's voice. We came to him. We shared our lives with him. He shared food, drink and shelter and love and compassion and even some water to wash with. Yes, it was as if the voice of the Savior had called us out of the darkness to come. All that Major Leonard offered that evening restored both myself, Tom and even the Major. Yes, we were restored that evening and made ready.

We were made ready to serve in joy the following morning and the weeks to come. Restored to rescue the hungry, help build the homes of the needy and restored in the help Tom and I received in rebuilding our own home and our own lives in this new community. And we were restored to God through the guidance of Major Leonard. Restored and given a life-long friendship.

It was a tragic event. But after all of the work and rebuilding and the voice of one that beckoned us to "Come" we were given a passion and a calling to help those who are weary and carry heavy burdens in the name of Jesus Christ, the ONE who teaches us to come and follow his voice.

Song
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PANiveIKVX0

Prayer
Jesus, I hear your voice and your calling to come to you. May I listen to what you have to say. Use me and my hands and my voice and my feet to beckon all who are weary and carry heavy burdens to come to you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, July 05, 2014

July 5th Reflection by Bill Lynch


Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
 ‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
   we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’
 At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

Reflection
Have you ever met someone that comes off like they've got the world whipped? The act like it's all together, the perfect family, the perfect house, the perfect job, they go to the perfect church and they think they have the answer to every question you ever could ask. Every question has such an easy and simple answer that you feel embarrassed that you ever asked. Have you ever met someone like this?

Sometimes these people think they don't even need God. Why? Why would they want God to step into the middle this great life they live and mess it all up? Have you ever met someone like this? I'm sure you have. I, at first glance, look at these people, of whom I've only met a couple, and think, what's so different here? What's so different between their life and mine? Why do I struggle with an incurable disease? Why doesn't my family act like theirs? Why do I seem to be so human and earthly in comparison? And then it hits me!

In my own crude way it hits me! I think of a comedy act I saw once by George Carlin, while listening to someone tell their story he pauses and then realizes... within 8 seconds he realizes... "He's full of shit!"

Sometimes we may be on a run of everything going just fine, but it won't last. The perfect fun filled, never painful, never sick, everything is just fine life didn't exist for Jesus so why should I expect it to exist for me? If I act like it does well then... I'm full of shit. The people look at Jesus and expect him to make everything just wonderful. Jesus did come into this world to make everything wonderful, but that would come at a great cost. A cost so great that Jesus would give his life. Sure, everything will be wonderful, but until that day we are here in this place to live this life in the midst of an evil and fallen world and proclaim that Jesus came to save all the people. But first we must take a yoke upon ourselves and learn from Jesus.

John the baptist looked for people to repent and turn from their sin. How many refused? Jesus looked for people to join the wedding feast, but many would not come. The people just sat around and did nothing! What's wrong with us? Why don't we do either? All we seem to want to do is sit on either side and yell at one another and nothing is accomplished. Both sides of the table seem to claim righteousness, yet nothing is accomplished on earth. And then both sides pat themselves on the back and claim that they are right, yet nothing is done. And we still have the same people that are burdened and carrying the heavy load. If George Carlin were to look at either side for 8 seconds he would declare to each side... "He's full of shit!"

But Jesus, in this passage, looks to the babies rather than the "wise and understanding." Jesus hears those who proclaim to have the answer to the "perfect" life and proclaims in so many words what George Carlin proclaims. The real revelation comes to the stupid, not the self-proclaimed wise. In simple mindedness you find yourself humble and open minded to God. You don't think you know the answer to all life. You know you need God and you depend on God to care for you and to save you. Just like an infant... We NEED God! Oh, how we need God!

It's in these people, these infants, these people on the fringes, these strangers to our congregations, the prisoners, the homeless, the suffering, the poor, the ill, the dying, that we learn to humble ourselves and see and hear the presence of God. These people who have taken Jesus' yoke upon themselves and have figured out that it's not about being all knowing, or about having the perfect life, or about being the most prosperous, successful person on this planet that we gain God, but rather in our struggles and flaws that we gain Jesus walk and presence with us every step of the way. Yes, these people are the ones that God comes to save in and through Jesus.

Heaven is made real through real acts of love and compassion and the giving of a life and one's life to God. It's not in the sayings and the pretending to have it all figured out. Heaven is real in the dirt and the stench of life here on earth with the knowledge that Jesus lived this life on earth and will take us to be with him in heaven.

So, don't act like you have it all together and have all the answers... You don't! Only God does and you must listen and follow the One God sent in Jesus and the Spirit God sent in the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you. You can't have all the answers and you can't save yourself. That's God's work, not yours!

So I look to live my life and try not to stumble into that 8 seconds that George Carlin proclaims but rather live the down and dirty life God has called me to live with all those outside the Church, that many may come to believe in the One God sent as their Savior in Jesus.

Video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UecRfBJ2LBM

Prayer
Lord, teach me to be the one you send to the homeless, the poor, the hungry, the prisoner, the dying, the ill, the needy, the weary and those who carry a heavy burden. Teach me humility. Teach me compassion and love and understanding and forgiveness and sacrifice. Teach me your will and your way in my life that I may please you in the way you desire... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, July 04, 2014

July 4th Reflection by Bill Lynch


Romans 7:15-25a
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.

Reflection
Here Paul puts into words the struggle of so much of humanity. The struggle with sin. I can't tell you how many times that I did something that I knew I shouldn't do and didn't want to do but did it anyway because I thought it was going to be the right thing to do. Another way of putting this is that I can't tell you how many times I rationalized what I knew was wrong into something good just because I didn't want to admit to myself that it was wrong. Or how about those multiple times something would "set me off" and stuff would come out of my mouth that wasn't anything like the stuff that I wished would come out. Afterwards you realize all of the awful things you said but afterwards is too late, all that foul stuff was already out. How I wish some of that stuff would just stay out on the floor in front of me and rot!

Paul is honest with himself. Paul realizes as do I that I am sinful. Yet, working within me is something just the opposite of sin. Something is working within me that points me to the law and tells me that this is the way to live and talk and act. Something awful is within me along with something wonderful within me and there is a battle going on in the very core of my being and spirit.

As I live my life and walk with God I begin to realize through God's Word, the Sacraments and God active in this world and in me that God planned for my rescue from this battle. In fact God fought this same battle and won. God sent Jesus to this world, to the Church, and to me individually as a human flesh victor over the battle with sin, death and the devil. Jesus gave his very life in my place for this victory. Jesus is my only hope and only rescue over this battle that I have with sin inside of me.

Even as I live my life today and walk with Jesus, I realize that sin still exists in this world and sin still exists in me. But I also realize that Jesus, the one I walk with is taking me through this struggle to be with him in eternity. Jesus is going to walk me through this sin and show me the life he has planned for me. It's Jesus that rescues me and all of us and it's Jesus that will come again to raise the dead and take the living to be with him. Do you believe this? Search the Word. Experience the Sacraments. Look and listen for the whisper and the fire of the Holy Spirit and you will come to believe. You will come to believe, not because you sought it out and not because you proved it all yourself. No, you will come to believe because you will find out that God has freely and graciously given you this gift of Jesus. You will come to believe because you don't have to do anything to believe but to look, listen and accept what God has freely given to you in Jesus. That is you will come to believe and live in hope because of what God has done.

And then... and then... you will realize what God has done and the sin that lives in you will not become the focus of your life. Rather the focus in your life, even in the midst of your sin, will become living out the hope and love and joy of Jesus all in response to what God has done for you. In the end, you will find that it's not about you or your battle with sin. It's not about your awful words or terrible actions. It's about God living and working and shaping you... all from the inside out. I think this is what Paul expresses about the human condition of sin. What a wonderful change to experience! What a freedom to have! What a joy we have in Jesus!

Song
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SCorW9r_Is

Prayer
Lord, as I live this life, keep my focus on you and your will and your way. Teach me when I sin and correct me when I don't act as you would have me act and show me how to live the love and compassion and caring that you have for all people... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen