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Showing posts from November, 2016

Turning toward God

Daily reading: Daniel 6:6-27 Wednesday November 30, 2016
Focus passage: “When Daniel learned that the document had been signed, he went to his house.  Now his upper room had open windows that faced Jerusalem.  Daniel knelt down, prayed, and praised his God three times that day, just like he always did.” Daniel 6:10
Daniel uses prayer as an act of resistance and turns toward Jerusalem as a way of both physically and mentally turning toward God who is the center of his life.  Daniel turns toward the God of Abraham who promised a great nation and a great people to his people.  Daniel turns toward the God of Moses who freed his people from slavery in Egypt and journeyed with them through the wilderness.  Daniel turns toward the God of David who helped to establish the Kingdom.  Daniel turns toward his God even though his people are scattered, the temple is destroyed, and the nation no longer has a descendant of David on the throne. 
Daniel centers his life on God and places his hope in a God…

Hope in God

Daily reading: Daniel 6:6-27 Monday November 28, 2016
Focus passage: “When Daniel learned that the document had been signed, he went to his house.  Now his upper room had open windows that faced Jerusalem.  Daniel knelt down, prayed, and praised his God three times that day, just like he always did.” Daniel 6:10
King Darius has appointed 120 chief administrators throughout the kingdom to assist him in ruling his empire.  Daniel is one of the appointed administrators and is very successful in what he is able to do and accomplish. So successful in fact that Darius is planning to put him the top position over the kingdom.   The other administrators look for something to pin on Daniel and when they are unable to find any fault in him, they decide to devise a plan to set Daniel up to fail.  Since Daniel faithfully prays to God three times a day, they propose that throughout the kingdom for the next 30 days, it is illegal to pray to anyone or any god other than King Darius.  For 30 days King D…

Advent Hope

Daily reading: Daniel 6:6-27 Sunday November 27, 2016
Focus passage: They then went and talked to the king about the law: “Your Majesty!  Didn’t you sign a law, that for thirty days any person who prays to any god or human being besides you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into a pit of lions?”  The king replied, “The decision is absolutely firm in accordance with the law of Media and Persia, which cannot be annulled.”  So they said to the king, “One of the Judean exiles, Daniel, has ignored you, Your Majesty, as well as the law you signed.  He says his prayers three times a day!”  When the king heard this report, he was very unhappy.  He decided to rescue Daniel and did everything he could to save Daniel before the sun went down.  But these men, all ganged together, came and said to the king, “You must realize, Your Majesty, that the law of Media and Persia, including every law and edict the king has issued cannot be changed.” Daniel 6:12-15 Hope is not optimism and we water it down when …

A new start

Daily reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34 Saturday November 26, 2016
Focus passage: They will no longer need to each other to say. “Know the LORD!” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD; for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins.  Jeremiah 31:34
In response to reckless unfaithfulness, God says, I don’t even see it.  Just chapters prior, God is railing against their infidelity and now God imagines their faithfulness.  In the face of brokenness and heartbreak God goes to a place where, unless painfully detailed descriptions are recalled, the memory is lost. God forgets for the sake of God’s deep love for God’s people.  God forgets and that act is embedded with hope. God forgets, thanks be to God, and it invites us to view our brokenness in a new way. We carry around a lot that we probably need to forget in a healthy way.  Not in a Friday night drink fest in order to forget, not in a numbing way that takes away our ability…

Grace

Daily reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34 Friday November 25, 2016
Focus passage: They will no longer need to each other to say. “Know the LORD!” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD; for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins.  Jeremiah 31:34
Not being able to forget, unable to remember, the people repeat the sins of their fathers and mothers. And so God does for the people what they are unable to do for themselves.  Rather than enter into an agreement that necessitates their faithfulness, God, in one of the most beautiful passages of scripture says “I will put my Instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.  They will no longer need to teach each other to say, “Know the LORD!” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD; for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins.” God forgets.
Pray…

A radical do-over

Daily reading: Jeremiahs 31:31-34 Thursday November 24, 2016
Focus passage: They will no longer need each other to say. “Know the LORD!” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD; for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins.  Jeremiah 31:34
I wonder if what God was witnessing was this massive train wreck and amidst the rubble, God calls a do-over. Like back in the day on the playground during a four square match, the serve goes out of bounds and you yell do-over and it’s as if you never threw the ball. Israel’s problem is that they are stuck in patterns that are unhealthy. Where in your life do you need a do-over?  Pray for God to offer you guidance in that situation.
Prayer: Gracious God, help me to let go of the things that wound me and keep me from fully experiencing your love and grace.  Amen.

Choosing to forget

Daily reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34 Wednesday November 23, 2016
Focus passage: They will no longer need to each other to say. “Know the LORD!” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD; for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins.  Jeremiah 31:34
It sounds like in this moment God is choosing to forget. Maybe it is a metaphor, but I like to think not. In this moment, I am drawn to the deep seated heart break that God has for a people that seemingly refused to be faithful and the only way forward, the only way to bear the pain is to forget. But I wonder is that really possible? A benchmark lesson of marital counseling is to learn to forgive and move forward.  Don’t heap up the sins of the past in a current argument.  If you are arguing about who was supposed to pay the electric bill don’t bring up the laundry list of everything your partner has done that was offensive up to that moment.  It can be hard to do, because we c…

Return to God

Daily reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34 Tuesday November 22, 2016
Jeremiah’s prophecy for the first 30 chapters of his book is a negative assessment of Jerusalem’s leaders, how they have sinned and how they have been greedy, how they have exploited the poor and have rebelled against God.  How they had forgotten their high calling to care for the widow, the orphan, and the marginalized.  How they had forgotten the covenant that God crafted with Abraham and Moses and continued to remain unfaithful. They ruled with self interest in mind, one might say obscene selfishness, with no regard to God or to their subjects.  Out of all the kings that reigned after David, only five in the southern kingdom and none in the northern kingdom were remembered as being even marginally faithful to God. In chapter three verse 12, Jeremiah is sent to speak to the northern kingdom with these words “Return, unfaithful Israel, declares the LORD.  I won’t reject you, for I’m faithful declares the LORD; I won’t stay angry …

Forgetting

Daily reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34 Monday November 21, 2016
Forgetting seems to be a staple in my family’s life.  I often hear or find myself starting sentences with “I forgot to” or “we forgot.”  Or “did you forget to pick up, put away, pack, take, call, go to, finish, bring, paired with the don’t forgets.   “Don’t forget to take out, bring, leave for me, take in, turn off or lock up” …
The school year seems to make it even more pressing because, as a parent teaching my children how to be responsible, I still check assignments and talk about packing up backpacks as I find items from school in various places around the house.
I am looking forward to this week of rest for my children and from the hectic pace of mornings and evenings.  Remembering and not forgetting can be exhausting. Almost as exhausting as it is to live with regret and constantly remembering things that we really should forget.
You see, there are things we really need to forget because they wound us and keep us in a holding …

Letting Go

Daily reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34 Sunday November 20, 2016
Focus passage: The time is coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. Jeremiah 31:31 Today is the last Sunday of our liturgical year, in a way it is our New Year’s Eve. Much like our secular celebration, it is a time to reflect on the past year, to mentally choose what we need to carry with us forward and what we need to forget and leave behind.  I encourage you to invite God to help you let go of the burdens that no longer need to be thought about, pondered and worried over.  Allow space for forgiveness to enter in.  Allow space for newness to take root.
Prayer: Gracious God, help me to let go of the things that wound me and keep me from fully experiencing your love and grace.  Amen.

Changing perspective

Daily reading: Isaiah 6:1-8 Saturday, November 19, 2016
Focus passage: Then I heard the Lord’s voice saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” I said, “I’m here; send me.” Isaiah 6:8 God showed up in a BIG way in the one place God is sure Isaiah might expect to encounter God, in the temple, changing his perspective and Isaiah responds authentically and from a place of deep honesty.  God pulled out all the stops to reach Isaiah and the people.  And when Isaiah found himself in a place where he could not ignore the presence of our Holy God, he realized that he was utterly lost.  He realized that he was broken, and so was his community.
Everything that had filled his mind and driven his actions no longer seemed all that important.  God dwarfed the latest headlines and news events and Isaiah is awakened.
We never again hear about the death of King Uzziah after this moment in the book of Isaiah.  Isaiah’s perspective had changed and so had his priorities. 
In that moment Isaiah’s per…

Changing perspective

Daily reading: Isaiah 6:1-8 Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Focus passage: I said, “Mourn for me, I’m ruined! I am a man with unclean lips, and I live among a people with unclean lips.  Yet I’ve seen the king, the LORD of heavenly forces!” Isaiah 6:5
Isaiah walked into the sanctuary expecting to experience what he always experienced, when he walked into the sanctuary.
Perhaps Isaiah had lost the ability to listen deeply, or perhaps he had so much noise in his head that he just couldn’t hear, we don’t know.  But we can sympathize.  Sometimes it is hard to know what God is calling us to do, because we are being pulled in so many different directions at the same time.  Sometimes it is hard to know what God is calling us to do, because we feel utterly lost and we feel that we have reached a dead end.  Sometimes it is hard to know what God is calling us to do, because it is so hard to let go and move into the unknown future.
So let’s get real, sometimes it is hard to know what God is calling us to…

Proceed with Caution

Daily reading: Isaiah 6:1-8 Monday November 14, 2016
Focus passage: In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a high and exalted throne, the edges of his robe filling the temple. Isaiah 6:1
There is no caution tape around the outside of our sanctuary.  No, we have members of our community welcoming you in.  There are no signs that say “proceed with caution.” 
Isaiah walked in and his world was literally turned up-side-down.  As if seeing God enthroned wasn’t enough to stop Isaiah in his tracks, there are also Seraphs present.  Seraphs are only mentioned in Isaiah, in this passage, the word means “burning ones.”  They are shouting words of praise to God and their voices made the door frames shake and their presence filled the space with smoke.  The site was pretty unsettling, at best.
You’ve got to love Isaiah’s response, as translated in the NRSV.  He utters “Woe is me, I am lost!”  All of a sudden Isaiah felt completely unworthy and unclean.  And he realized that he a…

The year King Uzziah died

Daily reading: Isaiah 6:1-8 Sunday November 13, 2016
Focus passage: In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a high and exalted throne, the edges of his robe filling the temple. Isaiah 6:1
It was the year King Uzziah died.  With each passing day the threat of Assyria, not only conquering the northern kingdom of Israel became more real, but it also presented the same threat to the people of the southern kingdom of Judah where Isaiah resided.  Tension ran high in Judah.
World events can consume us.  The election season, that seemed to stretch longer than any other election in the history of our country consumed our nation.
When I lived on the gulf coast impending hurricanes would consume us.   Everything in life stopped and our focus was on boarding up the house, filling up our gas tanks and getting out of town.
In the year that Uzziah died, ending a period of relative stability, Isaiah walked into the temple and encountered the living God.

Prayer:  God of the universe, ho…

Mercy

Jonah 1:1-17, 3:1-10 and 4:1-11 Saturday, November 12, 2016
Focus passage: But Jonah thought this was utterly wrong, and he became angry. Jonah 4:1
One of the key components of ministry is not being attached to the results of our ministry.  So we can remain focused on God and not on the response others may have.  Yet, Jonah is so attached to the results, it is laughable.  He has a 100% conversion rate, down to the livestock and this makes him mad?!?! Rather than the end of Jonah’s story marking the end of something, it really marks the beginning of something, of God caring for those we place on the outside of our circle, or fence, or favor.  God desires relationship with everyone.  God desires shalom for everyone.  As we remember in Hebrew the word shalom does not just mean peace, like an absence from conflict, but it means a holistic peace that is spiritual and communal.  This picture of repentance is also a picture of holistic peace, the entire community, down to the animals listen to G…

Faithfulness

Jonah 1:1-17, 3:1-10 and 4:1-11 Friday November 11, 2016
Focus passage: But Jonah thought this was utterly wrong, and he became angry. Jonah 4:1 We can laugh at Jonah’s expression and his pouting at his success.  It reminds me of a child who is really upset and doesn’t want to do what you are asking them to do for the umpteenth time, for whatever reason, they are tired or hungry or disinterested, or not watching Sponge Bob at that moment, and they finally do what you asked them to do and they do it really well, and their response is a frown or pouting because their heart wasn’t really in it. Jonah’s heart wasn’t in this mission from God at all.  What Jonah seems to refuse to understand is that so much of our faith walk isn’t about getting our way or bending religion to fit us and the choices we have already made, it is about stepping out in faith and following God even when we are unsure of the result.
Prayer: God, help me to love my enemies, to allow your love to permeate all of me today.…

The power of vulnerability

Jonah 1:1-17, 3:1-10 and 4:1-11 Thursday, November 10, 2016
Focus passage: Jonah started into the city, walking one day, and he cried out, “Just forty days more and Nineveh will be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God.  They proclaimed a fast and put on mourning clothes, from the greatest of them to the least significant. Jonah 3:4-5
Sometimes people are able to hear the message that God has given us to say because we present it in a very real, vulnerable way.  It is really hard to try to look like you have it together when you are covered in the goo that comes from the inside of a fish’s stomach.  Perhaps his clothes are somewhat eaten up by digestive juices. Jonah’s story teaches us that our woundedness can be a means to offering genuineness and healing to others.
Prayer: God, help me to love my enemies, to allow your love to permeate all of me today.  Amen.

Second Chance

Jonah 1:1-17, 3:1-10 and 4:1-11 Wednesday November 9, 2016
Focus passage: The LORD’s word came to Jonah a second time.  “Get up and go to Nineveh, that great city, and declare against it the proclamation that I am commanding you.” Jonah 3:1-2
God calls a second time and Jonah has been through enough, he has endured a huge storm at sea and has been inside the belly of a fish for three days and has been expelled by the fish onto the beach, and so he knows that saying “yes” is probably the right thing to do. So this time, Jonah our reluctant prophet, heads toward Nineveh. Now we don’t know how long it took Jonah to get to Nineveh, but when I was in Hebrew class in seminary we liked to imagine that Jonah entered into this large city, still smelling and looking like something that had come out of a fish’s stomach.  And we did, in part because Jonah is satire and that image just lends itself to heightening the humor of the story, but also because it presents Jonah in a different light. Rather th…

Opposite Direction

Jonah 1:1-17, 3:1-10 and 4:1-11 Tuesday November 8, 2016
Focus passage: The LORD’s word came to Jonah, Amittai’s son: “Get up and go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it, for their evil has come to my attention.” So Jonah got up – to flee to Tarshish from the LORD! He went down to Jaffa and found a ship headed for Tarshish.  He paid the fare and went aboard to go with them to Tarshish, away from the LORD. Jonah 1:1-3
So when God calls, Jonah heads off in the opposite direction of Nineveh.  Jonah is fine with being a prophet to his own people, not so much with his people’s enemies.  So he goes to the ship yard and finds a ship heading to Tarshish, a Phoenician colony on the southwest coast of Spain some two thousand miles to the west.  This way he can get far enough from God that God would not call on him anymore. The voyage to Tarshish is not smooth sailing, and not just for Jonah but for many crews.  Boats often struggled against large waves and strong winds, so in other w…

Run Away!

Jonah 1:1-17, 3:1-10 and 4:1-11 Monday, November 7, 2016
Focus passage: The LORD’s word came to Jonah, Amittai’s son: “Get up and go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it, for their evil has come to my attention.” So Jonah got up – to flee to Tarshish from the LORD! He went down to Jaffa and found a ship headed for Tarshish.  He paid the fare and went aboard to go with them to Tarshish, away from the LORD. Jonah 1:1-3
Jonah is the son of Ammittai, which means faithfulness in Hebrew.  From the beginning we wonder what this son of faithfulness will do.  It doesn’t take long to figure it out, in the first two verses he is called to go to Nineveh and in the third verse he is on his way in the exact opposite direction. Why such a reaction you may ask?  Well, Jonah has been asked to go and to speak God’s words to the capital city of Nineveh in the Assyrian Empire which was 500 miles to the east and was a constant threat to Israel.  When the armies of Assyria attacked, and they did…

Jonah

Jonah 1:1-17, 3:1-10 and 4:1-11 Sunday, November 6, 2016
Focus passage: The LORD’s word came to Jonah, Amittai’s son: “Get up and go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it, for their evil has come to my attention.” Jonah 1:1-2 Today we focus on the story of Jonah.   When you read the story, you really need to have a sense of humor.  The book allows us to see how we negotiate and push against the call of God.  The story is painted in broad strokes in a way that allows us to not take ourselves too seriously all the while contrasted against a message of God’s grace and love that is startling.  We see through this story how Jonah struggles in a comical way with God’s call and God’s desire to remain faithful despite Jonah’s actions. 
Prayer: God, help me to love my enemies, to allow your love to permeate all of me today.  Amen.