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Showing posts from May, 2017

Easter Devotional - Day 47

"Don't blame God when you are tempted! God cannot be tempted by evil, and he doesn't use evil to tempt others. We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us. Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead." James 1:13-15

We often like to cast blame outside ourselves for our temptations and failures. We become angry because of what others have done—it's their fault. We act on that anger and feel justified in blaming the one who failed or injured us. We seek revenge and plan retribution, considering it justified as no one else will make the originator of our loss pay for our pain. If we cannot somehow escape in attributing the very temptation as naturally coming from our enemy, we avoid guilt by pointing to Satan or demons as responsible for our attitudes and inclinations.

There is some Biblical justification for blaming temptation on supernatural sources. James, however, does not seem to buy it. His first response is to…

Easter Devotional - Day 46

"The sailors were frightened, and they all started praying to their gods. They even threw the ship's cargo overboard to make the ship lighter. All this time, Jonah was down below deck, sound asleep. The ship's captain went to him and said, 'How can you sleep at a time like this? Get up and pray to your God! Maybe he will have pity on us and keep us from drowning.' Finally, the sailors got together and said, 'Let's ask our gods to show us who caused all this trouble.' It turned out to be Jonah." Jonah 1:5-7

Jonah did not seem to care much how his actions affected others. If the ship he was on sank with all the sailors, he was not concerned. Then again, that was the attitude that brought him on board the ship, anyway. He was unconcerned for Nineveh, unconcerned for the sailors, and too engrossed in his desire for revenge against his enemies to worry with any collateral damage that might result from his actions in fleeing God's call to preach repe…

Easter Devotional - Day 45

"But you have forgotten that the Scriptures say to God's children, 'When the Lord punishes you, don't make light of it, and when he corrects you, don't be discouraged. The Lord corrects the people he loves and disciplines those he calls his own.' Be patient when you are being corrected! This is how God treats all his children. Don't all parents correct their children? God corrects all of his children, and if he doesn't correct you, then you don't really belong to him." Hebrews 12:5-8

We all seek belonging. We want to belong to clubs, societies, churches, corporations, and other groups we deem important. We seek to be vital parts of our families and circles of friends. If we are not empowered with a sense of belonging, we may simply cut ourselves off from such circles to live in a self-constructed anonymity to assuage our sense of failure to belong.

Belonging, however, is that to which God calls us. It is the issue of faith with which we may be m…

Easter Devotional - Day 44

"Israel, I am Yahweh God, and the Ethiopians are no less important to me than you are. I brought you out of Egypt, but I also brought the Philistines from Crete and the Arameans from Kir. My eyes have seen what a sinful nation you are, and I'll wipe you out. But I will leave a few of Jacob's descendants. I, Yahweh, have spoken!" Amos 9:7-8

These were hard words for any Israelite to hear. They were, after all, the chosen people, the descendants of Abraham, the children of the promise. Yahweh had hand-picked them from among the nations to be a special people under the care of the Almighty. While the other nations were under the care and handling of lesser gods, the people of Israel was special, set apart, uniquely cared for by Yahweh. Israel was no great nation among others in the Ancient Near East. They were not especially wealthy, powerful, or sought after for trade and special skills. All they really had going for them was their special relationship with Yahweh.

Amos&…

Easter Devotional - Day 43

"Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see. It was faith that made our ancestors pleasing to God. … But without faith no one can please God. We must believe that God is real and that he rewards everyone who searches for him." Hebrews 11:1-2, 6

In the Greek New testament, the word faith is often a verb. It is not something concrete to obtain or hold; it is something to do. It is perhaps better translated as trust. Trust makes us sure and confident. It gives us the proof we need when logic offers no proof to be seen. It is trust which allows us to live in a manner is pleasing to God—trust that God exists and rewards those who seek God.

Trust is so much more than belief. We can hold to many beliefs. We can accept beliefs that are actually contradictions of each other, even without realizing it. We can believe what is not true. We can reduce faith to the acceptance of a list of truths, much as the First Century Jews attempted to do along with…

Easter Devotional - Day 42

"You were a healthy vine covered with grapes. But the more grapes you grew, the more altars you built; the better off you became, the better shrines you set up for pagan gods. You are deceitful and disloyal. So you will pay for your sins, because Yahweh will destroy your altars and images. 'We don't have a king,' you will say. 'We don't fear Yahweh. And what good are kings?'" Hosea 10:1-3

Prosperity and faithfulness to God often run counter to each other. That was the experience of the Hebrew people. When things were going well economically, they forgot their dependence upon Yahweh. When things were going badly, they blamed Yahweh for abandoning them. How ironic were those accusations! When things got bad, they would cry out to Yahweh for answers, and then ignore God in times of plenty.

The king was the military protector of the nation, in charge of national security. He was also the head spokesman for and to Yahweh. He was the one who would bring the p…

Hunger: Who Is Responsible?

There are millions of children who go hungry in our society. There are over a billion around the world. Who should make sure they are fed?
Many want government out of the equation. Multiple voices cry, “Go get a job!” Many churches join the chorus quoting Paul, “Let him who does not work not eat!” Some pass laws and ordinances to make it harder for people to feed the hungry and homeless, claiming they are encouraging industry and initiative to care for one's own needs. Others blame parents addicted to drugs. Still others replay attitudes of Ebeneezer Scrooge, “Are there no work houses? Are there no prisons? … Let them decrease the surplus population!”
Most of these voices ignore the difficulties and barriers to opportunity that our society at large presents to our lower economic classes. We forget that few will hire anyone with a criminal record and then feel justified in doing so. We ignore that a minimum wage job does not cover rent and food. We claim that minimum wage jobs are…

Easter Devotional - Day 41

"Don't forget all the hard times you went through when you first received the light. Sometimes you were abused and mistreated by others in public, and at other times you shared in the sufferings of others. You were kind to people in jail. And you gladly let your possessions be taken away, because you knew you had something better, something that would last forever." Hebrews 10:32-34

What do we hold as truly valuable? To the author of Hebrews called for a different perspective from that of our society, even our Christian society, to address value from an eternal perspective.

We are so often trapped by the cares of life. We hear so often the messages all around that worth and value are wrapped in concerns of wealth, popularity, status, entertainment, and wielding power over others. We should enjoy this life to the fullest—eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow is uncertain. Live in the now! That is the message we heard through all our media outlets. Success is measured in on…

A Pastor's Promises

I am going to disappoint you.
I will forget your birthday or anniversary.
I will forget the anniversary of your mother or partner's death.
I will forget that you have lost a child.
I will forget the history of this holy place.
I will fail to recognize you at the grocery store.
I will miss your urgent phone call because I forgot to turn my ringer back on.
I will forget your name.
I will forget your story.
I will confuse you with someone else.
I will fail to understand the importance you give a tradition.
I will misunderstand what you have tried so hard to tell me.
I will forget to return your phone call.
I will fail to visit someone you wanted me to visit.
I will give you bad advice.
I will fail to sing your favorite hymn.
I will fail to notice your new clothing, haircut, or jewelry.
I will get lost trying to find your house.
I will answer a question you are not asking.
I will answer the wrong question and lead you astray.
I will fail to grasp that what I said offended you.
I will…

Easter Devotional - Day 40

"Yahweh says: 'Don't brag about your wisdom or strength or wealth. If you feel you must brag, then have enough sense to brag about worshiping me, Yahweh. What I like best is showing kindness, justice, and mercy to everyone on earth.'" Jeremiah 9:23-24

Kindness, justice, and mercy have no need to brag. They are not focused on the one employing them. They find their focus instead on meeting the needs of others. Their rewards are internal, not external. They are their own fulfillment, not requiring the praise or the apparent inferiority of others. They create worth in their own right, without the need of comparison with others.

Bragging, on the other hand, focuses on building one up from comparison with or praise from external sources. If I need to brag, it is because I feel unappreciated, unworthy, or in some sense less than someone else. Bragging betrays a personal sense of inferiority that must be muted by external voices of praise and comparison to those who do no…

Easter Devotional - Day 39

"So if we refuse this great way of being saved, how can we hope to escape? The Lord himself was the first to tell about it, and people who heard the message proved to us that it was true. God himself showed that his message was true by working all kinds of powerful miracles and wonders. He also gave his Holy Spirit to anyone he chose to." Hebrews 2:3-4

Here is the crux of the singularity of the gospel message. What do we do with the gospel of Christ if we do not accept it? There are so many who claim to love God, desire to go to heaven, want to avoid hell, and consider that God is too loving to condemn anyone to eternal punishment. Somehow, they assume that since Jesus is love, we will all get off scot free. In the meantime, what are they doing with the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Perhaps the problem is that we have spoke too much of heaven and hell. In the balance, we have ignored the gospel. Let me rephrase that: we have spoken too much of heaven and hell as destinations. Our qu…