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Showing posts from June, 2017

After Pentecost Devotional - Day 26

She said, 'Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.' Then Jesus answered her, 'O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.' And her daughter was healed instantly.” Matthew 15:27-28
Once again, Matthew turns our attention to a gentile and Jesus' concerns over faith. Earlier in Matthew, we saw a Roman occupying soldier declared as having the greatest faith Jesus had seen in Israel. Now we turn to a Canaanite woman outside of Israel.
Jesus and his disciples had traveled outside the boundaries of Israel. Jesus had been speaking about ritual purity laws and definitions that classed people as ritually pure or impure in regard to joining in the public worship of Yahweh. Jesus had spoken about how foods are unimportant in relation to ritual purity. He had stressed for the disciples that it is much more important to look at the quality of one's words and decisions than the foods one ate and participation in the …

After Pentecost Devotional - Day 25

You know that our father died in the desert. But it was for something he did wrong, not for joining with Korah in rebelling against Yahweh. Our father left no sons to carry on his family name. But why should his name die out for that reason? Give us some land like the rest of his relatives in our clan, so our father’s name can live on.” Numbers 27:3-4
We know the Old Testament is a patriarchal text. We know that women did not have rights of any significance, apart from what their fathers or husbands garnered for them. We know that in most cases women were little more than chattel, traded as prizes, bought and sold as wives. Women could not own property or even have their voice heard before the elders of a town on the same level as men. Then Numbers 27 enters the picture and destroys most of what we have come to know and expect of the Old Testament.
Rather than continuing the concept of male dominance and male ownership of the land, we find an exception here with regard to these four da…

After Pentecost Devotional - Day 24

So he told them, 'Every student of the Scriptures who becomes a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like someone who brings out new and old treasures from the storeroom.'” Matthew 13:52
Very often I hear Christians speaking about how the Old Testament no longer applies to our lives, since we are New Testament believers in Jesus. I then hear others proclaiming that only what their grandmothers taught them has validity. Others want to do away with the Bible in its entirety as being ancient, archaic, and passe. Then we read these words of Jesus. Suddenly, none of those positions seem to measure up to what Jesus actually taught his disciples and expects of us.
Jesus seems to have believed there was good to be extracted from both what is old and what is new. He was himself not a slave to the established Old Testament Scriptures, but he honored them as communicating God's message for a broken world. Likewise, he did not accept all new and improved teachings of the philosophers o…

After Pentecost Devotional - Day 23

When that happened, Yahweh told the donkey to speak, and it asked Balaam, “What have I done to you that made you beat me three times?” ... The angel said, “You had no right to treat your donkey like that! I was the one who blocked your way, because I don’t think you should go to Moab.” Numbers 22:28 & 32
All too often we are willing to shoot the messenger in our dislike of the message before us. We want to discredit the signs that we are in the wrong. We cast blame upon others, offer up doubts as proof, and focus our attention upon maintaining the course upon which we have embarked. In the process, we find ourselves bull-headed, stubborn, and refusing to see beyond what we have already assumed as truth.
Rather than assessing the information before us, we proceed without challenging our assumptions. After all, our assumptions about life have so often served us well. They allow us to locate food, water, security, friends, family, and proceed through life in relative safety. They allo…

Fixing Healthcare?

There are a lot of questions floating around about healthcare, the ACA (Obamacare), the AHCA (Trumpcare), and the new Senate version of a response to the other two. Having worked for a while in the health insurance industry, I have a few points I'd like to bring up.
Many don't like the idea of paying healthcare costs for the poor through Medicaid. That seems to be one of the main Senate and House concerns in the legislative proposals. What does that really look like, however?
Several cities across the US in recent years have been tackling issues with regard to the social cost of homelessness centering around its impact of the expenditure of various public agencies. They looked at the cost of police departments, emergency rooms, social services, businesses, etc. Several determined that it was cheaper for them to provide housing for the homeless to get them off the streets and into a more stable environment than to keep on with the status quo. They determined to spend something li…

After Pentecost Devotional - Day 22

A good tree produces only good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. You can tell what a tree is like by the fruit it produces. You are a bunch of evil snakes, so how can you say anything good? Your words show what is in your hearts.” Matthew 12:33-34
A short few chapters back, Jesus had spoken of false prophets in relation to the fruit of their lives. He had warned that we are known by what we do. Our actions reveal our character. Our actions are the most effective display of the internal realities of our lives, identity, values, and character. Our actions do not make us, but they do display our true selves to the world around.
Actions, words, attitudes are the visible expressions of our true selves. They are the connection between what lies inside us and the world in which we live. They link our internal realities to our interactions with others. Words and actions express our deeper attitudes and character to those who would look to assess who we are.
This is not about putting on …

What's Wrong with Praise and Worship?

I like many of the praise and worship songs. I also like hymns. I like some of the more classical pieces like Mozart and other formal works like the John Rutter I sang in college choirs. Then again, that is all beside the point.
With all the talk about praise and worship songs as a style of music, then as the centerpiece of what it means to gather as the church, that is where I start to feel a rub. What is wrong with praise and worship? It is not they style of music, not that it focuses on praise or worship. It is that is so often deflects and distracts us from what it means to be believers and followers of Christ Jesus.
There is nothing wrong with raising your hand in the air as you sing along with the band. There is nothing wrong with the theology presented in many of the songs. It's actually more a question of what is not there than what actually is.
More than anything, it is a question of depth. It is a question of breadth. It is a question of content and of purpose.
We gravitate …

After Pentecost Devotional - Day 21

And Yahweh answered Moses, 'Make a snake out of bronze and place it on top of a pole. Anyone who gets bitten can look at the snake and won’t die.' Moses obeyed Yahweh. And all of those who looked at the bronze snake lived, even though they had been bitten by the poisonous snakes.” Numbers 21:8-9
The best known text of the New Testament refers back to this passage in Numbers, and yet the vast majority of believers have never given it any significant attention. Most have probably never even read it. We routinely preach and teach from John 3, but all too often fail to look at the background to which Jesus was pointing Nicodemus.
There was nothing special about this bronze snake. For the legalists and literalists, its very creation went against the commandment against creating a graven image. The people were not supposed to worship the bronze snake, and yet that did end up happening later on. They were simply to look to the bronze snake and trust Yahweh to deliver them from the po…

After Pentecost Devotional - Day 20

And anyone who gives one of my most humble followers a cup of cool water, just because that person is my follower, will surely be rewarded.” Matthew 10:42
Jesus' imagery of a cup of cold water sometimes leads us astray. It is not that Jesus messed up with his message. It is that we are so prone to distort his words and lead others in missing the point.
The words here are about how God's grace extend even into the minimal reaches of our actions of worth. God will not overlook the least of our attempts to treat others with righteousness, grace, mercy, justice, and love. God looks favorably upon our attempts to do what is good and right. God encourages us to shift the direction of our lives and actions as we become more like God, even in the smallest of ways.
The problem comes in as we look at Jesus' comments and twist them in a manner to shirk our greater responsibilities toward others. Jesus was not speaking in anyway to define the limits of God's expectations for our liv…

After Pentecost Devotional - Day 19

If you are a native Israelite, you must obey these rules each time you offer a bull, a ram, or a goat as a sacrifice. And the foreigners who live among you must also follow these rules. This law will never change. I am Yahweh, and I consider all people the same, whether they are Israelites or foreigners living among you.'” Numbers 15:11-16
We so like to avoid books like Leviticus and Numbers. One is seemingly too full of rules and regulations. The other of numbers and genealogies. Then we come upon passages like this one that throw our expectations out the window.
Like we saw in Numbers 9, there is an interest here in being sure that immigrants in the land were are treated according to the same legal standards as the native born Israelite. While Numbers 9 focused on the Passover celebration in relation to becoming fully part of the community of Israel, Numbers 15 addresses how the community is to treat those who are not yet considered a part of the nation. One one hand we have an o…

After Pentecost Devotional - Day 18

Go and learn what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others.’ I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.” Matthew 9:13
Well we know that the gospel is supposed to be good news for sinners. We know the message is about salvation and redemption for the undeserving. We also forget that this message of grace and mercy continually arrives to meet our needs. If we enter salvation by grace, we live and remain in it by grace. Depending on grace leaves us no latitude to exclude anyone due to our perceptions of inadequacy or some label of disqualification.
The flip side of this is that since we are in continual need of grace and mercy, we are likewise responsible to offer grace and mercy to all people, both within and beyond the bounds of the gospel and acceptable society. It becomes all too easy to settle into a comfortable system that tells us who is worthy, counting ourselves among the i…

After Pentecost Devotional - Day 17

Joshua was there helping Moses, as he had done since he was young. And he said to Moses, 'Sir, you must stop them!' But Moses replied, “Are you concerned what this might do to me? I wish the LORD would give his Spirit to all his people so everyone could be a prophet.'” Numbers 11:28-30
It is very easy for us to become protective of position, prominence, and prestige. We like power and its secondary effects. We like being related to people of power. We like the special access and deference paid to those of us in power or who are close to them. It is in this situation that we find Joshua in the passage above.
Joshua was jealous for Moses over the fact that some in the camp of Israel who had not come to the Tabernacle were acting as prophets for Yahweh. He did not want Moses' position diluted. He did not want his own position in relation to Moses diluted. He wanted to conserve a sense of hierarchy and established authority among the nation. He did not want anything to inte…

After Pentecost Devotional - Day 16

"When Jesus heard this, he was so surprised that he turned and said to the crowd following him, “I tell you that in all of Israel I’ve never found anyone with this much faith!" Matthew 8:10
Once again, we see Matthew highlighting faith among those beyond the limits of Israelite society. From the foreign ancestors of Jesus to the magi, to Jesus cast as a refugee, we now look upon a foreigner within Israel, an immigrant, whose expression of faith is greater than what Jesus had found within the bounds of Judaism. Faith and belonging to God had little to no link with being one of Abraham's descendants, contrary to standard Jewish thought.
Instead of propping up Jewish internal focus upon belonging and fitting in according to religious social expectations, Jesus called for applying faith to issues of living. The standard definitions of worth, respectability, and importance to God did not measure up for Jesus. They lacked the application of faith to life, personal responsibility…