Friday, November 30, 2012

Just a Little Apostle Talk

Scripture: Romans 1:1-6 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, 6 including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

Observation: This paragraph and indeed the rest of the letter were written by Paul. Yet this particular part of his message, it seems, could just as easily come from other ordained people.

Application: This probably seems crazy, but what if I were to exchange my name for Paul in the above Scripture passage? At that point it would obviously no longer be Scripture—I’ll concede that fact right away. Yet aside from that admittedly important fact, my name—or that of any other ordained minister—might still fit. The hedge would be on how one interprets the name “apostle.” Literally to be an apostle is to be sent. However, it is also more narrowly interpreted to apply to the original apostles and to Paul who was sent directly by the risen Jesus. I don’t normally think of myself as an apostle. Nor do most other pastors. The few times I’ve encountered a pastor who referred to him or herself as apostle (none of which were ever Lutheran, by the way) I’ve always viewed with suspicion. It seems presumptuous to ever claim that particular title. In the Lutheran church we speak in terms of being called and sent by God through the church, but we usually use the title of pastor rather than apostle. For the record, I have no desire to be called an apostle, nor have I ever, with the exception of this little diatribe, actually thought of myself in those terms. Still, the heart of the message that pastor’s are called and sent to share is quite similar if not identical to that of people like the Apostle Paul himself. Perhaps this is why Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:5 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” Ministry is always about God’s work in the world; the actual human vessel through which God does it will always pale in comparison. Call me and other pastors or apostles whatever you wish, but give the real nod to our Lord Jesus Christ to whom all glory is due.

Prayer: Lord, let us not worry so much about our names but rather about your name that is above all names. Yes, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

(Readings today included: Romans 1-4)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Just In Case You Didn't 'Win' the Lottery

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:25 Beloved, pray for us.

Observation: It’s a short verse with an important request. Paul seems especially mindful of his needs that are above and beyond his ability to secure on his own.

It occurred to me yesterday while driving that mutual dependence is the basis for all meaningful relationships. Should we ever get to the point that we think that we don’t need anyone else, that becomes the moment when relationships break down.

For example, yesterday there was some kind of great big lottery drawing. With the jackpot at over 500 million, lots and lots of people who don’t normally play the lottery were out buying tickets. I suspect the reason for he mad rush to buy tickets was that many people like the idea of being financially independent. But it seems to me that suddenly being faced with that amount of money would be a huge burden with potentially devastating results. It would change a person’s life instantly and I’m not convinced that it would be for the better. Relationships would change. The way that the winners would see and even understand themselves would change. The way that others would see and understand them would change. It would be nearly impossible to go back to life as they know it and, while there might be a part of that life that they would be glad to trade in, I’m betting that there’s a part of their life that they love and be in danger of losing simply because of the sudden inflow of huge sums of cash.

But lottery winners are not the only people to face sudden life-changing events. Paul had his own life-changing event. It wasn’t a sudden influx of cash. Rather, it was a sudden influx of God’s overwhelming grace. So vast was this wave of mercy in Paul’s life that his relationships changed too and he suddenly found himself in all kinds of situations that he had never encountered before and needed to do so in such a way as to reflect the magnitude of God’s change in his life. So when Paul says, “Beloved, pray for us,” I think he really meant it. He and his companions needed prayer in order to be faithful and enduring in the face of the opportunities and trials before them.

Prayer is something we all need, whether we are everyday Christians or even lottery winners who may or may not be Christian. We will never be so independent as to not need prayer and, in fact, the more purportedly independent we may have deluded ourselves into thinking we are, the more prayer we likely need.

Prayer: Lord, I pray for lottery winners and for all who think they’ve lost but have likely won in the greater scheme of things. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: 1 Thessalonians 4-5 and 2 Thessalonians 1-3)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

When the Roof Collapses

Scripture: Matthew 28:2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.

Observation: This big event opened up many perspectives.

Just this morning I learned that a high school auditorium roof collapsed in Hawaii. The event is personally significant because I have been in that particular high school auditorium for, of all things, worship. Yes, for the last 17+ years that auditorium has been the worshipping home for New Hope Church, led by Pastor Wayne Cordeiro. I spent a week there some years ago for as part of New Hope’s Leadership Practicum Event. I still have the t-shirt that event participants received and I just wore it sometime last week. So, yes, that place brings back memories.

Thankfully no one was in the auditorium when the roof collapsed. Had the event happened a few hours later, there would have been a few hundred students in there. Had the event happened 26 hours later, over 1000 worshippers would have been in there.

But here’s the thing…the pastor and people of New Hope will see this roof collapse as opportunity for a whole new future. It’s as if an angel of the Lord is sitting on one of the remaining rafters declaring that the presence and work of God has moved on from that place and is waiting for the rest of them to catch up. It’s as if that place where so much substantial ministry over the years had occured was starting to be a tomb-like limiting factor and needed to be opened up.

Of course, I could be reading too much into this event. There was a lot of rain in a short period of time and the drains just couldn’t keep up and the roof finally gave in. I get that. Nor am I theologically deterministic in my thinking and inclined to think that God deliberately caused the roof to collapse. Rather, I’m of the firm conviction that regardless of how sentimentally or matter-o-factly we view this event, there are connections a-plenty for a whole new world to open up for the people of New Hope and for all who walk by faith and not by sight.

Prayer: Lord, I give thanks that no one was hurt and for how this event does offer substantial opportunity for reflection and moves toward the future of your own calling. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Matthew 28 and 1 Thessalonians 1-3)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Workout and Eating Plan

It's Thanksgiving and I'm at a nice state park resort with family for a 50th anniversary celebration. The question to myself was, what shall I eat and of what shall my workout consist?

It all starts with a little simple planning.

For starters, before leaving home I put a cup of rolled oats, 1/3 cup of raisins, and a couple teaspoons of flax-seed into a small zip-lock bag. So for breakfast I just purchased a serving of milk from the restaurant, poured my breakfast mixture into a bowl and enjoyed the same healthy breakfast that I normally have at home.

I won't be able to have my regular smoothie here mid-morning, but I've got almonds and apples which will make for a fine mid-morning snack. I've also got some carrots handy for a little carry-over since our big thanksgiving feast won't begin until 1:30. Then it will just be a matter of all things in moderation, filling up with those good things that will do the least damage and only sampling the nutritional disasters that we all want to enjoy now and then.

As for the workout, I must say that the fitness room in this resort is disproportionately poor in comparison with just about everything else they offer. The room is small and included 1 treadmill, 1 stair-climber, and about 4 Schwin stationary bikes. I would certainly have liked to see at least a set of dumb-bells.

But a wimpy fitness room can't hamper my ability to have a good workout. I don't even have to have a fitness room at all. But this morning I used a 3-exercise circuit (done 4 times) involving the stationary bike, 1-leg push-ups, and cross-body mountain-climbers. The key was to remember to bring my gymboss timer, set for 18 and 27 seconds respectively, and I was good to go.

So I've had a good breakfast, I've had a good workout, I've had my time of devotion, and no matter what happens from this point on, my day has already had a very good start. I hope yours started well too. But if not, just make the best of it from this point onward.

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving.


The Feast Before Our Very Eyes

Scripture: Matthew 13:16-17 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

Observation: The disciples lived in precious times. But so do we.

Application: Today is Thanksgiving. It’s a beautiful day and I’m with family at a state park to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of my in-laws. I’m sitting in a long hallway with a wall of windows overlooking a stretch of grass that leads to a beautiful lake. Just outside the window is a host of sparrows enjoying the bird-feeder buffet. It’s nice.

But it also makes me wonder how many people have longed to see such things, but never did. I wonder how many people longed to see 50 years of marriage but didn’t see it. I wonder how many people longed to have their own children, but weren’t able. I wonder how many people longed for a decent standard of living but never knew what such things were like. I wonder how many people have never spent a day in any kind of modest resort, other than perhaps to serve on the cleaning staff. I wonder how many people in the world have never looked out on a beautiful lake as the sun comes up. I wonder how many people have spent their lives on the outside looking in and how many people have spent their lives on the inside and never looked out.

To be clear, I wouldn’t equate any of these things with seeing the kingdom of God. That’s where the disciples clearly had a most definite edge, though it’s unlikely that they realized it at the time. And perhaps that’s the point. Realizing our reasons for thanksgiving at the time is one of the greatest blessings ever. To be able to see the beauty of life in front of us is one of God’s greatest gifts—to enjoy life’s feast right before our very eyes.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for this beautiful morning. But thank you, as well, for all the mornings that don’t look so beautiful, but nevertheless, really are. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Matthew 11-13)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Peace when there is no peace

Scripture: Matthew 10:12-13 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.

Observation: Peace is not wasted.

Application: I’m struck by the idea of peace either coming upon something or returning. And it’s interesting that, apparently, we may determine whether peace that is not well received can come back upon us. It’s almost as if peace, when not well received, has no-where else to go except back to the person who originally endeavored to share it. And so if that person can’t be at peace, the peace just drifts off into the abyss like a repelling magnet.

I’m probably over-analyzing here and I’m also not one to want to take Scripture too literally, especially if only to fulfill my own presumptions. But it does seem to me that sometimes we have to be at peace with other people not receiving our peace. And we need not take it personally—it was not our peace to begin with.

Prayer: Lord, help us to be at peace whenever we encounter less than peaceful people. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Scripture readings today included: Matthew 8-10)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Wealth and Debt

Scripture Verse: Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

Observation: Wealth is not meant to be served or, if it is served, God cannot be served.

I’ve been reading some things over the last year by a really smart person who is very wealthy and keeps working at being wealthy. But interestingly enough, he is quick to admit that making money (at least for him!) is relatively easy but is not the be-all/end-all of life. He points out the importance of having loftier goals than accumulating wealth, even though much of his life has revolved around making money. He strives to make money in a way that leverages his personal gifts for the benefit of others.

Thinking of him and reading the passages for today got me to thinking—we may not be able to serve God and wealth, but wealth can serve us as we serve God. In other words, if we were somehow to accumulate some form of financial fortune, its only real purpose would be to assist us in serving God and, of course, neighbor.

And here’s the flip-side—debt sometimes keeps us from serving God and neighbor. It could possibly be said, “you cannot serve God and debt.” This message, of course, strikes more of us closer to home. When we allow ourselves to get to the point where our debts become our focus, well, that has an affect on us as well.

Each ditch, wealth and debt, have their own trappings. The former deludes us and the latter cripples us should we, in either case, foolishly endeavor to have two masters.

Just something to consider before "Black Friday" and that which follows arrives.

Prayer: Lord help us to not be overly focused on wealth or debt, but let each in some way be of service to us and we endeavor to serve you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included Matthew 5-7)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Good Ol' JTB

Scripture Verses: Matthew 3:17-18 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit worthy of repentance.

Observation: John was a brave soul, able to speak very direct truth to powerful people. Very gutsy.

Application: There are times that I wish that I could be as direct as John the Baptist (JTB). But truth be told, it’s not so much a matter of a lack of confidence as it is as a lack of surety. I am so deeply aware of the infiltrating nature of sin, that it’s hard to feel like I could ever be so scathing in my pronouncements without, in some way, being hypocritical. By the same token, not only do I believe in the infiltrating nature of sin, but I also believe in the redeeming nature of grace which allows even decrepid individuals to offer something of worth in the world, sometimes even in spite of themselves. So it’s hard for me to totally count anyone out.

To be fair, JTB didn’t count people out either. He offered a call to action: “Bear fruit worthy of repentance.” In other words, demonstrate the depth of your sincerity.

I guess that’s something we all struggle to do. Before challenging others with such clarion calls, we’d be wise begin by taking JTB’s call to action personally.

Prayer: Lord, you offer so much opportunity to demonstrate our thankfulness. Enable us to take advantage of such things with joy in our heart. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included Matthew 1-4)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Exercise Tip: Plan Your Moves with Variety and Purpose

It's good to mix things up when it comes to exercise. But that doesn't mean throw out good exercise principles. There should be a purpose for every move we do.

I have a few principles that drive my every workout and combination of workouts.

First, I never do the same workout two days in a row. In fact, I seldom do the exact same workout within the same week or even series of weeks.

Second, I strive to involve the major muscle groups and their respective opposing muscle groups in each workout. I don't always hit this 100% (for example, the exact opposite of a push-up would be an inverted row, which I don't always do. But I'll usually have a pull-up or chin-up or something like that in a workout to at least come close to providing pulling motions to counterbalance pushing motions.), but I strive to come close.

Third, I do exercises for a specific period of time, but not with attempts to keep besting my previous number of reps for that same period of time. The goal is focused intensity along with a corresponding focus on form, not focused insanity that increases the likelihood of injury.

Fourth, the workout should be as long as necessary but also as short as possible. For me these days that amounts to a 5-minute warm-up followed by a very scripted 9-minute workout, all usually done from the comfort of my own unfinished basement with very little equipment--none of which is expensive.

Fifth, the workout, if necessary, should be able to be done anywhere. When travelling I've done my workouts in hotel stairwells, park shelter houses, play-grounds, or even just in my room. It's not always optimal, but it is always good. Workouts must be excuse-proof if they are going to be consistently done over the long haul, which is what really matters.

Kent Wilson
Founder of "Fit Under the Collar" and creator of "9 Minutes-To-Fit"

PS In case you're wondering, today's workout included a rare 12-exercise set:
--Warm-up followed by:

--Neutral-grip pull-ups
--Front Barbel Squats
--Alligator Push-ups (with feet on skateboard)
--Split-lung jumps
--T-Pushups with light dumbbells
--1-leg stability-ball curls
--cross-body mountain climbers
--inverted rows
--suspended push-ups
--side plank with leg raises
--side plank with leg raises (other leg)
--Turkish Get-ups with Dumbbell.

Nutrition Tip from the Clearance Rack

Yesterday I slipped into Alde's (a discount grocery chain in our area) to grab a few vegetables. On my way out I glanced, as I often do, at the clearance rack. A couple things caught my interest:

--Chili-Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil
--Butternut Squash Spaghetti Sauce

Normally I probably wouldn't actually buy either of these items, but hey, they were really cheap!

Once home, my curiosity got the best of me and I just had to find a way to try em out. I ended up with this concoction in a skillet:

--chilli-infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil
--fresh broccoli (diced small)
--fresh cauliflower (diced small)
--fresh mushrooms (sliced)

After I had sauteed the mixture nicely, I added a dose of the Butternut Squash Spaghetti Sauce and continued on medium heat until all was bubbly.

Quite good, albeit pretty spicy! Our 16 y/o son even came down from his room and wondered what in the world smelled so delicious!

Too late, however. By then it was all gone.

For Those Who Work With People They Don't Like

Scripture Verse: 2 Corinthians 3:2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all;

Observation: Paul felt that the community should reflect the Spirit of Christ, that they were the telling expression, for good or for ill, of how faithfully Paul had shared the gospel message.

It has been said, “if you don’t like the people who work for/with you, whose fault is that?” In other words, we have influence. While none of us has (nor should have) total control, we ourselves are an important dimension in our every relationship. To that extent, we do have the ability—at least to some degree—to shape relationships, including those of the household of God. It’s a somewhat scary thought as a leader, but congregations often do reflect the characteristics of their leaders. This is one of many reasons why a personal devotional life for leaders is absolutely critical. It need not be trumpted, but it does need to be practiced. Otherwise there’s no compelling reason for anyone else to practice what is preached.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for the opportunity to be of some influence in this world. Please enable the vast majority of that influence to be for good, rather than for ill. Such things are only possible by your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: 2 Corinthians 3-6)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Today's Workout: Excuses be Gone.

Today I was one round into my workout when the cell phone rang. I knew it was my wife on the line and I knew I probably needed to stop my workout and take the call (while my workout timer kept periodically beeping) because she was in route to taking the kids to school and it probably had something to do with somebody forgetting something and needing me to bring it in, etc. Well, nobody forgot to bring anything this time but there was a new scheduling and related transportation detail that needed to be worked out and since we had previously decided that our son couldn't have his cell phone back until tomorrow, we needed to figure out the scheduling details now so that he would know where I needed him to be and when so that I could pick him up. We agreed on the library, in case you wanted to know.

Ever been there? Well, we got-er done, but the call took 9 minutes of time and untold amounts of energy mixed with a touch of frustration out of an already busily-scripted day. It was real tempting to just scrap the workout plan at the point and move on.

But then I thought to myself, "the workout only takes 9 minutes. I'm here, I'm in my workout clothes. Let's just do this!"

And so I did. I started over with the opening round of jumping rope, moved to cross-over shuttle runs, on to regular shuttle sprints and then pikes with my feet on a skateboard. I repeated that 4-exercise set two more times for a total of 12 exercises, each performed for 18 seconds followed by 27 seconds of rest.

Done. Finished. Accomplished. Checked-off. Satisfied. Even offered a Lil' old fist-pump in view of the mirror at the end.

Sure, I could have scrapped the whole thing today, and sometimes that's exactly what I've done. But I'll tell you this; I always feel better (physically and mentally) when exercise is part of the day.

Excuses be gone.

things that matter

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 2:17 For we are not peddlers of God’s word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.

Observation: Paul desired to be a person of sincerity sent from God, not a self-proclaimed ‘peddler’ of God’s word.

Application: I’ve been working as of late on some direct-mail communication pieces intended for people who have moved and therefore this year will be spending their first Christmas in their new home. The challenge is to write these pieces in a way that catches the attention of the reader and yet also expresses the faith of the sender (that would be me) and the congregation of which I speak. I have no desire to be a ‘peddler’ but every desire serve as one who has been called and sent by God through the church. And this morning I was reading an article from a completely non-religious source who advocated communicating about things that really matter and not to waste people’s time and limited attention with things that don’t really matter. It seems to me that faith, of course, would rank right up there. The challenge, as always, is how best to communicate such important things.

Prayer: Lord, help me to refine my proclamation, whether through sermons or other communication, to be full of things that matter and light on things that don’t. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 41-42 and 2 Corinthians 1-2)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Today's Workout

Chin-ups with knee-ups
Barbell Squats
Bench Press
Kettle-bell Swings
Cross-body Mountain climbers
Dumbbell Rear Lateral Deltoid raises.

Repeat set in 9 minutes-to-fit fashion.

lasting value

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:3a For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received:

Observation: Paul kept going back to the primary point of his message, his primary purpose.

Application: A rather personal mission that I’ve been striving (sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much) to embrace for the last few months or so is this: “to provide messages, products and/or services of lasting value in a temporary world.” For me, anything of truly lasting value will be driven by a strong appreciation for what God had done for me and others through Christ. It truly is a gift that keeps on giving and it is the kind of thing that the Apostle Paul considered to be of “first importance.” I may still be fussing with how best to convey such things, both through the church and personally, but I am convinced that somehow or another, by the grace of God, I am on the right track. I’ve believed this to be so even before reading today’s assigned readings, but it’s especially reassuring to see that Paul said and believed more or less the same thing.

Prayer: Lord, this plugging away at life is really quite a new learning experience with each new day. But through you I continue to experience deep meaning in the journey. For that I give you thanks. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Psalm 149 and 1 Corinthians 15-16)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Body Language

Scripture Verse that Caught My Attention today: 1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Observation: The “You” is plural.

Application: We all like to think we’re special in various ways, but we also have much in common—much more than we often care to admit. In our little part of the world we say that we are part of the “United States of America.” Among other things, this means that even though various states will have their differences now and then, all of our states are still united under a larger umbrella.

Long before there was such a thing as America, there was the Apostle Paul who worked with a more readily-available image at the time—that of a body and its parts. His point was pretty simple—together we are the body of Christ. Sure, we have our individual roles, but all under the larger umbrella of being Christ’s body alive in this world. And because we are one body, when one of us suffers, it causes pain for the rest as well. To think otherwise is to forget that we are part of the body at all.

Lord, help us all to remember that non of us is an island unto him or herself. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 37-38 and 1 Corinthians 12)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Heavy Lifter

Scripture Verse that Caught My Attention today: 1 Corinthians 1:8 He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God does the heavy lifting.

So often it’s tempting to delude ourselves into thinking that things are up to us. Well, some things are up to us, but measuring up to God is not one of them. In that regard, the appropriate attitude in life is simply one of thanksgiving. True, we’d prefer not to waste opportunities and the like. But even if we were to waste such things, the grace of God still stands. As Paul points out elsewhere, there is no room for boasting. Christ is necessary because Christ has done and is doing what we ourselves cannot do. Only Christ can make us blameless at his coming. We might be able to do a little touch-up here and there, but the deep cleaning can only be done by God who chooses to do so through Christ. This work goes on in the background of our life whether we are waking or sleeping or working or at rest.

Prayer: Lord thank you for your ongoing life-saving work. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 33 and 1 Corinthians 1-3)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Because the Community Has Spoken

Scripture Verse that Caught my attention today: Galatians 5:2 Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you.

Observation: Paul’s point was that if people were going to rely on their own actions, they were essentially trying to tell Christ that he wasn’t needed, that they could do it on their own.

Application: I’m not sure why we as humans want to take so much credit for our actions on the one hand and want to blame others for our various predicaments on the other. Take voting. If we vote for a losing candidate, it’s quite easy to delude ourselves into thinking that any problems that subsequently arise are not our fault. “We did our part” we think to ourselves and “therefore it is the winning majority that has the problem.” But with such perspectives we cut ourselves off from our common humanity and position ourselves as over and against the rest, thus dividing one community in two. Rather than embrace the fact that the one community has made a decision, we declare instead that the “other” community got the best of us this time, but we’ll strive to get them back the next time around. Such thinking can hardly lead to any kind of real health and wholeness for either oneself or a nation as a whole.

Paul believed that Christ was of no benefit to a person who insisted on justifying him or herself by actions. In a similar vein, it could be said that a nation is of no benefit to a person who refuses to see him or herself in community with the said nation. But I’m not sure that I completely buy either argument. It seems to me that Christ is beneficial to us whether we are willing to admit it or not. Likewise, a nation can be beneficial to us even if we persist in lambasting our fellow citizens and/or elected leaders as if we had nothing in common with them whatsoever. Both are forms of grace if we can find the grace to see it.

Prayer: Lord, I pray for all elected leaders of whatever party and for those who ran for elected office but didn’t prevail. Differences aside, the community as a whole has spoken for this particular time in history. Let us now find ways to support the voice of the community as a whole and also respect the dissenting community as a part. There will be plenty of regular opportunities for the community as a whole to speak again. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 31-32 and Galatians 5-6)

Monday, November 5, 2012

GET to's and HAVE to's

Scripture Verse that Caught my attention today: Galatians 3:18-19 For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise.
Gal. 3:19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by a mediator.

Observation: I like Galatians. It’s a rather harsh book in some ways. But it also is full of promise.

Application: One of the questions that Lutherans often ask is: “is this really gospel?” In other words, is this really good news? Is it really a gift or is it something you earn? If it is the latter, it’s not good news. If it is the former, it’s very good news.

The moment you HAVE to do something it usually ceases to be good news. Every time you GET to do something, it can be very good news. So when someone tells you that you HAVE to do something that you GET to do, they are trying to turn a promise into a law. Still, the law has it’s place. If we refuse to do what we GET to do, sometimes it can be helpful for someone to tell us that we HAVE to do it. We won’t necessarily gain any advantage out of such compulsion, but if it’s a good deed, surely someone else will. Hence even bad news for one can turn into good news for another.

Prayer: Lord, help us to find and celebrate truly Good News wherever you provide it. And since we have not yet come to the fullness of your promise, allow the law to help nudge us along wherever and whenever such nudging is needed. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 30, Psalm 120, and Galatians 3-4)

Today's Workout

Squat Jumps
Bench Press
Dumbbell Squat/overhead Press combo
Leaning Inverted Rows.

Paul's Lasting Word

Scripture Verse that Caught My Attention Today: Galatians 2:14 “But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

I would like to know how Cephas’ responded to Paul. Scripture is silent on the matter.

Application: When I was growing up, my parents—yes, both of them—used to watch a couple of soap-operas after lunch (this was after Dad retired). Usually it was, as I recall, “The Young and the Restless” and “Days of our Lives.” Sometimes, I’m embarrassed to admit, I watched them too—even though I thought they (the soap operas, not my parents) were stupid. Such drama!

Anyhow, often times toward the end of an episode we the viewers would be privy to some overview information and could see that it would only be a matter of time until so and so would figure out what was really going on and Lord only knows (along with the producer, of course) how so and so would react to such information once discovered. Often the episode would end with the suddenly-informed look on the person’s face, leaving us to wait until the next day how things actually turned out.

I’m reminded of such things when I read the passage above that details Paul’s confrontation with Cephas. We don’t learn how Cephas responds to Paul’s rightful accusations. Did he hang his head in shame? Did he try to justify himself? We don’t know. Paul got the last word—and we’re left with the lasting message.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for the lasting message that we find through Christ in Paul. You are the great justifier of all. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 28-29 (which I didn't read today) and Galatians 1-2)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Avoiding Winter

Scripture Verse that Caught My Attention Today: Mark 13:18 Pray that it may not be in winter.

Observation: Based on this it would appear that the people Jesus was speaking too could pray that end times wouldn’t be in winter. But does that mean it won’t be in winter (assuming people pray as such)? Not necessarily. Also in today’s readings, in chapter 14, Jesus prays that he won’t have to go through suffering, though he also yields to God’s will. Apparently it was God’s will for Jesus to suffer, and so he did. So although we may take up Jesus’ advice and pray that it will not be in winter, God’s will still rules.

Application: Right now a large number of people are dealing with the after-affects of Hurricane Sandy. It’s not winter yet, but it is rather cold. With electricity on the blink and natural gas supplies shut off for safety, I would imagine that staying warm is no easy task. No, it’s not the end times (as far as I know), but it does give a sense to the challenges that such times might bring.

Of course, Jesus also said that all of those things would take place during the generation of his followers. And in many ways those things did eventually take place. Jesus was crucified and, some years later, the Romans ransacked the temple. I’m unclear as to what time of year either of these things occurred.

Regardless, winter can be a challenging time. I spent the better part of today working with my father-in-law who was graciously helping get my water system for the barnyard up and running again. Winter is just around the corner and I’m trying to get it all prepared. In this case praying that winter won’t eventually set in isn’t really an option. Better to just pray that I and the systems I need to work are properly prepared for whatever weather comes.

Prayer: Lord, sometimes it’s hard to know what to pray for these days. Guess I’ll just go with the tried and true: Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 25 and Mark 13-14)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Beyond our Facination with Church Buildings

Scripture Verses that caught my attention today: Mark 11:15-17 Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; 16 and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written,
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?
But you have made it a den of robbers.”

Observation: In Mark 11 Jesus goes to the temple three times. First he goes late in the evening, doing little more than looking around and then leaving. Next is the encounter found in the verses above. Finally he goes back again the next day whereupon people confront him in regard the authority by which he does such things.

Application: I find Jesus’ relationship to the temple interesting. On the one hand it is clearly a special place for him. He spent much time there. On the other hand, he will indicate elsewhere that all will eventually be thrown down—without one stone left upon another. That which people admire is not always long-standing.

I think of the farm that we live on. The one barn is well over 150 years old and we hope to preserve it. Still, its life is limited by the limitation of our own resources, the cumulative affects of time, and, possibly, the lack of interest in the mind of whoever comes after us. It will be a sad day whenever it eventually comes down, but life will go on. It’s just a building. There’s no need to get overly caught up in it.

Same goes for church buildings and temples. Over time they come and go. Like home d├ęcor, styles of architecture come and go and are often determined largely by the availability of resources (financial and otherwise) at the time. I find it interesting that the incredibly beautiful Jerusalem Temple was totally destroyed by the Romans roughly 40 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Lots of people were spiritually devastated by that event. But only those who had placed their faith in the building. Not those who had placed their faith in the crucified and risen leader of the movement.

Prayer: Lord, temples and church buildings are interesting. There are lots of beautiful ones in Europe and even America today that are largely empty. But you teach us that the church is ultimately not a building but, rather, your people gathered in every time and every place. For that I give you thanks. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings today included: Job 23-24 and Mark 11-12)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Demon Drop

Scripture: Mark 9:28-29 When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 He said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.”

Jesus apparently was aware of different types of demons and what was needed to cast each kind (or at least this kind) out.

Novices know generalities. Professionals know specifics. In this sense Jesus was a professional, knowing full well, once he got into the situation, that this was no ordinary demon and required prayer to exorcise.

I wish I were better versed at how best to help those who seemed to be possessed by some kind of power beyond their control. Over the years such a skill would have most certainly have come in handy more than once. Then again, maybe it’s best that I not have such abilities. In that regard there is only one professional—the one we worship.

Prayer: Lord, thanks for knowing what we don’t know. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Readings Today included: Psalm 121 and Mark 9-10)