Thursday, December 13, 2007

Luke 1:18-20 - Nagging questions

Scripture: Luke 1:18-20

Summary: This scripture occurs right after an angel tells Zechariah that his wife, Elizabeth, will bear a son (John the baptist). Zechariah asks how he will know this is so because he is old. The angel says that because he didn't believe, he will be mute until the birth.

Thoughts: Zecharaiah hears the nagging question. How does he know what the angel said is true? He's probably wondering how he even knows that the angel is real and not a dream! We have many of the same questions in our lives. How do we know that Jesus Christ was a real person and was really raised from the dead? How do we know what God is calling us to do in our lives? I felt a call from God in my life about 7 years ago into full-time ministry. Now that I am reaching the end of my seminary education, I am struggling again with that call. Exactly how will that call play out? Exactly what kind of ministry does God want me to do? If I go to work for church A, will that limit my options in the future? I'm not sure. But in the end, I have to trust God to lead me in the right direction. Often God eliminates the wrong choices for me by not making them available. God provides for us in wonderful ways. I just need to learn to listen for God in my life and to trust God more fully.

Prayer: Give me grace dear God, to live with my questions until you are pleased to make my way clear. Amen.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Isaiah 40:1-5 - God's preposterous promise

Scripture: Isaiah 40:1-5

Summary: Comfort my people says the Lord. A voice cries out: prepare the way of the Lord. "Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all the people shall see it together."

Thoughts: This scripture reminds us that at some point, God's glory will be revealed. Perhaps this refers to the time when Christ will come again. Perhaps it refers to the coming of the kingdom of God that Jesus also proclaimed. Either way, we are called to prepare the way of the Lord. What does that mean? At this time of year, it usually means we need to prepare ourselves for the Christmas season. Prepare by remembering who Jesus was and what he shared with us. Let your faith shape the season of Advent for you. Let the promises of God be uppermost in your mind as you prepare to remember.

Prayer: Help me to prepare the way of the Lord, rather than focusing on preparing the Christmas presents. After all, it's Christ's birthday, not ours. Amen.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Mark 1:1-8 - God's preposterous promise

Scripture: Mark 1:1-8

Summary: John the Baptist is baptizing people for repentence of their sins. He proclaims that another is coming who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

Thoughts: It's the beginning of advent, the season that we use to prepare for the coming of Christ. I want to share what Reuben Job has to say: "I can believe, rejoice, and wait trustingly and expectantly for the unfolding of God's promise given so many ways and most clearly in the Advent story. Thanks be to God!" Advent can be so many things for us. It can be the time we use to decorate the house, buy presents, send cards, and go to parties. Or it can be the time we use to prepare ourselves spiritually for the coming of the Christ, the coming of God in human flesh.

Prayer: God, I know I can't totally avoid all of the Christmas hype and busyness, but help me to spend time this season focusing on Jesus Christ and what his coming means to my life. Help me to spend some time pondering this miracle. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Friday, November 30, 2007

2 Thessalonians 1:5-12 - When all is said and done

Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12

Summary: Paul is saying that God will afflict those who afflicted you and will give relief to us when Jesus is revealed. He prays that God will make us worthy of the call of God.

Thoughts: I should be praying constantly that God will make me worthy of the call of God! Yes, I believe that I am unworthy. But I also believe that God can work with anything. Even my life, as imperfect as it is, can be used to make miracles happen to those around me. Paul also prays that "God will filfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith." God can take what we have to give the world, which is not nearly enough, and God can make it more than enough. With God backing us, all things are possible!

Prayer: It is not through my own power that I am able to achieve anything, but through the one who strengthens me. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Note: Just in case there is anyone actually reading these things, I am thinking about working my way through the Psalms next. The church year just ended and I am feeling called to the Psalms. Please let me know what you think... is anyone out there?...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Romans 14:10-12 - When all is said and done

Scripture: Romans 14:10-12

Summary: Why do you pass judgement on others? Because we will all stand before God's judgement. God says everyone shall give praise to God. We will each be accountable to God.

Thoughts: It's easy to say that many of us spend way to much time judging other people. I can point out alot of times when I have seen others judging those around them in an unfair way. But then I look in the mirror. That's a hard thing! Because I'm judging other people too! What makes me think I am any better than they are? Wouldn't I be better off if I concentrated on improving my own life, rather than telling other people how they could improve theirs? I'm not saying we should never give advice to a sister or brother who might be treading a path that is less than optimal. Rather I'm saying lperhaps I should back off of the judging, the talking about others behind their backs, and spend that time looking at my own life more closely.

Prayer: God, help me to move on toward perfection. Help me to concentrate on my own shortcomings and how I might improve them. Rather than judging others, I should focus on helping them instead. Amen.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Zechariah 14:1-11 - When all is said and done

Scripture: Zechariah 14:1-11

Summary: A day is coming when the Lord will be king of all the earth.

Thoughts: This is a difficult scripture. (trust me the summary doesn't begin to cover all the complications in it!) But the important thing I saw is that God IS going to reign over the entire earth. We just don't know when. Am I living my life as if God's reign was just around the corner? Am I doing all that I can to move toward the reign of God, here, on earth? Some days, I feel like I am making a difference. But other times, at the end of the day, I can't really state anything that I did to change the way things are. Is that OK? Well, I don't think it should be. I think I need to be living every day as if tomorrow was the day God's reign would be fulfilled!

Prayer: Remind me constantly God, that each of us need to be doing everything that we can. Especially me! I long for your reign to be realized. Help me to continue to move in that direction, every day. Amen.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Isaiah 43:14-21 - A new beginning

Scripture: Isaiah 43:14-21

Summary: God tells the people not to remember the old things. God is about to do a new thing. God will give rivers in the desert so that they will declare God's praise.

Thoughts: We have unlimited opportunities for new beginnings. Each new year people make resolutions about how they are going to change their lives. Even each day is a chance to begin something new. But what about our relationship with God? What is God calling us to do differently in our relationship? This is a good week for me to think about new beginnings, since I missed blogging entirely last week! Just like working out or eating right, Bible study and prayer time is something that needs to be done regularly to be effective. What is God calling you to do differently today?

Prayer: God, help me to put my time with you first rather than last. Because time with you can change the rest of my day! Amen.

Friday, November 9, 2007

John 20:24-28 - From doubt to belief

Scripture: John 20:24-28

Summary: The disciple Thomas was not with the disciples the first time they saw Jesus after the resurrection so he didn't believe. When Jesus appeared among them the next time he offers to let Thomas put his fingers in his side, and Thomas believes in him.

Thoughts: Jesus tells Thomas "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." None of us have actually seen Jesus. I always thought how much easier it must have been for the disciples to believe because they actually spent time with Jesus. On the other hand, maybe it was harder for them. Because they knew Jesus, knew he ate and slept just like they did. Sometimes for me it is hard to imagine Jesus as a real person. What is it that takes us from doubt to belief? Why do we believe in Jesus Christ as our saviour? For me, it is because I can see the difference that knowing Jesus has made in the lives of many before me, seeing the difference he makes in the world today.

Prayer: Lord give me faith to share my belief in Jesus with those around me. And remind me daily that I also need to be changing the world so that the next generation can see the difference that Jesus has made in their world. Amen.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Matthew 10:34-39 - Choose Life

Scripture: Matthew 10:34-39

Summary: Jesus says that he has come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother. Whoever loves their parents more than me isn't worthy of me. "Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it."

Thoughts: Isn't this what the choice of being Christian is all about? We can chose to worship the things that we possess, or we can choose to worship God. But sometimes when we chose God it is costly. Often those who chose to go into ministry pay for that choice with a limited income. So I can choose the job as a software engineer making $60,000 a year or I can chose the job working in an agency with the homeless for $25,000. The second choice may seem as if it is limitiing my life, but in reality isn't it really freeing me? Because it allows me to chose life. It allows me to change the lives of the marginalized people in my neighborhood. And isn't that really chosing life?

Prayer: Help me Lord, as it says in this scripture, to take up my cross and follow you. I want to be willing to lose my life for you and your creation. Amen.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Isiah 51:1-8 - What are you looking for?

Scripture: Isiah 51:1-8

Summary: There's alot here in this text (you really should read it!). It's about seeking the righteousness of God. "Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham..."

Thoughts: The Bible is full of stories of how God has been at work in this world. Abraham is a great example. He trusted God and God blessed him with many descendents. Why should we not expect that God will likewise bless us? The scripture says "a teaching will go out from me, and my justice for a light to the peoples." Perhaps God is calling us to help with this. Calling us to help teach the good news. Calling us to spread the justice of God in our world. So the good news in this text is that God will deliver us. Perhaps our response should be to spread this good news to those around us. What do you think?

Prayer: In this text in Isaiah it says "but my deliverance will be forever, and my salvation to all generations." Be my salvation, Lord. And make my search for you fruitful. Amen.

Monday, October 22, 2007

John 12:20-26 - What are you looking for?

Scripture: John 12:20-26

Summary: Some Greeks came up to the disciple Philip asking to see Jesus. When he and Andrew tell Jesus, he tells them that the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Those who love their life will lose it and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Thoughts: These people from Greece were looking for Jesus. Maybe they had heard about what Jesus had been doing and preaching. All we know is that they are searching for Jesus. What are we searching for? Is our search for God so consuming that we ignore all other distractions? If we seriously search for God we know we will be rewarded. But we need to consider the places in which we search. We can search the Bible, our inner soul, our world, or the poor and oppressed that need our compassion, because God has been found in these places before. But the most important thing is that we need to begin searching.

Prayer: God we know from the Bible that those who search for you are rewarded. Help us to make seeking you the top priority in our lives. Amen.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mark 8:14-21 - Eating the bread of anxious toil

Scripture: Mark 8:14-21

Summary: Jesus and the disciples are getting into the boat and they realize that they only have 1 loaf of bread. The disciples are worried about this but Jesus reminds him of how much bread remained when he fed the 2 large crowds with only a few loaves.

Thoughts: We spend alot of our lives being anxious. Anxious about tests or papers at school, anxious about deadlines or problems at work, anxious about relationships, anxious about eating. When we fill our lives with activities we often grow anxious. But Jesus reminds the disciples that he has fed them in the past and he will feed them in the future. God cares for every creature that exists. We can trust God to provide for us. As Rueben Job says "Peace, hope, calm, and joy are the fruits of placing our confidence in God" What are we waiting for?!

Prayer: The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. Help me to remember today God, that you are always providing for me so that I might rest in the comfort of your care. Amen.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Luke 24:28-35 - When Jesus slips away

Scripture: Luke 24:28-35

Summary: This text is the end of the story about the disciples meeting Jesus, after the resurrection on the road to Emmaus. It is not until Jesus breaks bread with them that they realize who he is. Then Jesus vanishes.

Thoughts: Even though we have often been told that God is always with us, there are times that it does not feel that way. I am struggling now because my sister is in the hospital 400 miles away. I am overwhelmed trying to make sure that she is well cared for, working on assignments for school, taking my kids to all of the places they need to be each week, etc. I feel far away from God right now. When Jesus left these disciples, though, it doesn't sound as if they felt abandoned. Far from it! When Jesus disappeared, they returned to Jerusalem to share their news with the other disciples. In my head, I know that God is always with me. But sometimes it doesn't feel that way. But what can I do to correct that feeling? Perhaps if I make more space for God in my life I will not feel so alone. By worshiping with others in community each week and by being more consistent in my prayer time, I may be able to shorten these times in my life when I can't feel God's presence.

Prayer: God, help me to stop hiding from you! Remind me daily, even hourly, that I need to spend time with you in order to be more aware of your presence and guidance in my life. Amen.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Mark 6:45-52 - When Nothing Goes Our Way

Scripture: Mark 6:45-52

Summary: This is the Mark version of Jesus walking on water. The disciples take the boat without Jesus to cross the sea. Evening comes and Jesus can see that they are straining against the wind so he walks toward them early in the morning. They were afraid when they saw him but he spoke to them and climbed into the boat and the wind ceased.

Thoughts: There are days when I wish Jesus would come and rescue me from the wind. Days when I only get a few hours sleep, for several days in a row, and it seems that the demands on me don't let up until late at night. When I grow exhausted from fighting against the wind, I wish for Jesus to still it so that I can rest. But isn't this what God does for us when we take the time to be in prayer? Doesn't God give us comfort and rest when we take the time to be with God?

Prayer: Help me to remember that if I take the time to be with you each day, it will be better. Not that the demands on me will cease, but that you will give me strength and perseverance to finish what I have to do. Thank you for being there for me at all times. Amen.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Isaiah 61:1-7 - Compassion for the world

Scripture: Isaiah 61:1-7

Summary: The Lord "has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners..."

Thoughts: There is alot more to the scripture than this portion, but I wanted to hone in on this one section. When I step back and look at the big picture of my life, what is God calling me to do? I thought for about 25 years that God was calling me to write software for computers. Was I wrong? Was I not listening to God? Maybe, maybe not. That is in the past and whether that is where God wanted me or not, I learned alot of valuable stuff that is coming in handy now as I practice my ministry. The real question for me is what is God calling me to do with the rest of my life? I find what I sense is an answer to that question in this (and other) scripture. God is calling me to change the lives of others, to help the oppressed, the brokenhearted, the captives. And no matter what job I go to next, this is where my focus will be, on others around me that I can be of assistance to.

Prayer: Please remind me daily that you are the God who gives special favor to the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized. And as a follower of Jesus, I should do the same. Amen

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Matthew 9:35-38 - Compassion for the World

Scripture: Matthew 9:35-38

Summary: Jesus went about healing, teaching, and proclaiming the good news. He had compassion for the crowds because they were like sheep without a shepherd. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord to send out laborers into his harvest.

Thoughts: Henry Nouwen says that compassion is the one thing that is central to all great religions: Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian all stress the importance of having compassion for your fellow human beings. The Hindu speak of the Divine that is a part of each of us, saying that if you love God how can you not love the person beside you who contains a portion of that divinity? It is compassion for others that helps us see beyond ourselves, our little worlds. And it is our response to the grace that God showers us with.

Prayer: Help me to look with compassion on all those here on earth with me. For each of us is created in your image, Lord, and so should be treated with respect and dignity. May I remember this as I interact with your beloved creatures. Amen.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mark 6:30-44 - Compassion for the World

Scripture: Mark 6:30-44

Summary: This is the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish.

Thoughts: Jesus always had compassion for the needy around him. As his followers, we need to do the same. Who are the needy around me? What about the homeless people that are showing up in Plano (a suburb of Dallas)? What about the guy at the gas station who asks for $5 for gas to get home? What about the neighbor whose lawn mower broke? There are people that I see every day that could use a helping hand or a kind word from me. What is stopping me from offering that hand or that word?

Prayer: God, give me the eyes and ears to notice those around me who need my help. Give me the compassion to act quickly to meet these needs with love.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Matthew 6:16-18 - Making rooom for God

Scripture: Matthew 6:16-18

Summary: When you fast, don't look dismal so everyone will know you are fasting. Instead take care of yourself so that you won't be noticed by others but by God.

Thought: When I think about fasting it always makes me squirm. Fasting is very hard for me. I really like to eat and when I go a day without eating my body really complains. But fasting makes room in our lives for God. It is so difficult to make room for God today. But if we are not purposeful about this, we won't ever make the time. And so I ask you, what do you feel called to give up in order to find room for God in your life?

Prayer: God I want you in my life. So I need to make room for you. I am so busy that sometimes I go entire days without spending time with you. But those are the days that I need you most. Help me give up something to make room for You. Amen.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Romans 8:31-39 - No condemnation

Scripture: Romans 8:31-39

Summary: Wow! Please be sure to read this scripture! If God is for us, who is against us? For nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thoughts: Sometimes I get in a place where I can't feel any touch of the love of God. It feels like God has deserted me (and understandably so because I am so worthless!). It's times like these when this scripture hits me the hardest. Listen to the words for yourself: "For I am convinced that neighter 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!" Who can doubt after hearing this!

Prayer: God, I'm pretty sure that when I can't hear or feel you anywhere near, it's not because you are not here, but because I am not listening. Thank you for being with me always. Amen.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Psalm 34:11-22 - No condemnation

Scripture: Psalm 34:11-22

Summary: This psalm teaches us "the fear of the Lord." It says that no one who takes refuge in God will be condemned.

Thoughts: The psalmist offers us instruction on the fear of the Lord. Our tasks are: to keep from speaking deceit, depart from evil, do good, seek peace, and pursue it. This seems like a short enough list. But when you look at the details it becomes much more difficult. Even the easiest, to keep from speaking lies, is difficult to do every day! How much more so will we struggle to seek peace. Sometimes it seems impossible to pursue peace, even in our own neighborhood, our own house. How much more complicated to seek peace as a nation! But that is what God asks us to do. Over and over in the Bible God urges us toward peace.

Prayer: God of peace, give me the courage to seek peace everywhere that I go today. Help me to seek it at home with my family, in my neighborhood, at my church, in my country, even in the world. For it is through the efforts of each of us that you are able to bring your peace to all of us. Amen.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

John 8:1-11 - No condemnation

Scripture: John 8:1-11

Summary: A woman is brought to Jesus who has committed adultery. Jesus tells the men that anyone among them who is without sin should throw the first stone. The men go away 1 by 1 and Jesus tells the woman that he doesn't condemn her and she should go and not sin again.

Thoughts: Every time I read this story I wonder where the man is that this woman was committing adultery with! But that is a bunny trail which I will not venture down today. This story reminds me of grace. In the Jewish law if you committed adultery, the punishment was to be stoned. I think Jesus wanted to let this woman go and have another chance but he had to find a way to do so that the men would agree with. They were constantly testing him and this was just another test. So Jesus tells them that anyone among them who is without sin should be the first to throw a stone. Then he waited. I can see the men, having to admit to themselves that they had surely sinned before, and then one by one slinking away. Then Jesus looks at the woman asking "Has no one condemned you?" When she says no, Jesus provides grace and tells her that he doesn't condemn her either. Second chances are what the Bible stories are all about. Even the famous Bible heroes and heroines make mistakes, but God gives them another chance. Even though she has sinned, Jesus gives this woman another chance. Go and sin no more!

Prayer: Oh God, you are the God of grace. For without your grace, which of us would stand a chance? Which of us could throw the first stone? Certainly not me. Amen.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Romans 8:1-11 - No condemnation

Scripture: Romans 8:1-11

Summary: This scripture says that God does not condemn us and reminds us that we should set our minds on the things of the Spirit, not things of the flesh.

Thoughts: Paul says "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Do we need to hear any more than this? No matter what we have done in the past, God does not condemn us. This is a powerful message to those of us who constantly hear condemnation of ourselves, either in our own head or from the mouths of others. Let's offer those condemning thoughts of all of our shortcomings and wrongdoings to Jesus Christ, who provides us pardon for all of it. What more needs to be said? Nothing.

Prayer: Forgiving God, I offer you all of the condemnation that has taken root in my soul. I know that you will take it and make it no more. If I can give it up, you will make it disappear. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Exodus 17:1-7 - Living Water

Scripture: Exodus 17:1-7

Summary: The Israelites are in the wilderness and there is no water for them to drink. The people complain and Moses asks them why they quarrel with him, why they test the Lord. Then God tells Moses to strike the rock at Horeb and water will come out of it. And that is exactly what happens.

Thoughts: Read this passage carefully. There are several interesting points. The people complain to Moses (not for the first time either, check out the previous chapter!) and whine saying why did you bring us out of Egypt just to die of thirst in the desert? It is clear, all thru this story of the people in the wilderness, that the Israelites are not this group of super-faithful people that God has chosen to be God's people. No, they are whiney and scared just like me! But God doesn't let that stop the plan that God has for them. Having just provided manna for them to eat, now God provides water for them to drink. No matter how poor our faith is, God provides for us. Why? Because that is who God is. God's love for us doesn't depend on our being faithful. It depends only on God. Which is why it is so good. God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good!

Prayer: No matter how little we deserve it, you always take care of us. You are always there for us, to provide us with the living water. Thank you for the grace we never deserve! Amen.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

John 4:7-15 - Living Water

Scripture: John 4:7-15

Summary: This is the story of Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman. He asks her for a drink and later tells her that he could give her living water, so she will never be thirsty again. Then she asks him for some of this water.

Thoughts: I was with a group of youth in Mexico one summer building a house and I drained my bottle of water but I was still thirsty. Now we always take a large water cooler with water and ice to the worksite, so I went to the cooler to fill up my bottle. But the cooler was empty. And we didn't have a spare jug of water to refill it. Here we are, 30 people without water, in the desert working. It's bad to run out of water in the desert because it's the one thing you can't live very long without. The living water that Jesus offers the Samaritan woman sounds like it is too good to be true. If you only had that water, you wouldn't have to come out to the well several times a day for water! The good news about Jesus' living water is that it it free for the asking. The life giving power of God's love is free to all who simply ask for it. Now, on my Mexico trip, we were able to go and buy more water. But we don't have to pay for the living water that Jesus offers us. It is available to us always. Thanks be to God!

Prayer: God you provide us with all that we need: shelter, food, clothing, and life giving water. But most importantly, you give us the living water that Jesus provides. We only have to ask! Amen.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Acts 2:37-42 - Repentance

Scripture: Acts 2:27-42

Summary: This scripture comes directly after the Holy Spirit descends on the disciples, they speak in many languages, and Peter preaches to the crowd. After the sermon, many of them are cut to the heart, asking what they should do. Peter tells them to repent and be baptized and about 3000 people were baptized.

Thoughts: Peter tells the people that the promise is "for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him." God's promise is not just for the Jews, or those in my neighborhood or church, or those in my country. God's promise is for all of us. Sometimes it's hard to accept the fact that God is reaching out to us all. Surely God is not reaching out to the Iraqis, or the Hispanics, or the mentally challenged! But when I study the scripture, I find out that that is exactly who God is reaching out toward. In fact, God takes a great interest in the poor and the marginalized. So maybe I should too...

Prayer: You are the God of all people. Not just the God for Christians or for people who look like me. Remind me every day that I should treat everyone I meet as valued in your eyes. Amen.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Luke 5:27-32 - Repentence

Scripture: Luke 5:27-32

Summary: Jesus sees Levi, a tax collector, collecting taxes, and he tells Levi to follow him. Then Levi throws a big banquet for Jesus and the Pharisees complain because Jesus eats with sinners. Jesus tells them that those who are well don't need a physician, but the sick do.

Thoughts: Jesus tells the Pharisees "I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance." It's so easy when I read this scripture to look down on the tax collectors and the Pharisees. The tax collectors in Jesus' time were usually crooks. They collected more tax than was required and kept the difference. So I'm obviously better than them because I don't steal from people.... or do I? I know that I have left the grocery store before with a 12-pack of Cokes that I didn't pay for because neither the clerk nor I saw them under the cart. But it was too much trouble to go back in and pay for them. After all, I reasoned, I wasn't the only one who missed them! But I'm definitely better than the Pharisees because I don't look down on preachers who eat with sinners... or do I? Perhaps I am no better than the sinners in this story, both the tax collectors and the Pharisees. I am in need of repentance too!

Prayer: Forgiving God, help me to admit to my own sin and repent of it. For I know that I am no better than those around me, no matter what I might think on some days! Amen.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mark 1:14-15 - Repentance

Scripture:Mark 1:14-15

Summary: After John the Baptist is arrested, Jesus says: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."

Thoughts: I have been thinking about the kingdom of God alot lately. Now, if the word kingdom reminds you too much of a monarch who tries to control your life, then let's call it the reign of God. Either way, Jesus is telling us that the reign of God has come near. This is the good news that Jesus came to earth to proclaim, that the reign of God is near. It's coming. It's here but not all here yet. What's here? For me, the reign of God is that time when peace, justice, and healing rain down upon the earth. When every person has enough to eat and a place to sleep. When every child can go to school. When everyone gets equal treatment under the law. When all people take care of the earth and God's creation. I find myself longing for this time to be upon us! And then, of course, I begin to wonder what I can do to bring it here more quickly. What is God calling me to do today?

Prayer: God, remind me every day that your reign is upon us. Help me each day to contemplate what I can do that day to work toward your reign. Amen.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Luke 17:11-19 - Do you want to get well?

Scripture: Luke 17:11-19

Summary: Jesus heals 10 lepers and only 1 of them returns, praising God in a loud voice and thanking Jesus. That 1 was a Samaritan. Jesus asks where the other 9 are and then tells this man, your faith has made you well.

Thoughts: What was different about this man that he chose to return to Jesus to thank him? Why didn't the others return also? Am I like these other 9 lepers who don't bother to come back and thank the man who has made them well? I'm afraid that, more often than not, I am like the 9 lepers who went on about their lives without offering thanks to the one who healed them.

Prayer: Help me Lord to be like the 1 leper who remembers to return to the one who healed him, praising God with a loud voice and thanking Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Matthew 9:18-26 - Do you want to get well?

Scripture: Matthew 9:18-26

Summary: There are 2 healing stories here. One is of the leader whose daughter had died, who comes to get Jesus knowing that if he will touch her she will live. The other is the hemorrhaging woman who touches his cloak and is made well.

Thoughts: In both of these stories, there is obviously faith in what Jesus can do. The woman knows that if she can just touch Jesus he will make her well. And more impressive, the father believes that if Jesus touches his dead daughter, she will live again! What faith these people have! If we could have faith like that imagine what healing Jesus could do in our lives. Most of us have many areas of our lives in which we need healing. But we need to face our wounds and want healing before the healing can occur.

Prayer: All things are possible with God. Help me to show my wounds to you, oh God, so that they might be healed. Amen.

Monday, August 20, 2007

John 5:1-18 - Do you want to get well?

Scripture: John 5:1-18

Summary: This is the story of Jesus healing a man on the sabbath. Jesus asks the man if he wants to be well and the man says that he is never the first to make it to the pool when the waters are stirred up (the belief was that the first person into the pool when the waters were stirred up would be healed). Jesus tells the man to take up his mat and walk, which he does.

Thoughts: This man had been ill for 38 years. Wow! This is a long time to have been ill, spending most of your day by a pool which is supposed to have healing powers. When Jesus asks him if he wants to be healed, he doesn't actually answer the question. Instead he gives an excuse for why he has not yet been healed. By telling the man to take up his mat and walk, Jesus gives him a chance to take charge of his own healing. Many of us might be tempted to remain on the mat, in a similar situation. It took great courage for this man to get up and walk. He must have really wanted to be healed. Often, when we are sick, we are so used to being sick that we don't really want to get well. This is often the case with our addictions. But if we really want to get well, Jesus is there to help.

Prayer: God, you are the great healer of this world. Help me to be willing to give up my sickness, to allow you to heal me, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Amen.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Colossians 1:9-14 - Who is this who forgives sinners?

Scripture: Colossians 1:9-14

Summary: Paul wishes for them to be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so they might lead lives worthy of God. God has rescued them and transferred them into the kingdom of Christ, in whom we have forgiveness of sins.

Thoughts: There is alot of good stuff in this scripture! But my favorite part is that we might be filled with the knowledge of God's will. What a great gift to know the will of God for our lives. Sometimes I think I know what God's will is for me, but often it is like I'm looking through a dense fog. Just when I think I've got it figured out, my life takes another sharp turn. There are two things at work here. First I can only see what God is willing to show me and second I have to pay attention to see what I'm being shown. I'm guessing that the main problem is with me! I need to keep working on paying closer attention to what God is showing me.

Prayer: Your will be done. Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. What more needs to be said? Amen.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Isaiah 1:18-20 - Who is this who forgives sinners?

Scripture: Isaiah 1:18-20

Summary: God promises that although your sins are scarlet, they shall be like snow, if you are wiling and obedient, but if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.

Thoughts: Wow! Who among us is willing and obedient?!?! Certainly not me! I tend to fit into the rebellious category rather than the obedient category. I may be in line to be devoured by the sword (not a pleasant prospect!). But... I know that God is a gracious God, so if I'm trying to be obedient I believe that God will grant me mercy. For I know that I don't deserve any of the wonderful things God has given me, and continues to give me. But God continues to give wonderful things to me anyway.

Prayer: Merciful God, help me be willing and obedient and follow in your ways. Both of us know that I am not perfect, but I have faith that you take broken people and make them whole. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Acts 10:34-43 - Who is this who forgives sinners?

Scripture: Acts 10:34-43

Summary: Peter is speaking about Jesus and says that everyone who believes in Jesus, their sins are forgiven.

Thoughts: The scripture says that God shows no partiality, that anyone who fears God and does right is acceptable to God. Why is this so hard for us to believe? My whole life their has been a group of people that I have been encouraged to consider as less than me. I grew up in Mississippi where African Americans were often treated badly. Then during the cold war we were led to believe that all Russians were bad. Now in Texas, I hear that the illegal aliens are taking all of our jobs. And homosexuals are not allowed to legally marry in most states. So when the Bible says that God shows no partiality, do we really believe that? Or do we convince ourselves that this doesn't apply to "those people," whoever they might be?

Prayer: Forgiving God, help me to learn to be unpartial, to accept all those around me, no matter how different they appear from me. For we are all created in the image of God and it's time we began acting like it! Amen.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Psalm 103:1-14 - Who is this who forgives sins?

Scripture: Psalm 103:1-14

Summary: God forgives, heals, and redeems us

Thoughts: The word steadfast is used twice in this scripture to describe God. This word brings images of large rocks, even mountains, which are unmovable and will always be there, in that same place. God is steadfast. God is always there. God is present for us no matter where we are, no matter what we have done, no matter how we try to ignore God. The scripture says that God's love is as great as far as the east is from the west. God's love is so great I can't even begin to imagine it! Like that mountain, God is steadfast, I can lean on God. And this scripture says that God has compassion for me and for you and works for justice for all who are oppressed. How great is our God!

Prayer: Steadfast Lord, my human words are inadequate to describe you. And yet you are there for me no matter my sins. Praise God! Amen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Matthew 9:2-8 - Who is this who forgives sinners?

Scripture: Matthew 9:2-8

Summary: Jesus sees a paralyzed man and tells him his sins are forgiven. The scribes think he is blasphemous, so he asks them if it is easier to forgive his sins or tell him to walk? Then he tells tells the man to walk and he does.

Thoughts: Verse 8 says that the crowds were filled with awe and they glorified God. What were the people in awe about? That Jesus had forgiven sins or that he had healed the man? Both are wonderful events to have heard or seen. I imagine that they were awed about the healing. Because how would they have known that his sins were really forgiven? How much more impact the physical had on the crowd than the spiritual. But what is the most important thing that this man gained that day?

Prayer: Forgiving and healing God, you alone know what I need more than anything else. You alone can forgive my sins and help me to change my life. For it is only by your grace that I am saved from my sins. It is only by your touch that I am really healed, both inside and out. Amen.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Luke 7:36-50 - Who is this who forgives sinners?

Scripture: Luke 7:36-50

Summary: This is the story of the woman who is a sinner, who bathes Jesus' feet with her tears and wipes them with her hair. He tells her her sins are forgiven, that her faith has saved her, to go in peace.

Thoughts: Only God can forgive our sins. Only God can wipe away all the failures and mistakes in our lives. How shocking it must have been for the righteous people that Jesus was having dinner with, for Jesus to forgive the sins of this woman. This must have really gotten them thinking about who he was. I am pretty certain that if I had been lucky enough to have known Jesus, I would probably not have been able to accept the fact that he was God. Especially if I had known him for long, seeing him eat and sleep like any other human being. Even today, 2000 years after he lived, it is difficult to imagine what he must have been like. But it is only through him that we can get a glimpse of who God is and what is possible with God. So perhaps as we remember the example of Jesus and the message he brought us, we too can live our lives as God wants us to.

Prayer: God, I know that it is only you who can forgive my sins, who can help me turn around and see your path more clearly. Thank you for the gift of Jesus who helps me, in my limited way, see what is possible with your grace. Amen.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Matthew 7:7-11 - Prayer

Scripture: Matthew 7:7-11

Summary: Jesus says nott to pray so that everyone hears, but to pray secretly. He also gives them a prayer to pray (the Lord's Prayer).

Thoughts: Often during a church service, I hear someone praying beautiful prayers, that are eloquently put together. I find myself wishing that I could pray so eloquently. But what does God really want from us in terms of prayer? This scripture reminds me that God doesn't care how beautiful my prayers are. I believe that God wants each of us to pray in our own way. It's more important that our prayers be real expressions of our feelings and our needs. If you want to improve your prayer life, focus more on your feelings than on the words. What are you thankful for? What do you need? Who else do you want to pray for? A good outline can be found in the Lord's prayer.

Prayer: Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

John 17:1-11 - Prayer

Scripture: John 17:1-11

Summary: Jesus is praying to God and asking God to protect the people, since he will not be with them much longer.

Jesus says "Now that I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, ... protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one." I think this is what we are all about, as human beings. God wants us to live as one in community, just as God lives in the community of the Trinity. We are made in the image of God and we are called to live as God shows us in the ultimate community of the Trinity. What better example of community can we have than the Trinity where God works together and plays together in love!

Prayer: God, help me to emulate your community of the Trinity in my relationships, with other people and with the other creatures of your world. Amen.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Jeremiah 33:1-9 - Prayer

Scripture: Jeremiah 33:1-9

Summary: God is telling Jeremiah that God will rebuild Jerusalem and will cleanse the people of their sin.

God says "Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known." (verse 3) Again, God is telling us how much is possible if we pray. What important things are we missing because we are not listening to God as much as we could? I think today I will try to listen more than I talk, both to God and to other people.

Prayer: Help me to listen God. Amen.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Luke 11:1-13 - Prayer

Scripture: Luke 11:1-13 (please take the time to find your Bible and read this scripture or read it on-line at:

Summary: Jesus is teaching his disciples how to pray and goes on to say that God will give good gifts to those of us who ask!

What would my life be like if I prayed every day? Not just every day, but all throughout th day? I remember to pray when I am in need. That's when it is easy. But I'm not so good at dropping in those quick breath prayers when I need centering or at thanking God for the wonderful things God gives me each day. What I hear in this scripture today is this: The more we talk to God and listen to God (which is really what I think prayer is) the closer we will be to God. It works the same way with a friend. I am closest to those friends that I talk with every day, or almost every day. If we only chose to talk/listen to God when we are in crisis, God will still be there for us, but our connection will not be as clear as it would be if we connected on a regular basis! So if I keep the path to God well travelled, it will be alot easier to find God in those times of crisis in my life.

Prayer: God, help me to find ways to remember to pray throughout the day. Amen.

The Beginning...

I just wanted to tell you a little bit about why I'm writing this blog. I need to find a way to "encourage" myself to read the Bible every day and contemplate what I have read. So, to do that, I am going to write in this blog after I read scripture. Being en extrovert, it is easier for me to contemplate something "out loud," so I'm going to contemplate out loud right here! Could be boring, could be entertaining, could be thought provoking. There's no way to tell yet. So... let the journey begin!

If you want to join me in Bible study, I am working from the book:

A Guide to Proayer for All Who Seek God by Norman Shawchuck and Rueben P. Job. Published by Upper Room Books, 2003.

I encourage you to read the scripture first and then want to encourage you to respond with thoughts of your own so that we can have a conversation!