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.