Each Wednesday, Pastor Charlie sends a midweek devotional to the congregation and those on the devotional email list. If you would like to be included on the email list, simply repsond to firstname.lastname@example.org and your name will be added.
Quick and Eternal
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
For his anger is but for a moment;
his favor is for a lifetime. Psalm 30:5
One of the joys of having a holiday is a day off from work. One of the disappointments is how it makes the rest of the week more chaotic. Today is Thursday, but it’s my Wednesday in routine. Where did yesterday go? It passed like a moment. In reading the above passage from Psalm 30, that’s how forgiveness is with the Almighty. Unquestionably, our sin disappoints God, perhaps even is cause for anger. But through the promise of the Risen Christ Jesus, anger is quick and we are then held in God’s favor for a lifetime. God’s lifetime! Through Christ, we are brought into a presence of the Holy.
Before the Fall, Scripture avows that we are made in what the Hebrews called tzelem elohim, which literally means the "image of God" (Genesis 1:26,27). When later translated for the Roman church in Latin, the term is known as Imago Dei. This is a term many of us have heard, but a practice which most of us fall short. Our anger persists much too long and our favor of those who have wronged us, much to short. We need help, and that’s why Christ Jesus sent the gift of the Spirit to be among us to guide and nurture. Just reading the psalm seems to help bring in proper view Christ’s understanding of forgiveness.
So, if you were angry that I didn’t get my promised devotional off on schedule, or you’re angered by someone of some wrong they’ve inflicted, become tzelem elohim.
Ask the Animals
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matthew 6:34
As many of you know, the above saying of Jesus is one of my favorite verses in Scripture. I wish I could always live it. So easy to say; yet so difficult to live. The words of Jesus though are a comforting reassurance to us that God is in control. All will be ok. Who are we to worry? And what good does it do anyway!
And then I watch the nightly, horrifying scenes from the Gulf. What about tomorrow? Don’t worry? I find myself in deep tension with the Almighty. Just prior to this verse Jesus says that the birds and plants they do not toil, nor spin; they are alive today yet tomorrow are thrown into the oven. Scripture doesn’t say they’re gone by God’s hand, but as we’ve now begun to realize they can easily perish by the lack of concern by humanity’s hand.
I read about the birds not toiling nor spinning and am directed to Job 12:7-8:
Ask the animals, and they will teach you;
the birds of the air, and they will tell you.
Ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
It’s these animals, these birds, these plants and these fish that were created by the hand of God and are now periled by the hand of humanity. Ask them! Also ask those birds and fish that were covered in oil on the Alaskan coast twenty years ago. That yesterday seems so recently. Did we worry then? The tomorrow of that twenty years ago…is today!
I’ve never been a constant, vocal preacher about ecology except that we are definitely called by God to be stewards of the earth. Watching the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea suffer needlessly is worthy of action! I believe that’s what Jesus is commanding us to do...not to worry about tomorrow but to take action.
What can any of us do?
For one we can all start being better stewards of creation in how we conduct our daily lives. And secondly, we can pray. Pray that God’s hand can spare this disaster and that human hands created. And also pray that we can learn from this so that it doesn’t happen again in another short twenty years.
Prayer of the Day:
Creator God, who created the birds of the air and fish of the sea, we come to you as your created children. Speak to our prayers that the disaster in the Gulf will end. Guide us to better understand our calling as stewards of the earth. Help us not to worry about tomorrow, but to take action today. In the loving name of your precious Son Jesus. Amen.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
“and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 21:3-4
After just wrapping up this evening’s Men’s Fellowship and Bible Study group on the book of Revelation, I was ready to write a devotional for the day on another Scripture passage, but a quick check of my email brought this verse immediately to mind. Perhaps it’s because I was wiping away tears of joy and amazement from my eyes. You see, I just received a note from someone from Canada of whom I did not know. The subject matter was a bit suspicious but after reading the note, I realized that this person had been in contact with a another person named Jill, in Australia, who had found a set of U.S. Army dog tags of a World War II soldier. That soldier was my father; the person I affectionately spoke of in my last devotional. I certainly don’t intend to make this a weekly occurrence, but the events of the past few hours are beyond luck, beyond fate, beyond coincidence...the events are a “God-thing”.
Rather than write about the experience, I’ll give you a link below to the genealogy blog which tells a remarkable story of how this Jill in Australia contacted genealogists around the world to locate the heirs of lost dog tags of a young Lt. Packard who was stationed in Australia nearly seventy years ago.
Some may chastise for me saying this is a “God-thing”. But the way that I see it, if we believe, profess and live in faith of the incredible promise of an eternal inheritance we can’t see (Rev. 21:7); then most surely God’s hand in delivering these lost dog tags is but child’s play to the Almighty. As the book of Revelation promises that God is with all the saints who have passed and are loved by us, it’s equally important for us to assuredly know...God is always with us! And it seems just when we grieve and mourn our losses (as I did last week), God winks at us and wipes every tear from our eyes. God is like that. God surprises us when we least expect it. God is at work here, in Canada, in Australia, in all of creation. “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory.” (Rev. 19:7)
For those interested, here’s the link to the fascinating genealogy blog which found my mother and me in less than a day: http://olivetreegenealogy.blogspot.com/2010/05/help-find-ww2-soldier-from-illinois.html#links
Be Still and Know
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
“Be still, and know that I am God!” Psalm 46:10
I took a few days off last week and am now back in the routine; so another Wednesday’s Word is due. The weekly writing is now part of my routine. Days off are good; routine is better! This revelation came to me in this morning in a routine encounter with the Almighty and I have since looked forward to writing this devotional.
When taking time off last week, I did so to finish redoing our antiquated sprinkler system. If I could have ordered weather from God to dig trenches and lay pipe, last week in Central Texas was an answered prayer. The mornings were incredibly cool and dry. And this beautiful weather was, as I see it today, somewhat problematic. The reason: I was out of my routine. I’d get up early in the morning, not to have time with God, but to rush out the door and immediately lay a shovel to the earth and get started before the temperatures began to rise with the sun.
But this week, especially this morning, I’m back to the routine. There was a similar coolness today in the air and an unusual breeze from the north which enabled our wind chime to gently sing. I curiously listened as the mockingbird seemed to keep in tune. There was also a small hummingbird getting a morning breakfast from the feeder. The squirrels were busily being squirrels. The scene was incredibly peaceful. I wondered how much of this was going on last week when I had a shovel in hand. Coming back to a normal workweek allowed the routine of being surrounded by the magnificence of the Creator to be sincerely appreciated and incredibly spiritually uplifting. This encounter was another definite affirmation that we don’t make enough time to spend quiet time with God, especially when we don’t make it part of our routine.
While sitting peacefully and gazing upon the roses in the garden, I reminisced about words my father said to me almost forty years ago when I left home and began my career. Before starting my Chevy for its long trek to Texas, Dad said, “don’t work so hard as to not smell the roses.” I know that within this fatherly wisdom was advice to not only play a round of golf now and then, but also to take time and have a cup of coffee with God. My dad died eighteen years ago yet I often think of him, his love, and his wisdom, especially when I’m in the quietness of routine. But today, God made routine anything but routine! While reflecting about roses and such, a rare occurrence happened: a small black and orange butterfly lit on my shirt. The butterfly remained motionless for well over five minutes. I was in awe. All I could remember were the words of the psalmist in Psalm 46: “Be still, and know that I am God.” As only God can do, God took me from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Did the same butterfly light on me last week? Quiet routine allowed me to notice.
“Be still and know”; two commands from the Almighty which we seem to have so much difficulty obeying in the hectic nature of our lives. The commands should be routine. Tomorrow, join with me to make both a part of your routine. Surrender some time in order to know that God is in control and then let go to the Almighty in order to know the saving power of Christ Jesus in our lives. I assure you God will be waiting; it’s part of God’s routine.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, and I will decide what to do to you.’ ” Exodus 33:5
One of the beauties of reading the daily lectionary is that you never know what is in store for you. Such is the case on this Wednesday evening as I was about to close my laptop for the day and clicked on our website lectionary page to see what the passages were for the day. Wow! Harsh words from the Almighty! “Stiff-necked people”, God says of the Israelites. If there ever was a verse which might suggest a harsh God of the Old Testament versus a loving God of the New Testament, this certainly would make the Top 10 listing. The thought of such an “Old Testament God” was prevalent in the second century, primarily by the theologian Marcion who had difficulty reconciling such Scripture which stood in sharp contrast to the love of Jesus being proclaimed in the Gospels.
As followers of Christ, we should have a fuller understanding of God’s love, but I believe we are still a “stiff-necked people” as we lead a life where the challenges of the world have a noose around us. In his book about Rembrandt’s painting of the Prodigal Son, the late Henri J.M. Nouwen’s speaks of our hard-headedness and how one of the greatest challenges of the spiritual life is to receive God’s forgiveness. Even with the calling out of the stubbornness of the Israelites, God loved them and God loves us. Unconditionally! We are so much loved that we are free to be “stiff-necked”. Despite how we rebel, despite how we fall prey to the world around us, despite how we are self-centered and not always God-centered, God, like the Father in the parable is always looking for each us with outstretched arms to receive us back from our own egoistic journeys. God is waiting for us always not to remind us of our hard-headedness, but to whisper in our ear as he did to the Son, “You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.”
Untie the noose around your neck which is making you stiff and accept God’s love and forgiveness. It makes it so much easier to give thanks and praise to the Almighty and become more God-centered than self-centered.
Living Holy and Blameless
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
He has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him. Colossians 15:22.
Today’s New Testament lectionary passage (Colossians 1:15-23) is extremely comforting. I’m not certain about you, but I hardly believe I am “holy and blameless”. “Irreproachable?” Absolutely not! I am far from being perfect. But St. Paul writes the church in Colossae that through the saving grace of Christ Jesus we are seen in the eyes of God as a manifestation of the Perfect One. What God created in the first place, Christ has restores despite our continuing brokenness. How?
Through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus, Paul is proclaiming that our sinful nature is veiled. We can’t see the Veil, but it’s there. It’s a Veil of Grace, the invisible unmerited favor of God given to us. John Calvin proclaimed that such grace is irresistible, unconditional, and irrevocable. Such understanding of the mercy of the Almighty might tempt us to lead a life of greater recklessness. But Calvin had more to say about this – advocating that we aim to be “holy and blameless”. In a sermon on Galatians 2:15-16 (Justification by Faith Alone), Calvin’s closing remarks are worth repeating and reflecting upon.
“Now let us fall before the majesty of our great God, acknowledging our sins, and asking that he would make us increasingly aware of them, that we may hate them more and more, and grow in repentance (a grace that we need to exercise all our lives). May we learn so to magnify his grace, as it is shown to us in the Lord Jesus Christ, that we might be completely taken up with it; and may we not only do so with our lips, but place our entire trust in him. May we grow in that trust until we are gathered up into our eternal home, where we shall receive faith’s reward. May he not only grant this grace to us, but to all peoples, etc.”
What I believe Calvin is saying here is that in our daily life we should never forget and always be thankful for the Veil of Christ; for such an understanding brings us closer to the Perfect One. Calvin is also saying that we should pray that God’s unmerited favor be cast upon everyone. Many may see this closing statement to be atypical of Calvin, but I find it very typical of the One who came to take away the sin of the whole world.
Early in the devotion, I said we can’t see grace. I think it’s because we live in darkness with our own sinful veils shrouding our eyes. Calvin says to us that we should learn to “magnify” God’s grace in living a life Christ has shown and called us to live. If we live with a veil on, we’ll never be able to see. Therefore, we must lift our sinful veils that are keeping us from truly coming to know the gift of the Forgiving Veil and the life Christ calls us to live.
Prayer of the Day: God of Mercy, thank you for your unmerited favor. Send the Holy Spirit upon us so that we can appreciate and give thanks for this gift each day. Lift our veils so that we may see and do what is needed to bring your kingdom here on earth. In the name of the Perfect One, the Risen Christ Jesus. Amen.
Christ Lives in Us!
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
...because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. John 14: 19-20.
A long time ago I learned that if lost for a Scripture passage for a daily devotion, then open up the Book of Proverbs and read one of the 31 chapters to the corresponding day of the month. I’ve also come to find that the same is true in the 14th Chapter of John’s Gospel. There are 31 verses. Read and reflect on just one verse each day of the month and you’ll become very familiar with some of the most beautiful and assuring words of Scripture; words that definitely shape the faith of Easter People.
In the setting of the 14th Chapter, Jesus has yet to be betrayed, crucified, and risen. Yet, Jesus speaks to the disciples knowing as to what is to come. There is anxiety, fear, and doubt amongst the disciples. But Jesus comforts them and tells his disciples that despite the reality of death, he will overcome it. Why is Jesus telling the disciples (and us) of this? He says it is all being told in order that they (and us) will believe when his death does come. In short, the disciples (and us) are asked to have faith.
Over the past year I’ve become extremely familiar with the 14th Chapter of John’s Gospel as so many of these words of our Savior are proclaimed in our funeral and memorial services. While officiating at these services and being with the bereaved, the thing that has been incredibly comforting to me is the profound faith exhibited by those who have lost loved ones. Despite the expectance of anxiety, fear, and doubt, I have witnessed the opposite in these Easter People. Sadness, grief...yes; doubt, fear...no!
Even though we live proclaiming in our creeds the incredible mystery of the Resurrection, by reading and re-reading Chapter 14 our faith continues to strengthen. Read the chapter today in the presence of the Risen Christ. His words are true! As promised, we have been sent an Advocate in order for us to believe in Christ and do the works that Christ does! Christ lives in us today! Rejoice!
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Scripture Reading: Matthew 28:1-16
In reading today’s lectionary passage (Matthew 28:1-16), I was thinking about that first Wednesday after the Resurrection. Although there weren’t any newspapers in those days, we can only imagine what would have been the headlines on perhaps that Wednesday’s Jerusalem Journal: “Jesus is Stolen from Tomb” Or what might the headlines have read from a popular tabloid, perhaps named the Pharisee Post:“It’s a Hoax”? And I trust if there were cable news channels, the debate as to whether the Resurrection was fact or fiction would have been extremely heated. St. Matthew’s account of the events immediately following the Resurrection speaks of conspiracy among the priests and elders to “buy off” the soldiers and propagate doubt. Obviously, Thomas wasn’t the only doubter.
A few years ago when in seminary we discussed the impact of the Resurrection and it’s affect in the development of the early Christian movement. The earliest letters of Paul seem to heavily focus on the event. Still, there was doubt. Did it happen or not? Our New Testament professor addressed such mystery simply this way: “something happened!” His point was that “something happened” of incredible magnitude that would have made front page news everywhere! We of course believe that “something” to be the Resurrection.
Almost two thousand years later, there are many who still doubt, don’t believe, or don’t care and maybe deny that “anything happened”. For those of us who do believe, we do so without doubt and rejoice with the promise found of the Risen Christ. Give thanks then for that Something!
Prayer of the Day: God who raised Christ Jesus, we give you thanks. We believe, though we have not seen. Allow this gift to be shown to others. In the name of the Risen One. Amen.