August 17, 2016
E Devotion August 17
Now during those days Jesus went out to the mountain to pray; he spent the night in prayer to God. Luke 6:12
I stood at the elevator at the care center and saw a sea of seniors: white hair and black wheelchairs. I don’t know why they had gathered together. I heard music but didn’t know if that was the cause of their gathering or not. What I wasn’t expecting was my own inner response to this scene.
I suddenly thought of all the lives before me. I thought of the experiences they might have had, and as those thoughts passed through my mind, I thought that these were people that God loved; people that God was calling forward, at each individual pace, towards heaven. And that’s when I prayed for them. I don’t know how long I watched and prayed. Time seemed to stand still as I placed them each into God’s care, trusting that Jesus was already there: knowing each one and loving each one.
Luke records that Jesus, on the way to Jerusalem and the cross, prayed all night. I wonder what he prayed for? I suspect he prayed for strength to see his mission through. If he did, I wonder if our Heavenly Father lifted Jesus into the realm of eternity to show him the gathering saints throughout time- me and you – that would be saved by his sacrifice. I wonder if the Savior looked at us and saw the stories of our lives, the hopes and dreams that were fulfilled as well as those left in the dust of our pasts. If God lifted the Savior above time and space and he saw those whose lives would be blessed, healed and saved – I am confident that he saw us and loved us. And in that moment, surely his will was strengthened and his mission made clear.
Love has a way of clarifying our decisions. Before real love, fantasy and false options fade away and we are left with the decision to act on our love or cast it aside. Jesus, during that long night with our Father, chose to act on his love. He surely was compelled to continue the journey – through a cross and out the other side by way of an empty tomb.
Whatever your circumstance, know that God loves you. And may your prayers connect you to this undeniable and uncompromising love in Jesus.
August 10, 2016
E Devotion August 10
I am the vine, you are the branches… John 15:5
“The family would like you to sing at his funeral. Would you be willing to do that?” I asked. Without a moment’s hesitation, she said, “Yes. I can be there but I don’t want any honorarium.”
I wasn’t surprised that she didn’t want to be paid to sing. She has a beautiful and rich soprano voice and, as one of our Care Ministers, she would often visit him while he was in Hospice. Whenever she visited him and his wife, she’d sing a hymn or two. They always looked forward to her singing. Her singing blessed him on his way into eternity where the angels’ choir, I’m sure, met him with the hymn of heaven.
The life of faith which we share is a life imbued with forever. Connected to our Lord Jesus Christ like a branch is to a vine, we receive the blessings of heaven. But, just as a branch necessarily bears fruit, so our lives, no matter how great our faith in this life, cannot contain all of eternity. So, it bursts forth through the gifts our God has given us. For her, the gift of song could not be kept silent as she walked the edge of this life with him. It had to come out! His appreciation, and that of his wife, were echoes of our Father’s purpose placed within her heart.
Each of us, connected through faith to Jesus Christ, has the purpose of heaven coursing through our souls. This purpose is the eternal life of our Heavenly Father. The gifts we have been given are his touch of love in us. But they, like my friends gift of song, are given to be shared. The purpose of forever must be shared – or our lives become blocked and, eventually, listless – without meaning.
If you are frustrated with your life, let forever out. If you find yourself stuck and getting negative, let eternity move through you into the lives of others. This is the life our “vine” Jesus has called us to and blessed us with! When we dare to live it, the world tilts, just a bit more, toward God.
August 3, 2016
E Devotion August 3
For I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert… Isaiah 43:20
The undulating hills of the Palouse region in Eastern Washington state and Northwestern Idaho, are colored in the rich gold of ripening summer wheat or the vibrant green of emerging plants of spring wheat. The valleys and draws of this region are strewn with the residue of rock scattered by the slow withdrawal of glaciers from millennia past. Amidst the rock are scraggly shrubs and spindly trees that provide harbor for quail and chukar, pheasant and the occasional pair of ducks. At this time of year, the draws are fingers of green with trickles and rivulets of water – water in the wilderness. These are the streams of life that flow visibly above the earth while a great river makes up the invisible aquifer that will burst forth in the rivers of that region.
Driving through that area with my brother, I was struck by the contrasts of texture and elevation, color and shape. An outsider visiting this country for the first time might think it drab and plain. But the region is throbbing with life and promise. God has provided the raw materials, the necessities, for an abundant harvest. It is up to human beings to make the best use of them with gratitude.
I have seen lives like that. I have been privileged to know people who, like that rugged land, appear to have lives that are dull and bleak. But, listening to them, observing their activities, they were throbbing with life sustained by an unseen river of purpose and joy. And I have been honored to see in family and friends the abundant harvest of friendship and love such lives have produced.
These are the fields of God’s work. These are the evidence of promise and grace at work invisibly to bring blessings. These are the simple lives whose landscapes have been fashioned by faith and the Holy Spirit. God does not overlook them. The Savior, Jesus, sees them and holds them in love. The Holy Spirit works within and through them – and fashions a better world.
This week, O Lord, let me see such beauty in others as you do. Amen
July 27, 2016
E Devotion July 27
Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. . . . (And) God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. …. Romans 5:1-8
There was a short quote in a church bulletin entitled “Home Rules.” It caught my attention and I’d like to share it with you.
If you sleep on it . . . make it up.
If you wear it . . . hang it up.
If you eat out of it . . . put it in the sink.
If you step on it . . . wipe it off.
If you open it . . . close it.
If you empty it . . . fill it up.
If it rings . . . answer it.
If it howls . . . feed it.
If it cries . . . love it.
Love is sometimes very difficult. I’m encouraged to love my children (sometimes with tough love), to love my enemies, and to love my neighbor as myself. When I sit on the deck in the evening and look around at all the wonder and beauty that God has created – the beautiful yellowish orange dahlias blooming in the garden, the fluffy white clouds floating lazily overhead, the tiny humming bird that comes to the feeder, and the baby cardinal that comes to drink and bathe in the fountain – it is easy to enjoy and love all that is around me. Then I look at my neighbor’s yard – hasn’t been mowed in a number of days; and when it is mowed, they only cut a part of it, not all of it. Under their deck is a pile of tree branches that has accumulated for more than a year. Could it be that I need to understand nature better, that God wants the grass to grow, the weeds to reach for the sun, and the twigs to fall – all of which ultimately turn to compost and nourish the soil again? Well to tell you the truth, it bothered me every time I sat on the deck and looked at that pile of twigs. So, reminded that I’m to love my neighbor as myself – I took my wheelbarrow, my clippers and branch trimmer, went across the yard to gather, break, and cut all those twigs, put them in my wheelbarrow, bring them home and throw them in my yard waste container.
When it was done, I have to tell you – it was a joy to help my neighbor, to love them as I love myself. I don’t know what pressures or obligations my neighbor faces, but it was easy to share some of my time and energy caring for my neighbor as God has cared for me. I know that God loves me so much, that he gave his son that I might have an abundant life.
So now, when I sit on the deck and look around at all the beauty with which God has blessed all of us, I thank God for being loved so much and only pray that I might love as I have been loved.
Blessings to all of you!
July 20, 2016
E Devotion July 20
“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” ….. Matthew 6:34
Jesus encourages us to focus on today – not yesterday nor tomorrow. Today is enough on which to concentrate.
Some people ask me how I can be upbeat and happy so much of the time. They wonder if I’m ducking reality and ignoring the pain of life. In looking for the joy of the day and not the pain and suffering, the misery around us, we quickly discover that God made all of his creation “good” and “very good”.
We are all aware that there are 365 days in each year (except leap-year which has 366 days); however, there are only 3 days that really should capture our attention – and 2 of those 3 we can do nothing about – yesterday and tomorrow. Someone has said: “Yesterday is a canceled check, and tomorrow is a promissory note. But today is cash, ready for us to spend in living.”
That’s why each day as I awake, I know that it is a day the Lord has given me to rejoice and start afresh. Nothing has happened yet, nobody has goofed up; I have another chance.
After you live a few days realizing that the issues of today are enough for today, soon the days become weeks and the weeks become months, and we’re rejoicing in the day that the Lord has given us – not worrying about yesterday or tomorrow. But rather, living one day at a time; and as we often sing at the end of worship “on our way rejoicing.”
Peter says: “let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight.” (1 Peter 3:4)
So when you feel exhausted and weary, discouraged or just want to forget the whole thing – remember “we cannot let our burdens paralyze our progress.” Life has more to offer each day than we expect or deserve. Each of our days is blessed by Almighty God with His graceful love and promises.
Ralph Waldo Emerson shared a piece of his wisdom when he wrote: “Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.”
And so, let us:
Choose to love – rather than hate
… to smile – rather than frown
… to praise – rather than gossip
… to give – rather than grasp
… to forgive – rather than curse
… to pray – rather than despair.
Each day is a new day – a gift from God! Blessings to you as you live each day!
July 11, 2016
E Devotion July 11
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9
My father used to say, “Two wrongs do not make a right.” My observation is that two wrongs just multiply the wrong. That’s what seemed to happen last week in our country. The questionable shootings of two African American men by police officers escalated into hatred and the killing of five police officers in Dallas, Texas by an angry, delusional man. There are those who want to deny that racism is an issue in our time. There are those who want to paint all people of a particular color as racist or lawless. The Christian man or woman is not given the luxury of either of these simplistic positions.
Jesus calls us to be peacemakers. As those who he calls children of the heavenly Father, we are expected to engage in the complex issues and conflicts in this life with a commitment to waging peace. How do we do that?
First, we look to our own hearts and the temptation in all of us to want to simplify the difficult and choose easy answers for the complexities of life. Once we have taken this self-examination before our heavenly Father, we then, second, seek to understand those whose lives are compromised by evil – whether it be the evil of racism or the evil of unlawful violence. Third, we reach out for conversation with others to find mutual and good solutions. Lastly, we surround our best efforts in prayer.
The Bible tells us that evil’s intent is never satisfied in a particular deed or set of circumstances. Rather, the Devil strives to capitalize on particular expressions of evil to create division and hatred and, thereby, sow the seeds of even greater evil in the future. Our enemies are never people. They are the Devil and his evil intentions at work in people. That’s why prayer is so vital. Prayer places the Holy Spirit in the center of people and events. Prayer establishes the possibility of our faithful response and creates a real hope for peace.
Let us, as children of God in Jesus Christ, be active peacemakers in this time of division, anger and fear and, in doing so, push back the darkness of evil.
July 6, 2016
E Devotion July 6
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
And crowned them with glory and honor”… Psalm 8:3-5
The Psalmist goes on to say that God has given us dominion over his creation; He has entrusted to us the responsibility of caring for and managing his world. Over history we have perhaps exercised those gifts from God well, and at other times made a shamble of that management.
Robert Frost says in his poem “Question” –
A voice said, Look me in the stars
And tell me truly, men of earth,
If all the soul-and-body scars
Were not too much to pay for birth
Frost understands that from our birth we do some things well and others poorly. We have only to look at the scars that we experience in our journey of life to know the blessings of life and the challenges we face. As the children of God, we know both freedom and bondage.
Having just celebrated the 4th of July, commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, as the Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and no longer part of the British Empire, we are aware of what it is to be a nation – “one people under God.”
After 240 years as a nation we know the joy of celebrating the wonder of deliverance and the “scars” of war and suffering. We have known the joy of birth and death, of peace and strife both in our nation and in the world. And yet in the midst of all of our history, we have much for which to be truly thankful.
Remembering those who have gone before us, we have ancestors who turned the sod on a new land, developed a horseless carriage, rode on the wings of P-51 mustangs, and challenged gravity in a Saturn Rocket and set foot on the moon.
What is it that God is calling us to do and be in the 21st century? He crowns us with “glory and honor,” but also continues to lay at our feet the joy and responsibility of exercising “dominion over the works of (His) hands.”
How will we exercise that responsibility? How will we take up the cross of Christ and follow our Lord? Such questions continue to stand before us and motivate to be God’s children in our day.
Blessings to all, as you live out your faith!
June 29, 2016
E Devotion June 29
Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant. Isaiah 44:21
It was the middle of the night when I awoke. I call it my 2:30 am prayer time because when I awaken and can’t get back to sleep, I will turn to God in prayer. As I was going through my list of those for whom I was praying and the situations that were of real concern to me, it happened. It was like the Holy Spirit whispered the words of Isaiah and bid me remember that, no matter what happened, God was still God and I was simply his servant.
The peace that overcame me was profound: I began to breath more easily; my heart slowed and my mind was stilled. And I remembered… the words of Jesus: Peace I give you, my peace I leave with you. And I remembered… the words of St. Paul: All things work for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose. And I remembered… the words of the psalmist: The Lord is my shepherd.
The Word of God talks a lot about remembering. We walk into the future by faith always looking back at God’s faithful presence with us in the past. This “rear view mirror” is the call to trust that the God who has acted on our behalf in the past has not changed – its’ who God is. And because God hasn’t changed, we haven’t either – it’s who we are.
When you get anxious; when you cannot sleep or let go of that very real concern; remember – remember the promises given and already fulfilled in you. Then you will receive the serenity that only Jesus Christ can bring.
June 22, 2016
E Devotion June 22
But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
“What is your ministry verse,” my professor asked. “Every pastor should have one. What’s yours?” I went home after class and began to pray and think about it. Then I chose the verse above.
The first reason that verse spoke to me was that it points beyond any work we do to the Author of salvation. Any ministry we do as members of the body of Christ – whether within or beyond the congregation – is temporary unless it is graced by the touch of the Holy Spirit. Only the power of God can change lives – which is the only work we can do that has any permanence. When I am privileged to see life change through our ministry, I am reminded of my ministry verse.
Which is the second reason for that verse: I am reminded of my own imperfection. The clay jars referred to were the large ones that held water for purification and, interestingly enough, held the holy manuscripts discovered as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The only way to see what was in them was to take the lid off or if they had cracks in them. Paul writes elsewhere that our imperfections give glory to the grace of God we have in Jesus Christ. So, I am a “cracked jar” and in my weakness God gets the glory.
As St. Paul writes: the power is not ours it is God’s. We celebrate that we can and are a part of God’s wonderful power at work in our world touching and blessing lives, pushing the darkness back and leading the church. In this way, we rightly give thanks to God while, at the same time, claim that the Holy Spirit has chosen to work in partnership with us.
To God be the glory. Amen
June 15, 2016
E Devotion June 15
Recalling what it was like to be in Sunday School, a number of years ago, and sing with my friends: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so,” caused me to think – what a simple affirmation of the Gospel!
From the very beginning of the Bible God expresses his love for all of creation, especially to those fallen, sinful people he created. The story of Adam and Eve disobeying God’s command to enjoy all of creation; but, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” Guess what? They ate the forbidden fruit and God expelled them from the Garden. We might see that expulsion as punishment; however, we might also realize the blessing of being separated from the “tree of life.” Thus making possible the love of living with God after death for all eternity in the resurrection.
Love is to care for another, and God’s love is revealed in the person of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, who gave his life that we might enjoy the wonder and possibilities of new life. To walk with Jesus is to know and experience the wonder of being loved and in loving all for whom he died to save. Jesus came “not to condemn the world, but to save it.” He came to give hope to the sinful, and the promise of forgiveness to everyone.
Jesus said to us: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34) And St. Paul said: “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
If Jesus could love the sinner, why do we have such hate in our world for so many? Ought we not love even those we do not fully understand, love those with whom we disagree, and love those we think are sinful? You see, I’m a sinner too – no better nor worse than those I meet and walk with every day.
I remember the day when I visited a nice family; we sat in the kitchen and talked, and as we did, I could not help but note that washing dishes after each meal was not a priority for those in this home, for on the kitchen table was a pile of dishes from a number of meals, plate piled on top of plate, dish upon dish. The lady of the house asked me if I’d like a piece of pie, to which I responded – “that would be wonderful,” for I knew she was a great baker. I expected her to go to the cupboard and get a clean plate, but no – she reached into that pile of dishes on the table, picked a plate from the pile, wiped it on her sleeve, and dished the pie onto the plate and handed it to me. … I ate the delicious pie and thanked the lady for the wonderful treat. I’ll never forget those wonderful people, who certainly lived differently than my wife and I do. But, they were and are truly faithful children of God, loved and saved. They helped me understand, that what I thought was proper and appropriate, wasn’t always so. I love those people, they were special, and they became my friends. Now, I thank God for that moment he helped me see what love is all about – to love those for whom it would be easy not to love.
Love is a huge challenge in our day, and I pray that I never forget: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” May the love of God be a blessing to all of you!