Let’s do…

So what’s the advantage of being a Jew? Or what’s the benefit of circumcision? Plenty in every way. First of all, the Jews were trusted with God’s revelations. What does it matter, then, if some weren’t faithful? Their lack of faith won’t cancel God’s faithfulness, will it? Absolutely not! God must be true, even if every human being is a liar, as it is written: So that it can show that you are right in your words; and you will triumph when you are judged. But if our lack of righteousness confirms God’s justice, what will we say? That God, who brings wrath upon us, isn’t just (I’m speaking rhetorically)? Absolutely not! If God weren’t just, how could he judge the world? But if God’s truth is demonstrated by my lie and it increases his glory, why am I still judged as a sinner? Why not say, “Let’s do evil things so that good things will come out of it”? (Some people who slander us accuse us of saying that, but these people deserve criticism.) (Romans 3:1-8, CEB)

God is faithful, so even when we are evil, God is still faithful.

We aren’t going to break the promise God gives us by what we do. No matter if we are good or evil God’s promise will still be faithful.

So then should we go and do evil things so that good things will happen? I mean maybe not. But when we do evil it doesn’t change God’s faithfulness but it does not help others understand God’s love. So no, Let’s not do evil so good will come.

Let us do good things and share love.

Loving People. Loving God.

A Psalm of Despair

O Lord where are you,
I feel all alone as if you are not here
I’m straining under the load of life
Struggling to take care of myself and my family
Wondering why you are not here to help me
Wondering where you are to guide me
I wonder if the way Paul discussed would be better
To leave this world and be with you
But if I left this world would I be with you
Or is there another option?
Help me, Lord!
Pull me from my despair and show me you are here.
Help me, Lord!
So I know I’m not alone.

Might

No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Human One. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Human One be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:13-17, CEB)

We have all seen the signs at sporting events and other gathers.

John 3:16.

We all know John 3:16. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. My version here is a little different than above because I typed this from memory. A mix of NRSV, KJV, and others. Which is really what we all do with this verse. But honesty I do not think John 3:16 is the most important verse out of the lectionary passage above.

When I have classes on the passage I always ask for people to say 3:16 from memory and then after someone does I ask if anyone can do 3:17 from memory. 3:17 is way more important in my thinking than 3:16. Now don’t get me wrong, 3:16 is important, especially when we look at the language. ἠγάπησεν – Agape is in the third person aorist active indicative. This means it was an action that happened at one point in the past and has reoccurring influence on the future forever. At one point in the past God so loved the world and that love continues forever. So that is pretty important. But I digress. Do you know John 3:17 without looking above?

For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him. And again my version is a little different as it is from memory and a mash-up of NRSV, KJV, and others. And something else about this passage, the might is not in the Greek. The Greek says, “οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν υἱὸν εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἵνα κρίνῃ τὸν κόσμον, ἀλλ’ ἵνα σωθῇ ὁ κόσμος δι’ αὐτοῦ.” Literally, this is “not for sent the God the son into the world in order to condemn the world but in order to save the world through him.” Or in more proper English, For God did not send the Son into the world in order to condemn the world but in order to save the world through him.

God loved the world at one point in the past so much that God sent Jesus and God sent Jesus not to judge and condemn but to liberate the world. Not to judge or condemn but to love and liberate.

That is really what we all should do.

Loving People. Loving God.

Patient

Don’t let it escape your notice, dear friends, that with the Lord a single day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a single day. The Lord isn’t slow to keep his promise, as some think of slowness, but he is patient toward you, not wanting anyone to perish but all to change their hearts and lives. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. On that day the heavens will pass away with a dreadful noise, the elements will be consumed by fire, and the earth and all the works done on it will be exposed. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be? You must live holy and godly lives, waiting for and hastening the coming day of God. Because of that day, the heavens will be destroyed by fire and the elements will melt away in the flames. But according to his promise we are waiting for a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. (2 Peter 3:8-13, CEB)

When I was in seminary a few of us looked at the passages in the bible that talk about the end and time and figured out a date for when Jesus was coming back. It was all in jest and I do not remember what year it was.

But Paul talked a lot about how it was going to be soon, and some of those alive would not see death but Jesus would be back before then.

But God is patient not wanting anyone to perish but all to change their hearts and lives. So God is waiting for all of us to get it and change our hearts and lives and live like Jesus came to show us how to live. At this rate, Jesus will never come back!

If God is waiting for all of us to get it we need to be setting better examples of what it means to follow Jesus and be a disciple, because a lot of people are not attending Christian worship because they think Christians are hypocrites.

So let us be people of integrity that talk the talk and walk the walk and set an example that people will change their hearts and lives.

Loving People. Loving God.

Spiritual practices

Discuss your experience today learning about and trying some spiritual practices. What practices made you comfortable or uncomfortable (learning about or practicing), and why? How can you incorporate some of these spiritual practices into your daily life?

So today in class we discussed the book Soul Feast by Marjorie Thompson which lays out spiritual practices for those who have never heard of them, and yet does it in a way that is not only for the novice but the expert and the teacher as well as one of my classmates said.

Practices discussed in Soul Feast are reading the word, prayer, worship, sabbath, fasting, self-examination, confession, Spiritual Direction, and hospitality.

Marjorie Thompson explains Lectio Divina, which is Divine reading, a way of reading scripture that focuses us on words and phrases. In the past, I have done Lectio Divina in a group setting where different voices read the scripture to us. Doing this individually is a little strange for me as my internal voice is usually always the same and one of the things I love about Lectio Divina is to hear the scripture and not read it. And to hear it from different voices with different inflections and emphasis. It opens the scripture in new ways and helps me to see passages from a different point of view than I have before. However we get into scripture it should be a daily thing. I have found myself reading the scriptures as I prepare my devotional. This allows me to freshly engage the scripture and see it from a different point of view given the circumstances of the world around us.

Prayer as explained by Thompson is communication with God. Good communication is both talking and listening. I know a lot of my prayer time is spent talking and not listening. When I lead prayer at Treehouse and we have extended silence I feel like people are looking at me, maybe to see if I have fallen asleep, or have lost my place when actually I am leaving space, but I feel self-conscious about what is happening and don’t leave a lot of space. But we need to fight the urges of pleasing others and allow God to speak to us. Thompson talks about journalling as prayer. Writing down our intimate thoughts between us and God is a way of communicating. And we can then go back and read those thoughts and see how God has influenced our lives and how we have grown and changed. Another form of prayer that Thompson spoke about, which I dearly love, is centering prayer. Centering prayer is where you choose a word or simple phrase as a way to bring yourself back or focus, and then you sit in a comfortable place and sit in silence, and if your mind starts to wander you just focus on the word or phrase to bring yourself back. This is a way I get to be silent with God but I do not do this as often as I would like. I have led spiritual practices workshops at Treehouse in the past and centering prayer is one of my favorite things to lead. And I think the students enjoyed it as they commented about sitting in silence being hard before we do it and when we finished they wanted to do it again. Other forms of prayer Thompson touches on are writing your own psalm or paraphrase a psalm, write a conversation between you and a Biblical character.

Worship is a form of spiritual practice as it helps us see how God lives in relationship and we need to be in relationship too.

Sabbath or rest is a practice I think we find hardest to do today. We are always in a hurry to get somewhere to do something. And yet, God created the sabbath for us. And Thompson says it best I think when she points out that the sacred rhythm of our lives starts in Sabbath and goes to our vocation or calling in the world (Thompson p. 72). Do we rest?

There are so many ways for us to connect with God. I have done worship, Lectio Divina, centering prayer, prayer of presence, and I try to do sabbath. These practices sometimes seem forced and other times seem freeing. It is in the moments they are freeing that we actually connect to God. I think if we start with something that is easy for us to do and then build after repetition we will see these habits form in our lives.

I am going to try and do a walk, at least, 3 times a week where I pray and focus on what God has to say to me. I have also intentionally taken Fridays off and do not read or respond to emails, on my work account, or to apps that pertain to work. I try to focus time on that day on my family and not doing work, however, this Doctor of Ministry has proven to be a bit overwhelming right now so I do do class work on Fridays.

I honestly believe we need to work on getting a spiritual aspect back into our daily routine. I know I continue to write my daily devotional blog because I know there are people who read that and I do not want them to not have that so they can stay engaged with God’s word. I know getting us over the fact that religion is not just gathering for worship, but also us daily connecting to God we will all deepen our faith and grow into the community that God has created us to be.

I will focus on my walks and writing my devotionals as well as continuing to make pocket roseries.

Giving

Timothy, my child, I’m giving you these instructions based on the prophecies that were once made about you. So if you follow them, you can wage a good war because you have faith and a good conscience. Some people have ruined their faith because they refused to listen to their conscience, such as Hymenaeus and Alexander. I’ve handed them over to Satan so that they can be taught not to speak against God. (1 Timothy 1:18-20, CEB)

You can wage a good war because of your faith and good conscience.

Do not follow after those who seek to puff themselves up and follow their own ways. Do not follow those you do not follow after what God is calling them to.

Speak love in everything you do and share love as you go in the world.

Loving People. Loving God.

Lost things

All the tax collectors and sinners were gathering around Jesus to listen to him. The Pharisees and legal experts were grumbling, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose someone among you had one hundred sheep and lost one of them. Wouldn’t he leave the other ninety-nine in the pasture and search for the lost one until he finds it? And when he finds it, he is thrilled and places it on his shoulders. When he arrives home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who changes both heart and life than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to change their hearts and lives. “Or what woman, if she owns ten silver coins and loses one of them, won’t light a lamp and sweep the house, searching her home carefully until she finds it? When she finds it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, joy breaks out in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who changes both heart and life.” (Luke 15:1-10, CEB)

This is the beginning of chapter 15 of the gospel of Luke which most would say is about repentance, because the rest of the chapter is the story most of us know as the Prodigal Son. And that story is about the son repenting and coming home. But these three parables go together. And if it is about repentance how do the sheep and the coin repent?

So bad joke time, how does a sheep repent? I’m sorry I’ve been baaaaaaad.
And how does a coin repent? I promise I’ll change.

But these stories are not about repentance, yes it is there in the last parable but that isn’t the focus. It isn’t about the sheep or the coin here either. It is about the shepherd and the woman. The people who lost something and went looking for it. And when they found the thing that was lost they rejoiced and had a party.

Luke 15 is about Lost Things. As in Tinkerbell, where lost things are things that are lost from the mainland and come to the land of the fairies and Tinkerbell uses them to create wonderful new things. It is about the searching and not giving up until the thing that was lost is found. It is about the love the of thing by the one owning it.

It is about the love God has for you and the lengths God will go to have you home and a part of the kindom.

There is always rejoicing in heaven over you.

Loving People. Loving God.

hired hand

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. When the hired hand sees the wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and runs away. That’s because he isn’t the shepherd; the sheep aren’t really his. So the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them. He’s only a hired hand and the sheep don’t matter to him. “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I give up my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that don’t belong to this sheep pen. I must lead them too. They will listen to my voice and there will be one flock, with one shepherd. “This is why the Father loves me: I give up my life so that I can take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I give it up because I want to. I have the right to give it up, and I have the right to take it up again. I received this commandment from my Father.” There was another division among the Jews because of Jesus’ words. Many of them said, “He has a demon and has lost his mind. Why listen to him?” Others said, “These aren’t the words of someone who has a demon. Can a demon heal the eyes of people who are blind?” (John 10:11-21, CEB)

The hired hand is there only for the money. The hired hand will not risk their life to save the sheep from a wolf because the sheep are not theirs. They are only there for the money they will make and if they die then they can not make the money.

The shepherd will lay down his life to save the sheep because the sheep are the livelihood of him and his family. And the sheep know the shepherd and follow him. The sheep know when the shepherd calls and go where he leads.

Do not follow a hired hand, but follow the shepherd. Listen to his voice and go where he leads.

Loving People. Loving God.

Be on guard

But false prophets also arose among the people. In the same way, false teachers will come among you. They will introduce destructive opinions and deny the master who bought them, bringing quick destruction on themselves. Many will follow them in their unrestrained immorality, and because of these false teachers the way of truth will be slandered. In their greed they will take advantage of you with lies. The judgment pronounced against them long ago hasn’t fallen idle, nor is their destruction sleeping. God didn’t spare the angels when they sinned but cast them into the lowest level of the underworld and committed them to chains of darkness, keeping them there until the judgment. And he didn’t spare the ancient world when he brought a flood on the world of ungodly people, even though he protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, along with seven others. God condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to total destruction, reducing them to ashes as a warning to ungodly people. And he rescued righteous Lot, who was made miserable by the unrestrained immorality of unruly people. (While that righteous man lived among them he felt deep distress every day on account of the immoral actions he saw and heard.) These things show that the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from their trials, and how to keep the unrighteous for punishment on the Judgment Day. This is especially true for those who follow after the corrupt cravings of the sinful nature and defy the Lord’s authority. (2 Peter 2:1-10a, CEB)

Watch out for those who would lead you astray. False teachers whose destructive opinions will deny God and pull others along with them. We need to follow after God and keep our focus on where we are being led and not be drawn astray by false teachers and our own desires.

If we focus on God we will remain true and not slide to sinfulness.

Focus on God and love the world!

Loving People. Loving God.

sound teaching

From Paul, who is an apostle of Jesus Christ by the command of God our savior and of Christ Jesus our hope. To Timothy, my true child in the faith. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord. When I left for Macedonia, I asked you to stay behind in Ephesus so that you could instruct certain individuals not to spread wrong teaching. They shouldn’t pay attention to myths and endless genealogies. Their teaching only causes useless guessing games instead of faithfulness to God’s way of doing things. The goal of instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Because they missed this goal, some people have been distracted by talk that doesn’t mean anything. They want to be teachers of Law without understanding either what they are saying or what they are talking about with such confidence. Now we know that the Law is good if used appropriately. We understand this: the Law isn’t established for a righteous person but for people who live without laws and without obeying any authority. They are the ungodly and the sinners. They are people who are not spiritual, and nothing is sacred to them. They kill their fathers and mothers, and murder others. They are people who are sexually unfaithful, and people who have intercourse with the same sex. They are kidnappers, liars, individuals who give false testimonies in court, and those who do anything else that is opposed to sound teaching. Sound teaching agrees with the glorious gospel of the blessed God that has been trusted to me. (1 Timothy 1:1-11, CEB)

Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to make sure sound teaching was what was taught. Making sure that myths and endless genealogies were not the norm of what was taught. Endless genealogies? I take that to mean that people said they had the sound teaching based on who they descended from. As in our family has been a part of this congregation for 5 generations and my great-great-great-great grandfather gave that light fixture to the congregation so it is the only proper light for worship.

Sometimes we get hung up on the wrong things. And follow after what we shouldn’t.

Know who God is and what we need to do love God and love others. Don’t get hung up on myths and other stuff.

Loving People. Loving God.