Monday, March 23, 2020: Psalm 146; Isaiah 59:9-19; Acts 9:1-20
“That person? Really, God?” This is basically Ananias’ response to God in Acts 9:13. God spoke to him in a vision and told him to go to Saul of Tarsus. If you flip just one chapter back, to Acts 8, you will see Saul was persecuting Christians. Acts 8:3 says, “Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
Ananias was thoroughly confused as to why God would be sending him to Saul. Ananias recognized the danger Saul posed and what might happen if he went to see Saul. Yet, God was calling him to go to Saul. God told Ananias that Saul was chosen to carry the Lord’s name to the Gentiles. God had a purpose for this man, the man Ananias thought was too far gone.
How many times have we said, “Really, God? That person?”. We need to remember Jesus came and interacted with those who society thought was too far gone. Ananias was sent to the very man who could have killed him. We too are called to go to those we think are too far gone. Saul, later called Paul, went on to change the world. He was the very reason the Gospel of Christ went to “west”.
Next time God calls you to go to someone, listen. You never know what God has in store for them.
Thursday, March 19, 2020: Psalm 23; 1 Samuel 15:10-21; Ephesians 4:25-32
Far too often I hear someone speak of a church curmudgeon. As soon as you read that you probably had someone pop into your mind. That church member who is always the naysayer, who is always negative, and complaining.
It doesn’t even have to be a church member, it can be just anyone we know. Right now the world is so full of corrupt talk and anger. There is so much dissension and lies. It is hard for us to turn on the TV anymore without us getting angry and bitter about something.
However, Paul says Christians should, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you”. As Christians, we should interact with others in the same way Christ engages us. There shouldn’t be a church curmudgeon. There shouldn’t be a Christian curmudgeon.
As we face all kinds of new and unexplored territory over the next few weeks, let us not be the curmudgeon. I encourage you to be careful about how we act and behave. Let us be more like Christ in our interactions and reach out to others instead of adding to the noise.
Wednesday, March 18, 2020: Psalm 81; Jeremiah 2:4-13; John 7:14-31, 37-39
“For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water”- Jeremiah 2:13
Israel had turned their back on God. Even after everything God had done for them in their past, they turned to the “gods” of other nations. In verse 11, God points out this is something no other nation has ever done. They have done this because they have tried to make certain moves and “strategic” decisions to provide for their safety and wellbeing. They have “hewed for themselves”. God reminds the people of Israel they cannot provide for themselves. He sends Jeremiah to remind them they are only where they are because of Him.
May we be reminded of where our stream of living water comes from. Instead of trying to dig our own wells of water, we need to rely on His fountain. We need not store water in cisterns, for He provides a never ending fountain of life.
In this uncertain time we are facing right now, do not lose sight of God. Yes, do what is necessary to provide for your family and others. But don’t start to think you are able to do it on your own power. We don’t need to be people that think we can do this on our own. Let us not be a people who turn from our God who provides.
Thursday, March 12, 2020: Psalm 95; Exodus 16:1-8; Colossians 1:15-23
How often do we put God to the test? In Exodus 16, the Israelites complained God had led them out of Egypt to die. There, they had meat and bread. In the wilderness they had nothing. Even though they had witnessed all the signs and wonders of God as they left Egypt, they wanted God to prove himself once again.
Many of us do the same thing, I know I have. We look back over our lives and recognize God led us out of terrible places, but we just want Him to do it one more time. God, what you did back then was great, but I really need you to do this now. I need you to show me you truly care just one more time.
The Psalmist in Psalm 95 tells us not to harden our hearts. Don’t put God to the test. Rather sing to the Lord and make a joyful noise. Let us kneel for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture. God has moved and worked in the lives of humanity for thousands of years. He has been faithful up until this point. He will not let you down even now, so come and let us worship.
Wednesday, March 11, 2020: Psalm 128; Ezekiel 36:22-32; John 7:53-8:11
This week I am in Saint Simons, Georgia for Order of the FLAME. Order of the FLAME is a covenant community within the Wesleyan Methodist family that equips, nurtures, and encourages young clergy in evangelism and mission. So far this week has had its ups, its downs, its challenges, and its insights.
One of the challenges is having to relearn I cannot follow God’s will on my own accord or by myself. I know this sounds odd coming from a pastor. As a pastor, I always teach and preach we can only follow God by His grace. However, there are times I don’t even hear my own messages. I think I can push through the struggles of ministry alone.
In Ezekiel 36:27 God says, “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules”. God reminds us that we can only follow Him because of His Spirit. I cannot do this on my own. I cannot follow Him on my own. I cannot pastor His church on my own. None of us can ever hope to walk His statutes and obey Him without His Spirit.
Remember, God has given us His Spirit to enable us to follow Him. It is through Him we are cleansed and given a new spirit.
“God of Renewal, pour out Your Spirit over us. Renew us, cleanse us, cause us to walk in your ways and obey your rules. Remind us, it is only by your Spirit we are able to follow”.
Tuesday, March 10, 2020: Psalm 128; Isaiah 65:17-25; Romans 4:6-13
Everybody's working for the weekend. It is not just a song by Loverboy. This is an actual sentiment. We all work 40+ hours just to get to Saturday. From the moment we lay our heads down on Sunday night we are already looking forward to Friday night.
We feel this way because it seems there is always work to be done. We work and work and work and at the end of the day there is still a pile of work to be done. We labor and it is in vain. God understands our plight. He understands we work to no avail and we long to finally get some rest.
In Isaiah 65, God promises there is a rest coming. There is a new heaven and new earth where rest and joy will be found. May we all find hope and comfort in this promise. Let us no longer, “work for the weekend”. Rather may we work for His Rest. May we look forward to the day told of in Isaiah 65.
“Lord, hear our call, give us rest. In the constant stress and tiredness of our lives, may we rejoice in your peace.”
Monday, March 9, 2020: Psalm 128; Numbers 21:4-9; Hebrews 3:1-6
“And the people became impatient along the way”. The Israelites had become frustrated with God after He called them out of Egypt. Their complaint was in Egypt they had food and drink. Now, God had led them away and they were going to die.
Far too many times we become impatient with God. God is always going to lead his people away from bondage. However, there are times we do not like the journey. Our bondage was painful and brutal, but at least it was familiar. Now that we are free, we don’t know what lies ahead. And we become impatient and speak against God.
God punished the Israelites and sent serpents to bite them. The cure- to look to a serpent. The cure was to look at the very thing that afflicted them. I find this comical. While we think God has afflicted us by leading us on an uncomfortable journey, he teaches that we must look towards him for healing.
“Lord, help us to look to you in the midst of the journey you are leading us. May we find healing and comfort in you.”
Friday, March 6, 2020: Psalm 121; Micah 7:18-20; Romans 3:21-31
I feel as if we sometimes forget that God does not hold grudges. We all do wrong, each and every day of our lives. One of the great confessional prayers says, “We confess we have sinned against you in though, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.” That prayer pretty much covers all of the bases- no one gets a free pass.
However, Micah 7:18 proclaims that God pardons iniquity and passes over transgressions. God does not hold onto his anger forever. He doesn’t do this because God is Love (1 John 4:8). When we fall short, when we sin, we have to remember that God is a gracious and loving God who forgives.
I hope we as Christians can follow after God in this way. God has compassion on us and pardon’s our iniquity. May we have compassion on others and not hold their transgressions against them forever. We forgive others, because we have been forgiven.
“May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive our sins, through Jesus Christ our Lord, and strengthen us to live in the power of the Holy Spirit, all our days.”
Thursday, March 5, 2020: Psalm 121; Isaiah 51:1-3; 2 Timothy 1:3-7
“Remember where you came from.” We see this all the time in movies or TV shows. Some young buck is about to move from his/her small town to the big city and the dad always says, “Remember where you came from”. The point is that the father wants the child to remember their upbringing, the struggles, and the lessons learned. The father doesn’t want the child to move away and ignore those things.
In Isaiah 51:1, the reader is instructed to look to the rock which you were dug. Look to Abraham, the father of the faith. In 2 Timothy, Paul comments on Timothy’s mother and grandmother’s faith. The central theme is the faith I have was given to me. I was taught, discipled, disciplined, and counseled by those who came before me. I have to remember where I came from.
Our culture today tends to want to unwrite history and start over. But for Christians, we must remember those who came before us. We must remember their struggles, what they fought for, and the groundwork that was laid for those of us in the faith now. I am not saying everything was done right, but we are only here today because of the work and lives they lived. The Holy Spirit guided and directed them just as He does us.
“Almighty God, help us to remember from where we came. Help us to honor the faith of those who came before. Help us to honor the work Your Son established, that set the trajectory for where we are today.”
Wednesday, March 4, 2020: Psalm 32; Exodus 34:1-9, 27-28; Matthew 18:10-14
Yesterday, I lost my set of church keys. I am pretty sure my daughter threw them in the trash. But I won’t blame a 1 ½ yr old! Nevertheless, the keys were gone and I absolutely needed them. I searched high and low all over the house all day long. I could not find them. Why? I have other keys. What is so special about those keys? Those keys serve a specific purpose. Each one is special in its own right.
We often read the story of the shepherd leaving the flock of 99 to find the 1 and wonder why. Why would the shepherd put the 99 at risk? Because 1 is still special. Yes, the shepherd has 99 others but the 1 is special in its own right.
Thank God He pursues the 1 wanderer. Let us not forget, at one point we were that 1. We are probably still that “1”, who constantly wanders off and he comes back to get us. From now on, let us no longer say “good riddance” to the one who keeps wandering off. May we continue to pursue after that 1, recognizing they are special to our Father.
“Great Shepherd, thank you for pursuing me when I wander. Give me the same love for your sheep. Grant that I never stop looking for your lost sheep.”
Tuesday, March 3, 2020: Psalm 32; Genesis 4:1-16; Hebrews 4:14-5:10
“Am I my brother's keeper?” Cain’s response to God in Genesis 4:9 is full of indignation. Cain was already angry with God for choosing Abel’s offering over his own. From Cain’s point of view, God is once again showing favor to Abel over Cain. Cain was done trying to please God.
While we may never say Cain’s words out loud, we often live with the same attitude. We live in a “live and let live” society. I am going to do what I want to do and you do what you want to do. We live in a world where we are told to stay out of other people’s business.
But yet, throughout Scripture we see we are our brother’s (sister’s) keeper. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the older brother was wrong for not going after the younger brother. We are not responsible for the actions of our brothers and sister’s, however, we should pursue after them and work to bring them back home.
After all, Christ is our keeper. He came searching for us when we were lost. He knew what we were doing was wrong, so he came to grab our attention and bring us home. May we all work towards being our brother and sister’s keeper.
“Heavenly Father, thank you for our Keeper. We ask you to give us the courage and wisdom to be each other's keeper.”
Monday, March 2, 2020: Psalm 32; 1 Kings 19:1-8; Hebrews 2:10-18
Misery loves company. Although it is not just misery that loves company- it is any kind of feeling. Those who are happy want to be around others who are happy. Those who are outraged gather around others who are outraged. People want to be around others who understand their situation. We want to be around those who have been where we are.
The writer of Hebrews recognizes Christ understands our plight. He writes, “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted”. Christ was a human being and experienced everything you and I experience. For this reason, he is able to help us through what we face.
Christ was made like us in every aspect. In his suffering, he founded our salvation. Whatever situation you find yourself in, Christ understands. He has been there before. You are not alone and are not abandoned. Through Christ, we overcome.
“Almighty God, help us to put our trust in Christ. Help us tell of Your name to our brothers and sing your praise in the congregation. Join along aside us in our plight and show us the way to salvation.”
Saturday, February 29, 2020: Psalm 51; Isaiah 58:1-12; Matthew 18:1-7
We often read Matthew 18:3 and miss the point of what Jesus is saying. We have a tendency to view children in simple ways. We think children have simple thought processes and just go with the flow. When we read Matthew 18:3 we think we need to just go with the flow of Jesus.
However, children are not simple. They are complex and inquisitive. I know when I was a kid I drove my parents up the wall asking “who, what, when, where, why”. I wanted to know all the details of things before we did anything. When Jesus tells us to have faith like a child, he isn’t saying to have blind faith. He is telling those following him to question everything and have a desire to grow up.
It is important for us adults to hear verse 4, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”. We must acknowledge, even though we may have grown up religious, we don’t have all the answers. Instead, we must humble ourselves and pursue God and want to learn more.
“Heavenly Father, create in me a childlike faith. Help me to humble myself and have a desire to learn more from you.”
Friday, February 28, 2020: Psalm 51; Jonah 4:1-11; Romans 1:8-17
People talk. We love to talk about anything and everything. We want the details on how that first date went. We want the details of how the new parents are adjusting to that new baby. Unfortunately, we don’t only want to know the good things. We want to know the “down and dirty” as well. People will spread all kinds of “news” about others.
In Romans 1:8-17, people were talking. Paul says that the whole world is hearing reports of the Roman’s faith. Their faith was driving them to live in a way that was newsworthy. Paul longed to be with them so they could mutually encourage one another’s faith. When someone’s faith has become newsworthy, you want to be around that person. You want to join together with them and be a part of their movement.
What are people reporting about you? Are people talking about you or about your faith? It is my hope that people talk about my faith. It is my hope that others hear how faith in Christ has changed my life and want to know more.
What are people “reporting” about Cottondale UMC? Do people hear about what we are doing and want to join together with us and be a part of the work of Christ?
“Lord, give me a faith people talk about. Strengthen in me a faith that makes waves. Strengthen us as a church and may what you accomplish through us become as newsworthy as the faith of the Romans.”
Thursday, February 27, 2020: Psalm 51; Jonah 3:1-10; Romans 1:1-7
Forty days always seems like such a long time. Each year millions of Christians observe Lent, the forty days leading to Easter. People choose to fast from various food groups, social media accounts, or other forms of entertainment. The goal is to replicate the account of sacrifice of Jesus’ 40 day journey in the desert (Matthew 4). Those observing Lent desire to grow closer to God during this time through adding a Spiritual discipline as well.
Typically, at least in my social circles, those observing Lent tend to not make it the full 40 days. We always start out strong but after a couple of weeks we give up. Our sweet tooth overtakes us and just wanting to watch the latest episode of (insert your show here) wins out. We do this because there isn’t really urgency behind why we are doing this.
What you will notice in the Jonah reading for today, is there was an urgency. The people of Nineveh “believed God”. They truly believed in 40 days they would be overthrown. So they fasted and put on sackcloth. The king even made a public declaration that everyone should do this and turn from their evil ways. They had a real sense of urgency, truly understanding they needed to make a change.
It is my hope and desire we as a church take the next 40 days as seriously as the Ninevites. We may not be on the brink of disaster, but we can all recognize our need for change. If you have identified something in your life that needs to change, earnestly seek after God for His grace to work in your heart and mind to bring that change.
“Heavenly Father, work in my heart and mind. Give me the urgency and diligence to pursue you with all of my being. Amen”