March 28, 2020

What I Read Today;

Hebrews 1; John 20; Isaiah 61-62; Psalm 88; Joshua 5-6

We are living in days of trouble and stress. Worry about sickness and job loss are causing worry and despair.

Yet we can take heart that Jesus is still with us as we walk through these days.  Jesus is walking with us, through the troubles that face us each day.

We can take heart in the words of Isaiah 61 vs. 10-11, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.  For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.” NRSV

March 27, 2020

What I Read This Morning

Philemon; John 19; Isaiah 59-60; Psalm 87; Joshua 3-4

We use large stones for various purposes.  Some are cut and used as building blocks, specially cut stones are used as cornerstones.  We cut stone into headstones at gravesites to memorialize a person who has passed away.  Some areas still use stones to mark property lines.

In ancient times stones could also be used to worship a deity.  The Old Testament Law expressly forbids this practice.

However, the patriarchs up through Joshua used stones for a memorial purpose.  In Joshua 4, stones are removed from the Jordan river and placed on the shore.  This was done to memorialize all that God had done for the people if Israel.  From the moment of the Exodus through the crossing of the Jordan, God had guided his people.

The stones were placed on the shore to memorialize all that God had done.  This was to serve as a reminder to future generations of all that God had done for the nation.

What do you do to memorialize significant spiritual events in your life?  Do you have any “stones” that you look at?

I have a few “stones” that I keep.  My confirmation Bible, and A Bible my wife gave me.  My grandmother’s family Bible sits on my dresser.  A cross that my daughter Megan gave me. These are reminders of blessings I’ve received from God throughout my life.

We should all find ways to remind ourselves of the goodness and mercy of our God.

March 26, 2020

What I Read Today;

Titus 3; John 18; Isaiah 57-58; Psalm 86; Joshua 1-2

Psalm 86 vs. 11-13, “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.” NRSV

God is still with us.  I know that’s hard to believe in this time, but God is still with us.  God is watching over us, and doing what he knows is right for us.

The world around us makes no sense.  Quarantines and lockdowns have taken over our daily lives.  This has caused people to become worried and fearful.  How could you not be concerned when their jobs and businesses are at such risk?

It is times like these that force us to re-evaluate our priorities.  What is most important to us right here and now.  Do we remember that our lives are not just about our careers or our bank accounts?

As difficult as these days are, now is the time to tune back to God.  To lean on Jesus for our daily existence. To remember that our God is in control.  He is watching over us this very minute.  More importantly, we must not forget that he will always work things out for our Good.

March 25, 2020

What I Read This Morning;

Titus 2; John 17; Isaiah 55-56; Psalm 85; Deuteronomy 33-34

Isaiah 55:6-12, “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LordFor as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,  so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.  For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” NRSV

The past few weeks have been a bit surreal. Suddenly, the worship services that were always there on Sunday were gone.  I haven’t seen many of the friends that I saw each and every week in a while now.

I think we take for granted our ability to move about and worship as we see fit.  We take for granted the idea that church will always be there and that we can pick and choose what weeks we go.  We skip that Bible study so we can head to an early lunch.  We skip Communion Sunday because we don’t want to be at church an extra 15 minutes.

Then suddenly, in the twinkle of an eye, our ability to walk into our church building is taken away.

As Isaiah says, we don’t understand the mind of God.  I am not one of those who think that God is punishing us for our sinful society.  However, maybe God is reminding us that the church isn’t about a building.  It’s about Jesus.  Perhaps God is gently telling us, get back into the Word of God. Maybe it’s time the church rethink how it reaches out to people. Perhaps the idea of small groups will come back into vogue. Perhaps we’ll embrace the idea of using technology to reach those who can’t make it on Sunday.  Maybe instead of having those Bible Studies in the comfort of our church, we’ll take them out to the local McDonalds and thank the employees for their hard work.  There are so many ways we can step outside of the church and into the lives of real people. Maybe, we will get back to focusing on that.

I hope that when we all walk back into the church after this ends, and it will end, that maybe we’ll worship a little deeper. Perhaps we’ll pray a little harder. Perhaps we’ll listen a bit longer.

March 24, 2020

What I Read Today;

Titus 1; John 16; Isaiah 53-54; Psalm 84; Deuteronomy 31-32

It’s bizarre not having a church open on Sunday.  This is now the second week of church closings.  When you consider that restaurants, athletic events, concerts, sports seasons, and parks are closed, it hits home how we take things for granted.

During this time, we should consider our worship life.  How stale things have gotten for us?  How we’ve taken for granted the real worship of our God?

When worship re-opens, and it will re-open, will we take a moment to consider what we’ve missed during this time?  Will we hear the words of Psalm 84 differently?  I know I will.

“1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
2 My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.

3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
4 Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise.Selah

5 Happy are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.[a]
6 As they go through the valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
the God of gods will be seen in Zion.

8 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob!Selah
9 Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed.

10 For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than live in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
he bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does the Lord withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
12 O Lord of hosts,
happy is everyone who trusts in you.” NRSV

March 23, 2020

nchraWhat I Read Today;

2 Timothy 4; John 15; Isaiah 51-52; Psalm 83; Deuteronomy 29-30

Abide in Jesus.  What does that mean?

My wife likes to plant vines. She loves to watch them grow and flower.  Vines are interesting.  She had trouble growing them in the arid climate and ground of our home in Colorado.  When we moved to Southern Illinois, with the moist environment and soil, she was able to grow them again.  She planted a few seeds underneath our mailbox.

Slowly, the vines began to creep up around the base of the mailbox.  As July approached,  the branches had utterly engulfed the mailbox.  I had to continually cut around the mailbox to make sure the mailman could open the mailbox.  If I didn’t cut it back, you wouldn’t even know there was a mailbox there.

Jesus wants us to allow his grace and mercy to engulf every aspect of our lives.  Jesus wants to grow so much in our lives that we are consumed by him.  When people see us, Jesus wants them to see him.  The vines of our Jesus love should so engulf us that all people see is Jesus.

When people look at us, what do they see?

March 22, 2020

What I Read Today;

2 Timothy 3; John 14; Isaiah 49-50; Psalm 82; Deuteronomy 27-28

John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” NRSV

It’s been a troubling few weeks.  We’ve had to make significant changes to our way of life.  People have been panicking and hoarding food and water.  The worries of keeping a roof over our head, or keeping a paycheck coming in become stark realities.

It’s in times like this that we find out how important our faith is to us. In these moments, we find out what is truly important in our lives.

Jesus tells us to trust him.  He gives us the simple instruction of following him and leaving the big troubles in his lap. We will get through all this.  Jesus promised!