March 21, 2020

What I Read Today;

2 Timothy 2; John 13; Isaiah 48; Psalm 81; Deuteronomy 25-26

John 13:3-5, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.” NRSV

John 13:12-17, “After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am.  So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you.  Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.  If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” NRSV

What does the church do in a crisis?  How do we best serve our members and our community?  Fair questions considering what is going on right now.  States have closed restaurants, bars, and schools.  The CDC wants gatherings over 50 people shut down for 8 weeks. Mega-churches have gone to live streaming services in empty buildings.  We’re being advised to keep 6 ft between each one of us.

So what do we do?

Many choose to complain.  Some business owners are irate.  Some worry about the service workers now out of work.  Congress attempts to get over itself and pass a bill to help keep people from starving.

What should the church do?

Jesus’ example is clear.  We are to serve one another. However, we can.  It won’t be easy in days like this.  I’ve seen people on Facebook packing lunches for school kids who rely on lunch programs.  I’ve heard people call for us to order take out to support our local restaurants.  Do we offer our sanctuaries as triage units to help hospitals?

Get creative.  Let’s find a way to help, not complain.

March 20, 2020

What I Read Today;

2 Timothy 1; John 12; Isaiah 47; Psalm 80; Deuteronomy 23-24

John 12:35-36, “Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going.  While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” NRSV

It sure seems dark out there.

A lot of people are stumbling around.  The Coronavirus panic is now in full swing.  As I write this on Sunday the 15th, we seem to have lost our collective minds.  I just read that grocery stores are closing early, and on-line vendors are running out of toilet paper and hand sanitizer.  Schools have been shut down, at least until the end of March.  The news media, who’s not helping the situation, is running 24/7 coverage of the Coronavirus.  Social media is running amok.

Fear is now in charge.

But fear does not have to be in charge.  Our nation has lived through things much worse than this.  We survived 9/11. The Ebola outbreak never touched our shores.  We lived through gas shortages in the 70s and price gouging in the 2000s.  Hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornados have failed to break us.  Perspective would do us a little good right about now.

What concerns me most is the hoarding that is going on.  People so worried about saving their own skin that they take more than they need and leave the shelves empty.  Those who are unable to get out or the poor who can’t afford to buy extra get left in the dark.  That’s where we end up when we make everything about ourselves.

Maybe that is what Jesus is talking about when he talks about “walking in darkness.”  Jesus gave us strict instructions to care about one another.  To love one another.  Yet we see our society plunge into a frenzy of self-preservation.

That’s what happens when we turn our backs on God. As our society has slipped away from the faith once kept us steady, moments like this get bleaker and bleaker.

I know it sounds cliche, but it really is time to get back to God.  It really is vital to proclaim the Gospel to a lost generation.  It’s time to let the light of Christ shine in the darkness and wake up our sleeping faith!

March 19, 2020

What I Read Today;

1 Timothy 6; John 11; Isaiah 46; Psalm 79; Deuteronomy 21-22

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), cause widespread panic.  The death rate is relatively low, and the disease has been reported to have mild symptoms for most people.  Unfortunately, people are panicking.  There have been runs on grocery stores.  Shelves are bare of essentials such as water, toilet paper, and hand sanitizers.  The stock market has lost considerable value causing people’s retirement savings to take a tumble.  State Governments are shutting down schools and colleges.  Major sporting events have been canceled or delayed.  In my lifetime, I have not witnessed such an event.

Fear is now in charge.

What is it we are afraid of?  Sickness, suffering, and starvation.  We fear the unknown.  Mostly, we fear death.  Death is the imminent threat that surrounds our earthly lives.  From the time we are born, it hovers over our heads.  As we grow older and our bodies breakdown, death becomes more of a threat.

In John 11, Jesus walked into a funeral.  Death had already come.  All hope was gone for Lazarus. Lazarus’ sisters were asking one question, “Where were you at, Jesus?” It’s the question that many are asking today.  Where is God at, in all this madness?

In John 11:25-26, Jesus tells Martha exactly where he is.

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” NIV

In less than 40 words, Jesus tells us that we do not need to fear death.  He tells us that he has conquered death.  Jesus gives us an assurance that our fate after this life is secure.  The only thing we need to do is put our faith and trust in Jesus. He’ll take care of the rest.

We don’t have to live in fear of any virus or disease.  We don’t have to run and hide.  Our God is in control of the world around us.  By putting our faith and trust in him, we know that our ultimate destiny is not on this earth but in Heaven above.

We’ll get through this crisis. We’ll also get through the next one. No matter what the news media says or what gets posted on social media, it’s going to be OK.

God has got this!

March 18, 2020

What I Read Today;

1 Timothy 5; John 10; Isaiah 45; Psalm 78; Deuteronomy 19-20

Psalm 78 really hit me this morning.  Especially verses 5-8.

He established a decree in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach to their children; that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and rise up and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their ancestors, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.” NRSV

Who are the people who have impacted your lives for Christ?

In my own life, my grandparents were the ones who really kept the family going to church on Sundays.  For a while, my parents were very involved in the church we attended.  Later, after leaving the church for nearly 15 years, two Pastors helped to guide me back.  I’m not sure they knew what they were doing, but they both deeply impacted me.

After God brought me back to the church, I began working in youth ministry.  Several members of that church modeled what it meant to be a Christian.  Norm, Martha, Lois, Elaine, Glenda, and Larry, to name a few.  They were always there with an encouraging word, a smile, and support whenever needed.  They modeled Christ to the people of the congregation.

Many of them are gone now.  Not all of those folks, but quite a few.

So now it’s my turn to model Christ to a new generation.  To show God’s love to people who have lost their way.  To encourage someone young in ministry.  To show love to someone who is feeling down.  It is my turn to be the person who will model Christ and to point people to the loving arms of Christ.

I have big shoes to fill.

March 17, 2020

What I Read Today;

1 Timothy 4; John 9; Isaiah 44; Psalm 77; Deuteronomy 17-18

I have a set reading schedule that I follow.  I change it from year to year. However, I try to stay consistent and read small sections from the Bible each day.  There are times when more than one reading has a similar message.

This morning is one of those days.

1 Timothy 4:1-5, tells of a time when people will abandon their faith, and be led by false teachings.

In John 9:35-41, Jesus teaches about the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees.

Isaiah 44:9-20 speaks about the foolishness of worshiping idols.

Deuteronomy 17:1-7 and 18:15-22, speak of people worshiping false Gods and of false prophets.

In the end, each of these chapters is really speaking to the problem of spiritual blindness.  We are all born spiritually blind.  Only when the Holy Spirit enters our hearts can we understand what God is saying to us.  If we want the Spirit to work in our lives, we have to be practicing spiritual disciplines.

We need to continually be in prayer, studying the scriptures, worshiping, and celebrating communion in our faith community.

Too many Christians are swayed by people teaching non-biblical teachings.  The only way to ensure that this is not happening to you and me is for us to be continually communing with God.

If we immerse ourselves in the things of God, then the winds of the world cannot shake us!

March 16, 2020

What I Read Today;

1 Timothy 3; John 8; Isaiah 43; Psalm 76; Deuteronomy 15-16

Isaiah 43 cuts straight to the heart of the matter.  In verse 1 and verse 25, Isaiah tells us what our problem is and what God did about it.

Verse 1 – But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” NRSV

Simply put, God created us and formed us.  We don’t have to live in fear because he has redeemed each one of us.  He has claimed you and me as his own dear children.

Verse 25 – I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” NRSV

He has forgiven each one of us for our sins.  Why? Because he loved us.  He did it for his own sake.  When he says he will not remember our sins, that means they are gone forever.  Never to be brought back.  When our consciences attack us with our past, we can rely on the words of Isaiah 43, verse 25, to chase the devil away!  If God has forgiven us, then we are forgiven indeed.

March 15, 2020

What I Read Today;

1 Timothy 2; John 7; Isaiah 42; Psalm 75; Deuteronomy 13-14

It’s official!  We are heading into the silly season once again.  Eight months to election 2020.  Politicians are taking the gloves off.  Ads have been running for weeks leading up to state primaries.  The claws are officially out.

When I was growing up, we’d argue about politics around the kitchen table.

Today, we argue over Twitter and Facebook.

Our society has become so divided that if your candidate loses the election, you will spend the next four years deriding the person who won the election.  Every proposal made by the opposing party is now labeled dead on arrival.  It’s now become about one-upmanship rather than doing what is needed for the country.

Making matters worse, people now can spew venom online in a way they never could before.  The things that people say are so hate-filled that I won’t repeat them.  We don’t just dislike someone because of their politics, we hate them.  Motives are questioned on every decision.  No one gets the benefit of the doubt anymore.

That is not how God wants us to act!

1 Timothy 2:1-4 tells us what God expects us to do.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” NRSV

In Other words, rather than tearing down our leaders in an anonymous post, we should be praying for them.  Instead of questioning the motives of people we disagree with, we should be praying for them.

How about we set a goal to spend more time praying and less time posting during the coming, silly season?  I bet we’d all enjoy it more!