Daily thoughts during this worldwide crisis.

Friday's Thoughts 9-25-20

Want to be a person “after God’s own heart?” Want to imitate the best leader ever? Want to do things the right way? Here it is. It is hard to do. 


The church that Paul addresses here was so convinced that Jesus was returning soon that some decided they no longer needed to engage in everyday life. Paul tells them otherwise. Until our last breath, whatever the cause, we are to stay engaged in life as fully as we are able. We are also to encourage those who are struggling to do the same.  


In the text below there is a phrase that is used to describe both David (ideal king of Israel) and Jesus (Savior and King). It is true there was one glaring failure on the part of David with Bathsheba after his dynasty was assured. In the case of David, it established his line “forever.” In the case of Jesus, it ended in resurrection through the pain of the cross. 


The phrase? “See that none of you repays evil for evil.” It does not stop there for us, however. The encouragement is for positive action, “seek the to do good to one another and to all.” To put these thoughts first will stop the “us” and “them” virus that has not only invaded our world but is being gleefully fed by those that thrive on it. This is the vaccine we need. Are we willing to take it? 


I Thessalonians 5:14-18 


And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 



Thursday's Thoughts 9-24-20

There are times when I am ashamed of my brothers and sisters in Christ. We have been violent, racist, misogynist, and exclusive. We have failed to live up to what we say we believe. We squabble, fight, and occasionally take up arms against each other and start shooting. There is nothing that the church cannot be accused of which she has not done. 


It is a good thing that it is not our behavior, but the love and action of God through Christ and the Holy Spirit that saves us. We are hopeless on our own. And if you think things are bad where the church exists in the world, have an honest look at those times and places where it has been banned – (Soviet Russia, Cambodia, China).  


So long as we judge one another’s qualification for salvation by morality that we think other people should have we will continue to condemn the best hope the world has for peace. There is a never-ending stream of frustrated Christians who have had enough of the nonsense who are quite willing to leave and point out all the faults (which is always a selective list) of those who stay. 


Good thing Jesus did not think that way. He was all in with the mess. Just look at the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew. It is all there – squabbling brothers, a prostitute, a Moabitess, an ideal king who committed adultery, punishment for idolatry in the form of deportation to Babylon. They knew all the names. They knew the story with all its failures. So did God. And at the end of this genealogy of shame, there he is – part of the mess – Jesus. 


This is the first thing Matthew wants us to know about the savior of the world. Soon afterward he goes to John the Baptist to be baptized “to fulfil all righteousness.” He was born into the mess and now he is fully identifying with it. With us. He did not leave out of frustration, he criticized plenty, but mostly he healed – from within.  


If you happen to consider yourself a good enlightened Christian, I submit two prayers – stay humble and stay. 


Matthew 1:1-16


The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. 


And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa, and Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. 


And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. 



Thoughts for Wednesday 9-23-20

A grocery store, a dumpster, a hungry person, and store employee throwing perfectly good food in the dumpster because she is not allowed to give the food to the hungry person. Because of the actions of people who could not stand for this waste while there were hungry people, this sort of thing happens less today than it did a few years ago. Things changed and continue to change because people did what was right rather than follow the rules. 


There is a common phrase that is sometimes used when people of lower standing challenge those of higher standing – “Speaking truth to power.” It is overused but useful. I would add to that the idea of, “Doing good in spite of power.” Our times need this desperately. Do good even if it may cost you something. Do good even if it is forbidden. 


It is worth noting that it was not uncommon in the ancient world (into which the New Testament was lived and written), that a person who had an infirmity was that way because of sin. See the example of the blind man in John 9 for an example (“Who sinned . . .?). In that thought world, to heal was to overcome sin – not through the law, but through the power of Jesus.  


It basically still works that way. When religious dogma gets in the way of doing good or treating people equally, it may be time to find a new dogma. Do good and shut the mouths of those who get in the way. 


Acts 4:7-14 


And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, "By what power or by what name did you do this?" Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a cripple, by what means this man has been healed, be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the head of the corner. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." 


Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they wondered; and they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man that had been healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 



Tuesday's Thoughts 9-22-20

Those of you who have heard me teach and preach know that I believe that reading the Bible is not a silent exercise. It is meant to be heard – even when one is reading alone. I also believe that it is a valuable spiritual discipline to read Scripture and good devotional material in quiet times we set aside for such. 


This is not a substitute, however, for reading scripture aloud in public gatherings. There is great power in hearing a congregation read together. There is great understanding to be gained by reading and ancient text with its context in mind into a group of people who are, together, trying to learn what that text means in daily life. No one is wise enough to understand such a rich source alone.  


Not taking the time to read and think aloud together will leave us vulnerable to leaning on clichés and over-reliance on one’s own understanding. The world changes fast enough (always has) that people of faith need an interpretive community to make sense of what we read. It is not an easy task. It is why I love Bible study in classes so much.  


The hearers of the first recorded sermon in Acts spent time daily learning the implications of what they had just done. Of course, they did not have the New Testament, but they did have the Law and Prophets which I am certain they pored over in those days; they did it together, gathered, daily. 


Acts 2:41-47 


So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. 



Monday's Thoughts 9-21-20

Wisdom in Scripture, most of the time, can be understood as “skill.’ Any skill requires intangibles and a great deal of discipline and practice. There is an aspect of wisdom that cannot be fully expressed with words. Wisdom in one’s life is seen in the work that they do and the attitude that accompanies that work.  


The world is in desperate need of more people to seek wisdom. It will play a role in healing much that is wrong with us. Training someone how to do something valuable looks past those things that divide us. Wisdom, the seeking of wisdom and sharing of wisdom, makes for peace and contentment.  


Biblical wisdom changes people and changes nations. Seek and share. 


Proverbs 3:13-20 


Happy is the man who finds wisdom, 

and the man who gets understanding, 

for the gain from it is better than gain from silver 

and its profit better than gold. 

She is more precious than jewels, 

and nothing you desire can compare with her. 

Long life is in her right hand; 

in her left hand are riches and honor. 

Her ways are ways of pleasantness, 

and all her paths are peace. 

She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; 

those who hold her fast are called happy. 

The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; 

by understanding he established the heavens; 

by his knowledge the deeps broke forth, 

and the clouds drop down the dew.