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Saturday, February 28, 2015

God wants to 'pump you up!" Lent 2015, Day 10

Day 10, Lent 2015

"I will set my eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up, and not tear them down; I will plant them, and not pluck them up."  Jeremiah 24.6

Jeremiah is known for his hard and critical words, but here he delivers an amazing message of hope for all of God's people.   God is for you!  Take a moment to let that just sink in.  We know that this world has it's hardships; but in the midst of those trials never forget that God is not only present but looks upon you with eyes of favor and delight.   This doesn't mean that God is a genie who will serve at our command and protect us from every encounter.  But God is there to cheer us on as we navigate the decisions of life, and provides for those opportunities for us to be built up and planted strong.  (Psalm 1.3).

Keep an eye out for those things that God provides.  People, friendships and resources that can help build you up and keep you planted firmly in the love of Christ!

A prayer:  "Loving God, you have promised to keep your eyes upon us and provide for our building up and firm foundation.   May we remember and build on this as we live out our lives each and every day.  Amen."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Priorities and Values, Day 9, Lent 2015

Day 9, Lent 2015

"And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God..."  Haggai 1.14

The prophet Haggai has just delivered a word from the Lord: while the people have been eagerly at work building their own homes, taking care of their own needs and pursuing their own dream; the have given little thought, time or energy to the house of God.   So God stirred up in the leaders and the people a new passion for working together on the rebuilding of the Temple.

How easy it is for us to tend to our own needs and forget the needs of the community.   What kinds of ministry could we accomplish if we dared to work together?  What impact could we have in the name of Jesus if we lovingly brought our gifts and talents to do the Lord's work.   Our faith is meant to be lived out in community and we need each other.    How might the Holy Spirit be calling you to be at work in the house of the Lord?   Have you become so preoccupied with your own needs that you have forgotten from whom all blessings flow?

The spiritual life is one of balance and a part of that balance is regularly reassessing how we spend our lives in relation to the values that we say we confess.   Take some time right now to reflect on that need for balance and if needed make a decision to have your life reflect your values first and foremost.

A prayer:  "Gracious Lord, stir up in us a desire to be a part of your kingdom and the knowledge that our hearts and lives are always going to be restless until they rest in you.  Amen"

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Built on a rock! Lent 2015 Day 8

Lent 2015 Day 8

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock."  Matthew 7.24

Hearing isn't enough!  We aren't talking about salvation here, we know that we are saved by grace a part from any works of the law.  Here in the sermon on the mount Jesus is talking about living as God's people, and this means more than just listening, it means doing!   Today I would like to give you a very small assignment.  Right now, think about something that you know Jesus has said, but which you have trouble acting upon.  (Forgive others, Love your enemy, Don't serve two masters, Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's, Love one another as I have loved you, Don't worry about the speck in your neighbor's eye when you have a plank in your own, Do not worry, Where your treasure is there your heart will be also, Do good to those who hate you, Turn the other check, etc....)  Now make a concrete decision to act on this!  Move from hearing to acting and you just might find yourself standing on the rock of salvation!  (Psalm 18.46) 

A prayer:  "Dear Lord help me to have ears to hear your words and the courage and will to act on what I have heard, this day and everyday!  Amen."

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Simplicity as a virtue day 7 Lent 2015

Day 7, Lent 2015

"Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have."  Philippians 4.11

The apostle Paul reminds us that we are to be content with whatever we have; but this advice flies in the face of our North American culture and the constant barrage of advertisements that suggest we aren't truly experiencing the good life unless we have more and more.   In our search for contentment we find ourselves engaging in 'retail therapy' and boosting our self esteem by what we possess and how we believe we are perceived by others.     This is a dangerous path that feeds an unsatiable beast. So dangerous that even the Ten Commandments speak to the issue of coveting, always wanting what others have (Exodus 20.17)

What would happen if you decided to stop playing this cultural game and were content with the car your drive, the house you live in, the clothes you possess, the body you've been given?

How would your life change if you embraced this thought: what gives a person worth is not what they make or what they have, but what they are willing to give away?

A prayer: "Lord Jesus, you lead us by example against a life of excess.  Make us comfortable with less in a society that says 'more.'  Let us live our lives with the goal of praising you, not of being praised for what we have.  Amen"

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Day 6: Lent 2015 But it's supposed to be about me!

Day 6 Lent 2015

"I am writing to you, little children,
    because your sins are forgiven on account of his name."  1 John 2.12

I don't think many of us really understand what sin is.  We often think of sin as those things we do: stealing, lying, cheating, sexual indiscretion, etc... .  Those actions might be 'sinful' but they are not sin.  Sin is the human condition that keeps us from loving God, neighbor and self as we should.   This lack of love for God, neighbor and self is manifest in many ways that are destructive to the  lives we have been called to live in Jesus.   The problem is we think we can tackle sin by our own fortitude, by our own efforts and abilities and this is a recipe for disaster!  Guilt, shame, feelings of hypocrisy can be the constant companion for those who try to go it alone.

So what is the answer?  John suggests that we begin with the stunning truth and Good News of Jesus Christ.  On his account, those things that keep us from loving God, neighbor and ourselves have been forgiven.    Psalm 103.12 proclaims:   "He has taken our sins [transgressions] away from us, as far as the east is from west."   This means we are free today to live as the people God has called us to be. Our past sins are forgiven/forgotten and we need to lay them down as well.   We need to leave behind the stuck emotions of guilt, shame and remorse and move forward in confidence that the Holy Spirit will be at work calling us into the future.  Let me put it this way:  stop wasting time with guilt and shame, trying to prove to God that you are really sorry, accept the gift of his love and forgiveness and move on!   Remember it's not about you!  

A prayer for today:  "Forgiving Father, you know our sins. You see our need for love, hope, and forgiveness. Despite our sometimes-troubled days, we know deep down that you are there for us and we ask you to forgive us our trespasses and give us the confidence that we are truly forgiven for the sake of Jesus. In your name we pray. Amen."

Monday, February 23, 2015

Eyes and Ears.... day 5

Lent 2015 Day 5
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. "  Matthew 13.16

Jesus has just told a series of parables and quoted a verse from the prophet Isaiah in which the people are said to have shut eyes and closed ears.  But not so for the followers of Jesus.  Indeed we are blessed when our eyes see and our ears are open.

Funny, because sometimes it feels better to not see: to not see the pain in the world, the sufferings of others, the opportunities that I have to serve.  And sometimes I would rather not hear: hear the cries for justice, the words of the poor and oppressed, the pleas for mercy.  

But Jesus reminds us that we are blessed when our eyes and ears are open.  Open to the Word and open to the world.  May you go through this day with eyes and ears open and consider how that blesses you and the world.

A prayer for the day:  "No matter where we go, Lord, you go with us. In each breath we take there is the Holy Spirit filling us to excess with love, mercy, and grace. May each breath that leaves us gift others with the same blessings. Amen."

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Blessings!

Sunday's are not a part of the 40 days of Lent.  Each Sunday in and of itself is a little celebration of the Resurrection.  Take some time for Sabbath today!  Attend worship, read the scriptures, pray for the world and for God to give you strength and clarity in all that you do.  For God is good and will never leave you!

A Sunday Prayer:  Wise Comforter, sometimes we feel small. We lose our way and we question our purpose. Remind us today that you have a plan for each of us. Remind us that we are valuable and full of purpose, beautifully and wonderfully made. May we glorify you. Amen.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Take a Hike!!!

Day 4 Lent 2015:   "Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars! For he commanded, and they were created." Psalm 148:3,5

"Great and marvelous
are your deeds, Lord God Almighty." Revelation 15:3 (NIV)

I've often heard folks say that they feel closer to God out in nature than they do in the church.  I understand that.  Even the sacred scriptures lift up the power of creation that points to the wonder and majesty of God.  There is a subtle difference though between seeing God in creation and seeing God.  You see, creation as beautiful as it is--go to the beach and watch a sunset, hike into Yosemite, visit the Grand Canyon--is not God, but what I like to call the 'fingerprints of God."  A sure and certain sign of God's presence, but not God.  To stop at creation would be akin to admiring a Christmas present for its wrapping and bows and never opening it up.   

For we who follow Jesus, God is most fully present in him.  God is to be discovered in the wine and bread--one holy food given for us--and in the waters of baptism--a rebirthing and adoption into God's family.  God is to be found in the Word that continues through the Holy Spirit to call, gather and enlighten God's people.    

But this is messy.  This involves people, what we call the church.  But ultimately we are called not to simply marvel at the handiwork of the creator but to join in relationship with God and each other.

Marvel at the beauty of the world and the is amazing!  But don't forget to seek the one whose handiwork this is...and that requires seeing oneself as a part of the beauty played out in the relationships we share with each other.

Almighty One, you shine on us through your sun, your moon, your stars. Day or night, we need only look to the heavens to feel your presence and know that you are there for us. May your light shine on everyone and in the relationships you've given us. Amen.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Good day Ambassador!

Day 3:    "So we are 
ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us..."  2 Corinthians 5.20

Yesterday I had the fun of taking a 16 year old boy from Russia around San Clemente.   This is his first time in America for Theo and so I had the responsibility of being an ambassador so to speak for all things good and right about our country.  He's 16, so first stop was "Rocket Fizz" candy shop on Del Mar where he couldn't believe the choices that surrounded him.  I asked him if he ever had a root beer before?  No, being the answer we bought an ice cold premium Root beer for him to enjoy.  "Ohhhhh very good!"  Was the response.  

Next we went to T-Street to walk a bit along the beach and finished off at La Tiendita.  He had never had Mexican food before.   Note to self: 16 year old Russians seem to like Carne Asada, but not Cilentro!

Being an Ambassador was a mixture of conscientious thinking for the welfare of my guest coupled with a desire to show all that is good and right with America and American culture.   I wonder if this is not how it is also with being an ambassador for Christ.  As ambassadors we are called to lovingly receive those who come into our midst, recognizing that they may have different ideas and concerns and taking those differences seriously.  Nevertheless, we represent something good and wonderful that we want to share with them.  We want them to see and experience what Christ means for us and how we live out this faith in the world.

So, Mr and Mrs. just that.  Love and respect others for who they are, but never forget that you through your baptism and faith have something wonderful to share.  And who knows, the reaction just might be, "ohhhhh very good!"

Thursday, February 19, 2015

What do we proclaim?

Day 2 Lent 2015:  

"For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as servants for Jesus’ sake." 2 Corinthians 4:5

Here is a masterpiece by Rubens, "Descent from the cross," 1612-14  (You can see it in Antwerp Belgium).

It often appears that death has won,  that evil triumphs, that darkness consumes the light that would lead us.   Notice at the bottom right a bowl that now holds the crown of thorns, the nails, and Pilates inscription leaning against it.  "Here is the king of the Jews."

For me Rubens invokes the mystery of the faith.  Jesus, ghastly white in death, yet there is a hint of the resurrection here, ever so small.

Hope is never extinguished as long as we hold onto Christ.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Marked for life!

Day 1:  Ash Wednesday.   Today Christians throughout the world will come to their places of worship and receive  the ashen cross on their foreheads.  Some of our Evangelical friends will think this is a silly superstition or some left over ritual that has no real meaning.  But the truth is it is one of the most powerful days in the life of the Christian; one which reminds us whose and who we are. You see most days we are free to live our faith with no one really knowing that we claim to follow Jesus of Nazareth.  The neighbor who we growl out because their dog wont stop barking; the clerk at the store who seems to be deliberately slow or incompetent; the employee whose worth in the marketplace is questionable at best; the homeless woman outside 7-1l: none of these on any other day will know that we are followers of the Christ.  But today.....each and everyone of these folks will see the mark of the crucified Lord on our brows. And I wonder, if we know we are so bold to carry his cross on our brow, will our behavior in the world be different?  Will we be more gracious?  Will we be more merciful than relentless?  Will we be more loving?   

Here at OSLC we'll have a worship at 7pm...please come...but that only gives us a few hours to wear the cross before we go to bed and begin a new day.   But here's the thing; we actually wear that cross each and every day whether we remember it or not.  And I wonder if folks can see it?

 Remember, "you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked by the cross of Christ, forever!"  Amen

Monday, February 9, 2015

Lenten discipline

Last year I attempted to record a little video devotion for the 40 days of Lent.  While it was a good exercise and received well by folks; this year I am planning to be a bit more eclectic with my posts.   Expect some photography,  creative writing, works of art and who knows what else.    I hope you'll join my for the journey and add your comments to mine as we look to share the same waves of Jesus' grace and truth.   Look for the posts to begin in a little more than a week....Ash Wednesday.