What’s missing from our witness at the southern border?

Have you been made aware of the situation at the southern border? Suddenly we have been gripped by stories of children separated from parents. We have seen a father reach the depths of despondency. When separated from his wife and children, in the custody of our government officials, he took his own life. He struck out across the border in hope. He arrived to horror.

The separation of children from parents in this delicate situation requires a comment, especially since the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, gave his own response to the “church folks” who raised an alarm.

Without moving completely into an immigration debate, I only want to point in the direction of the address by the Attorney General and the conditions at Casa Padre, the converted Wal-Mart shelter where nearly 1500 boys are being held.

With a glib nod of his head, Jeff Sessions quoted Romans 13 and pointed to the number of verses in the Bible that prescribe following the law. Sessions described the acts of lawlessness that demand a consequence. In this case, crossing the border illegally results in the punitive separation of children from parents. The “Zero tolerance” policy requires agents at the border to follow the parameters of these “laws” without equivocation.

I don’t want to take issue with the law. It is what it is. If it is to be changed, it is up to the citizens of our country to make that change.

I take issue, however, with the attitude of the Attorney General during the press conference. His demeanor had no requisite empathy for those who have been separated. It looked to me that he almost enjoyed pointing back to the Bible for the poor folks who had so badly missed, by way of his understanding, the point that Scripture is making. At the very least, he could have channeled a manipulative emotional response that tugs at our heartstrings while acknowledging the truly difficult legal situation that he is required to pursue.

The Attorney General must do his job and follow the law. I expect as much. By addressing the concerns of those in the church and speaking to them, Attorney General Sessions attempted to speak on behalf of Christians in a way that justifies the inhuman treatment of children. Alluding to Romans 13 and pointing to the rule of law does not address the way in which this country has chosen to terrify those who cross our borders. They may have broken a law. That doesn’t mean we should punish them in this way.

I’ve studied Romans at the highest level in the academy and preached the text from the pulpit. There are many devoted Christ-followers who point out that this text in Romans may be treated as an ironic piece or a passage that is in the voice of one of Paul’s opponents. Rarely do people suggest that Paul was such a fan of the empire as to require absolute obedience to the Emperor. Even if Paul is pointing toward a well-ordered community that abides by civic laws, Paul knows that at the heart of the Empire is a flawed theology that he cannot abide.

So much for that. A truly Christian response to the way in which children are treated at the border must begin with the acknowledgment of injustice. People don’t risk their lives for the fun of it. They become desperate for a better life. The response of Jesus to children was clear: welcome them and do not hinder them. In fact, to trouble a “little one” is to invite disaster on oneself. Following the pattern of Jesus, should we not show families hospitality, even if our laws prevent permanent residency?

But must this situation be this way? Can we not envision a way forward that allows for the care of parents and children in light of the request for asylum? Have we become so focused on agenda items that we have completely lost site of the purpose of our civic discourse? If we are required to follow such “laws” it is by no means required that we dole out “consequences” with such thoughtless inhumanity. Casa Padre has been compared to a prison. Go look at the twitter feed.

So I too must respond to the characterization of Scripture in support of such “law keeping.” Not all Christians use the Bible as a sledgehammer. Scripture, the witness to the revelation of Christ, is replete with calls against the abuse of those who are already facing oppression. “A bent reed he shall not break.” The Bible teaches that the supreme characteristic of any follower is love. The supreme characteristic is not affection, not friendship, and not a banal collegiality, but self-sacrificial love. What possible justification is there for this crass dismissal of human persons, who have been created by God and who have sacred worth, from among those who are supposed to understand what “love” is supposed to look like?! Consider that the people announcing such measures also purport to be “pro life!”

What is missing? Missing is compassion. Missing is vision. Missing is the sense in which we, as a country, can make the world a better place for everyone. I would appeal to the conservatives and ask how this articulation of the law and this following of the law is pro-life? I would ask the capitalists how restricting the work force and limiting the kinds of jobs people might have is good for the economy? Wouldn’t a capitalist with a heart want to create new jobs and new sectors of the economy for these people who desperately want a better future, not necessarily a handout? Shouldn’t our government, through a quick and deliberate process of inquiry regarding asylum, seek to elevate the lives of those who seem intent to come to our country? Have we regressed to thinking that a parent (in this case several thousands of parents in six weeks) would use children as pawns to secure something for themselves? Where is a broad vision of incorporation that speaks to the hope, faith, and love we share as a country? Certainly we can do better than all this for the least of these.

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Riding Every Wave: Devotional Guide for July 9-15 (I know it’s late.)

July 9-15, 2017

A Daily Devotional Guide for the people of the Blackwood and Gibbsboro United Methodist Churches. Visit us for worship on Sundays at 9AM (Blackwood) and 10:30 AM (Gibbsboro). Find us on Facebook and the web.

After the message on Sunday we will spend this week thinking about walking along the waves of life in the power of Christ. The miracle stories in Mark 6 follow an episode of unbelief, the commissioning of the 12 disciples, and the death of John the Baptist.

Monday, July 10;

Read Mark 6:3b-6 “And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.”

This is the only place in the Bible where I see that our attitudes and beliefs seem to affect the power of God. What a curious thing. Yet, this is the way of it. God works with God’s creation cooperatively. We might think that God works in our world through God’s power and that’s true. God is working with us, though. Believe. God is prepared to work in your life. The Risen Christ wants to work in your life; to carry you above the waves.

Prayer: Blessed Trinity, You enjoy fellowship and loveeternally and you never doubt yourself. Help me in my doubt. AMEN.

 Tuesday, July 11; Read Mark 6:6b-8

“Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts.”

Notice how Jesus resources the ministry: He gives us himself and His presence and his authority. No money is required. Faith is all that is necessary. The risen Christ gives us the call and resources us to make a difference. Notice, too, that the call to the mission FOLLOWS the episode where no one believes in Jesus. If they don’t believe Jesus, how will they ever believe you and me? Yet, that is EXACTLY the way the gospel unfolds. Maybe God has an idea about how best to make a difference in our world and maybe the best way is the incarnational way.

Pray: Lord, Here I am, send me. Use me this day to proclaim your peace, to pray, and to help to heal. AMEN 

Wednesday, July 12; Read Mark 6:10-12

“10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”

“Incarnational” means that the gospel message is to be “enfleshed” in our world. This means that it is God’s divine will to bring to his message to bear in our world through the likes of you and me. What a strange God we serve!

PRAY: Lord, Make me an instrument of your peace. AMEN.

Thursday, July 13; Read Mark 6:14-16

14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

Jesus confronts disbelief, entrusts his message to the Twelve, and now, must contend with the grief of losing his friend, cousin, and fellow prophet. This is all in chapter 6. How I wish we could select our own narratives in which to live. That isn’t the way it works. God deploys us and knows our circumstances. We trust in the Lord.

PRAY: Gracious God, heal the broken, comfort the grieving. Give us all a sense of the wonder of your presence, even in the most difficult times. AMEN.

Friday, July 14th; Read Mark 6:

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” Jesus called the Twelve and was the only resource they had. Now, when we get to the hillside, Jesus is still the only resource, unless you count the little bag of food. Jesus + nothing= everything. Everything – Jesus=nothing. Jesus gets his disciples to a lonely place to recharge and rest. Instead, a major miracle is about to unfold.

Pray: Lord, help me to be restored. Give me grace so that I can patiently wait on your activity in my life. AMEN.

Saturday, July 15th; Read Mark 6: 34-37

34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35 When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.”

PRAY: Jesus, you call us to give. You commission us to make a difference. Help us to do so on the Lord’s day tomorrow! AMEN.

WORSHIP IS TOMORROW! PRAY UP! Invite a friend. Make sure you make the community of faith a holy priority. Find a place to worship the Lord in church.

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Acts 1:6-11 and the absence of Jesus

June 12-17, 2017

A Daily Devotional Guide for the people of the Blackwood and Gibbsboro United Methodist Churches. Visit us for worship on Sundays at 9AM (Blackwood) and 10:30 AM (Gibbsboro). Find us on Facebook and the web.

After the message on Sunday we will spend this week thinking about the presence of the risen Christ. Jesus has come to give us life; abundant life. The truth of the ascension of Jesus, resuming his place at the right hand of God the Father, is that Jesus represents us to God the Father and the Spirit represents the Father and the Son to you and me. This is the gospel.

 

Monday, June 12;

Read Acts 1:6-11 (Re-read this each day. The thoughts on our faith will move through this passage slowly.)

Prior to the ascension of the risen Christ, the disciples have gathered on the mountain and asked Jesus about the restoration of the kingdom of Israel. Why is it that we must always cling to power and influence? Why do we always want to show our own relevance, significance, importance, and credibility to those around us? That’s the essence of this question. Certainly it has to do with a presumption about what God will do to restore a kingdom but it also has to do with my potential role in that kingdom. For the political party out of power, there is nothing so tantalizing as the next election. Instead, can’t you hear Jesus whisper, “My grace is sufficient for you.” As tough as it can be, we must divest ourselves of the temptation to find our own relevance and significance apart from the risen and exalted Christ. Whatever it is- job, relationship, talent- even when that thing is a ‘good,’ only the Lord is ‘best.’

Prayer: Gracious Lord, help me find myself only in you. You give all of the good and perfect gifts. AMEN.

Tuesday, June 13; Read Acts 1:6-11

Our culture has set the standard for knowing, for thinking, and for relating. We have become individual subjects who determine our own standards. At least, that’s what we are told. [In all honesty, doesn’t the culture, expressed in capital, end up dictating our choices?] Consider that reality next to Jesus’ words here: “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons…” There are some things that the Lord has deemed out of our knowing. When I go to a bookstore, the euphoria I feel is directly related to all of the possibilities of knowing. I could pick up a book about anything! There are some things, though, we aren’t to know. The arrival of Jesus for the restoration of our world is one of those things. It seems to me there are a host of others. I have so many “whys.” Our loving God calls us to be satisfied with our knowing and to be content, someway or another, with our own sense of finitude. I think that is the horizon of faith.

Pray: Father, when took Jesus to be with yourself, you called me to live in faith. Help me to walk with you. AMEN

Wednesday, June 14; Read Acts 1:6-11

The Father has all authority. This authority, as we read in verse 7, ends up circumscribing our knowledge according to the purposes of God. Verse 8, then, comes as a surprise. “You will receive power… your will be my witnesses.” Trusting this Father, even in the physical absence of the Son, brings the potential power of the Spirit and the knowledge required to be a witness to the resurrected Jesus. The two: power and witness, go hand in hand. The power to be a compelling witness is directly related to the knowledge you have about a given situation. What is your situation with the risen Jesus? As the hymn writer describes, does he “walk with (you) and talk with (you)…”? The sincerity and reality of your relationship with Jesus guarantees the authenticity, power, and knowledge for your witness. It begins with the simplicity of a conversation.

PRAY: Gracious Lord, I’d like to talk with you. I’d ask that you work in my life. You know just what I need. Help me to receive it! AMEN.

Thursday, June 15th; Read Acts 1:6-11

Jesus is not lifted up in a burst of flames, a brilliant sunshine, or in a shooting star. In plain view, Jesus is taken up in a cloud. God led Israel in the desert with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God brings Jesus “up” with a cloud. The Father receives Jesus to a resumed status as the second person of the trinity. The cloud serves two purposes. The cloud recalls God’s role in leading us and the cloud obscures the “where” of Jesus’ destination. “Up” doesn’t quite cut it. Instead, the infinite One now enjoys a resumed status within the Trinitarian nature of God. I know, heady. But the reality is that my life is different because this cloud brings all of the humanity of the risen Jesus into the very communion of Father, Spirit, and Son in a way that comforts me in times of trouble, reassures me when I am doubting, and calms me when I am in pain. Jesus has taken these to the Father and the Spirit so that, “he can come again.”

PRAY: Our gracious God, we thank you for your presence in our lives and we thank you for representing us in your Son, Jesus. This reminds us how much you love us. AMEN.

Friday, June 16th; Read Acts 1:6-11

When Jesus says that the disciples are to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the rest of the world, it is a clear indication that when you get to the heart of God there is a concern for all of us and that concern spills out in concentric circles of proximity. Jerusalem is closest to us. Judea is a little further and Samaria further still. But God’s plan and purpose with you and me is that we would be world-wide witnesses to the glory and grace of Jesus. Will you be that kind of a disciple? Pray for our world. Pray for our town. Pray for those who live on your street. Look for ways to delicately witness to the truth of the good news: that in Jesus Christ, God cares for us all!

Pray: Lord, grant me a witnessing courage and lead me to invite a person to come with me to worship or to begin a new relationship with you. AMEN.

Saturday, June 17th; Read Acts 1:6-11

How hard must it have been to leave that mountain? When I watched the space shuttle launch, I kept staring to see if I could still see it, long after it had jumped through the earth’s atmosphere. How must the disciples have felt? But there is a promise here: He comes back in the same way. What way is that but with the leading of the Father. That is, not necessarily with a descent with a cloud, but, and alluding to the desert wandering of the Israelites, the Father leads the Son in the Spirit to intersect our lives in unexpected ways. The truth of the second advent of Jesus is that the Spirit is available to all who would receive him.

PRAY: Lord, you know what I need. You have given me your Spirit. Help me to receive. Grant me faith. Give me hope. AMEN.

WORSHIP IS TOMORROW! PRAY UP! Invite a friend. Make sure you make the community of faith a holy priority. Find a place to worship the Lord in church.

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Pentecost Week

June 5-10, 2017

A Daily Devotional Guide for the people of the Blackwood and Gibbsboro United Methodist Churches. Visit us for worship on Sundays at 9AM (Blackwood) and 10:30 AM (Gibbsboro). Find us on Facebook and the web.

After the message on Sunday we will spend this week thinking about the Gift Giver and God’s Gifts. There is no substitute for God’s presence in your life. No matter how many gifts we try and substitute for God, nothing can take God’s place.

Monday, June 5;

READ: James 1:17, 18: “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.”

We worship a generous, forever giving God who offers god-self to us without price, without reserve, and without any limit. The eternal One, the One from above, gives all that He has to you and me as a testimony to grace, faithfulness, and Love. When we have the Lord, we have everything. Even if, from a purely material point of view, we have nothing except the Lord, we have everything we need. And the person who has every material blessing under the sun and also has the Lord is no richer than the person who has nothing but the Lord. Make the Lord your “all in all.”

Prayer: Let me not be content in anything or anyone other than You, O Lord, AMEN

Tuesday, June 6; READ: John 3:16: “16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

The great love of God comes to us in so many different ways. It comes in the sunshine and the rain. God’s love comes to us in the beauty of relationships, families, and friends. God’s love comes to us when we find that we can’t stop laughing and God’s love holds us when we can’t stop crying. God gives of himself to us. Every one of God’s gifts, every time we experience the love of God, it is the very presence of God that sustains and fills us. The gifts are wonderful. The gifts always testify to the gift giver.

Pray: Today, Lord, remind me of your presence. Help me to find some minutes to offer you prayer and praise. AMEN

Wednesday, June 7;

READ: Mark 6:1-6.

TODAY IS BIBLE CLASS AT BLACKWOOD UMC and Family ministry night at GIBBSBORO UMC.

And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.”

I am not aware of a more somber two verses in the New Testament than these. The only thing that will squash the generosity of God is our lack of trust. If we hold too firmly to our own places, our own possessions, or our own passions, we will not be able to hold onto God’s gifts. The Lord will not overpower you. If we do not trust God, we won’t take up God’s gifts and we won’t seek to live in the center of God’s presence in the power of the Spirit. Let’s resolve to trust the Lord. In times of blessing and in times of great difficulty, the presence of the Lord can sustain us and give us righteousness, peace, and joy.

PRAY: Lord, every now and again we need a reminder about who holds our lives. Help me trust you more. AMEN.

Thursday, June 8th;

READ: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

Have you ever considered the nature of the gifts that Spirit gives to those who will trust the Lord sufficiently to receive them? Paul lists prophecy, healing, encouragement, leadership, witness, proclamation, and even the ability to speak and understand languages (even a spiritual one!).  An aspiring and growing disciple walks with the Lord and uses the Spirit’s gifts in ways that give glory to God, spread the witness, and serve in the community. Paul asks the community of faith to pray for the gifts that will make the greatest impact. In 1 Cor 13, though, he mentions the greatest and most significant gift: Love.

PRAY: Lord, may your Spirit so fill us that we might abound in gifts that would magnify your name, increase our passion for your presence, and lend us the encouragement that comes from knowing you personally. AMEN.

Friday, June 9th;

READ: 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3.

Paul offers an assessment tool for the spiritually minded. What evidence can there be that would demonstrate our growth in our relationship with the Lord? Love. The presence of unconditional love that comes from the Lord witnesses to us and to the world that we are growing in our relationship with the Lord. Recently I watched a TV show where two guys dressed up in the same uniforms as a drum corps, they had the same equipment, but they knew nothing of the routine and were asked to join in and improvise. It was fantastically funny to watch these men trying to anticipate a beat or a move. When the rest of the corps was drumming, they were banging on a cymbal. I found myself laughing along with the crowd. The rest of the corps, those who had prepared, weren’t laughing. Without love, our witness to Jesus is as out of place as these two drum corps wannabes. The Spirit’s presence, gifts, and power all point to living in harmony with one another. Pray for Love.

Pray: Holy Spirit, pour into my heart over-flowing and unconditional love. AMEN.

Saturday, June 10th;

READ: 1 Corinthians 13

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.”

The very best the world has to offer apart from the Lord cannot fill us or equip us for this kind of loving. The reason is that apart from the Lord, I put my fingers all over everything. I want to have control. I want to force an issue or make a move. I want my own way and I want to feel things in certain ways. There are too many conditions to my loving. This is not how God’s love works. If you want to gauge your own walk with the Lord, start with love. How am I growing in the unconditional, self-sacrificial love department? As it turns out, this is the very presence of the gift Giver in my life. How good is our God that God would do this for us?

PRAY: Help me to echo John the Baptist, Lord. We remember his prayer: “He must increase and I must decrease.” Help make this impossible prayer a possibility in your presence. AMEN.

 

WORSHIP IS TOMORROW! PRAY UP! Invite a friend. Make sure you make the community of faith a holy priority. Find a place to worship the Lord in church.

 

 

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Hannah’s Hope

May 15-20, 2017

Recorded messages are available at http://www.gibbsboroumc.org/media

A Daily Devotional Guide for the people of the Blackwood and Gibbsboro United Methodist Churches. Visit us for worship on Sundays at 9AM (Blackwood) and 10:30 AM (Gibbsboro). Find us on Facebook and the web.

After the message on Sunday we will spend this week thinking about Hannah. Her request of God was granted, but it cost her everything. There are others who witness to the same grace. What can God do with your “everything?”

 Monday, May 15;

READ: 1 Samuel 2:1-2

We are never stronger than we are when we live in the strength of the Lord. Hannah has just made the most difficult decision of her life, it would seem, and yet, God has increased her joy, her strength, and her faith. It was the cross that brought the joy and exultation of the empty tomb. Miriam sings her song of praise only after outrunning the Egyptians across the dried riverbed. So too, we may not notice that faith, joy, and strength are on the rise in our souls until we come to the end of our own resources.

Prayer: Lord, give me courage for this hour. Grant me a measure of your presence and increase my faith, my joy, and my strength. AMEN.

Tuesday, May 16; READ: 1 Samuel 2:2

There is no one like our Triune Lord: Father, Son, and Spirit. The Lord is completely distinct from us. That is what the word ‘Holy’ connotes. Hannah states that there is no Rock like our God. What is curious to me is that Hannah makes this statement in a land full of other kinds of rocks! They are everywhere. There is one rock, however, that is different from every other one. The rock on the top of the temple mount is reputed to be the one where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac. If that’s true, can’t you see Hannah exulting in the same place, having made the same commitment, and having arrived at the same conclusion? What Abraham saw as a threat (sacrifice), Hannah took for an opportunity. God doesn’t come to threaten us. The Lord comes to take what is in our hands away from us, sanctifying it, and then returning it to us full of God’s blessing. There is no rock like our God!

Pray: Good and gracious Lord, help me lay it all down, to find a fullness in your presence alone, and to rejoice in your Spirit. AMEN

Wednesday, May 17;

READ: 1 Samuel 2:3-4

TODAY IS BIBLE CLASS AT BLACKWOOD UMC and Family ministry night at GIBBSBORO UMC.

The Father, Son, and Spirit are full of knowledge. I’m so glad the Lord is truthful and knowing. Ignorance and falseness are not satisfying in the least, especially in our world where the half truth meets the ignorant and the two end up on the interwebs! But the Lord is the Lord of truth and knowledge and what is it that is known? That the Lord has a preferential option for the feeble, the broken, and the disadvantaged ones. This might be because the Lord is always self-giving. The Father gives the Son. The Father and the Son give the Spirit. The Spirit witnesses to the Son. The Triune Lord is always self-deferential not self-referential. The option for the disadvantaged meets with the heart of God to give. This generosity in God is what gives God that complete knowledge. It’s a pattern in the Lord. Giving opens us up for one another. Generosity increases the potential for truth. Look for the Lord in those moments of self-giving truth!

PRAY: Father, know me. Give me your grace for today. AMEN.

Thursday, May 18th;

READ: 1 Samuel 2:5-8

Hannah’s is a song that mothers can sing. Mothering love is at the center of the Triune Lord. It is the hallmark of true disciples. Unconditional love, love that cannot be paid back, and love the is not self-seeking finds its expression not in the rich and strong but in the poor and weak. God makes the poor rich (and I truly don’t think this is a metaphor for spiritual riches!). God makes the weak strong and lifts the needy from the ash heap. As we pray for one another, let us remember the needy. Let’s remember those who need to be lifted up. To pray this way is to fulfill God’s conversation with us, in us, and through us. PRAY: Jesus, we see you when we see the needs around us and it breaks our hearts enough to where we make these needs apart of our conversation with You. Give us your grace and help us bring heaven down for the least, the last, and the lost. AMEN.

Friday, May 19th;

READ: 1 Samuel 2:8b: “For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.”

The world today seems so topsy turvy. Culture changes instantly. Economies can tumble and political regimes can fall apart overnight. Sometimes I think that the faithful ones in Scripture lived in a different world but I realize that it’s the same. What remains constant for the person who trusts in the Lord is that the world rests on the pillars of God’s presence. God has created us and speaks to us new life. The Lord comes to us in the incarnate Son of God; Jesus, and brings heaven down. Resting on the pillars of God’s presence gives us a little insight into the stability of our world while everyone around us may be looking for something to hold onto. Maybe we’ll be the ones people look at when things are most uncertain. Then, and with a smile, we can point them to the Lord who loves us.

Pray: Holy Spirit, in the ebb and flow of our lives, remind me of your presence, your grace, and your love. AMEN.

Saturday, May 20th;

READ: 1 Samuel 2:9-10

The conclusion of Hannah’s song provides us with two points of stirring theology (words about God). God guards the faithful but the wicked are left defenseless. Since God is full of knowledge and truth, and since the Lord has a preferential option for the poor and oppressed, God will also be a righteous judge over the earth. You and I can trade in our aggression for meekness because God is the one who will be our judge. When we strike out on our own, don’t we invite reprisals? When we become angry in life, isn’t that a product of our lack of trust in the Lord? Instead, we don’t have to be aggressive or violent in our actions or with our words and we don’t have to nurture anger and bitterness because our gracious and loving God has already given us what we need and God cares for us. What a testimony to a life spent in the fullness of the Lord we have in Hannah!

PRAY: Lord, I lay my rights down. I ask nothing but your will be done! AMEN.

 

WORSHIP IS TOMORROW! PRAY UP! Invite a friend. Make sure you make the community of faith a holy priority. Find a place to worship the Lord in church.

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Moses’ protest, God’s opportunity: a devotional guide.

May 8-13, 2017

A Daily Devotional Guide for the people of the Blackwood and Gibbsboro United Methodist Churches. Visit us for worship on Sundays at 9AM (Blackwood) and 10:30 AM (Gibbsboro). Find us on Facebook and the web.

 

After the message on Sunday we will spend this week thinking about Moses and God’s plan-B. Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s house but fled after he killed an Egyptian. How radical is God’s grace? Let’s find out together as we explore Moses’ life. 

Monday, May 8;

READ: Exodus 4:1-5

Before Moses can lead the people he must come to trust the Lord. When we describe the Lord, we must also affirm that the Lord, who calls us by name, also reveals His name to Moses (Exodus 3). The Father, Spirit, and Son relate to us in personal categories. The Triune Lord desires to know us in relationship. This is why the grace extended to Moses is so radical. In spite of his past, in spite of his doubt, and in spite of his own reluctance, the Lord comes to Moses and calls to Moses just as the Lord calls to you and me. Notice the “why” of this call in verse 5: “so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” The Lord appears to us in order that “they” might believe. Everything is personal and everyone is significant to the Lord.

PRAY: Lord, I want to know you more. Appear to me throughout this day and help me to be aware of your presence. AMEN

Tuesday, May 9; READ: Exodus 4:6-17

How radical is the grace of the Father, Son, and Spirit! Not only does the Lord give Moses one sign (the staff turned to snake turned to staff), the Lord gives Moses two other signs (hand in cloak-leprous-clean; water to blood). It is interesting to see that the Lord uses these symbols that will later be condemned in the Levitical purity code as instruments of revelation! Don’t look now, but the Lord might use the “taboo” to get our attention. Yet, Moses persists in doubt. Moses confesses that he is no good at public speaking. The Lord furnishes a brother. One wonders how well Moses knew Aaron. As it turns out, the final sign of God’s grace to Moses is providence itself. Before Moses was born, the Lord had already placed a helper. Can’t you hear the Lord muttering: No excuses. Just trust me.

Pray: Lord, your grace is extravagant. Your signs are enough. Help me in my unbelief. AMEN

Wednesday, May 10;

READ: Exodus 4:18-20

TODAY IS BIBLE CLASS AT BLACKWOOD UMC and Family ministry night at GIBBSBORO UMC.

“…So Moses… went back to the land of Egypt; and Moses carried the staff of God in his hand.” What did the Lord’s staff look like? Was it small, kind of like a magic wand? Was it large, like a shepherd’s staff? Moses was a shepherd. The staff is no longer Moses’ staff but God’s. The truth, though, is that the staff was always the Lord’s. That is the truth of God’s grace. We encounter the grace, the unmerited favor, of God in the personal exchange, the “yes” and “no,” of the Lord. Moses returned to the place of his former shame as a transformed person. Moses was transformed, not because of his time away, but because of his encounter with the Living Triune Lord. We don’t need a list of rules or a guide to self-help. What we need is the daily “hello” and conversation that comes with a personal encounter with the Lord.

PRAY: Father, if you can meet with Moses, might you meet with me; even today? Even now? AMEN.

Thursday, May 11th;

READ: Exodus 4:27-28

Once, when traveling in Europe, we were unavoidably detained with no way to contact the family we were to meet. After two stress-filled days, we finally boarded a plane to Belgrade but we had had no time to notify our family that we were en route. When we landed, we were sure we would have to navigate a Yugoslavian phone system to arrange for a ride. To our surprise and great joy, however, we found that the family was there to meet us. They had anticipated the flights and had arranged two cars to come and pick us up. How amazing this was to us! Notice the text. The Lord speaks to Aaron once Moses has trusted Him. Aaron shows up at the right time and at the right place. This is the way our relationship with the Lord works and this is the way our wider relationship with the world works. It’s all personal and it’s all in the hands of the Lord and at His disposal. PRAY: Father, the temptation is to see people and situations as things rather than potential bearers of Your grace. Help me to trust. Help me to see. AMEN.

Friday, May 12th;

READ: Exodus 4:29-30

I cannot begin to imagine the anxiety Moses and Aaron had to feel as they made their way to the people on this first encounter. As Aaron began to share what the Lord was doing, Moses’ palms began to sweat. Had he imagined the burning bush, the calling God, the staff that turned to a snake, the leprous hand? Had he really been called by God? In front of the slaves in Egypt Moses demonstrated the radical grace of God to the Israelites and he demonstrated his ever-increasing trust in God. Did he bobble the staff? Did he flinch as he put his hand in his cloak? Then the impossible happened. The signs came true again in Egypt. The personal failures we have experienced provide God with a canvas on which God can paint a masterpiece of renewed trust and hope.

Pray: Lord, I bring my failures to you, I bring my future to you, and I ask that You would take them, redeem them, and save them both! AMEN.

Saturday, May 13th;

READ: Exodus 4:31

“The people believed… the people bowed down and worshipped.” Notice to who credit is given. Moses and Aaron are demonstrations of another relationship. They aren’t the ones the people trust and worship. It is our Savior, our Lord, the Triune One who is given credit. The people realize something deeply profound. After 400 years, the Lord had not forgotten. The people aren’t bitter. They don’t yell back, “where’ve you been for the last 399 years, Lord??” They trust and they worship. The unfathomable mystery of God’s grace centers on time and timing. We certainly have no input. What is mysterious to you and me is all a part of the miraculous encounter with the Living Lord that makes life so amazing. The whole universe is a testimony to the ongoing love and grace of God. Even after the Israelites suffering, God shows up with a plan B. Are you ready for that kind of an encounter?

PRAY: Lord, your mercies are new each morning! AMEN.

WORSHIP IS TOMORROW! PRAY UP! Invite a friend. We’re learning about Hannah, a young wife who prayed for a child. God answered her prayer. Come and find out how!

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Devotional Guide for May 1-6: Abraham

May 1-6, 2017

A Daily Devotional Guide for the people of the Blackwood and Gibbsboro United Methodist Churches. Visit us for worship on Sundays at 9AM (Blackwood) and 10:30 AM (Gibbsboro). Find us on Facebook and the web.

After the message on Sunday we will spend this week thinking about Abraham and God’s plan-B. Abraham was nicely on a trajectory to lead a regular, rural life, until God came calling.

Monday, May 1;

READ: Genesis 13:8-13

We talked through Genesis 12 and the initial call of Abraham. If you are reading this online, you might want to remind yourself of the simple faith of Abraham in chapter 12. He hears God, heeds God, and heads where God directs. There is no clearer picture of faith. Here, in Gen 13, Abraham does the unthinkable. He gives his nephew Lot the first rights to the choice of land and Lot chooses the good lots. Deferring the right of the elder, Abraham allows himself to be second. When we make a determination to be second (third, fourth, etc.) demonstrates our understanding of God’s presence in our lives. I don’t have to grasp on to anything because I realize that God is great enough, merciful enough, and rich enough to put me right where God wants me. Can you exercise such self-deferral? Can you allow the Lord to move you, to deploy you, to let you sacrifice? That’s where God is at God’s best in us.

PRAY: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace and a vessel of blessing to those around me. AMEN

Tuesday, May 2; READ: Genesis 13:14-18

Abraham has relinquished his right to choose the land on which to dwell. Lot makes the choice. What data did they have? I suspect that Lot made the choice based on the look of the land in front of him and there is certainly no fault in that. The text indicates that the land Lot picked was fairer than the other. What does God do? God takes Abraham and makes an amazing promise to him. All of the land in sight will be for his people. God’s plan B is better than Lot’s plan A!

Pray: Lord, You are good and your promise abides forever! Help me to see and respond to your grace! AMEN

Wednesday, May 3;

READ: Genesis 14:18-19

TODAY IS BIBLE CLASS AT BLACKWOOD UMC and Family ministry night at GIBBSBORO UMC.

Abraham must go and defend his nephew against some warring neighbors. For our context, it’s probably easier and more accurate to imagine that these warring neighbors look like large-scale gangs rather than armies. Nonetheless, the threat was real. After Abraham emerges victorious, Melchizedek walks through the mists of history, prays a prayer of blessing on Abraham, and walks right back where he came from: obscurity. The blessing of this mysterious king is impactful.   Even in the New Testament, the writer to the Hebrews mentions him by name and likens him to Christ. I don’t think that a believer ought ever to diminish his or her role in human history because the story doesn’t look that interesting. Abraham wins the victory but Melchizedek prays his prayer. Two things seem significant for me. First, always be aware for your “Melchizedek” to walk on and then walk off the stage of your life. God sends us these messengers to encourage us. Second, be ready to be a “Melchizedek” when God calls you to be such a one. Rather than get caught up in the nature of the “bit part,” focus on playing the role God calls you to play. Pray, bless, encourage, with all your heart and soul. You may be working with the next “Abraham.”

PRAY: Father, help keep my eyes open, my heart full, and my hands ready. AMEN.

Thursday, May 4th; May the fourth be with you! Happy Star Wars Day, True Believers!

READ: Genesis 15:5-6

This text is perfect for the day. God meets with Abraham and Abraham reminds the Lord that he remains childless in spite of the covenant promise that God had made. You can hear the notes of despair in Abraham’s voice as he tells the Lord his closest kinsman is Eliezer of Damascus. God then calls Abraham outside and asks him to look up at the stars. In comprehensibly, God asks Abraham to try and count them. Have you ever tried to reckon up the blessings of the Lord? You’ll be awhile. The Lord expresses his goodness and reaffirms the promise. Today, remind the Lord of the promise. God has promised us God’s goodness, God’s presence, and God’s salvation in Christ. For his part, God has done his job. Ask the Lord to send the Spirit to fill you. Even when we cannot recognize the way God is fulfilling God’s promises, we can come to the Lord in prayer, reminding him that our vision is but time bound, material, and clouded with our own interest. God can hear that prayer, though, and God can answer it with the grace of God’s presence. PRAY: Lord, You have begun a good work in me. Help me to see how you are bringing it to fulfillment, even a little, this very day. AMEN.

Friday, May 5th;

READ: Genesis 15:17-18

God promises to us are perfect and come at a great cost. In Genesis 15, I read the passing torch as a divine obligation. I think God is saying to Abraham, “If I don’t keep my promise to you, I’ll give up my God-card.” There is dread here. There is solemnity here. This is how serious God loves us and calls us. The Lord is so passionate to redeem, save, and enter into relationship with you and me that God will demonstrate that in a drastic way. What other God goes on record like this with a covenant partner? Only the real God can do it.

Pray: What great promises you’ve made, Lord! Give me grace to live out of that Holy dread and account for your passionate love. AMEN.

Saturday, May 6th;

READ: Genesis 16:7-8

What a confusing thing it is when we put our hands in the mix to try and “help the Lord along.” Sarah and Abraham do that with Hagar and it ends like this. The Lord takes care of Hagar and Ishmael. The Lord takes care of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac. Along the way, though, there are significant items to be worked out. Let the Lord lead you, guide you, and lift you up. Resist the temptation to put your hand on your own life. What a tough lesson this is!

PRAY: Lord, give me your grace to allow you room to work in my life, always. AMEN.

 

WORSHIP IS TOMORROW! PRAY UP! Invite a friend. We’re learning about Moses, a prince who had to rebound from a personal failure. What’s your “Plan-B?”

 

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