Friday, May 31, 2013

Day 49 of 90 Devotion

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Day forty-nine of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 49 Readings: Isaiah 1:1-13:22

We have shifted dramatically from the wisdom literature into the prophetic writings. Isaiah, son of Amoz, gives some troubling predictions for Judah and Jerusalem. Images of destruction of formerly beloved vineyards, haunts for wild animals and remnants of population should have given the hearers pause.

The message that Isaiah lifts up is really one of "The End is Near!" I wonder how many even considered what he was saying or if he was dismissed like the cartoon cliché that sign-bearer has become. If someone stepped up in your congregation this Sunday or came to your door tonight or confronted you in the parking lot of Trader Joe's (or wherever you like to shop for the special something) and said "It is all going to end very soon." what would your response be? Jonah, eventually, went to Nineveh with just such a dire prediction. The whole place, palace to cow stable, fasted and put on ashes and God relented. Perhaps that would have been the case had Isaiah's audience been a little more attentive and responsive.

In the midst of these gloomy forecasts some of the most beloved promises of scripture about the coming savior are spoken. The sign of Immanuel is given to Ahaz in chapter 7 (how that is a sign to him when it isn't fulfilled for centuries is an interesting question for another time). Isaiah 9 puts the words to Handel's Messiah. More promises are to be found about the stump of Jesse in Isaiah 11. Jesus and his reign of peace and salvation are strewn throughout these texts of judgment, death and captivity.

Where do you find yourself this day? Do you feel that you are suffering consequences of God's judgment? Are you oblivious to what God's prophets are even saying? Are you put upon yet able to discern the hope of the coming kingdom and reign of Jesus? Are you conquering or conquered? Are you longing for a sign or perhaps a warning sign in the life of another? Are you one, like Isaiah, proclaiming "Here am I, Send Me!" (see With One Voice hymn number 752 "I, the Lord of Sea and Sky" aka "Here I am, Lord").

Our loyalties and our memories fade and falter. God, remembers God's covenant with us. The good promises of Isaiah 7 and 9 and 11 are for us and for all. May we rest in the gentle and saving reign of Jesus no matter what the world before us promises or threatens.

God, thank you for sending Jesus. Teach us to trust him and those who remind us of his promises and his coming reign. Help us hear your voice. He we are, send us. Amen.

Day 48 of 90 Devotion

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Day forty-eight of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. We have completed Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs (22 down, 44 to go). If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 48 Readings: Ecclesiastes 3:1-Song of Songs 8:14

Today's reading starts with the Byrds and ends with the bes. (sorry, I couldn't resist)

Our reading begins with the sources material for the Byrd's song:

"Turn, Turn, Turn"

There is a rhythm to our lives. There is a warp and woof, a wax and a wane, a season of abundance and a season of lying fallow. Part of the wisdom of Solomon is that we are in a series of undulations(Screwtape as recorded by C.S. Lewis had a few things to say about this as well). Part of our journey in this life is riding out the waves that wash over us. This is, of course, easier to do when we recall the baptismal waters that washed us most thoroughly and ensure our futures regardless of where the waves of this world drive us.

The other wisdom that is throughout Ecclesiastes, and I would say Song of Songs too, is to "be". We are not always certain of where we are going. Sometimes the wicked seem to prevail. Sometimes the promises beyond the grave seem too good to grasp. But there is wisdom and joy and hope in finding people and work that bring us joy and hunkering down with them. God comes to us incarnationally. Most profoundly, of course, in Jesus but God enters into our lives through others (Luther called that "mutual consolation of the saints") and God gives us purpose and direction through vocations ("callings") on our life. As we rest in these people and these callings the waves of life won't batter us around so much.

Solomon in all his wisdom doesn't always seem so happy but he seems to know a thing or two about joy. We can find it in the song of the Byrds and the workaday world of the bes.

God, thank you for sending Jesus. Thank you for sending ones to love and callings to tend as well. Help us rest in you no matter how the waters of life splash us around. Amen.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Day 47 of 90 Devotion

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Day forty-seven of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. We have completed Proverbs (20 down, 46 to go). If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 47 Readings: Proverbs 20:22-Ecclesiastes 2:26

We complete Proverbs and move into the more substantial texts of Ecclesiastes. The more pithy and repetitive texts of Proverbs are replaced by the soul-searching of the author, Solomon. Solomon was asked what he wanted from God. He asked for wisdom. God granted him more wisdom than was ever found in anyone before him or would be found after. So to what end does this wisdom lead Solomon?


With all of his God given insights (and riches and power as well which God heaped on for making the good choice of asking for wisdom) Solomon pursues satisfaction. He seeks contentment. He seeks significance. He seeks to make a difference. In all his seeking his summary statement to this point of Ecclesiastes is "Meaningless!"

So where does that leave us? We aren't as wise as Solomon. We don't have the resources not the influence of Solomon. Where do we find meaning? Where do we find satisfaction? Where do we find significance? How do we truly make a difference?

Perhaps we should look to one who wasn't in Solomon's sights--Jesus. Jesus came to bring into the world that which makes us whole. Jesus' call gives us meaning and purpose. Following after Jesus gives us satisfaction and significance. We can best impact our world and make a difference by living as Jesus would have us live.

God, thank you for sending Jesus. Help us lean strongly into the life that he is for all of us. Amen.

Day 46 of 90 Devotion

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Day forty-six of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 46 Readings: Proverbs 7:1-20:21

There are, of course, many proverbs in these 13 chapters. There seem to be some recurring themes:

* We are exhorted to behave honestly (fair scales, just treatment, etc., etc.)
* We are to seek, listen to and follow wise instruction
* We are doing better to talk less and listen more
* Idle gossip and chatter stirs up trouble for us and others, silence and prudent talk does the opposite.
* More work and less idleness serves us well.
* Simplicity with peace trumps extravagance with conflict.

If we want things to be well with our lives we would do well to heed time tested wisdom from the likes of Solomon and the other authors of scripture. The Holy Spirit has truths to convey. Will we heed this wise counsel?

Often our world tempts us like the adulterous woman at the start of Proverbs. Get rich quick schemes (which seem often to exploit unjust scales and treatment), screaming pitchmen, slanderous entertainments, fighting for everything we deserve, etc., etc. fall on the wrong side of God's equation. God knows better than we what we need. God cares for us more fully and comprehensively that we do for ourselves. If we want things to be good for us and for our families the precepts in Proverbs are a good place to start.

Bottom line, God wants good for us and for all. We will find it sooner and more securely when we heed God's ways.

God, Help us to be wise. Stir us to live according to the wisdom you have recorded throughout the Bible. Teach us your ways. Amen.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Day 45 of 90 Devotion

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Day forty-five of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. We have completed Psalm (19 down, 47 to go). We have also reached the halfway point in terms of calendar days. If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 45 Readings: Psalm 135:1-Proverbs 6:35

We have much knowledge these days. When I was in college it was estimated that the bulk amount of knowledge was roughly doubling every 10 years (based on the number of new entries to the Library of Congress card catalog). Imagine how much more bulk knowledge--information to be known--there is compared to the time of the writing of Psalms and Proverbs. It is staggering.

Yet some might make the case that our wisdom has not progressed very much. What we know is very different than how we know and what we do with that knowledge. Some of the ways that knowledge are portrayed in the Bible might strike us as quaint, outdated or simplistic. Perhaps that case can be made. The wisdom that is communicated, however, is timely and a propos.

Wisdom is integral to a good an healthy walk with God. Wisdom is so important in living in this world and loving others as we ought. May our times spent in the days ahead with this wisdom literature truly speak to us.

God, help us to be wise. Help us treasure wisdom alongside of knowledge. Amen.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Day 44 of 90 Devotion

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Day forty-four of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 44 Readings: Psalm 109:1-134:3

By far one of the Psalms that gets read the most by me, particularly when near hospital beds and hospices, is Psalm 121 (A song of ascents.):

I lift up my eyes to the hills--
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip--
he who watches over you will not slumber,
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you--
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm--
he will watch over your life;
The Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

When life has us flat on our back (illness, fatigue, accident, deathbed, etc., etc.) we look up seeking help. This psalm is a song about looking up to God. It is called a song of ascents. It would have been spoken or sung as people went up to Jerusalem on pilgrimages. It is a way of matching words to actions to longings of the heart. We look up to God for help.

God indeed watches over us. We are protected and comforted and shielded throughout our lives. We have no idea how many things didn't come our way through the deflection of a gracious God. God is vigilant in watching over us.

At some point, we will leave this world. None of us, not even Jesus, avoided physical death (maybe Elijah and Enoch but that's for a different time). We all get to die. But even in that coming and going the Lord will watch over us. There is nothing we go through in this life that God won't go through with us. That is a deep and abiding promise for us and for all we know who need to hear it.

Life is full of ups and downs--of ascents and descents. But not matter how far down we go, Jesus has gone further. And no matter how far down we go, God will lift us even higher as the promise of resurrection and eternal life come fully to bear.

God, help us keep our eyes ever and always on you. You are our faithful caregiver and we are yours. Amen.

Day 43 of 90 Devotion

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Day forty-three of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 43 Readings: Psalm 89:14-108:13

So much good material in these psalms. What particularly caught my attention this time through was part of Psalm 95:

Take heed, you senseless ones among the people;
you fools, when will you become wise?
Does he who implanted the ear not hear?
Does he who formed the eye not see?
Does he who disciplines the nations not punish?
Does he who teaches man lack knowledge?
The Lord knows the thoughts of man;
he knows that they are futile.

At times we think we are so clever doing things without being seen or heard or discovered. We keep up a good front. We wear the brave face. We cover our tracks as best we can and are pretty sure we made a clean getaway.

We are like the little kids on the video shows who are literally caked with evidence of the stolen treat as we protest to the camera "I didn't have any of that chocolate cake!" God fashioned the senses and perceives all. God formed our brains and knows how we think. God knows all and also how little we actually do.

Wisdom begins when we stop trying to fool ourselves and fool God. God knows. God knows better than we ever will. God loves (sometimes in spite of what God knows). God loves better than we ever will. We can more fully receive that love when we stop trying to act like we deserve it. Grace is so hard for us works-righteousness people. But God knows it is the only way.

God, help us stop running and striving and seeking to earn. Help us to open the gift purchased by Jesus and just be your children. Amen.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Day 42 of 90 Devotion

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Day forty-two of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 42 Readings: Psalm 69:22-89:13

When we read these psalms we have people crying out to God for justice, reconciliation with God, peace, hope, abundance, etc., etc. Some seem very edgy borderline hostile. Others come from deep and broken places longing healing but all are directed to God.

I wonder how many of us honestly seek God about these things. Is our inclination to pray for healing or to head to the nearest urgent care? Is our inclination to seek justice through lawyers and lawsuits or to leave justice and retribution in the hands of our God. Do we seek to make changes in our own life first and foremost (and even solely) in our own strength and imagination or do we allow God to be God and do what God might do?

Psalm 84 talks about even the sparrow finding a place near the altar of the Lord. Do we find ways and times to dwell in the house of the Lord? Does the character and the ethos of God's house shape our ways in the world? Whether we are in a place of tears (Baca) or a place of abundance God loves us and wants what is best for us. Can we lead hard into that truth today?

God, help us come to you much more frequently and much more fervently. Give us hearts like the psalmists. Draw us into prayer like Jesus. Shape us into your people. Amen.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Day 41 of 90 Devotion

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Day forty-one of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 41 Readings: Psalm 45:15-69:21

So many of these psalms point to an unshakable God in a shaken and broken world. Perhaps one of the most eloquent is Psalm 46. I recall hearing that Psalm a lot around the time of 9-11. As the nations were in an uproar and the kingdoms were tottering people were looking for a sure and more certain center. Undoubtedly those who just lost everything in Oklahoma might be looking for something a little more secure to hang their hopes upon. Sometimes this Psalm is read as caskets proceed from the hearse to the open grave as well.

Perhaps one of the most arresting parts of this Psalm is the encouragement to "Be still, and know that I am God!" When things break or crumble or come undone we want to do what we can to fix or to patch or to bolster. We want to put our human effort and make things right. Some things are broken way beyond our ability to fix. They transcend our abilities or our moral capacities. We are no match for what comes our way. Rather than just give in, however, we turn to God. God can handle all that might come our way. God's abilities and grace and mercy can do what we cannot. Our job is to trust in God.

To be sure at times God will call us into action or invite a response. But it is always best if that starts with us being still and reverent before God. Morning prayers, devotional times, regular reading of God's words help keeps things in perspective. And it will surely remind us "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge."

God, help us learn to be still in your presence. Help us seek you first whenever things comes our way. If you have tasks for us to do, make them known and give us grace, mercy and ability to do them all to your glory. Amen.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Day 40 of 90 Devotion

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Day forty of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 40 Readings: Psalm 25:1-45:14

Our Psalm readings are rich and full. Some of them are source material for Jesus and what transpired on and before the cross:

Psalm 41:9 "Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me." (Judas)

Psalm 34:20 "he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken" (see John 19:36)

Psalm 35:15-16 "But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; attackers gathered against me when I was unaware. They slandered me without ceasing. Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked; they gnashed their teeth at me."

Psalm 31:5 "Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth."

These are some of the more obvious connections with Jesus and his passion. All of these psalms speak of one longing to live a life of devotion to God and what can beset such a one. Jesus was more than just a physical descendant of David. Their hearts and their prayers seem to resonate quite a bit as well. As we linger in the songs, hymns and prayers of David we are drawn into the passion, prayers and deep and abiding relationship between Jesus and the Father. That same relationship that Jesus prayed us into in John 17.

Jesus was fully God. Jesus was fully human. Jesus' use of the psalms help us draw near to that humanity that he chose to draw near to us. May we grow in our ability to inhabit, pray and find hope in the book of Psalms.

God, help us to linger in your prayerbook. Teach us to pray more like Jesus. Teach us to endure more like Jesus. Teach us to abide in you more like Jesus. But, mostly, help us to trust no one, including ourselves, more than Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Day 39 of 90 Devotion

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Day thirty-nine of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. We completed Job and are now into Psalms (aka the Psalter) (18 books down, 48 to go). If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 39 Readings: Job 42:1 - Psalm 24:10

Job has received his answer from God. He responds with repentance and contrition. Job's "friends" are instructed by God to make sacrifices and to have Job pray for them. Job ends up with double of all his livestock categories and a new set of 3 daughters and 7 sons. He lives a good long age seeing his great-grandchildren through his new family.

It seems a small consolation to have a child-for-child replacement of your lost children. Akin to when well-meaning parents try to placate a grieving child with a new puppy to make up for the one that was hit by the car. Job ends with about as many questions as it had when it began. Job never really gets an answer to the question he was asking. He is just compensated for his faithful pain and suffering. With a book like Job one might just try to fly under God's radar.

Now we enter into Psalms. We have 150 hymns or songs or prayers during all sorts of times and circumstances in life. Some are attributed to David or Asaph or the sons of Korah or others. They reflect honest emotions and petitions to the God of all. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called this book the prayerbook of the Bible.

It is worth slowing down and reading these psalms as if you were praying them yourself. Maybe even reading them out loud. Psalm 22 spilled out of Jesus' mouth from the cross. Psalm 23 is a common prayer at funerals and memorial services. As you read other psalms think about where they might be suitable to pray. You might find some clues from the headings on the psalms but don't be restricted by those. Scripture is living and active and breathing--God's spirit can use them in your life in a profound way that wasn't the intent of the author. Trust God to guide you.

God, help us turn to you no matter what we face--celebration, devastation, profound joy or bone-chilling grief. Teach us to rest fully in you and on your mercy. Bless our days ahead as we linger in your prayerbook. Amen.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Day 38 of 90 Devotion

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Day thirty-eight of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 38 Readings: Job 25:1-41:34

Ever ask a question and perhaps regret asking it the moment the answer begins?

After chapter upon chapter of venting his spleen Job gets answered. First by Elihu. And then more thoroughly by God. Job ends up withdrawing the objection. Retracting the complaint. Shrinking back away from the challenge.

The exchange is not very satisfying. God answered Job by overwhelming him with ability and force. But God didn't answer the troubling, fundamental question: Why did the innocent one suffer? God and Satan were the ones who called out Job's exemplary life. Job was beset upon and protested, rightly, that he had not done anything to deserve what happened to him (although, perhaps, he hadn't done anything to deserve the blessings that had been his either). This book, to this point, shows the power of God but doesn't fully answer the suffering of the innocent.

As we skip to the New Testament we are reminded of another who suffered but had no sin in him. He pleaded with God in the garden of Gethsemane but the suffering came and ended his life. He was mocked by sinners and taunted by hypocrites. He was like Job in many ways. It is troubling, too, that Jesus suffered. But somehow by his suffering we are made right and whole. Salvation comes through God being made small and being beset upon and falling a the hand of God's creation. But the power of God is shown, as in Job, in the end. The empty tomb vindicates the suffering of the innocent. In that emptiness we find fullness. Hope is sure and certain and ours in Jesus.

God, help us rest in the assurance that Jesus' suffering and death ultimately spare us eternal suffering and eternal death. Our questions may never fully be answered in this world and in the throes of this existence. In the confusion and pain of the unknown help us rest in the one who knows us fully. Amen.

Day 37 of 90 Devotion

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Day thirty-seven of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 37 Readings: Job 8:1-24:25

Today we get into Job in earnest. Job has lost most of his possessions, most of his family and most of his health. His "friends" come on the scene. For the first week they do well sitting shiva (being present with the one who is mourning and not speaking until being spoken to). Job opens his mouth and curses the day he was born (at the end of yesterday's reading). Now his "friends" start weighing in. They weigh in by heaping judgment and abuse upon Job. Surely things like this don't just happen to holy people was the gist of what they said. But, in this case, that is just what happened. Job continues to protest his innocence and cry out to God. Job's "friends" are relentless.

Perhaps one of the most important lessons from Job is that people who are hurting and down need love and compassion more than our judgments of what they have done wrong. If they have done wrong they usually are painfully self-aware. Our condemnation doesn't do much for freeing them. It may well be, as was Job's situation, that he was being falsely accused by people who thought they were in the know. We would do well to avoid being on the wrong side of a falsely accusing finger. Bottom line, God is more than capable of judging--our task is to be loving. If we forget what that looks like we can look to the life and death of Jesus. And if we want to see if God approves of such a ministry of love and reconciliation we can look to the empty tomb!

God, spare us from suffering by your mercy. When suffering comes help us to bear up well and faithfully. When we see others suffering help us love them. When we suffer help us receive the love of others even when less than perfectly executed. Amen.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Day 36 of 90 Devotion

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Day thirty-six of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. We have completed Esther (17 down, 49 to go). If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 36 Readings: Nehemiah 13:15-Job 7:21

Our assigned readings for today begin with the tail end of Nehemiah. There are blessings and curses mentioned for those who abide in God's laws and those who don't. A fitting summary for that book.

The tone then changes dramatically as we enter into the palace intrigue of Esther. This book doesn't even mention God (let alone God's laws and expectations for God's people). What we have is a tale of the Jewish people and her enemies trying to wipe her out. As we all know this has been a tragic part of God's people's history for centuries. There is some hope and justice, some courage and sacrifice to be found in this tale but clearly things aren't resolved forever. We are given insight into the beginnings of Purim which is celebrated to this day with a reading of Esther with accompanying cheers and catcalls as certain characters appear and play out their roles.

The tone of our readings change dramatically again as we get far enough into Job for him to lose his 10 children, his wealth and his health. He is left on a pile of ashes scraping himself with a potsherd having his friends offer less-than-helpful help. Job teases out unjust suffering. Job is shown to be pure of heart and attentive to God. For that reason he is singled out and tormented. He brings to mind the philosophy of life just keep your head down and hope you don't get noticed. Job will continue to open up more questions than it will answer. But life is that way sometimes. We can find a fellow sojourner in the mystery, at times, in Job.

God, thank you for the rich and varied ways you speak to us in scripture. Give us eager ears and hopeful hearts even when persecutions and sufferings come. Amen.

Day 35 of 90 Devotion

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Day thirty-five of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 35 Readings: Nehemiah 1:1-13:14

Today's reading provides a summary of the on-again off-again relationship that the people had with God. They would find a rallying point or a motivation to be more attentive to God: restoring the Temple as in Ezra, rebuilding the wall as in Nehemiah, discovering the law again, seeking deliverance from the Egyptians or the Babylonians or the Romans, etc., etc. People would gather and work and pray and repent and hear and promise. Then, not so very long after, they would fall away again.

God allows the consequences (and sometimes causes the consequences) that happen in response to the broken covenant. When things get bad enough the cycle repeats.

Is this our pattern too? Do we find reasons to get excited about our faith and our relationship with God? We gather and work and pray and repent and hear and promise. But then, not so very long after, we fall back into familiar patterns. We make choices that betray our promises. We don't love God with all of our hearts and souls and strengths and minds. And we certainly don't love our neighbors as ourselves. We neglect the law and the prophets.

Consequences come our way--some natural and some perhaps even God-given. When things get bad enough perhaps we'll seek to return to God.

The thing is that we are creatures that function in cycles. C.S. Lewis does marvelous work in talking about the laws of undulation in Screwtape Letters. We wax and wane. We rise and fall. We get enthused and we lose spirit.

But God does not. God is good and faithful all the time. God's mercies are new every morning. God will not forsake us forever. The good news is that salvation has nothing to do with how steadfast we are. It is all about our faithful God.

God, help us to never forget you. But, when we do, draw us back. Help us cast our eyes on your saving ways. Amen.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Day 34 of 90 Devotion

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Day thirty-four of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. We've now finished Ezra (15 down, 51 to go). If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 34 Readings: 2 Chronicles 35:16-Ezra 10:44

There is the old adage that you can't go home again. When we try to return to our former haunts it is difficult. Perhaps the place has changed--people have moved or died, restaurants and stores are no longer, skylines and favorite places and cherished spots have moved on. Or perhaps it is not the place that has changed but us. Nothing quite like going back to your elementary school to see how little the place really was.

Our reading for today is all about trying to go back and rebuild the Temple. Soon Nehemiah will be coming back as well to rebuild the wall. It isn't as easy a venture as might seem. Even with the blessings of those who had held you captive--providing time, safe passage and supplies--it is not easy to reconstruct what once was. Provided the memory is even reliable.

The people going back aren't the same as the ones who left. They have seen much--it is hard to unsee. They have missed much--missed moments aren't easily recaptured. They have suffered much--and will continue to do so as we shall see.

Some of the good news is that God meets us in the new moment. We don't need to--which is good because we can't--recapture the past. God beckons us into a new and redeemed future. May we know that hope this day.

God, help us to never forget you. Help us address the past with your wisdom and guidance. Help us move into the future with the sure and certain hope that is Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Day 33 of 90 Devotion

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Day thirty-three of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 33 Readings: 2 Chronicles 23:16-35:15

This book of 2 Chronicles lays out in the plainest form how often the people forgot or simply flat out disobeyed God's instructions. All sorts of calamities befell those who by omission or commission did differently when it came to God's desires for pure and holy worship. Lives were ended and great griefs endured when the people strayed from God's path.

But at the end of today's reading the people remember. [again] And promise to do better. [again] And God receives them. They celebrate the Passover which was to have been an annual meal of remembrance that apparently has fallen into great disuse. But God allows them to get up and try again after having fallen the umpteenth time.

It sounds like not everyone may have been properly prepared for the Passover meal. And that not everyone was doing exactly what they should. Nonetheless, God seems to accept the effort of the people to remember.

The worst thing you can do to a relationship is forget. That is why "shunning" (feigning non-recognition, deliberate forgetting) is such a painful punishment in communities that practice such. God wants us to remember. That is why there is Passover. God wants us to remember. That is why there is Communion. God wants us to remember which is why the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, is sent to bring all things to our remembrance.

As we draw near to Pentecost this Sunday let us be stirred to remember God and all God's goodnesses to us. May our remembrances bring God joy.

God, help us to never forget you. Help us never forget the ways you invite us to remember you. Draw our hearts, minds, souls and strengths into your loving embrace. Amen.

Day 32 of 90 Devotion

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Day thirty-two of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 32 Readings: 2 Chronicles 7:10-23:15

Our readings for today continue to detail the kingdoms from the end of Solomon's reign until the beginning of Joash's reign. We continue to see the fickle hearts of those appointed to love God and serve the people. God's hand continues to work among even the unwilling. Terrible struggles and fates fall to some.

Throughout there is a tendency for people to pull away from God's time-tested provision and care and strike out on one's own. The kings act like well-cared for teenagers who declare "I didn't ask to be born into this house, you know! I'll be fine all on my own!" But they never are.

How about us? How many of us have been so richly provided for by our parents and by God. We have had all that we need and much of what we want. The patterns of how to continue in good standing are clearly spelled out. But in some form of adolescent rebellion we decide we want more or different or just to be left alone. To our diminishment God has been known to grant that demand.

But Jesus' story of the prodigal son (which is really much more about a prodigal father aka a prodigal God) shows us God's true heart. God waits on the porch for us to come to our senses and come back home. God still longs to run up the driveway, hold our heads to God's chest and say "Rejoice with me, my child who left has come home!" May we all learn to trust God as if our very life depended on it--which, in fact, it does.

God, help us to come home. Teach us to shun self-reliant pride and lean into your arms of mercy, grace and forgiveness. Amen.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Day 31 of 90 Devotion

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Day thirty-one of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. We have completed 1 Chronicles. (13 down, 53 to go) If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 31 Readings: 1 Chronicles 24:1-2 Chronicles 7:10

We are given the story of David wanting to build the Temple but Solomon being the one to do so. The amazing amounts of resources (people and materials) are detailed in the project. The details of the design and the pageantry of the dedication are provided. God's house is being built. The people gathering to celebrate this new place of God are jubilant.

Solomon rightly realizes that a building--no matter how majestic and how large--is just a building. God cannot be contained by bricks and mortar. Yet, God chooses to be present in this place in a particularly powerful way.

We realize that our homes--no matter how grand or how lacking--are just bricks and mortar. We may own them or we may rent them. Or for some we can't even claim that. Yet, God chooses to be present in our places particularly when we invite God in. There is a marvelous blessing of a home service that is part of our Lutheran tradition. If you have not yet had your home blessed I would invite you to consider doing so. The celebration of God, family, friends with food, prayer and light is profound.

God, help us to invite you into our places. Help our places be ones of fellowship, prayer, worship and peace. Amen.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Day 30 of 90 Devotion

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Day thirty of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. Today marks the 1/3 mark of our journey. Way to go--keep going. If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 30 Readings: 1 Chronicles 10:1-23:32

There is virtually nothing in today's reading that hasn't been communicated recently in other of our readings in the Old Testament. This information is here because it was collected again, so it is thought, for the folks coming back from exile. Just as Deuteronomy (literally "2nd Law") retells the law for the people at the end of the 40-year sojourn in the desert which had already been told in Exodus so too this retelling is the same information for a different crowd.

What stories and good news do we need to tell (and tell again and tell still yet again) to people we know? Perhaps they never heard the stories (as was the case in my own life until I was in college). Perhaps they heard but they forgot. Perhaps they heard but weren't ready to it never took root. Are we ready to tell all who might hear the good news of Jesus and his saving ministry?

Is it possible we might tell the same truths and stories in different forms and approaches to a modern audience? What does that look like? Could it be the Holy Spirit is ready to empower us to do just that?

I think so.

God, help us to hear your good news again and again. Teach us how to share that good news to all who might hear. Thank you for those who have faithfully written, told and secured your stories for us. Amen.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Day 29 of 90 Devotion

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Day twenty-nine of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 29 Readings: 1 Chronicles 1:1-9:44

Today's reading is about the post-exilic people tracing ancestry back through the captivity to family lines with tasks and heritages. Since we don't connect to these family lines this reading is laborious and not so edifying. It is kind of like reading a recipe book in a language you can sound out but not understand. The text has deep meaning and significance but you have to be able to truly enter into it in order to get the intended results. I think for many of us the ability to profoundly move and speak to us had faded from this text

There is embedded in today's reading the so-called "Prayer of Jabez":

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." And God granted his request.

1 Chronicles 4:10, NIV

Some have used this verse to proclaim that God wants to bless us all with real estate, wealth, pain-free living, etc., etc. Jesus said to take up our crosses and follow after him. Crosses have nothing to do with wealth. The only connection between crosses and real estate is you might be able to see the real estate of others that you will never have a little better from your elevated perspective. Crosses are about pain-filled dying. To conflate a "prosperity gospel" with the work and ministry of Jesus is not easy to do. This was a cryptic prayer of an obscure person in the Old Testament. Why we would take this prayer and not, instead, take on the prophet's ability to stop and start rain is beyond me. Truth is we don't get to pick and choose in that fashion what we like and what we will import into our lives. If the emphasis is on us and what we get rather than on others as well and what glory God gets we should be deeply suspect.

God, give us hearts to thank and bless you for the abundant blessings we already have. Stir us to share and help others enjoy blessings as well. Amen.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Day 28 of 90 Devotion

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Day twenty-eight of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. We have finished 2 Kings (12 down, 54 to go) If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 28 Readings: 2 Kings 15:27-25:30

God was so clear that getting kings and trying to be like the nations around them was a bad idea--the Israelites would have none of the divine counsel. Even Samuel was sucked in the outward appearances rather than looking at the heart when he was sent to Jesse's house. Saul worked out very poorly. Many of the kings worked out very poorly. Finally the run of kings in Israel and the divided kingdom has run its course.

Some parents might want to gloat have been vindicated so gloriously. God just grieves for his hurting and sinful children. More times of occupation and enslavement are coming up ahead.

I wonder what God would say to us if we were to hear as clearly as the prophets were able to do? Would we hear and abide in God's word? Would we hear and abide until the world distracts us? Would we hear and abide until turbulent times come our way? Are our hearts so removed that we would hear but couldn't even understand? I think Jesus had a parable to this end. What kinds of soil can God make us to be?

God, you want what is good and healthy and fruitful for us and for all. Give us hearts to hear your word and to abide. Help us not to grieve you by shunning your counsel. Help us to rest in your love. Amen.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Day 27 of 90 Devotion

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Day twenty-seven of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 27 Readings: 2 Kings 4:38-15:26

The start of today's lessons show Elisha performing all sorts of wonders. The variety of wonders is akin to the range of what Jesus does--feeding many with little, curing someone of leprosy, power over the laws of nature, etc., etc. Where Jesus and Elisha are alike in type they are so very different in scope or magnitude: feeding 100 with 20 loaves vs. feeding 5,000 (more like 20,000 with women and children counted) with 5 loaves and 2 fish, curing one leper (although a socially important one) vs. curing 10 lepers (plus others), making iron float vs. making oneself float on top of a sea and at another time calming the turbulent storm.

We don't exactly know the intent or motivation of Elisha doing the things, with God's help, that he did but it certainly served to set the stage for a much greater Jesus who was on the way. God takes the long view.

Once we get past those accounts we are back into the turbulent, sinful, violence-stained kingdoms of the divided kingdom. It seems that there is much heat but no light. In preaching one of the main tasks is to find the good news and lay it out clearly. It is rather difficult in many of these reigns to find anything worthy of hope or emulation. There are a whole lot of lessons by counter-example: if you don't want this to happen to you, don't do what this one did. But that is so much more in keeping with the law than with the gospel.

Lord, help us to live lives that trust you and that others can experience your good news. Help us do better than tragic roadkill to be avoided. Amen.

Day 26 of 90 Devotion

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Day twenty-six of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. We are now into 2 Kings (11 down, 55 to go) If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 26 Readings: 1 Kings 16:21-2 Kings 4:37

One of the classic ways to formulate Jesus' ministry was that of Prophet, Priest and King.

Up to this point in our readings we have seen a fair bit of the priestly office starting with Aaron and the Levites. They tended to the sacrifices for sin offerings and thank offerings. They helped to determine if things were holy or not and give appropriate counsel. The drew near to the Lord on behalf of the people and made intercession.

The two books that our reading for this day straddles are all about the kingly office starting (against God's counsel) with Saul then David then Solomon then fairly quickly it gets pretty diverse and complicated. The king offered some social structure and laws (see Luther's writings on the left hand of the kingdom of God) and means to maintaining order. The worthy king was to have a heart completely for God and a servant love (agape?) for the citizens. Some did this much better than others.

Now we see the prophets really coming to the fore in Elijah and Elisha. They were able to discern and articulate God's will to the people. They stood their ground in the face of strong opposition. Sometimes God intervened on their behalf with powerful and miraculous demonstrations confirming who they were and what they said.

Jesus did all these things but even more so.

As Priest he became the sacrificial offering, the scape goat, the Passover lamb. He was as close to the Father as one could be and he beckons us to join him.

As King he defeated all other false contenders for the throne. He did that with the kind of love we see in John 3:16 (agape)--he did that on the cross. His heart was fully for God.

As Prophet he knew God's will intimately (although he pushed against it at times, see Gethsemane) He stood his ground staring down the cultural, religious and military leaders of the day. God often worked great deeds in him and through him and on his behalf.

One of the functions of these accounts of kingdoms gone poorly, miraculous feedings and lives restored, laws fulfilled, etc., etc. is to set the forms that Jesus will bring to completion. The parallels and the foreshadowings are there for those who have eyes to see.

God, thank you for sticking with us through our wandering and at times, lackluster, walks of faith--as people and as cultures and as individuals. Thank you for Jesus who does what we cannot so we can be with him and you. Amen.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Day 25 of 90 Devotion

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Day twenty-five of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:




Day 25 Readings: 1 Kings 7:38-16:20

Reading today's readings is like watching a campy horror movie. You want to scream at the screen: "Don't go outside by yourself!" or "Leave now, this can't end well." or "Don't turn your back on this one!" But they do what we counsel against. We watch with morbid curiosity and take solace that we would make better choices.

So as we read about this folks who are given all the clues they should ever need (including Solomon who was given more wisdom than everyone ever) and still fail. Perhaps we want to scream at the pages of scripture: "Don't turn your back on God, Solomon!" or "Do what God said to you--make good choices!" or "God told you not to get a king--why didn't you listen?!?" We read with morbid curiosity and take solace that we would make better choices.

Oh really?!?

God, if nothing else, the people and royalty of Israel and the two strands of the divided kingdom reminds us of our propensity to stumble and fall. When, not if, we fall we need your mercy, grace and strength. Thank you that your desire and heart, as demonstrated in Jesus, is reconciliation, new chances and repentance. Help us trust in your sure and certain mercy. Amen.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Day 24 of 90 Devotion

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Day twenty-four of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. We're done with 2 Samuel now--10 down, 56 to go. If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:




Day 24 Readings: 2 Samuel 22:20-1 Kings 7:37

Today David's reign as king comes to a close. Solomon rises to the fore.

It is interesting that David claims to have never sinned against God. In Psalm 51 (May 24th's reading), while David was responding to Nathan's confrontation of David over Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite, he claims to only have sinned against God, no others. Uriah, Bathsheba and baby X, among others, might say differently were they to be candidly honest. Looking back over David's life there certainly were sins and transgressions. David seems to remember his own sins less clearly than those against him.

Solomon is instructed by David to exact revenge on certain individuals. It would seem that this would make David complicit in their demises as well.

Solomon is made wiser than any that preceded him and any that will follow yet he, too, chose self-serving ways that grieved God. More of that in the days to come.

Even our grandest heros of the faith are flawed and deserving of consequences from God. We are saved, just as they were, by the grace and mercy of a loving God.

God, give us eyes to see ourselves honestly. Give us eyes to see those who have wronged us mercifully. Help us lean into your grace and mercy and bring as many others along as will come. Amen.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Day 23 of 90 Devotion

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Day twenty-three of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 23 Readings: 2 Samuel 12:11-22-19

David and his family (as well as the families of many others) suffer as a result of his choices and his desires.

Uriah is killed and Bathsheba is widowed as David longs for his faithful soldier's wife. The child conceived in the illicit affair dies and brings deep grief to the parents. Amnon, perhaps learning from his father, forces himself on Tamar the sister of his brother Absalom. He violates her then despises her then casts her out. Absalom's men strike down Amnon. Absalom challenges David for the throne and by the time it is all over Absalom is hanging from a tree and run through with spears. David has lost 3 children thus far. When the Gibeonites are avenged for their treatment at the hands of Saul and his men 7 of Saul's male descendants are slaughtered and left exposed. Lust begets lust. Violence begets violence. Blood begets blood. Grief begets grief.

David, personally, remains mostly unscathed throughout this ordeal. Sometimes it is more painful to watch our loved ones experience the consequences of our failures than to suffer those consequences ourselves.Destroyed relationships, maimed victimes and broken communities can be the cost of our choices and desires unchecked.

In the midst of all this God is still at work. Solomon has been born (the one who will build God's Temple). God has not left the people but neither has God sheltered the people entirely from the consequences of their sin.

God, teach us, direct us and help us not to sin--not only for our own sakes but for those who might otherwise suffer because of us. We thank you for Jesus who suffered because of us. He came to restore relationship, heal victims and cultivate community. Help us receive those gifts that came at so high a cost. Grace is costly. Amen.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Day 22 of 90 Devotion

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Day twenty-two of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible.

If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 22 Readings: 1 Samuel 28:20-2 Samuel 12:10

David has patiently and faithfully waited for Saul to meet his end. David has passed on several opportunities to dispatch Saul but has instead chosen to honor the Lord’s anointed and forgo taking things into his own hands.

God has richly blessed David giving him victory, expanded territory and deep and lasting promises to his family (which came to pass in Jesus).

Yet David wasn’t satisfied (rich as he was) with all God had given him. David chose to exploit a poor neighbor by having him killed and taking his prized lamb. This comes to light as Nathan confronts David over his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba and his unjust killing of Uriah.

David’s high morals and restraint have definitely gone off-line for this event.

Nathan confronts David with “You are the man!” Such a far cry from Pilate declaring “Ecce Homo!” (Latin for “Behold the man!”) when presenting Christ before crucifixion. David fell hard. But Psalm 51 has a repentant David crying out to God. Jesus fell hard too—not morally but for our sake. He was struck down. Because of Jesus we have hope when we flame out gloriously as well.

God has made good promises to us, as to David, in Christ. Whether we abide in God every day or fall God’s promises hold true. There is always hope in Christ. This is the good news.

Protect us from ourselves and our selfish and sinful dalliances. No matter where we find ourselves help us to know we are never too far from Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Day 21 of 90 Devotion

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Day twenty-one of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible.

If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 21 Readings: 1 Samuel 16:1-28:19

Our readings for today give us the information needed for answering the essay topic "Compare and contrast Saul and David." The difference is in their hearts.

We get strong suggestions as to where to look early in the reading: "Do not consider his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (16:7, NIV)

We are animal in nature. We make quick (and sometimes survival-necessary) judgments with our eyes. We look at what is before and make fast judgments (sometimes unduly hasty). This is complicated by the fact that media and persistent sin have so distorted what is good, right, desirable and healthy. We would do well to learn to not trust our own insights without seeking the counsel of those who are wiser and more perceptive.

Prayer is the ultimate form of seeking counsel from one so much more wiser and perceptive than we could ever hope to be. Our readings our full of examples of people seeking advice and counsel--from seeking God and God's spokespeople to asking friends and family to even the not-so-advisable seeking advice from a dead prophet which violates even your own royal edict.

God knows us. God knows our hearts. God knows others. God knows their hearts too. God came into the world to save all who would be saved since God knows our hearts all too well. God's heart is love. Jesus showed us God's heart. God looked at Jesus' heart and said "Behold, my beloved, with him I am well pleased. Listen to him."

Change our hearts, O God. Make them ever new. Change our hearts, O God. May we be like you. Amen.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Day 20 of 90 Devotion

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Day twenty of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible.

If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 20 Readings: 1 Samuel 2:30-15:35

Trivia bit: In 1 Samuel 3:20 is the formulation “from Dan to Beersheba”. (see This is one of those phrase like “from A to Z” or “from Alpha to Omega” or “from stem to stern” or “from soup to nuts” or “from soda to hock”. It refers to an entire expanse of something. All of Israel (from Dan to Beersheba) realized the hand of the Lord on Samuel as prophet.

What we have in today’s reading is the rise and the beginning of the fall of Saul the first king of Israel. God wanted to be as king to the people but they insisted on having a king just like the countries around them. Shunning God’s counsel and going their own way pierced them with many wounds. Beyond the initial rejection of God’s counsel the Israelites had several notable moments of not following the entire expanse of God’s instructions. Rather than be wholly obedient to God they chose to go from Dan to Jerusalem. How like the Israelites are we? We want to follow to a point. We will abide God’s counsel until we won’t. We would rather look a little more like the world and little less like God’s holy and chosen people.

Sometimes it is not so clear what God might have us do and perhaps that is why we drag our feet and misstep. Other times, however, we know fully well what God is calling us to do but our stubborn and rebellious hearts choose differently. As the great preacher Peter Marshall once said “Most of us know perfectly well what we ought to do; our trouble is that we do not want to do it.”

God, continue to show us your will. Give us ears to listen to, hearts to abide in and spines to take a stand for your callings. Help us allow you to have the entire expanse of our lives. Amen.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Day 19 of 90 Devotion

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Day nineteen of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. We have finished Judges and Ruth (8 down, 58 to go).

If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 19 Readings: Judges 15:13-1 Samuel 2:29

Today’s texts are some of those that we find hard to wrap our heads around:

• What was Samson thinking telling Delilah where the power of his strength was to be found after 3 failed attempts to subdue him?!? He might be strong but not so sharp.
• 300 foxes tied tail-to-tail to torch the crops?!? 1,000 taken out with a single donkey jawbone?!?
• Offering your daughter and a concubine to a rape-thirsty crowd to protect a sojourner?!? Actually throwing out the concubine to the crowd?!?
• Sending 12 pieces of the savaged concubine to the 12 tribes of Israel?!?

These accounts seem fantastic in scope and loathsome and lurid. Why would God intervene on Isaac’s behalf and spare him but not assist the concubine? There was a similar story set in Sodom and Gomorrah where Lot was going to throw his daughters out to a rape-thirsty crowd and God intervened. Where is God here?

Some of these stories are hard to engage. It is no wonder that they are left on the cutting room floor when the lectionary (our regular reading cycle of lessons) is being laid out. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all scripture is God-breathed useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking and training. These are some of the scriptures that are harder to find that truth to be so.

In the midst of all these hard stories there is a deep and heartwarming story. The story of Ruth—Jesus’ ancestor. Ruth shows persistence, loyalty and faithfulness. She chooses the better way rather than the easy way. Because of how she carried herself Naomi found comfort and the incarnate Jesus came into being. May we all find ways to comfort those around us (victims of horrific atrocities and those just needing some love) and allow Jesus to come more fully into being through our words and actions.

God, some of your scripture is hard. Some of it is downright incredible. Yet, ever so clear, is the call for us to love you with all our hearts, souls, strengths and minds and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We know the kinds of answer you give when we ask "Who is our neighbor?" Give us courage and grace to love them this day. Amen.

Day 18 of 90 Devotion

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Day eighteen of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible.

If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 18 Readings: Judges 3:23-15:12

Our Judges text begins and ends with a very similar story. In Judges 6 it happens with Gideon. In Judges it happens with Monoah and his wife, Samson's parents. An angel shows up. A young goat with grain is offered. The goat and the grain are consumed by fire coming out of a rock. The witnesses realize they are in the presence of an angel of the Lord. They are terrified but then assured. Promises of God's plans are spoken.

Wouldn't it be nice if God came to us so clearly and so concisely when our lives are at turning points and junctions. With clear words and convincing proofs we could know just where God wants us to go and just what God wants us to do.

But God doesn't seem to come to people like that much anymore.

God came clearly in Jesus and taught us much and gave to us the Holy Spirit but at times we must act and respond in faith. Sometimes we wander far and pierce ourselves with griefs (and God too, I'm sure). But even in our furthest wanderings God cares for us and will receive us back. This is one of the most clearest themes of Judges and really of much of the Bible.

God help us trust not in miraculous signs and visons but rather in your sure and unfailing love which has been best expressed in Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Day 17 of 90 Devotion

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Day seventeen of our cover to cover voyage through the Bible. We complete Joshua (6 down, 60 to go) and begin Judges.

If you want to see the readings for our trip through the Bible you can follow this link:



Day 17 Readings: Joshua 15:1-Judges 3:27

It seems that the point of today's reading (and, in fact, much of scripture) is that God will deliver on the promises God has made. The people who survived the trip and the various rebellions are now being brought into the Promised Land and given tribal regions. God has done what God had said. By the time we are done with Joshua the peoples are more or less settled into the lands--as promised.

The other point and part of the relationship is that people, with best intentions or not so much so, do not keep up their end of the covenant. There is instruction to wipe out pre-existing people groups which happens to varying degrees. There is instruction to abide by God's laws and requirements which happens to varying degrees. There is instruction to live as holy and set apart people, as God's people, which happens to varying degrees.

Perhaps this mirrors our own lives. God makes promises. God has delivered on those promises through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. God has done what God has said (although often not in the way that we heard nor expected). We are more or less settled into the places God has promised for us.

How are we doing with our end of the covenant? Are we loving God with all our hearts, souls, strengths and minds? Are we loving our ourselves? Are we loving our neighbors as ourselves?

As we read about how our spiritual ancestors struggled to live into the promises of God perhaps we can look at them through a sympathetic lens and at ourselves through an honest mirror. We aren't so very different.

God, help us know the goodness and truth of promises from you delivered through Jesus. Change our hearts, souls, minds and strengths that we might abide more faithfully in your covenant. Amen.