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Read Genesis 16
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.” (Psalms 37:5)
When I was in High School, I remember that we used to have to do all sorts of different “team building” activities in gym. The idea was to teach the students how to work as a team, how to rely on each other as teammates and, most importantly, to learn to trust one another. If a team does not act as a single unit, it will fall apart into a fragmented mess.
One of the activities that our gym teachers would have us do involved a great deal of trust. They would blindfold some of the students and have them stand with their backs facing other students. In turn, the students were told to lean back and let themselves fall back into the arms of the people standing behind them.
I remember when it was my turn to be blindfolded. I remember how paralyzed I was for fear that the other person wouldn’t catch me. The last thing I wanted to do was to fall flat down on the ground, making a fool of myself in front of all my peers. It was hard, extremely hard, letting myself go in order to fall back into the arms of the person behind me. Eventually, I did let go, was caught in mid-air, and was relieved when my turn was over. With that said, I cannot say that I felt any more trust, nor was I looking forward to do that again.
We, as human beings, have a particularly hard time putting our trust in other people. And this is never any more evident than it is in the church. Too many times we find infighting, bickering, dissention, and all sorts of conflict rise over the issue of trust. But the trust issue doesn’t stop there. Though we attend church, we sing hymns, we praise God, and we pray to God, we ultimately find ourselves lacking in trust when it comes to God.
Though we say that we put our faith and trust in God, we often find ourselves acting in a way that would state otherwise. Though we say that we trust God to guide us through our situations, we find ourselves trying to do things our way, just like when Abraham figured he would have to sleep with his servant in order for God’s promise to come true. Instead of fully placing our trust in God, we pull back our trust in order to “take control” of things.
It is in those moments that we find ourselves in situations we could have otherwise avoided had we only placed our trust in God to guide us through. As the church, as Christians, we are called to be a people of faith and of trust. We are called to trust in God and we are called to trust in each other. If we do not stand together, and place our trust in one another, then what good news are we really displaying to the rest of the community? If we are lost in our own brokenness how can we ever witness to the hope, healing and wholeness that Christ has to offer?
The challenge today is for us, as Christians, to begin to reestablish our trust in God. It is time to let go and fall back into God’s arms. We need to trust that God will not let us fall and, so long as we love God and are called according to God’s purpose (Romans 8:28), God will do mighty things in us, through us and even in spite of us. But how can we place our trust in God if we cannot even put our trust in those who are trying to serve God alongside of us? God desires all of us to be a people of trust. Place your trust in God and let God lead you from where you are to where God is calling you to be.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Let the love of God lighten your life, let his kindness mold you into his presence, let him be your guide as you travel the road of life.” – Unknown
Lord, today I place my trust in you. Lead me in a way that deepens my trust in you and in your people. Amen.
Read Psalm 18:2-6
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Walk about Zion, go all around it, count its towers, consider well its ramparts; go through its citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will be our guide forever.” (Psalm 48:12-14)
I just recently watched a movie called “The Dead Matter” and, as you can probably guess by the title, it was a horror film about vampires trying to use some magical relic to raise the dead in order to use them as an army to…I can only guess…take over the world. Okay, so the plot wasn’t anything earth shattering but there was something about the film that struck me as being all too familiar to the human experience.
Gretchen, who is the main human character in the movie, accidentally stumbles upon the relic. She also happens to be a grieving sister who had recently lost her brother in a car accident. She wanted nothing more than to see her brother again. She missed him terribly and just could not let him go. As mentioned earlier, this relic has the power to bring the dead to life and, upon discovering that power, Gretchen seeks to bring back her brother.
Of course, that plan does not work out the way that Gretchen had hoped it would. Rather than bringing her brother back, everyone and their mother starts to come back to life. You can only imagine what kind of nightmare that would be. And even if she did bring her brother back from the dead, would he really still be her brother? I think we all can agree that whatever came back to bite her (pun completely intended), it would not be her brother.
While Gretchen was dealing with the loss of her brother, the fact of the matter is that, regardless of what kind we are dealing with, we often have a hard time dealing with loss. Whether it be our relationships, our careers, our sense of control, our comfort, or our way of doing things, there can be little doubt that we spend a great deal of our time trying to avoid letting go. Some people will resist any kind of change for fear of the loss that will come as a result of it. Indeed, it is hard for us to deal with loss.
Jesus was no stranger to loss. He lost his identity as a carpenter. He lost the comfort of his own home. He lost the trust of his family (who all thought he was crazy). He lost the chance of leading a “normal” life. He lost many of his followers when they realized their lives were on the line; and, in the end, Jesus lost his own life. Yet, Jesus let all of that go because he realized that regardless of the loss, he would never lose the hope of God’s presence.
Remember that you, too, are being called to let go of the things that are holding you back from living the life God has called you to live. Let go of your anxiety, let go of your fear, let go of your resistance to change, let go of your need for control, let go of your grudges, let go of it all. The more you let go, the more you realize that God never lets you go. Today’s challenge is for you to let go and let God’s presence fill you with hope, healing and wholeness.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Abundance is a process of letting go; that which is empty can receive.
Lord, teach me to let go and to put my trust completely in you. Amen.
Read Psalm 22
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me. Your rod and Your staff protect and comfort me.” (Psalms 23:4, NLT)
While riding down to the Farm Market to get myself some fresh produce, I was listening to the album, “Fallen”, but Evanescence. For those who don’t know, Evanesence is a hard rock band that was formed in 1995 but had their big break in 2003, when “Fallen” was released. The band is headed up by the hauntingly beautiful and beautifully talented Amy Lee. She is not just beautiful in terms of her physical appearance, but her voice is amazing and there is a depth to it that allows one to peer into her soul.
One of my favorite songs on the album, which also happens to be a cover of song written by a Christian band, is the song Tourniquet. In it, Amy Lee agonizingly sings the following lyrics: “I tried to kill my pain but only brought more so much more. I lay dying and I’m pouring crimson regret and betrayal. I’m dying, praying, bleeding and screaming am I too lost to be saved? Am I too lost? My God my tourniquet return to me salvation! My God my tourniquet return to me salvation!”
The lyrics are dark and the music is haunting and driven with urgency. When one listens to this song, they cannot help but feel the despair of the person who wrote them. can you imagine what it must be like to be at the end of your rope, trying to hold on to life and yet feeling like your about to lose everything? Can you imagine the pain of lingering on depressed and desperate with nothing but the agonizing feeling of being all alone? Perhaps you can.
I have often said that the one fear that ties us altogether is the fear of being alone. Human beings are social creatures who are designed to be in relationship with other humans. We need relationships to survive and this is a need that we have from the moment we are born. A baby born into a world that fails to provide it with human interaction cannot survive. It will die. And so it makes sense, and the Bible certainly picks up on it, that we humans desire to be in the presence of others and will do anything to keep from being truly alone.
With all of that said, there is also profound hope in the song. “My God, my tourniquet, return to me salvation!” This simple and yet profoundly deep sentence almost sounds like it comes straight out of the Psalms. This sentence reminds us that, no matter how lost we feel, no how matter how dark it gets, no matter how desperate we become, we are NEVER ALONE. God is always with us and we are always in God’s presence. Just like the Psalmist who goes from “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me” (Psalm 22:1, NLT) to “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me” (Psalm 23:4, NLT), so to the writer of this song goes from the agonizing over being alone to crying out to a God who is very much with him/her.
And so it is true in our lives as well. When you think you are alone, when you think that God has abandoned you, when you think there is nowhere left for you to turn, when you think that life is not worth living, and/ or your think that there is no hope left for you, remember this song, remember the worlds, “My God, my tourniquet, return to me salvation.” Remember the God who is with you, who HAS saved you from trials and tribulations in the past, and WILL pull you out of the midst of your despair when ever you call out for help! YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Security is not the absence of danger, but the presence of God, no matter what the danger.” – Anonymous
Lord, I acknowledge your presence with me and hand all that is burdening me over to you. I trust that you will take care of me. Amen.
Read Psalm 23
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“David said further to his son Solomon, “Be strong and of good courage, and act. Do not be afraid or dismayed; for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.” (1 Chronicles 28:20)
When you stop and think about it, life can be an extremely crazy ride. Which one of us can look back on our lives and say that we lived everyday perfectly? Which one of us can claim to have nothing but mountaintop experiences all the way through life? My guess, is that there isn’t a single person alive who could claim such things.
Today I was reading the 23rd Psalm, which is traditionally held to be written by King David. Upon reading the Psalm, I began to reflect on the life story of David. He started off as a “ruddy-faced”, handsome shepherd boy (1 Samuel 17:42). Small and insignificant, his ruddiness was all he had going for him. But that ruddy-faced boy is the same boy that Samuel anointed to be King of Israel, the same boy who knew how to defend his sheep against wolves and bear, the same boy who slew the Philistine giant, Goliath with a single stone launched from his sling.
This ruddy-faced boy grew into a great warrior and, no matter which way you paint David’s story, that means he killed lots and lots of people. David did not live a perfect life. He was known for being ruthless and he sought battle against the Philistines in which he circumcised their dead corpses after the battle. He was known for being a politically savvy manipulator…one who would have no qualms about silencing his opponents. He was a womanizer and an adulterer, who scandalously had an affair with Bathsheba and made their love-child, Solomon, the heir of his throne. He even had her husband murdered in order to keep him from finding out about the affair.
In David, we see a person who lived life imperfectly. He had his good moments and his not-so-good moments; and that is what makes him such a powerful character for us when we read about him in the Bible. One gets the sense that David is for real…and we can relate to him on so many different levels. While many of us will never be a King, or have someone murdered, we can certainly relate to David’s propensity toward imperfection. Each of us, like David, have our good moments and our not-so-good moments. We have all shared in mountaintop experiences where nothing seems to be able to bring us down. But we have also shared in the long, lonely and desperate walk through the valley of the shadow of death, where the weight of the world seems to be crushing the very breath of life out of us.
While scholars may argue back and forth as to whether or not David actually wrote the 23rd Psalm, it certainly speaks to the kind of faith that he had in God. It speaks of a life that was not perfect, a life that was filled with twists and turns, pastures and barren wilderness, mountaintops and valleys. It speaks of the constant danger of enemies, and yet the eternal, calming, loving, reassuring presence of God. The 23rd Psalm was a poem, as song, from the depths of the soul of a person who knew that no matter what happened, no matter things were right or wrong, God was always there to be a guiding, loving, caring presence. Let the 23rd Psalm remind us of the the same thing: that God is with us always. God will never leave us nor forsake us nor fail us. God will be with us always, even to the very end of the age.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
It’s as if God is singing to us, “There ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no river wide enough to keep me from getting to you.”
Lord, help me to recognize your presence no matter where I am. You are my shepherd, I shall not want. Amen.
Read 2 Samuel 11; Psalm 51; Matthew 6:14-15
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Then Peter came to Him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! “ (Matthew 18:21-22)
Have you heard the tale of King David? When I mention his name, images of a ruddy-faced shepherd boy might come to mind. Perhaps, you are seeing a sling-shot and a stone in the hands of a puny boy facing a monstrous giant named Goliath? Or perhaps you see the rising star of a man, named David, who quickly climbed the political ranks in Saul’s military. Perhaps you see David being chased down by an envious King who was desperately trying to hold on to the power that was never his to begin with.
But, when the name David is mentioned, do you think of the man who slept with another man’s wife and got her pregnant? Do you think of a man who had her husband sent to the front lines in a battle to be killed so that her husband would not know of the affair? Do you think of a King who has gained so much power that he forgets the very God who gave it to him? When we read Psalm 51 and reflect on the lamenting of its author, it is hard to not think of David when he finally realizes that he was not powerful enough to hide his sins from God.
Whether or not Psalm 51 was actually written by David or not is beside the point. The fact of the matter is that the Psalmist, whoever he or she was, was certainly feeling desperately in need of God’s forgiveness. It is fitting that this Psalm gets traditionally attributed to David, in light of the great and scandalous sin that David committed. It is a Psalm that we all can relate to, as we have all found ourselves getting caught in the act of doing something we should not be doing. We have all found ourselves on our knees, at some point or another, begging God to forgive us.
Seeking forgiveness is a part of the Christian journey. John the Baptist preached the message of repentance…as did Jesus…as did the apostles and all of the Christians since then. But for Jesus, seeking forgiveness was not enough. Anyone, given the right circumstances, can be pushed to do that; however, Jesus taught that it was equally important for us to be forgiving of others. “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).
Now, most of us recognize that it is important to forgive others. It may be hard, and we may not want to forgive everyone, but we know that forgiveness is something God would want us to do. Yet, when we speak of forgiveness, we often only think of others. After all, we are to forgive others, right? What we don’t realize is that God not only wants us to forgive “others”, but God also wants us to forgive ourselves. In fact, if we don’t forgive ourselves, how can we ever be in a place to forgive others?
We can beg God for forgiveness all day long; however, if we are unwilling to accept God’s forgiveness, then we will never receive it. The fact of the matter is that God has already forgiven us and is waiting for us to move beyond the ashes of Lent and lamentation into the warm and bright light of Easter. Whether we are as powerful as King David or as humble and meek as a peasant child born in a stable, God is calling us to be a people of the resurrection…a people who have been forgiven, who forgive themselves, and who extend that forgiveness to others. Such people embody God’s hope, healing and wholeness!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” ― Dalai Lama XIV
Lord, teach me the discipline of forgiveness…first for myself and then for others who have wronged me. Let my willingness to forgive bear witness to you! Amen.
Read Ephesians 5:15-20
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” (Psalms 90:10, NRSV)
Have you ever watched the old TV show called the Twilight Zone? There was one episode starring Burgess Meredith about a man named Henry Bemis who loved nothing more than a good book, or a compelling news story, or a tabloid magazine. Henry loved to read and it didn’t matter if it was poetry, a classic novel, a newspaper article or even the button on someone’s shirt, Henry loved reading. The only problem was that he just didn’t have enough time in a day to do all the reading he wanted to do. He had to work and could only find a little time to read on his lunch break. When he was at home, his wife demanded that he spend time with her, which included going over her friends houses. There just wasn’t enough time.
One day, while on lunch break, Henry went into the bank vault at work to read. He closed the door behind him and sat down to read a book. Somewhere during his time in that vault, an atom bomb was dropped and the world as Henry knew it was literally blasted away. When Henry emerged from the vault, there was nothing left but rubble. Everyone he knew, everyone in general, was dead. It took him a while to come to terms with the fact that he was all alone, but when he stumbled upon a ruined library, and plethora of books, he realized he had all the time in the world to read. He was elated about this until he accidentally knocked his glasses off of his head and broke them. Staring through blurry eyes he cried out, “That’s not fair…that’s not fair at all. There was time now, there was all the time I needed. It’s not fair…It’s not fair.”
Many people, myself included, go about their days and get lost in the business of their lives. In fact, is it not true that the very source of our income, the very source of our “end’s meat” is business (aka BUSY-NESS)? And then, when we are home, we busy ourselves with other things as well. Whether it is driving our kids around from place to place, fixing stuff up around the house, scheduling ourselves around our favorite reality shows, or whatever else it is that we do, it is no wonder that at the end of the day we simply say that there is not enough time!
But is that true? Do we truly not have enough time? Has God truly dealt us an existence that lacks in time? Or is it that we find ourselves wasting the time that we have? Are we good stewards of the time that we have been given? While there is not doubt that it is important to spend time with family, and it is important to work, and it is important to have some leisure time as well, it is also important to manage the time we have and to make the most of it. We are called to be good stewards of our time as much as we are called to be good stewards of anything else.
What God is calling us to do is to live out our time here on earth with purpose. To waste time is to waste the purpose God is calling us to live out. The fact is, as Henry Bemis discovered, there is a difference between all the time we want versus all the time that we need. God has given us all the time we need and is asking us to use it wisely. We never know when our time is up and there isn’t a moment to lose in seeking and living out the purpose God has given us. We don’t want to end up like Henry Bemis staring down at a broken clock and lamenting over the time we could’ve had, even as he was facing all the time in the world he could ever want. The time to live with purpose is now.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it.” – Charles Buxton
Lord, help me to become a better steward of my time by guiding me toward the purpose with which you would like me to spend it. Amen.