Thursday, January 18, 2018

the good and the bad

Yayyyy, I've got recordings for you! CLICK HERE to listen to the OT reading and CLICK HERE for the NT. CLICK HERE if you've gotten attached to that other guy while I was gone.

Today we read the phrase, "I said to the Lord, 'You are my master! Every good thing I have comes from You!'" And the verse in the picture above agrees. All of the good things in our lives come from God. So when you see something good in your life, don't forget to thank Him for it.

But we also read a story that helps us understand things that DON'T seem so great in our lives. Joseph is sold into slavery by his own brothers! After they first conspired to kill him! That, on first glance, does NOT seem to be a good thing. If I was Joseph in this story, I would not be thinking, "This is a good thing that I should thank God for!" But.... we see that God DOES work this for good. Not just for Joseph, but even for the brothers who plotted against him. So even when things seem very dark in your lives - even when people hurt you, out of selfishness and hatred and fear and pride - seek His face. He will work it for your good.

He's the master at that.

God, thank You for being the author of everything good in our lives - and for working the bad into good as well.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

wisdom from a jedi

I'm still coughing. So one more day. Tomorrow I'll have a recording for you. Until then, you can listen HERE.

Today we hear from Jacob, who tells his relatives "God has been with me everywhere I've gone." And that's a take home lesson right there.

It brings to mind an important lesson that you can receive from the new Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi. There is some nonsense in that movie about burning old texts "that weren't page turners" anyway, and which Luke had apparently not even read. And he wondered why he missed out on some Jedi wisdom?

But there IS a deep truth given in one of the scenes that relates to today's reading. Luke is telling Rey about the Force. And he says that the Jedis don't control it. They don't own it. It is foolishness and stupid pride to think they're the only ones who have access to the Force.

And that's true about God. Throughout history, many people, and groups of people, have thought they had a corner on God. They thought THEY knew who God was, and everyone who wanted to talk to Him had to go through them. But not so.

When we talk to people about God, we have to realize that God is already part of their lives. God is at work everywhere, with everyone. When you talk to someone about Him, you're just joining in the work that He's been doing in their lives since the beginning. And, it's good to remember, they're joining in the work that He's doing in YOU since the beginning, too. None of us have a corner on Him. We don't own Him. He's been here since the beginning, and He'll be here long after the end of time.

God, thanks for teaching us wisdom... even through Luke Skywalker.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

what did you expect?

One more day, and I should be able to start recording again. I'm almost there. CLICK HERE to listen to today's readings.

In today's gospel, we hear Jesus telling us about John the Baptist. And He keeps asking, "What did you expect to see?" People kept going out to see John the Baptist, and were confused because he didn't match any of their expectations. But that was the problem. They went with preconceived notions... and he was something altogether new.

People have been making that mistake throughout all of history. We keep going to God with our preconceived notions and our expectations of what He should do for us. Give us good paying jobs and make our family healthy and give us a nice car or two and a nice house. That's not too much to ask, is it? So why hasn't He done it already? Doesn't He owe us that?

Well, no. He doesn't. In fact, He has something else entirely in mind for us. It might INCLUDE those things. But He wants a bigger plan for our lives. He wants to make us into saints, and get us ready for eternity. Sometimes that means some suffering. It might mean some poverty. Maybe dealing with some illness. The fact is that we learn a whole lot more about being holy when we are struggling than when we have everything together, don't we?

So when you come to Jesus today, when you seek His face in prayer, lay aside your expectations. And get ready for Him to teach you what really matters. What will make you the person you need to be. What will make you a saint.

God, thanks for always being bigger than our expectations.

Monday, January 15, 2018

the sides of judgment

I'm in the middle of my cold, friends. My voice is pretty messed up. I'm sorry for the delay. CLICK HERE to listen to someone else do the reading for today.

But today is an interesting reading from the OT. Jacob confronts Laban. He had stolen away in the night, afraid of how Laban would react if he told him he was leaving. And he was right to be concerned - Laban would have attacked him if God had not warned Laban in a dream not to hurt Jacob.

It brings to mind the judgment that we will all face one day. When all of our actions, and others actions to us, will be laid bare. When we will see God's justice for wrongs done. There will be a great vindication of all those who suffered from people who treated them badly.

And we're tempted to think, "Good! Finally! The wrongs I've suffered will be brought to justice, and everyone will see what others did to wrong me." And that's true. But don't forget... there are times when we wrong others, too. And those wrongs will also be addressed.

That gives us motivation, doesn't it? I know that when I think of that great reckoning, it makes me want to be a better person. To treat others more kindly in the here and now, so that when the great judgment comes, there will be less that I'll be guilty of.

God, please help us to live our lives in such a way that we'll be glad to see Your justice done.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

building on rock or sand

Well, I'm still dealing with symptoms of my cold, so CLICK HERE to listen to someone else read today's selection from the One Year Bible.

What's interesting from today's reading is how we see a whole different way of looking at the world in the OT reading. Jacob has been promised many children - and he sees this as a great blessing. His wife and many other servants in his life also see this as a great blessing - and they're jealous of one another in their ability to have more children. They all plot and scheme to produce as many children as possible. And through all of this plotting, after several different women sleep with Jacob and have his babies, all of these children become the founders of the twelve tribes of Israel. Kind of an ignominious beginning.

But the interesting thing is to see how much things have changed between then and now. In those days, and even 75 years ago in THIS country, children were seen as a great blessing. They lightened the work load. They helped raise the children who came after them. They brought great joy to their large families. And most studies today show that the happiest people on earth are those who have many relationships, especially in large, stable families.

However, in today's society we have all bought into the belief that small families are better. That not having children at ALL is the best way to go, so you can spend all of your money enjoying life and leisure rather than spending all your time and money on children. We have come to believe that children, rather than being a great source of joy and resources, are expensive. That they cost us more and more money, the more of them that we have. Especially when it comes to the "mandatory" college education that all of them require, and which parents are expected to pay for.

That's quite a shift, isn't it? Really in ONE generation, we've gone from seeing children as great blessings, to seeing them as a burden. And we have also bought the idea that the earth is being overpopulated and we must decrease the number of children we have or we won't be able to feed them all.

Now, it is of course important to be wise in how we are fruitful and multiply. And it certainly is the case that our society has increasingly made having children more and more expensive, from the hospital costs when they're born until the time they graduate from college.

But I think it's important that we return to the truth of what God taught our ancestors - that children are a blessing from Him. Maybe we need to find inexpensive ways of taking care of our kids, rather than buying into the ubiquitous consumer mentality that makes children seem like a financial strain. Maybe we should learn how large families can work together to take care of the needs of the little ones and the older ones at the same time, rather than leaving people to fend for themselves.

It's not an easy change. Our society has done a great job teaching us the opposite. But we are still choosing to build our society on either rock or sand. And I think we can look back over the course of human history and see which is which.

God, give us wisdom in how we plan our families, and help us to see children as the blessing that You teach us they are.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

when God prevents us

Well, I'm still under the weather, which is frustrating. If you would like to listen to someone who isn't sick reading today's selection from the One Year Bible, CLICK HERE.

But frustration brings us to today's theme. We read of Isaac telling Jacob not to marry any of the local women, but to wait for the one which God would provide for him. And I'm sure that led to frustration. It's so much easier to find the local girl and marry her. It's so much easier to settle for what is here and now and easy to grasp, rather than wait for the much better option... that requires patience.

And that's really what most sin comes down to, isn't it? God wants to give us all good things. But we get impatient, and grab things too soon... often ruining them. Waiting for the right answer at the right time is difficult, and requires patience. It means realizing that frustration will be our companion at times. And it requires trust in God... that He will reward our patience and our frustration with an answer worth waiting for.

God - thank You for providing us with all good things. Please help us wait for the right time.

Jesus proves it

I'm sorry but I'm afraid I'm dealing with round two of being under the weather. I'm hoping that Vitamin C and rest will get me over this quickly. But I'm feeling too sick to record. I hope to get caught up tomorrow.

In the meantime, we read about Jesus proving something today. That might sound odd. I mean, God wants us to have faith, right? Isn't it kind of contrary to the idea of faith to prove something is true? Hebrews defines faith as confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see. That seems to be the opposite of proof, right?

But God knows we're human, and what that means. He knows that our little mustard seeds need some water and sunlight to grow. And so He gives us signs and wonders.

In today's gospel, He forgives a man's sins. The religious leaders accuse Him of blasphemy (which is funny in retrospect... how can God blaspheme?) and say that only God can forgive sins. So Jesus says, "OK, I'll prove it to you. I'll cure his illness, showing you that I also have the authority to forgive sins." And of course, He then does just that.

What are you struggling to believe today? What promises of His do you have a hard time accepting? What aspect of His love is still finding its way into your heart?

Ask Him to help you out. To give you a little assistance, so your faith can grow. He wants your faith to grow. Ask - and then wait and see what He does.

God, thank You for helping our little seeds to grow.