Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Divine Shepherd

Like a shepherd, lead us.  

Psalm 23. NRSV

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2  He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
    for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff—
    they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    my whole life long.

The daily readings in the Revised Common Lectionary include a reading from the Old Testament, the New Testament and a Psalm. It is the same psalm all week, the same psalm that is assigned for Sunday.  So I have been reading the 23rd Psalm all week.  When I realized some time back that this would be the psalm for Sunday, May 3 I asked Jordan if the vocalists of the Quarantine Qrew (their name for themselves) would be willing to sing it during worship.  So you may look forward to hearing it performed beautifully during our worship on Facebook Live Sunday morning.

Reading this psalm every day all week has been both a blessing and a challenge.  I hear the assurance and hope, but I also know that this is the psalm most often selected as a funeral reading, and that saddens me, as we cannot gather to mourn our loved ones who pass during these days of quarantine.  Part of mourning is sharing in community; our pain, our love of the departed, our stories, our hope for the future.  We share food and hugs and tears.  We cannot come face to face to do any of those things right now.  We mourn that fact - the fact that we are restricted from doing all of the things we are accustomed to doing, from seeing the people we are used to seeing, to going the places we are accustomed to going.  And again, we must mourn alone.  It is painful and difficult, especially as we do not know how long this will go on.

So I come back to the hope and comfort of David’s words.  When the nighttime fears come, I know God is with me.  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I know God is with me.  I know God is my Shepherd, the one who guides me through good times and bad.  I am restored and comforted , my cup overflows with gratitude and hope.  And my fears are eased.

Divine Shepherd, we offer our love and gratitude to you this day for the blessings we receive.  Guide us through this time of uncertainty and sorrow, this dark valley, so that we may live in your house forever.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

An appointment with the Great Physician

Healer of our every ill

Matthew 9:12
12 But when he heard this, [Jesus] said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick." 

This really struck me this morning.  Such a simple truth.  Especially right now when many doctors are canceling appointments for routine checkups. They are scheduling phone appointments and virtual appointments for things like prescription refills and diagnosing “minor” illnesses.  Likewise, many of us are unwilling to go to the doctor’s office unless we really need to.   Even more than usual we avoid the hospital, especially the ER, because there are sick people there!  And the sick people really need to have the doctors’ attention.

Sadly, there are many in our country who can’t just go to the doctor when they are ill.  They may not have health insurance, or the co-pay is too high, or they can’t afford to take time off work no matter how sick they feel.  Even though they are sick and have need of a physician, they cannot get the care they need.  

Jesus told the Pharisees that his focus was on those who needed to hear the Good News of God’s love.  He spent time with the tax collectors and prostitutes and lepers - the unloved, unaccepted and socially unacceptable - because they needed to know that they, too, are beloved children of God.  He didn’t need to take  that message to the righteous, those who were already living as God wanted them to live, because they already knew this.  But he did need to tell those who thought they were beyond salvation that they, too, could enter the kingdom of God if they repented of sins and reconciled their lives with God’s desires for them.  They were soul sick, but could not get the healing, they needed, because for a variety of reasons they were not welcome in the Temple.

St. Augustine is believed to have said, ”The church is not a hotel for saints, it is a hospital for sinners.”   Yes, those of us in regular attendance at worship services and Bible studies and such understand that we are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness.  But we forget sometimes, that we are called to carry the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness outside the walls, to the modern day lepers and public sinners.  We need to spend time not only with those who already know God’s love, but also with those who don’t, to make room in the hospital that is the church for those who are soul sick and need the attention of the Great Physician, but for a variety of reasons don’t believe they are welcome.

Lord, healer of all pains and ills, help us to make room for those who think there is no place for them.  Teach us how to speak and act so that we are always the best example of what it means to be Christian. Help us to heal the world, in the name of Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020


Romans 15:4 (NIV) 
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

Reading this today I immediately thought of all the Facebook posts and news articles reminding us that this is not the first deadly pandemic to force the US population into isolation.  The Spanish Flu of 1918 killed more than the 1st World War did.  The majority of those deaths came in the second wave, after people were tired of being inside and went back to life as usual.  It seemed to me, considering all the people who are protesting and suing over the current shelter in place orders, that perhaps we should pay attention to the old saying, “Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it.” 

Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us.  We are not the first to ignore history, or indeed, fail to even read it.  The Bible is full of examples of this very thing.

Consider the Book of Judges. The people of Israel would do things that angered God, (usually worshipping other gods), a great enemy would come and threaten them, they would cry out to God for help, and God would send a hero - a judge - to lead them into victory over the enemy.  They would be faithful for a while, but 40 years later they would forget and they would do it all over again.  Eventually the leaders stopped listening to the prophets and they ended up defeated and exiled in Babylon.   And then, they waited.  They waited until finally they were given the opportunity to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple that had been destroyed, just as God had promised.  They just had to wait upon the Lord. 

Endurance and hope, two qualities that we really need to focus on right now.  It is not easy to stay in the house.  Many are without any income at all, no way to pay the rent, or buy groceries. They are desperate to get back to work, but also frightened about going back too soon.  Endurance while we wait for the heroes God has sent - scientists - to come up with a treatment or a vaccine is predicated upon the hope that they will, indeed, succeed in these aims. With God guiding them, they will.  All we can do is wait, and pray, and help each other get through this.  

Gracious and compassionate God, like the children of Israel, we cry out to you for help.  We have faith that your inspiration will guide those searching for a treatment and a vaccine for the virus that threatens so many lives.  Grant us the willingness to wait, and to endure, until that time comes.  Amen.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Giving Back

Psalm 116:12-14.  The Message

What can I give back to God
    for the blessings he’s poured out on me?
I’ll lift high the cup of salvation—a toast to God!
    I’ll pray in the name of God;
I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do,
    and I’ll do it together with his people.

In today’s reading the psalmist asks how we should repay God for all the blessings we have received.   The images in his answer made me think immediately of the way we do church - offering communion, prayer and service to God, not as individuals but as a community.  

Consider communion.   It hadn’t occurred to me before reading this particular version of the psalm, but whenever I have the opportunity to preside at the Lord’s Table, when it comes time to talk about the cup I always reach it out toward the congregation as if making a toast.  When I distribute the elements and each person takes the bread I say to them, “The bread of life.”  When they take the cup I say, “The cup of salvation.”  I give thanks to God  for all the blessings I have received by gratefully offering a toast to life and health. This isn’t something I do alone, but always as part of a community.   Even right now, when we participate in communion in our own homes while watching a video recording, we are still doing this as a community, sharing the elements together and offering our silent prayers together.  

We pray together often.  During worship, of course.  At the open and close of every Board and team meeting and bible study and small group.  All of these prayers are different, depending on the occasion and on who is praying.  Some of us are more eloquent pray-ers, some are more emotional, and some can’t do words at all.  But all of us pray one prayer together, every time we worship whether in person or online - the Lord’s Prayer.  Even though we don’t all say exactly the same words as everyone else, this is the one prayer that binds Christians together as a community.

And service.  There are so many ways to be of service to our community, but as individuals and in coordination with others.  One of the services we do together is our annual commitment card.  Yes, part of it is our monetary pledge - which is an important way to help do the Lord’s work in the world.  But there is also a place for how we can serve the church in the coming year, whether it is by more frequent attendance, or helping out with the food pantry, or singing, or reading during worship or taking on the challenge of Children’s Time.   Although these may seem like individual efforts, we do them as part of the body of Christ, as God’s people.

How will you give back to God today?  

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Entertaining angels

Luke 14:12-14 Common English Bible (CEB)

12 Then Jesus said to the person who had invited him, “When you host a lunch or dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers and sisters, your relatives, or rich neighbors. If you do, they will invite you in return and that will be your reward. 13 Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind. 14 And you will be blessed because they can’t repay you. Instead, you will be repaid when the just are resurrected.

Entertaining.  Not exactly something that’s on everyone’s mind right now.  But when we do entertain there is a sort of expectation that they will return the invitation.  If nothing else, they’ll pay for the pizza next time.  We might not have a schedule showing whose turn it is, but in the back of our minds we do keep track.  And we do get a bit miffed if it seems like they don’t ever take their turn.  

Jesus tells the Pharisee who has invited him for dinner that what he should do is invite people who cannot reciprocate, pointing out that when you know someone is going to pay you back it’s not really a gift - it’s not really hospitality.  Hospitality in the sense it was meant in Jesus’ time is to make another welcome without expectation of payment simply because it is the right thing to do.  Indeed, to deny food and shelter to a traveler could cause their death.  Denying hospitality was one of the most heinous sins in the ancient world.  It is the sin that caused God to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.  

Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)  There are folk stories in probably every culture about offering hospitality to some random wandering stranger and having it turn out later that they were a king or some such. Indeed, this is the point behind Jesus’ words in Matthew 25. “And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”  If you treat everyone as if they are a king - or Jesus - without expectation of reward, you will be blessed.  

Right now we aren’t able to offer hospitality in the traditional way, by inviting others to our home.  But many are offering hospitality in a different way.  Delivering meals or groceries to people who cannot get out.  Making masks and giving them away.   Going over to chat with people who live alone through a screen door from six feet away.  Dropping off pieces of lemon meringue pie (thank you!)  All with no expectation of reward, for the doing of these things is blessing enough.   

How have you experienced hospitality being freely offered during shelter in place?

Friday, April 24, 2020

Let it be

Finding rest 

Matthew 11:28-30  Common English Bible (CEB)
28 “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. 30 My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.”

When I read this passage today I thought, “Well, that’s pretty much everybody.  A rest would be very nice right now.  This last month or so has been hard on all of us.  Just giving up hugs is hard. Staying home except for essential business is hard.  Working from home is hard.  And I can’t even imagine how hard home schooling and trying to keep active children occupied must be. Maybe we are managing not to focus on the situation too much through keeping to a routine or staying really busy.  Most of us are struggling with this reality we find ourselves in.   

It is that struggle that makes our burden so heavy right now.  One of the most difficult things for humans to do even under normal circumstances is to accept unpleasant realities.  We want to fight against situations and feelings we don’t like or don’t want to have to deal with. We really dislike feeling helpless and as if we are not in control of our own lives.  For this reason we have seen people on the news protesting angrily against the shelter in place orders.  Cooler heads are urging them to accept the situation as it is until it is safe to do some of the things that we are used to doing once again.  

Let go and let God. 

Let go. Easy to say.  Harder to accomplish.  It is good to remember that letting go doesn’t mean forgetting about the situation altogether.  It means giving up on the idea that you can somehow affect the outcome of a situation over which you have no control.  

Let God.  Well illustrated by Jesus’ example here.  Just as 2 oxen yoked together can more easily pull a load that is too heavy for one alone, Jesus asks us move aside from our solitary burden and allow him to share our load.  It is not that the situation will go away or cease to matter, but that with Jesus at our side it is easier to practice acceptance that we are not responsible for the entire burden, only for our own part in it.  With Jesus at our side, we can let go of fears and worries, knowing that no matter what happens, all will be well.   With Jesus at our side, our spirit can find rest even in the midst of chaos.  

There are so many things that our completely out of our control right now.  How will you practice acceptance today?

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Hear me

Hear me

Psalm 116:1-4 Common English Bible (CEB)
I love the Lord because he hears
    my requests for mercy.
2 I’ll call out to him as long as I live,
    because he listens closely to me.
3 Death’s ropes bound me;
    the distress of the grave found me—
    I came face-to-face with trouble and grief.
4 So I called on the Lord’s name:
    “Lord, please save me!”

In a recent article in Time magazine, New Testament scholar N.T. Wright discusses our very real feelings of loss and uncertainty in the face of Covid-19.  Humans, he noted, have a great desire to know why things happen. We want to know why we suffer and we want to know there will be a happy ending.  But sometimes, he said, there is no rational answer.  There is no promise of a happy ending.  At times like this we would do well to embrace “the biblical tradition of lament.  Lament is what happens when people ask, “Why?” and don’t get an answer.” ( ). Sometimes we must turn to the psalms for a way to understand how to get through difficulties.  

One of the first suggestions we are given when we ask for scripture verses that will comfort us in times of trouble is to read the Psalms.  I certainly got that advice, although at first I found it not helpful at all.  I went to my pastor and told her that reading all that happy happy joy joy stuff in the psalms just made me feel worse. That’s when she told me that there are other psalms that are not so happy, in which the psalmist cries out against God in anger.  In some of them everything turns out well in the end.  Others begin well, but end in pain and anguish.  Still others, like Psalm 137 - my personal favorite - are cries of depression and rage all the way through.    This was helpful.  What a blessing it was to learn that it is ok to question God, to say out loud that we are angry with God, to seek answers from God and come away with none.  

Today’s reading is not exactly a lament.  It is, however, a statement of hope and faith.  No matter what, when I come face to face with trouble and grief, I know I can call upon God, “because he listens closely to me”.  I may not get the answers I want. I may not be told that there will be a happy ending.  But I will be listened to.  God will hear my cries and my questions.  And sometimes that’s all we need - just to be listened to.

When have you needed someone to just listen to what you were saying? 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Time has come today

In God's Time

2 Peter 3:8 Common English Bible (CEB)
Don’t let it escape your notice, dear friends, that with the Lord a single day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a single day.

“Time flies when you’re having fun.” 
“Time waits for no one.” 
“Lost time is never found again.” (Benjamin Franklin)
“Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.” (Shakespeare) 

We all know that time is hard to pin down.  Oh, we are certainly able to look at the clock on the wall and know what time that says it is.  We talk about our body clock - that thing that tells us when it is time to go to sleep or get out of bed or eat lunch.  We complain about Daylight Savings Time and Jet Lag and working night shifts and all of the things that make it hard for our bodies and the clock on the wall to come to an agreement about what time it actually is.  We talk about people aging well, having old souls, being ahead of their time.

Likewise, how long things actually take to happen seems more than a bit flexible.  We recognize that time seems to move faster as we get older.  Weeks and months seem to fly by.  Wasn’t I just 40 a month ago?  How then is it possible I turned 69 last week? Time speeds up when we are working toward a deadline, but moves so slowly when we are waiting for something, like children waiting for Christmas, and almost everybody waiting for the cable guy. 

Knowing that we are finite creatures with a limited life span, our understanding of time is that there is only so much of it.  If a thing is going to happen it needs to happen now, or at least according to some schedule we understand.  We are impatient.  Most of us find it hard to wait for anything.  Right now we are impatient about how long this whole shelter in place thing is going to last.  Time seems to be getting away from us.  There are hundreds of jokes about not knowing what day it is, because each day while sheltering in place looks like every other day. Even those of us who are able to work at home have trouble keeping our days straight.  We are getting a taste, perhaps, of what eternity might look like. 

God is eternal.  God is and was and always will be.  God has not only all the time in the world, but all the time before and beyond the life of this world.  Of this there is no question.  If we find a week or a year or a decade to have flown by, how much more so must it be for God.  Where we think 100 years is a long time, for God 100 years is both an instant and an age ago.  

Because I tend toward impatience, one of my frequent prayers is very short.  “In your time, O God, not mine.” Does this prayer sound familiar?  
When have you had to allow things to happen in God’s time? 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Running away from God

Jonah Tries to Run Away from God
 Jonah 1:1-3 
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
We know this story.  We know that Jonah did not want to do what God called him to do so he ran away.  In his case, this unwillingness resulted in a great storm putting other people in danger.  He sacrificed his life to save theirs, but God still had a call upon his life so a large fish swallowed him.
This is the part of the story we usually get stuck on.  What kind of fish was it that he could live for 3 days inside of it?  Was it a whale or some kind of special, miraculous fish that God provided just for this occasion?   While we are focused on the fish we forget the more important parts of the story.  
Jonah made a really bad decision.  He tried to run away from God because he did not like what God wanted him to do.  He thought if he went to another city God would forget about him or call someone else in his place. He was wrong, but he would put himself in a terrible situation before he was willing to cry out for God’s help and accept God’s call upon his life.
God does not forget about a call he places on our hearts.  We can try to ignore it. We can find all sorts of excuses for not doing the thing God wants us to do.  We can take up some other good work instead of the one we don’t want to do.  But God is patient and does not forget.  We will eventually find ourselves in a position where we no longer have any choice but to do what God wants from us - even if, like Jonah, we still really don’t want to do it.  
Has there been a time in your life when you felt God’s call to do something you did not want to do?  Did you do it anyway?  If so, what convinced you to answer that call? 

Monday, April 20, 2020

Unexpected Blessings

For the last month I have been posting a 30 Day Study of the New Testament.  Now that it has ended I will post something else every day. I’m not sure what it will look like.  It might change every day - sort of like our lives are - but it will begin with Scripture and invite you to consider some question or other.


Isaiah 43:19a
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? 

I like routines. I like doing the same things in the same order every day.  I don’t get quite as freaked out when something disrupts my routine as I used to, which is a good thing. There was a time when a change as small as a detour on the highway would upset me so much I would have an anxiety attack and have to go home.  It’s better today.  I have learned to accept that change is part of life and to try to deal with the change like an adult.  I will grumble and growl for a while but I adapt to a new routine.  When that new routine changes, as it inevitably will, I have to start all over again accepting the new thing in my life.

We are all - or nearly all - doing new things, and have been doing these new things for a little over a month now.   That wouldn’t be a problem except that the new things refuse to settle down into a routine.  We face changes every day.  Unless we were housebound prior to the Shelter in Place orders, our daily routine has changed drastically.  Things we are used to doing regularly either aren’t getting done at all, or have become more important in this new (ab)normal.  

My weekday routine hasn’t changed as much as you might think, considering I haven’t left my house since March 16th.  I get up early, pray, have coffee and breakfast, read all my email, pray some more, and get dressed to go to the office.   At 9am I go into my home office, and work there till lunchtime.  After lunch I go back into my office and do more work stuff until my stomach reminds me I need to have dinner. I used to spend the afternoons in study and writing, but now I also call people in the congregation and write cards to several people daily.  

But the weekends are so very different.  I can’t seem to get my day off, off.  Friday is often taken up with meetings and prep for meetings.  Saturday I am up early writing the message and the prayers, and recording my parts of Sunday’s worship.  Sunday morning I get to worship with the rest of the congregation from the solitude of my home. In the midst of upheaval and disruption, I realize that I get to take the Sabbath Day as a real Sabbath - a holy day - for the first time in 20 years.   Of all the changes to my routine, this is a most unexpected blessing.

What new thing has surprised and blessed you the most?  

Saturday, April 18, 2020

30 New Days - Day 30

The 30th  day of a 30 day devotional Bible Study by the Rev. Tracy A. Siegman, Senior Pastor FCC, Covington, KY.  Shared with her gracious permission.

If you read the suggested passage each day, by the end of 30 days you will have read the entire New Testament.

Day 30
30-day reading plan: Revelation 12 – 22

Daily Verse: Revelation 22: 21
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

When I think of the beginning of the New Testament, I think of the beginning of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It begins in much the same way as the book of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” There seems to be a beginning of something, whether time or creation. But, if there was a beginning of time, then there would have had to have been a beginning of God.

Physicist Stephen Hawking believed he proved there was a beginning of time in his dissertation. His work seemed to explain that there was no God because there was a beginning of time. In his later work, he disproved his theory and proved that there was no beginning of time. With this new revelation, his faithful wife was hopeful that he may yet come to have faith in God. 

By faith and the witness of Scripture, there was a beginning of creation, but not a beginning of God. God is and was and is to come. God was the One who created everything out of a formless void into the Heaven and Earth. God is eternal and will care for us through eternity. Revelation tells us that Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of creation. Heaven and Earth and all that is in them will be made new.

And, through it all, we will have the grace of Jesus because we are God’s people. There is only one thing we need to know about all of Scripture, especially the book of Revelation, as professor Jerry Sumney says, God wins! No matter what we have faced or will face, no matter the past, God will be victorious as we see in the Resurrection.

Question for reflection:
If we are a people of the resurrection, what in your life needs resurrecting?

Thursday, April 16, 2020

30 New Days - Day 29

The 29th  day of a 30 day devotional Bible Study by the Rev. Tracy A. Siegman, Senior Pastor FCC, Covington, KY.  Shared with her gracious permission.

If you read the suggested passage each day, by the end of 30 days you will have read the entire New Testament.

Day 29
30-day reading plan: Revelation 1 – 11
Daily Verse: Revelation 2: 7
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

The Apostle John in his revelation had a message to deliver to the seven churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Each church had an angel and Jesus had a message for each angel. Revelation is a letter containing a message for all churches with words of tough love calling the churches to repent of behavior that is leading them away from their commitment and devotion to Christ and encouragement for whoever conquers. 

John wrote a letter to each of the 7 churches in hopes of helping them deal with loss of love and devotion, defending against false teachers, sexual immorality, dying faith, lack of deeds, lukewarm faith, and greed. John calls them to repent and persevere in the faith given to them through the Apostles’ teaching. In different ways, each of the churches are called to renew their faith, defend against false teachers, and engage in works of faith. Thousands of years later, the Church still faces these challenges.

Pergamum, Ephesus and Thyatira had false apostles teaching among them and giving them permission to compromise with the pagan culture around them. Ephesus had resisted the false teachings by testing and
reproving false apostles but Pergamum and Thyatira had been following these teachers.  We should be careful of who we listen to and what we read. Not all who claim to be Christian preach and teach the true faith. Some authors are no more than life coaches who tell us that if we believe enough or give enough we will have the life we want. These teachings leave us with a shallow good feelings that lacks the depth of true love and devotion. 
Question for Reflection: 
What background do you expect of an author who you would consider authoritative? 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

30 New Days - Day 28

The 28th  day of a 30 day devotional Bible Study by the Rev. Tracy A. Siegman, Senior Pastor FCC, Covington, KY.  Shared with her gracious permission.

If you read the suggested passage each day, by the end of 30 days you will have read the entire New Testament.

Day 28
30-day reading plan: 1 John – Jude
Daily Verse: Jude 1: 11
Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.

There are 3 New Testament references to Balaam and his erroneous ways. His story is in the Old Testament book of Numbers chapters 22 – 24. Near the end of the 40-year wilderness excursion, the Hebrew slaves, who had escaped from Egypt, had come to gather near the Jordan before entering the land of Canaan. God uses Balaam, a for-hire foreign prophet, to bless the Israelites before they enter the Promised Land. Once you read his story, you’ll likely remember Balaam for his donkey.

But, Balaam is not best known for his speaking donkey or his blessing of Israel. Balaam is referred to several times in Scripture as having advised Midianite women to “entice the Israelite men to be unfaithful to the Lord” (Numbers 31: 16.) The three New Testament references to Balaam all remember his teaching the women of Midian. Jude compares false teachers leading the church astray to Balaam’s act of leading the Israelites astray by the women of Midian.

False teachers was a problem shared by many of the churches leading to problems of division, loss of faith, and immorality. Today, we probably don’t have false teachers in our churches, but we can too easily be led astray. Far too often, we look to the world for wisdom. We look for ways to find peace and nourishment for our souls. We search for a quick fix for our problems.

Christ is who we are truly searching for. When we seek that which Christ promises apart from Him, we miss the richness He offers of guidance, rest, and peace that surpasses all understanding only to be led astray to the latest fads with empty promises.

Question for reflection:
Check your search engine history. What are you really searching for?

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

30 New Days - Day 27

The 27th  day of a 30 day devotional Bible Study by the Rev. Tracy A. Siegman, Senior Pastor FCC, Covington, KY.  Shared with her gracious permission.

If you read the suggested passage each day, by the end of 30 days you will have read the entire New Testament.

Day 2730-day reading plan: James – 2 Peter 

Daily Verse: James 1: 27 
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. 

One of the well-known passages from the Old Testament is Micah 6:8. It says the Lord requires justice, kindness, and humility from His children. God is a God who is concerned with how we treat one another. Of the Ten Commandments, four are about how we treat God and six are about how we should treat others. 

Scripture reveals that God is especially concerned with how we treat the stranger, the poor, widows, and orphans. James writes that true religion, true worship and reverence of our God, includes taking care of the widows and orphans. Faith without the works of charity is not living; it is dead. 

President Jimmy Carter may not be remembered as the best president, but his legacy includes his work with Habitat for Humanity. His driving force behind his work is his faith. He said, My faith demands--this is not optional--my faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can  with whatever I have to try to make a difference.” 

Being a Christian is about more than regularly attending worship. Jesus called His disciples to go and make disciples. Discipleship is about participating in mission. One church has t-shirts that says, “God’s work, Our hands.” As we do acts of charity and service, we are doing God’s work, whether it be visiting a widow or feeding the hungry. 
Religion is not something we just practice on Sunday mornings. Christianity is a way of life that requires us to use our time, tithes, and talents to further the work of God ushering in the Kingdom. 

Question for reflection: 
How are you looking after the disadvantaged of our society?