The Morgan Church Devotional

a pastor's thoughts about...uhm...stuff

Location: Morgan, VT., United States

follower of Jesus. husband & father. friend. pastor.

Monday, January 30, 2006

A Song of Ascent

"I lift up my eyes to the hills--
where does my help come from?
my help comes from the LORD God
maker of Heaven and the earth.

He will not let your foot slip--
He who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, He who watches over Israel will not slumber nor will He 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."

amen. Psalm 121 is yours.

Black Bird

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free.

Blackbird fly Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.
Blackbird fly Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
by Lennon/McCartney

maybe we might add:

take this sunken heart and learn to sing...


Sunday, January 29, 2006

I'll Get Up and Fly Away...

a great line from a robert hunter lyric (who, if you haven't guessed already, is one of my favorite lyricists) about a man down on his luck.

things were once good for him...he had a sweet heart--who was (and is, he's sure) true to him. but things didn't turn out the way he planned.

he was jailed for a crime he did not commit and spent nearly half of his life in jail... "the other half found me stumblin' around drunk on burgandy wine". then,

*w/ great gospel music feel*

"but i'll get back on my feet some day..."

the song is about disappointment and hope...disappointment that life didn't turn out as he planned and the hope that some day "the good Lord willing, if He says i may" he'll get a new start as soon as he cleans up his act.

i suppose the implicit message is that August West (the character's name) is somewhat with out hope...he isn't going to change and his girl has not been "true to him". he lives in the fantasy of "if only"'ve heard the story b4 and so have i. it is sad.

but you, O saint of God (yes, you--i am talking to you), are not august west. you are His child, adopted into His family and the object of His mercy and love. you serve the living God who makes all things new and gives "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness".

take Him up on His offer.

I Know...

Everyone who hits 40 says this, but...

what the heck? is it just me or do they print stuff that much smaller nowadays?????

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Out the Frying Pan...

Into the Fire.

i wonder how moses felt...i wonder how the people tried to make him feel.

things were bad, they were slaves, weren't they? could it possibly get any worse?

uhm...yeah. it got worse. after moses went and did what God told him to do, pharoah made life harder for the israelites. moses again does what God tells him to do and, again, pharoah makes life harder for the israelites...

now wait a minute, God...aren't things supposed to be getting better?

i hate to say it, but that's the way it is sometimes. it doen'st mean God has stopped loving us or that he has forgotten us...or that He's having fun with us. He allows us to experience hardship for a few reasons:

1. That we would long for heaven
2. That we would long for His comfort
3. That we would be bound together as a people and share each other's burdens

Friday, January 27, 2006

Get the Point?

a crass reference to the movie "the end of the spear", the story of the auca indians. you can see some of the story here:

in the mid 50's 5 missionary families went to equador to minister to this savage indian tribe. they were so savage that people abandoned thier real name (waodani) and called them "savage" (auca).

after several attempts at meeting with them (and if i'm not mistaken, several meetings) the indians killed the 5 male missionaries. now, in a sense, it wasn't unexpected...they were notorious for killing with absolutely no provocation...but, tell that to 5 grieving widows and at least a couple of fatherless children.

martyrdom. real and true...several books have been written about these men and they are GREAT reads. they were faithful in spite of fear...committed despite the danger. heroes for the ages, if you ask me. would i have done what they did?--i tell myself yes, but here i sit in vermont...sometimes afraid even to talk with someone about my faith...& i don't think the abenaki are of the same ilk as the aucas.

not to slight what these saints of God did, but more (and maybe greater) heroism comes after these men died.

after a time of grieving, 2 (i think) of the families returned to minister to these indians! risking their own lives to bring the gospel to an indian tribe that has already (all to clearly) demonstrated their willingness to kill just to kill...these women (against sage advice) took thier families back and shared the living gospel with the people who murdered their husbands...if i ever thought i might be a martyr, i don't imagine i could ever do that.

but the gospel takes root and the entire tribe goes thru a metamorphosos...changed from top to bottom, from the inside out! murders no longer take place...peace begins to reign. it is a miracle. in fact, the indian responsible for killing nate saint became a surrogate father to nate's son. amazing.

but the thing is, this indian always struggled with accepting steve saint's forgiveness. i have never read how he dealt with it...he didn't have a mirror, he had the face of the son of the man he murdered to remind him of his awful sin...

but he must, we must, read the Scripture that talks about God's great forgiveness!

Psalm 51; Ps 103; paul's conversion story in the books of Acts...
who is it that tells us we aren't forgiven? it's either the enemy (the father of lies) or our own flesh...and

when our heart condemns us, He is greater than our heart.

(Some Asides)

For the life of me, i cannot read the book of Exodus without hearing charlton heston as the voice of moses...

God tells moses to "take your shoes off, this is holy ground"...sometimes we take our shoes off to make us more comfortable.

who knew moses was a yankee's fan. God said "moses, what is that in your hand?" moses answered "(a picutre of) A Rod". it figures that when moses thru it on the ground it became a snake.

how should we deal with disagreements with other people?

Step one:
Confront the individual.
(if they respond that settles it)

Step two (if needed):
Bring a neutral third party and confront the idividual.
(if they respond that settles it)

Step three (if needed):
Tell the leaders of the congregation.

If none of that works, treat him like a "sinful outsider". now, we would like that to mean we are justified in disliking them and ignoring them (or worse, treating them poorly)...but what should our attitude be with those "outside" of Christ? it should be that of love and forgiveness, that they might eventually understand the gospel of grace...

so it should be with them.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Words Escape

prayers for the Mann family.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

What's That?

Genesis 50

joseph's brothers recieved his forgiveness after a little convincing...but now their father is dead. he was a bit of a "buffer" between the brothers... and they figured joseph just forgave them for his father's sake, and now that he's gone...

they might have said:

surely joseph had mercy on us because of his father, but now that he is dead, so are we! he can do anything he wants to us! sure he told us he forgave us...he probably even meant it...then! but now? i just don't know.
if i was him...i'd kill us.

the brothers didn't understand the work of grace in joseph's life...maybe because that work hadn't taken place in their lives...i don't know. but i can understand them not being able to understand joseph's forgiveness, because we are very much the same way.

we've asked Jesus into our lives and asked Him to forgive us our sins &, on some levels, we believe Him that He has done that for us.

but left hanging around are these little seedling feelings of unworthiness, shame and regret...

sure He forgave me...then. but now? i'm not so sure. how could He? I wouldn't.

i've felt that way...but, as you have heard a zillion times, we do not live our lives based on feelings-but on God's promise. why is it that the promise is good for our "salvation experience" but not now?

the truth of the matter is we were "in Christ" and our sins were nailed to the tree along with Him...

how many of your sins were committed at the time of Jesus' death? none. but they were nailed to the cross along with Him...every one of them.
first ones...fifth ones...thirtieth ones...10 millionenth ones...even our last ones.

learning to embrace this truth is what learning to live in God is all about.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sweetness and Light

"she told her friends i came to her on some noble steed...
ah, but it wasn't anything like that
maybe empty handed and full of need,
but at least i was good for a laugh
love makes you better than you really are--
sometimes it happens overnight
come with sunrise you were all such sweetness and light"

by Bill Mallonee

find something good in those you love and tell them.
over look something bad in those you love and forget all about it.

when they die the good is what you'll remember anyway...

so get a headstart.


The Secret of a Fine Whine

alas, my first post is lost to the whim of cyber space (or a mistake on my part...). but here is a re-hash.

psalm 13 is a complaint. he (the psalmist) complains that God has forgotten him and that he must eat sorrow and have his enemies trample over him. that's a tough spot to be in...and we all have probably felt that way from time to time. how long? how long? how long? he asks.

but he doesn't stay there. in his complaint he talks to God and asks God to enlighten his heart. "lest i sleep the sleep of death"...he doesn't want to stay that way! he wants to change.

and he does...he begins to praise God! he rejoices in God's mercy...he exults in God's salvation--he sings to the Lord because God has dealt "bountifully with him".

have you ever come home after a long day and after you've gone about your business (cook dinner, take care of the kids, did some inddor chores, or sat and watched the game...) realized you still have your big ol' boots on? they are heavy and clunky and generally just make you feel tired...more tired than you really are.

why ddin't you take them off? it would have made sense to, wouldn't it? once you do you feel a giant relief. wow! i wish i would have done that an hour ago!

it is ok to complain...we have a biblical example of it. but here's how it should go:

examine our heart.
focus on God's goodness.

my complaint

this morning my complaint is that i spent about 40 minutes reading Scripture, thinking about a post and then writing a post about, well, complaining.

and now (hopefully just for the moment) that post has disappeared. hmmm...

maybe i need to think thru it again. you know, God deals very mercifully with us...with me. His kindness really is overwhelming. His love is as if it attains to the heavens. His grace immeasurable...

thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


I had a big idea, I had a crazy eye
I broke the sacred seal
I told a lazy lie
I've had my conscience bent
I've had my patience tried
I've been up in the desert and down by the riverside

Will the eagle fly If the sky's untrue?
Do the faithful sigh Because they are so few?
Remember when I cried? Remember when you knew?
Remember the look in your eyes?
I know I do

And count the stars to measure time
The earth is hard, the treasure fine
To the sea, I'll crawl on my knees

Feel it coming in Feel it going out
Water covers sand Blood covers doubt
So I begin again Again, the healing bow
There was a time when I might have surrendered,
but not now

Consult the cards to measure mine
The earth is hard, but the treasure fine
To the sea, I'll crawl on my knees
and count the stars to measure time
The earth is hard, but the treasure fine
At the sea, I'll wait on my knees

by Gene Eugene RIP

Keeping our Perspective 2

Joseph had talent. He had gifts from God and those gifts were evident even at a young age. but when he was young, those gifts sort of went to his head and he used them to brag to his brothers and to his dad.

he suffered the consequences. sold into slavery and, if that wasn't bad enough, he ws an innocent man thrown into prison on the whim of some lady. i guess he had a lot of time to think.

"how did i end up in this mess? was it my fault? was it my brother's fault? what about that woman, she certainly bears some responsibility, right? what about my gifts? how am i going to use them here? i don't know...maybe my dreams were just dreams...maybe i was wrong about my brothers and my dad bowing down to me...well, at least i was wrong to tell them that..."

i suppose that that thinking time helped joseph to gain proper perspective.

God did have a plan for his life.
God had given him the dreams.
God will turn his "bad" to good.
God is in control of all of his life.
God can be trusted at all times.

dead dreams? Jesus said He is the resurrection and the life!
wrong turns? God will make your crooked paths straight!
mistakes? God chooses to forgive sins for Jesus' sake!

Blessed be the Name of the Lord who always leads us in triumphal procession!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Keeping Our Perspective

"And the LORD was with Joseph," and he gained authority in his master's (Potiphar) house. every thing was under his control... "thus he [poti, as his friends called him] left all that he had in Joseph's hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate.".

but potiphar's wife had a thing for joe and tried to seduce him. look at joseph's reply:

1. my master trusts me completely, so much so that he doesn't even concern himself about it.

2. besides him, he has granted me the most authority in his house.

3. the only thing that is hands off in this home is you.

"how then can i do this great wickedness and sin against..."

i always expect him to say potiphar. i've read this passage dozens of times and every time my mind tells me "how can i sin against potiphar"...that is the natural way to think, we sin against each other--but that isn't how joseph sees it.

after recounting all the kindnesses potiphar showed him, how he rose in authority in his house, how the only thing withheld from him was his wife, he says: "how can i do this great wickedness and sin against God?".

i think the point is this: if our sin is only against each other we can excuse it by saying things like,

"they would do the same to me if they had half a chance", or
"what they don't know won't hurt them", or
"what the heck? every one does it.", or
"they deserve it", or
"who cares?", or

but our sin is against God,

who has half a chance and doesn't do it.
who always knows what we doing.
who never, ever, ever does it.
who doesn't deserve it.
who cares.
who endured the not so fun thing of hanging on a cross and dying for our sin. sure, that we would be forgiven of it--but that it also wouldn't have the power over us it once had and that we would have the ability to now say no to it.

"no", what a novel concept.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

What Kind of Friend Are You?

What kind of a friend could pull a knife When it's him or you and his kids need shoes?
What kind of friend would do you in When the bomb goes off and the shelter's his?
What kind of friends do friends become When the musical chairs get down to one?
What kind of friend could I become? What kind of friend am I?

What kind of friend would tell you lies To spare you from the bitter truth?
What kind of friend could stoop so low As to shield your eyes from the mirror's gaze?
What kind of friends do friends become When a blind eye turns on the damage done?
What kind of friend could I become? What kind of friend am I?

What kind of friend survives the night In a frightened sense of self-defence?
What kind of friend can take the ache Of losing face for friendship's sake?
What kind of friend do friends become When the heart says "kill" and the soul says "love"? What kind of friend could I become?
What kind of friend am I?

by Mark Heard...RIP

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Pray for the Tommy Jacksons

this morning's reading is Mt 13:1-30

when i first became a christian i had a friend named tommy jackson. tommy was raised in the church and, altho he didn't think much of church he did sing in a gospel choir. it was obvious the Lord was dealing with tommy...just as it was obvious that tommy didn't want much to do with that dealing.

one day tommy came to me and said "jake, i know who i am in the Bible.". "judas", i thought. "peter?", i said. "no, i'm the seed that was cast on the stoney ground" he said, quite happy with himself for being so observant and obviously hoping i shared his enthusiasm. "i heard the word and recieved it, but the things of the world have choked it off".

truthfully, i at least respected his honesty...but i'm not sure if sadder words were ever spoken to me. it still makes my heart sad thinking about tommy.

that's a long time ago and thru the ensuing years i've known alot of tommys (albeit most weren't as honest)...i think of him alot--he was one of my first "challenges" as a xian--when i think of him i pray for him (a part of me doubts he is still alive, he loved this world--and it's sin--so much) and i pray for all of the tommy jackson's of the world.

Take this...

Take these hands teach them what to carry
take these hands
don't make a fist
Take this mouth
so quick to criticise
take this mouth
give it a kiss...

What no man can own
No man can take
Take this heart
Take this heart
Take this heart
And make it break

fm "Yahweh" by U2

Sweet Soul Dream

God tells jacob to go back to bethel (the house of God) and jacob tells his entire household:

"put away the foreign idols that are among you,
purify yourselves, and change your garments-
we're going to Bethel".

book burnings are famous...or infamous.
people have, ofcourse, had record, tape and cd burnings--
in my opinion, just about anything top 40 can go on that burn heap, but that's a different story. there are some things we shouldn't spend our time reading or listening to...true.

but maybe, just maybe, there are bigger idols in our homes...and those are the idols we should spend our time ridding ourselves of.

things like:

self importance.
self indulgence.
self centeredness.

is your problem anger?
then your idol may be one of the "selfs"... or maybe pride.
do you steal or lie?
then your idol very well may be greed.
do you have affairs (or look at pornography)?
then your idol is lust or self indulgence.
are you so unsatisfied with your life that it comes out in the form of bad attitudes?
then maybe your idol is self importance.

the sins are the symptom, not the problem. let's let God get at the problems in our lives...let's all have burn piles in our backyards--well, everyone except for Dina--and let's be willing to part with our idols.

here's world party's "sweet soul dream" by Karl Wallinger:

I'd give you all of my money
abandon that beautiful girl
take my books
my choicest looks
and burn them all today
i've got rare '61 beatles
i got a film of all of my dreams
but i'd lose them all
burn them all
go along without all of it
give up the chances i see
if you'd take me up
raise me up
let me know the heart of it
give me your sweet soul dream.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Listening for the Secret, Searching for the Sound

this is a song that has long challenged me to be authentic in my faith and preaching:

Unbroken Chain
by Lesh/Peterson

Blue light rain,Whoa unbroken chain,
Looking for familiar faces
In an empty window pane.

have you been there? looking for who you are in the dark reflection? wondering...wondering who am i, how am i, who should i be?

Listening for the secret, Searching for the sound
But I could only hear the preacherAnd the baying of his hounds.

we're all looking for that something...or should i say Something (or SOMETHING). we listen for it...we search for it...we want to find it. but what do we find? condemnation...criticism...hypocrisy...

ouch. that's not Jesus.

we (the Church) often don't measure up. &, i must personalize it, i often don't measure up.

Roll you down the line boy,
Drop you for a loss,
Ride you out on a cold railroad
And nail you to a cross.

have we done that? have i done that? i guess maybe i have, if i am to be honest. i've given people the wrong idea of who God is and how He is.

Jesus is the Lover of our soul...He is a Delight and it is Delightful knowing Him...what are we saying to people with our words and with our lives? is that Who He is to us?

that is Who He is...that's why i believe He can heal every wound, every hurt, every disappointment, every, every, every. that is who He came for.

there is a wonderful book that would be a good read. it is called "blue like jazz" by don miller. my copy is currently loaned out and promised to another when it gets back...but you can have it after that.

Dear God,

Please help Your little children to love one another

For Jesus' Sake.



Nothing piqued my interest in today's devotional enough to comment.

but that won't stop me from commenting on some things...

i'll be first the anonymous postings bugged me...but, i guess they have their advantage. so thanks for posting and sharing what's going on in your life. i appreciate your openness and i regularly pray for you (as i hope everyone who reads this does)...

we really do believe in community here at the morgan church blog...even if it is e-community, and we feel we can "bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ."

blessings to you all


Monday, January 16, 2006

They Love Each Other

He could pass his time
'round some other line
But you know he chose this place beside her
Don't get in the way
there's nothing you can say,
Nothing thay you needto add or do
They love each other
Lord, you can see it's true
by Hunter/Garcia

jacob meets rachel and immediately falls in love. IAW the culture of his day, he speaks to her father who assures him he can have her as his wife. he is told he must serve his father in law for 7 years b4 he can marry her.

7 years!!!!

and they seemed like just a few days to him because of the love he had for her.

they love each other.

Wisdom is Justified by Her Children

jacob, in talking about the God of his fathers, says:

"the God of Abraham and the Fear of isaac"...i think that is an interesting (and very cool) Name.

but let's talk about something else...

john the baptiser (jtb) sends a message asking if Jesus is the "Coming One" or if they should look somewhere else.

Jesus tells the messengers: "go and tell him what you see and hear". what did they see and hear? that people are loved.

Jesus then explains something. jtb came and he didn't eat (except for honey & locusts) nor drink wine and people criticised him. Jesus came and He ate and drank and people criticised Him.

who has the problem? jtb? Jesus?

no, the critics have the problem.

Jesus then said "wisdom is justified by her children" other words, look at the fruit of a person's life...what are they like...? what's their demeanor? what do they pass on to other people? do they love one another?

Dear God

help Your little children to love one another.


Sunday, January 15, 2006

learning to live in God

i do think we can learn to live in God...if we understand what living in God is all about.

it is not about:
our performance.
meeting our expectations.
meeting other's expectations.
doing what we are supposed to do.
not doing what we aren't supposed to do.
going to church on sun morning (and sat night).
my (or any one else's) laundry list of religious things.

it is about:

Trusting God.
Believing His Promises.
Growing in relationship with Him.

more a little later.

When Will I Ever Learn To Live In God?

The sun was setting over Avalon
The last time we stood in the west
Suffering long time angels enraptured by Blake
Burn out the dross innocence captured again
Standing on the beach at sunset all the boats
All the boats keep moving slow In the glory of the flashing light in the evenings glow
When will I ever learn to live in God?
When will I ever learn?
He gives me everything I need and more
When will I ever learn?
You brought it to my attention everything that was made in God
Down through centuries of great writings and paintings
Everything lives in God Seen through architecture of great cathedrals
Down through the history of time Is and was in the beginning and evermore shall be
When will I ever learn to live in God?
When will I ever learn?
He gives me everything I need and more
When will I ever learn?
Whatever it takes to fulfill his mission
That is the way we must go
But you've got to do it your own way
Tear down the old, bring up the new
And up on the hillside its quiet Where the shepherd is tending his sheep
And over the mountains and the valleys The countryside is so green
Standing on the highest hill with a sense of wonder You can see everything is made in God
Head back down the roadside and give thanks for it all
When will I ever learn to live in God?
When will I ever learn? He gives me everything I need and more
When will I ever learn?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Shadowbox the Apocalypse...Again.

"We shadowdance the silent war within.
The shadowdance, it never ends...
Never ends, never ends.
Shadowboxing the Apocalypse, yet again...
Yet again.
Shadowboxing the Apocalypse, And wandering the land. "

many xians fight a (seemingly) never ending battle...they think it's against sin or against the devil or against evil forces or against temptation...or even against God.

but they really are only fighting a battle against themselves. get a mental picture of the song above...

shadowboxing is sparring (as in boxing) with yourself...the apocalypse (in this song) refers to a "great and catylclismic battle"'s a senseless battle...and to top it off, we are only fighting against ourselves.

we're not good enough.
we keep messing up.
we willingly choose our own way.
we fail.
we feel like we fail even worse than we do.
we let ourselves down and if we let ourselves down, oh how we must let God down...
He's disappointed with us.
He wouldn't love us.
why would He? why should He?
i wouldn't.

and here's the big problem. true.

we wouldn't love and forgive us. we can't. we don't know how.
and so we anthropomorphise God. huh? we attribute human characteristics to One who is beyond humaness.

children of God...stop shadowboxing the apocalypse. take a long bath and imagine you are in the tub of God's great forgiveness.

then every day this week tell yourself 1440 times a day (that's once per minute) that you are a child of God and that He has taken all of your sin from you.

put down the gloves and enjoy God.

To the One who made my mouth

to the One who made my mouth
help me to speak the words i should speak
and to keep it shut when i should

to the One who made my nose
help me keep it where it belongs
in Your business, Lord
and not in the business of others

to the One who made my eyes
help me to look upon the things i should see
and to look away from
that which would lead me away from You

to the One who made my ears
may they be attentive to Your every word
and tune out the clamor and
the din of the day

to the One who made me in His image
and gave me life and breath
and new life and spirit
help me to live my life in You and with You and for You

Friday, January 13, 2006

*Ahem* And For the Record...

the clock for the time an entry is posted is not correct.

Shadowboxing the Apocalypse

title from "My Brother Esau" by Barlow/Weir

we all have favorites. favorite cars, favorite songs, favorite ice cream flavors, favorite pasttimes...but do we or should we have favorite kids?

i have 1 favorite wife, 3 favorite kids, 132 favorite hymns and 6742 favorite bible verses. it's a running joke here about the hymns and verses as i'm always saying this one or that one is my favorite...for the record my real favorite hymn is "standing on the promises"...or maybe its...

i suppose it's perfectly natural to have favorites and we all do.

but in today's reading we see twin brothers who faught in the womb, a mother who loved favored one son and a dad who favored the other. the disfunction lasted all of their lives and, in fact, jacob did the same with his children and it caused them problems as well. i'm not saying the favored son thing caused all the problems but they certainly didn't help. the point is, everywhere we look there is strife. fighting. bickering. unhappiness.

whether it's a family or flat out war...everybody is shadowboxing the apocalypse...

"We shadowdance the silent war within.
The shadowdance, it never ends...
Never ends, never ends.
Shadowboxing the Apocalypse, yet again... Yet again.
Shadowboxing the Apocalypse,
And wandering the land. "

Thursday, January 12, 2006

"Light In Strange Places"

i love christian songs, esp when they are not from christian musicians (or at least from those who are "known" to be christians)...i call it light in strange places...a biblical idea btw: see Acts 17:28.

today's is from World Party's "Take it Up" by Karl Wallinger (who certainly seems like he could be a believer)

i had an extra glimpse of the truth today
staring at my breakfast
when i thought i heard it say:
fighting is no good
success an empty lie
the treasure hunt is lonely
until you realise

we came to take it up...

The Great Blessing Debates

Sarah, Abraham's wife has died. he is, of course, grieving; yet, he must bury her. he goes to the people who live in the land in which he is dwelling to inquire about a grave. they tell him to pick his spot and he does...a plot of land belonging to a man named ephron.

"ephron", says abe, "let me buy that piece of land".

" can have it"

"please, let me buy it"

"no, you can have it, honest"

so on and so on...who will bless whom? we had this friend in college, lenny. lenny was a great guy. he was fun to hang with, he was always encouraging, always made you feel good. which are good and godly qualities.

but lenny would never let you bless him. if you were walking with him and the two of you came to a door at the same time and you said "you first", he would take a step back and say "no, you first". if you chose to, the two of you could stand there for 10 minutes trying to "out nice" the other...

now, i'm not saying stop being nice to each other...i like nice people, i try to be nice...nice people make life at least a bit more enjoyable...

but, sometimes, being nice is humbling yourself and letting someone else be the one who blesses.

tmw's reading Gn 25:1-26:35; Ps 7:6-8; Pr 3:9-10; Mt 9:18-38

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Mike D. Paraphrase Edition of the Holy Bible

Proverbs 3:5-6

Put your life in God's hands.

Don't give in to your doubts (and don't go by what you think is best).

Do it His way.

He will lead you.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Faith and Provision

today's reading: Gn 21:1-22:24; Ps 6:6-10; Pr 3:5-6; Mt 8:18

one day i sat and watched out the window as my (then) 2 y.o. son was playing with his grandfather. they played for awhile, and then abuelo decided it was time to go in. well, J. would have none of that and began running circles around his 70'ish grandfather; and for as long as he saw fit, that's the way it was... J. running around and around, stopping until abuelo got a little closer, then running around and around again.

so, when i think of abraham's faith in willing to sacrifice his son, his only son, the son he loves; i think also about isaac, who was 13 to abraham's 100 or so. just as J. ran circles around his grandpa...for as long as he wanted to...isaac could have (laughingly) ran circles around his dad, resisting what God was going to do.

and what a different story that would be.

the thought comes to mind, how many times have i (unlike isaac) ran circles around that which God was going to do in my life?

I Guess I Have A Little More to Say About That

"righteous lot?" our professor used to ask referring to peter's description of him.

maybe he started out that way, and then descended into tolerating sin in his life...or maybe he tolerated sin in his life and then ascended to live above it...

but what we see here in the book of genesis isn't all that righteous, is it? sure he tried to protect the angels/men...that is admirable. but he was willing to sell out his virgin daughters to do so. then, after he escapes from the city he allows himself to be seduced by those same daughters...

like i said, that lot was one mixed up cat.

Monday, January 09, 2006

and that's all i have to say about that

lot was one mixed up cat.

He Laughs!

when God begins to give abram (now renamed abraham-"father of many") details of his impending nation building, abraham "falls on his face and laughs". he laughs! laughs at what God said to him! maybe abraham is taking being called a "friend of God" a bit too far.

But what God said is true...and He isn't taken aback by abraham's laughter. in fact, if abraham's and sarah's childlessness is a problem, God tells him to name the solution to that promlem "he laughs"...or is it "He laughs" Isaac named for abe's laughter or God's laughter at abraham's faithlessness?

Ps 2 says "the One who sits in heaven laughs" at the folly of men and their schemes. He laughs. you have a problem? i have problems...

i've decided to name them "He laughs".

For January 8, 2006 The PVB

we have tons of bible versions...KJV, NIV, NASB, RSV, TLB, NKJV, TNIV...(almost) ad infinitum
but perhaps the version we all read more than any other is (what i heard one preacher call) the PVB--the paranthetical version of the bible.

"Listen," Jesus says, "you don't have to worry about your don't have to worry about clothes or food or any thing else. i will take care of you just as i take care of the birds and the flowers. Aren't you more valuable to me than they are?"

and our hearts say "yes, it's true (but not for me)." or "i love that passage, how nice...(but you wouldn't believe my problems!)".

but after a monday morning of fretting, i tell you, it is true for you (and for me).

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Welcome Back (doot doot doo doo doo doo)

"...and (abram) went on his journey from the south as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar whcih he had made ther at first. and there abram called on the Name of the LORD."

"As I was saying..." it's almost as if God doesn't miss a beat when we walk off in our own direction. He leads us back to where we were and is ready to lead on anew.

this from a recent funeral:

He hunted and fished with his boys and passed that love for the outdoors to them. Donald told me this story.

Larry, was in his late 60’s…Donald and his nephew in their early 20’s or so. They were out rabbit hunting and went deep into the woods. As dusk was approaching they decided it was time to gather the dogs and get headed home. The boys were sure of which direction to go…and off they headed. After short while they called back. “dad? You o.k.?” “Yep. Are you ok?” he called back. “Then why are you sitting there?” they asked him. “because you are going the wrong way” no we’re not. Yes you are. So he said to the boys “you go ahead…I’ll wait here. If you see something you recognize call me and I’ll come.” So the boys walked…determined they were right they walked further. Not wanting to admit they were wrong and the ol’ man was right, they walked still a little further. Finally they turned back where Larry was sitting on the stump. He didn’t say anything, they didn’t say anything…but out they walked…Larry’s way…and, of course, he was right.

Larry had an inborn sense of direction. He could be in the woods all day following after dogs on rabbit trails and still turn in the right direction…and head home.
That is unlike most of us, isn’t it?

In fact, in the spiritual sense, it is like all of us. The Bible tells us that all of us, every one of us, has gone in the wrong direction. We’ve turned away from God. Maybe we didn’t do too many “really bad things”…but we’ve all wandered off into the woods making our own decisions and not fully following God.
And God our heavenly Father sits down on the stump and waits for His prodigal children to come home. Now, some of us return quickly…we don’t like the ideas of being lost in the wilderness of sin…others go a little further…deeper into the woods, if you will…deeper into sin. Some of us spend nearly our whole lives walking in those woods, wandering around…looking for our home…wishing we had a compass…and our heavenly Father waits on the stump where we left Him…anxious for us to come back to Him but knowing there is a far greater lesson to teach than just showing the way out of the woods. It is a matter of direction.

If you are missing something in your life…if you feel unfulfilled and a bit empty…it very well may be you are wandering in the woods going in your own direction. What you need to do is to do what the boys did. Maybe the Ol’ man does know what he’s talking about. Maybe we need to stop going in our own direction and turn around and follow him.

That is what walking with Jesus is all about. Turning from our own way and following Him in His way. The neat thing about it is, when we return to our Heavenly Father, He isn’t stern and mean. He doesn’t punish us or give us a lecture…when we turn to Him asking for forgiveness, He grants us forgiveness. When we come to Him looking to change our lives…He gives us the power to change. When we come to Him seeking to follow Him, He gets up off the stump and begins walking, leading us as we follow.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Or This One...

God got the power, man has got his vanity,
Man gotta choose before God can set him free.
Don't you know there's nothing new that's under the sun?
Well, there ain't no man righteous, no not one.
When I'm gone don't wonder where I be.
Just say that I trusted in God and that Christ was in me.
Say He defeated the devil, He was God's chosen Son
And that there ain't no man righteous, no not one.

i think i heard a preacher say that once...

Dylan Lyrics: Precious Angel

Precious angel, under the sun,How was I to know you'd be the one
To show me I was blinded, to show me I was gone
How weak was the foundation I was standing upon?
Now there's spiritual warfare and flesh and blood breaking down.
Ya either got faith or ya got unbelief and there ain't no neutral ground.
The enemy is subtle, how be it we are so deceived
When the truth's in our hearts and we still don't believe?

Shine your light, shine your light on meShine your light, shine your light on me
Shine your light, shine your light on me
Ya know I just couldn't make it by myself.I'm a little too blind to see.

Since it Costs Alot to Win & Even More To Lose...

you and me bound to spend some time, wondering what to choose...
from "Deal" by Garcia/Hunter

this morning's reading from Gn12 has abram (soon to be abraham) hearing from the LORD that he is to go to a far off land, leaving all that he knows & culture, friends & family. all because of a promise. that takes faith & abram was obedient to God's voice and with just a few things (well, a little more than just a few things) off he went for canaan.

now, you would think that if God told him to go to a certain place, it would be a good place... a nice place...a place better than the one he was leaving, right? but it wasn't, exactly, that. it had potential, but it wasn't so good right then.

there was a famine in the land. trouble. abram stopped...stayed a bit...and built an altar to the LORD...he worshipped, & i wonder what the content of that worship was. he built that altar between Bethel and Ai...between "the house of God (Beth-house, El-God)" and "ruin (Ai= ruin)". between our way and God's way.

unspoken in the narrative is abram's need to make a choice...abide in the place where God has led him, or go off in his own direction finding his own way. & that is a hard choice to make some times... "why would God lead me here? He must expect me to find my way out, right?"

well what did tell abram? "go to the land i will show you" & when he got there, "i will give this land to your descendants". no change of plan necessary.

but--because he is afraid of the famine--abram goes down to egypt and begins a cycle of compromise... eventually he even puts his wife at risk by claiming she was only his sister.

there it started, between Bethel and Ai...between the house of God and ruin...between God's way and our way.

read about abram's 2nd choice tmw (Gn 13:1-14:24; Ps 4:4-8; Pr 2:1-5; Mt 6:1-18)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

upside out, inside down...

i've always liked that lyric. it speaks of being completely different from what is expected. more than just the opposite, but the opposite turned around and sat on it's head. etisoppo, shall we say (i was standing on my head as i typed that!).
That's what Jesus' teaching was--etisoppo (say it with an italian accent and motion with your hand as you say it, it soundsa good). etisoppo living is Kindom living.
are you feeling down? well, you are blessed-heaven is yours!
are you crushed by life? well, you are blessed-God's comfort is yours!
are you timid? well, you are blessed-the whole world is yours!
do you really want what's right? you are blessed! God will give it to you!
are you merciful? do you have a pure heart? are you a peacemaker? you are blessed! you'll obtain mercy, you'll see God, you will be the child of God!
now, are you picked on for your faith? you are blessed!
That is etisoppo! and when we live etisoppo we show the world that they are actually the ones who are upside out...or was that inside down?

The Spring Run

i've caught glimpses of the "spring run"--the first time heifers are released from the barn after a long, cooped up winter--and i've heard the stories...mooing and pushing and shoving and stomping and chewing and...kind of like i remember the train back home in Jersey City.
freedom, sweet freedom.
so, i wonder what it was like when noah opened the door to the ark. in the past, i have had the picture of stoic, efficient, military-like discipline when i've thought of it.
but, it wasn't like that...they were animals! skunks had to scurry out of the way of horse's hooves and birds playfully swooped and looped around girraffe's necks...llamas snipped at each other and oh, how i wish one of them would have squashed at least one of the mosquitoes.
i can picture noah and his sons and all of their wives laughing and pointing and joking as they half heartedly tried to maintain at least a little bit of order amongst the animal arnarchy.
i picture Jesus that same way. laughing, joking...a bit playful. not joking to be the center of attention--he wsn't the class clown--but because of the joy He had in doing His Father's will.
i think we all might do with a spring run or two.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Growing in the Knowing & Caring in the Sharing

i'm a committed christian. i read the bible most every day and study it often. i have a degree in bible (a b.s.!) and lots of books. but the thing is, when i read the bible i still have to scratch my head at times.
cain built a city (where did the people come from?). methuselah (he's the cat with snakes for hair, right?) lived to be 960 years old. sons of God and giants...giants?
i've read the answers to those questions...and they seem plausible to me. i like finding the answers out. but those answers really don't satisfy the bigger question. "does God really love me?"
i get asked a lot of questions...some serious, some about nitpicky issues, some asked just to see if the person can get a rise out of me. but underneath all of those questions, is that same, single, big question: "does God really love me?". i answer the big questions as best i can...i entertain the nitpicky ones...i strive to not allow my flesh to rise up when i'm asked some argument provoking question. because it is important to me to try to answer that bigger question, the "does God really love me?" question with my love for them.
learn. study. answer. but most importantly, love.


tmw's reading: Gn 7:1-8:22; Ps 3:1-4; Pr 1:20-22; Mt 4:1-25

Monday, January 02, 2006

Man Gave Names to All the Animals

Bob Dylan released 3 great records (records?) in the 1980's that very openly declared his faith in Jesus. Saved, Shot of Love, and Slow Train Coming (where the header for this entry is taken from) were (and are) great musical expositions of faith (albiet dated in places!). i love those records (upgraded to cds--and now playing fairly loudly as i write this!)...and i sometimes wonder what became of his (dylan's) faith.

i admit, i don't know him...and i don't want to be judgemental. his music still has some spiritual elements to it--but, it just ain't the same. so, what happened? i don't know. but i think something did. i've been meaning to pick up his autobiography...

but it prompts the question, why do people backslide? i think, to some degree, all Christians backslide...growing colder in their faith for periods of time; and it is understandable. but why do some people "quit" the faith altogether? here are 3 (hey, i'm a preacher; we think in threes) reasons:

1. Misplaced expectations-
we expect God to do what He never said He would do. When i first committed my life to
Jesus, i told God "if You make my life right, i will follow you forever." admittedly, i meant "if
You give me everything i want..." I thank God i developed some Xian friends who helped me
understand life wasn't about what i want, but about what God wants. He promised to fix me
on the inside...He didn't promise to fix all of my situations.
It goes the other way to. Dylan was "a spokesman for his generation". immediately the
church pounced on him to be their xians are babes...don't expect them to be
grown up right way.
2. Pride-
the whole idea of being xian is to recognise our need for God: His forgiveness, His
redemption, His sustaining power. as the proverb says "the fear of the LORD is the
beginning of wisdom, but fools (those who are morally corrupt) despise wisdom and
correction" Trust in God...not in man (even yourself).
3. No change in life style-
i think we xians need to be involved in the lives of people who aren't xian. we need to be their
friends; if we don't love them, how will they know Jesus does? my wife and i went to a party
once where we were in the distinct minority in terms of faith. we had some reservations...but
we decided to open ourselves to thier lives..that's what Jesus did, right? we didn't "witness",
we loved. we didn't "proclaim the gospel", we lived the gospel and proclaimed it with our
actions. we didn't "invite people to church", but we had inviting attitudes and demeanor.

pray for the backslider. pray for dylan. live your life in a way that demonstrates God's goodness and love. go and buy those dylan records--they rock.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

first day...first thoughts.

i'm not a big fan of the beginning of year promises...or promises in general for that matter. i do make them when it is appropriate...marriage promises, ordination promises...promises to my kids...but everyday promises? unwise, if you ask me. the whole idea being--they are hard to keep and if you can't keep them, you shouldn't make them.

that being said, it is my intent to keep this devotional journal on a regular (daily) basis. most days i will base it on thoughts prompted thru daily bible reading-- this year i am using "the daily devotional bible"...if you read each days readings (one each from the OT, NT Ps and Proverbs) you will read thru the bible in a year. however, that may not always be the case--perhaps it will be something else i've read or heard or thought about or saw on tv. for instance, the king in the new BK commercials is quite creepy.

you are welcomed to read comment in agreement or add your own thoughts or ask me (or the group) questions. you can call me mike (or pastor mike) if you know me as mike or jake if you know me as jake... the only rules are to be respectful and you cannot correct my grammer or spelling. me know how to right good most times i want to...

we will begin tmw (jan 2) with Gen 1:1-2:25; Ps 1:1-6; Pr 1:1-7; Mt 1:1-25.