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Psalm 19:1-6 September 8, 2015

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I love the first line of this psalm as it is so easy to understand how the “heavens proclaim” God’s glory. Look up at the sky, day or night, and tell me you’re not struck by the beauty and awesomeness of the clouds, stars,and colors that appear! God’s creative power is unending.

So if the natural world can so eloquently proclaim God’s glory, why can’t we humans do the same? We tend to be either overbearing (have you been saved? . . . ),  judgemental (our group knows the Truth . . .) or so desirous of not offending anyone, we barely admit how we feel about our LORD and saving grace. I tend toward that last one, telling myself that my “good works” will speak for themselves. But there has to be some kind of faith sharing, otherwise we would be like friends who for some reason are ashamed to admit a relationship. The “heavens” do it right:

There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;  yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

Actions speak louder than words, but words are still required.

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Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23 September 1, 2015

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Interesting list of proverbs the lectionary lists for today:

God made us all, rich and poor, so wealth or lack of it should not be how we judge others. (Even though we shouldn’t judge anyone anyway!)

We should share what we have and be generous, avoiding unjust acts.

Don’t take advantage of the poor or weak because God “pleads their cause” (and “despoils of life” those who mess with those plaintiffs!)

Who does the LORD want us to be? Someone who doesn’t judge others but tries to help them? Sure, of course. Attitude counts big in the why and how. Do we help because it’s our job? Yes, of course. But what does the LORD require of us in our heart and soul? What about our “sins of omission”, all those times and ways we ignore, forget, avert our eyes?

What does the LORD require of us? Elaine Eberhart, this week’s devotion writer, writes

We rob the poor in these small individual ways, but together our harm is much greater. We rob the poor when we allow check-cashing businesses to thrive in poor neighborhoods, charging exorbitant fees to cash paychecks. We rob from the poor when we cannot find ways to connect the working poor with traditional financial services so they aren’t victimized by an industry that makes their economic progress impossible. We rob the poor when we build subsidized housing over sites of former chemical businesses. Giving cans of food is important, but we are called to address those who despoil the lives of our brothers and sisters. Advocacy in areas of public policy can seem overwhelming, but perhaps it is the avenue of the most help. What if our only choice was to live with our children in the apartment over the chemical dump?

Advocacy and personal relationships continue to be the correct avenue, but it’s hard. We often do things we don’t like or find difficult at our jobs. Maybe remembering our job under God’s supervision will be what we need to remember when we ponder these proverbs.

Psalm 51:1-12 July 29, 2015

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King David, once he realized what he had done, not only begged forgiveness from God, but more importantly asked to be made new, made to be a better person. My husband often tells me, “Don’t be sorry, try to do it better”.

David asks for the correct action:

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

We can always ask God for a “do over”, hallelujah!

2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a July 28, 2015

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wpid-wp-1438100280738.jpegKing David, about whom has been spoken and sung great praise, the hero of Israel, the “Root of Jesse”, ancestor of Jesus – the Son of Man, God with us. This David, was also a selfish man who took advantage of his position to kill a loyal soldier in order to take his wife.

Probably the saddest part of this story, after the tragedy that was perpetrated on Uriah and Bathsheba, is that David didn’t even realize his great sin until God sent his friend, Nathan, to explain it to him!

This is pretty extreme, but how often have each of us hurt another person without realizing it? How many times have we read or heard something and criticized someone for something we’ve done ourselves?

David’s story doesn’t end “happily ever after” once he realizes his sin, but God forgives and punishes him. David’s legacy as a righteous man and writer of great praise songs, honest prayers, and strong leadership lives on today.

We are all sinners, but what a loving heavenly father we have, who, when we confess our transgressions, gracefully forgives us and leads us toward the better people God created us to be!

John 6:16-21 July 26, 2015

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This is the short version of when Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus has gone back to the mountain because people want to make him a political leader after witnessing his bread and fish meal miracle. It is getting dark so the disciples get in a boat and head toward Capernaum. Three or four miles from shore, it begins to get windy and the sailing gets rough. And they see Jesus walking towards them ON the water! They think they are seeing things and are frightened, but Jesus calls out not to be afraid, it’s only him:D They end up on shore as they try to pick him up, and that’s the end of story – no big deal, just another day with Jesus. Nothing is impossible with him!

Whenever we are frightened or in need, we can always call on Jesus/God/Jah/Allah for help and support. It just takes faith.

John 6:1-15 July 25, 2015

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This is the telling of how Jesus fed at least 5000 people, starting with a boy’s few barley loves and a couple of fish.

When the disciples started commenting on how they couldn’t possibly do anything to feed all those people, Jesus let them talk their negative, “this is impossible” talk. After they mentioned what the boy had, Jesus spoke up and quietly performed his miracle, directing them to gather and distribute the food. And there were twelve baskets of food left over!

Whether we take this story literally or look on it as incentive to faithfully work together as we try to help others, I believe God uses each of us to bring help and healing to our world. I look at the new Ventura CROP Hunger Walk committee and I see God’s spirit among us. Each of us brings something to the work ahead, and our Creator and Greatest Supporter combines our talents, desires and abilities to actually feed hungry people!

I love how this bit of scripture ends:

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Even the Son of God was unwilling to be turned into a leader/symbol of a movement. God doesn’t want just one person (no matter how powerful and holy) to solve the world’s problems poof! – by themself. Whether we are a church, community, or a committee, we are meant to gather what we have, work together, and multiply our individual gifts to make that kingdom we all so desire.

Praise God for our blessings that we are called to share!

Ephesians 3:14-19, 20-21 July 24, 2015

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This is Paul’s “Prayer for the Readers” of his letter to the growing Ephesian church – and all who have ever read, or ever will read it!

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.  I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.  I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge , so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

What a wonderful blessing to know and feel the love and power of God! That knowledge can truly give each of us the strength to go on with our lives and to do the work of love, kindness, mercy, and forgiveness that certainly doesn’t come naturally for someone like me. To paraphrase another great line, We love because God loved us first. Once we have felt loved and cared for, it only seems right to pass on that love.

Paul’s prayer ends with this praise and reminder that God’s power and our responsibility is never-ending:

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Let’s each on of us prove it so!

Mark 4:26-34 June 17, 2015

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How does Jesus describe the kingdom of God?  Here are two within two paragraphs:
1) After seeds are scattered, some sprout and ripen. The good ones are cut down and harvested.
2) Like a tiny mustard seed that is sown and grows into a shrub big enough for birds to nest in.

The gospel writer notes that Jesus used parables to explain difficult concepts to the masses, but privately he explained everything to the disciples.

The devotion writer notes that we “simply participate” in what God plants. We can’t control much until it sprouts. We have to exercise patience as we watch the kingdom grow.

Harrell Nation, Jr., the devotion writer, states that the reason he believes in God is life itself. Jesus wants us to see with eyes of faith what God has planted. It grows through Christ!  Christ in us brings kingdom life to reality as we feed the hungry, comfort the hurting and help others to follow Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:6-17 June 13, 2015

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Paul writes that we are “away from the Lord” when we are in our bodies, yet we have faith/confidence that we will someday be with God and will be judged. So we should live always aiming to please our Lord.

So we aim to live, knowing Christ died so all of us can live. We are “new creations” through Christ. We have a new outlook on life!

1 Samuel 15:34 -16:13 June 12, 2015

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Samuel was a prophet not afraid to do unpleasant things in those violent days.  He informed Saul that God no longer wanted him as king because he had turned away from the LORD. He had Agag, the Amalekite king, brought before him and “hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD.”

But he did what God told him and under pretense of making a heifer sacrifice, met Jesse and his sons. Samuel couldn’t recognize the man he should anoint as Saul’s replacement  but God recognized David’s qualities. We should take a lesson from God’s instructions to Samuel:

Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, . . . for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.

God knew David’s potential and “filled him” with God’s spirit, leading David forward. We can support each other’s efforts in the same way. We can depend upon God to point out our strengths and weaknesses – and make each of us stronger supports for each other.