Sins of My Youth

One of the blessings of the pandemic is the ability to participate in ZOOM calls. Conversely, one of the curses of the pandemic is the ability to participate in ZOOM calls. Yes, it is amazing to sit at home and make decisions with people all over the country without the expense and wear and tear of travel. But ZOOM is a one-dimensional platform that leaves you wanting more and too many in one day can slap wear you out.

I have a weekly ZOOM call with my daughters and niece that is truly in the blessing category. We laugh until we cry and sometimes I forget about the troubles of the world when we are talking. It has become a wonderful time to share memories and they are especially interested in things I share with them about my mother/their grandmere. Recently I shared a memory of something she told me that they found hilarious and a little shocking. Now they are pumping me for more. I am having to edit not only telling them about the sins of my youth, but the sins of my mother’s youth as well!

Luckily for us, God never remembers the sins of our youth as long as we have confessed them and repented. If he were on a ZOOM call with you and you said, “Hey God, remember that time I did XYZ?” his response would be “Nope.”

Psalm 25 (Common English Bible)

I offer my life to you, Lord.
    My God, I trust you.
Please don’t let me be put to shame!
    Don’t let my enemies rejoice over me!
For that matter,
    don’t let anyone who hopes in you
        be put to shame;
    instead, let those who are treacherous without excuse be put to shame.

Everyone who hopes in God will not be put to shame. Even in a time of correction, God’s unconditional love and mercy lead the way. He is always trying to save us and we can count on his faithful love forever.

Make your ways known to me, Lord;
    teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth—teach it to me—
    because you are the God who saves me.
        I put my hope in you all day long.
Lord, remember your compassion and faithful love—
    they are forever!
But don’t remember the sins of my youth or my wrongdoing.
    Remember me only according to your faithful love
        for the sake of your goodness, Lord.

We know from scripture that a repented sin is flung as far away as the east is from the west. Thanks be to God, we can trust him to always do the right thing, always guide us in righteousness, and lead us in his truth. He forgives and forgets all of our wrongdoing.

The Lord is good and does the right thing;
    he teaches sinners which way they should go.
God guides the weak to justice,
    teaching them his way.

Are you still carrying a heavy sin from your youth? Let it go. Lay it down under the cross and walk away. Confess it to your Heavenly Father and receive his permanent forgiveness. He will teach you his way and you will never have to carry it again. You may remember it…but God never will.

Cast All Your Cares Upon Him by Cheryl Smith

Expiration Dates

My mother once told me a tip about buying dairy products in the grocery story. Never take the carton in the front. It is warmer and will expire sooner than the ones in the back. So reach behind and pull a colder one from the back.

Yesterday I bought a carton of Half and Half and pulled from the back. Indeed, the expiration date on the carton was later than the ones in the front. When I read the expiration date my first thought was, “Oh wow. That’s after the election.”

Funny how we think in those terms. How many of you are like me and just can’t wait for all of this to be OVER? This current season of disunity, hate speech, lies, attacks, and downright confusion cannot end quickly enough. And I am not such a Pollyanna that I think the election will miraculously cure the divisions that plague us, but at least the anxiety of waiting will be over. Both sides are promoting a platform based on fear and it can’t end soon enough. In my area, the local political ads are filled with slander and mud slinging and have reached the outrageous level. ENOUGH.

In the second chapter of Philippians, Paul addresses the subject of being united and agreeing with each other. He contends that those things are indicative of having the attitude of Christ:

Philippians 2 (Common English Bible)

 Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agreeing with each other. Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. 

This must be a taste of what heaven will be like. I am so jaded at this point that I can’t imagine we will achieve this on earth. How lovely it would be to share in the Spirit, have sympathy for our fellow human, share the same love, and be united. The humility required for God’s people to live in complete harmony is probably well beyond what we can achieve here.

What would it mean to watch out for what is better for others rather than to do things for selfish purposes? What change in your life would that require?

Paul gives the answer.

Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:

Though he was in the form of God,
        he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
        by taking the form of a slave
        and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
        he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
        even death on a cross.

To be truly Christ-like we must be willing to empty ourselves of ourselves. We need to be humbled. We need to be obedient. We need to let God be God and realize that we are not in charge of everything.

Therefore, God highly honored him
        and gave him a name above all names,
10     so that at the name of Jesus everyone
        in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow
11         and every tongue confess
            that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The challenge for today is to practice humility. Find that one opportunity to put someone else’s need, opinion, agenda, or desire ahead of your own. Empty yourself and take on an attitude of Christ.

By the way, being Christlike in everything you think, say, and do has no expiration date.

Reflections of Heaven by Terry Wingenroth

Pandemic Promises

Think back to everything you know about God’s promises. Perhaps you can even claim a time in your life when you were the beneficiary of one of his promises. The list is endless.

For me, the biggest promise made in the Bible is when Jesus told us that he would never leave us. He explained to his disciples that he was simply going ahead to prepare a place in heaven for us and then reminded them (and us) at his departure that he is always with us “even unto the ends of the earth.”

This morning’s Psalm is a great reminder of an Old Testament promise that God made to us after the Great Flood. You may remember from your Sunday School lessons that when the flood waters receded, Noah saw a rainbow in the sky. God explained that he put it there as a reminder of his promise that he would never again destroy the earth.

Hold that thought in your heart as we read Psalm 105. This Psalm recounts the miraculous delivery of the Hebrew nation through the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army close at their heels. God delivered them from slavery and deposited them in the Promised Land. He lived up to his earlier promise that they would not be destroyed.

What promise can we claim from this in regard to the pandemic?

Psalm 105 (New Revised Standard Version)

O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
    make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
    tell of all his wonderful works.
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Seek the Lord and his strength;
    seek his presence continually.

I hope that the pandemic has brought us enough of a “pause” as we’ve followed stay-at-home orders to seek the Lord and his strength. This has been something I have tried to do in my personal discipleship….to seek his presence continually. How are you doing with that?

Remember the wonderful works he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered,
O offspring of his servant Abraham,
    children of Jacob, his chosen ones.

Then he brought Israel out with silver and gold,
    and there was no one among their tribes who stumbled.
38 Egypt was glad when they departed,
    for dread of them had fallen upon it.

Egypt was GLAD when they left! The might of the Lord was so great, they were relieved to be rid of Israel from their land. God provided light, food, and water for his people in the desert.

39 He spread a cloud for a covering,
    and fire to give light by night.
40 They asked, and he brought quails,
    and gave them food from heaven in abundance.
41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
    it flowed through the desert like a river.
42 For he remembered his holy promise,
    and Abraham, his servant.

43 So he brought his people out with joy,
    his chosen ones with singing

What does this say to us, a pandemic people? It tells us that this time of sickness WILL END. It reminds us of God’s mighty power to deliver US, his people. It reassures us that at the appointed time the virus will be wiped clean from the earth and the pandemic will be over. Thanks be to God!

God always remembers his holy promises. Let us come out with joy and sing to the Lord.

God Keeps His Promises

Singular Vision

Can you name a time in your life when you were part of a group that had a single purpose or goal? Even in the most highly trained sports team, the most gifted singing group, or the greatest work division the company ever put together, it is hard to find a group that doesn’t have some element of individualism, ego need, or competitiveness that ruins the unity.

Such it is with life.

The disunity that plagues the church in this season comes after many such moments in its history. Issues over slavery, racism, property rights, women’s rights (including ordination), ecclesial structure, hierarchy, and issues surrounding human sexuality have been present in most denominations since the first day they were formed. In my denomination these disputes have caused schisms, mergers, closures, and the re-writing of our Book of Discipline every four years. And there is more to come.

What does scripture say about unity in the body of believers?

Paul wrote a letter to the church at Philippi in anticipation of a visit there. But in the meantime, he had words of instruction for the people:

Philippians 1 (The Message)

27-30 Meanwhile, live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ. Let nothing in your conduct hang on whether I come or not. Your conduct must be the same whether I show up to see things for myself or hear of it from a distance.

Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people’s trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition.

Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you—and both because of God. There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting.

We would do well to heed Paul’s words. The issues that divide us cannot be stronger than the message that unites us. We are called to make a witness to the world and contend for their TRUST in the message we are sent to deliver. It is a message of hope. It is a message of the good news of the resurrection. It is a message of peace. It is a message of God’s singular vision for the world…that all who believe in Jesus shall not perish, but have everlasting life. That is our singular vision.

It is worth setting aside our individual goals, ego needs, and competitiveness so that we might win the world for Christ. It will take our courage and our unity. Most of all it will take humility.

We are suffering right now, but if we focus on the singular vision of winning the world to Jesus, we can gain the trust of the people as we put our trust in God.

Meanwhile, live your life in such a way that you will be a credit to the cause of Christ. The world is watching.

Focused by Sharon Tinucci

Secret Decoders

There is a fun scene in the movie A Christmas Story where young Ralphie has finally received his secret decoder wheel after sending in the required amount of Ovaltine labels. This will help him decipher an important message from Little Orphan Annie that just might save the world! He works the decoder feverishly while locked in the bathroom. As the letters and words emerge, his sense of purpose grows with each turn of the dial. Finally the message appears!

“Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.”

It is a sadder and wiser Ralphie that slowly re-enters the world, having experienced his first bait-and-switch “crummy commercial.” How disappointing!

I must confess I feel this way every time I click onto what looks to be a good article and discover that it is flooded with advertisements that blink on and off like the Vegas strip at midnight. I clicked on a news article on the west coast wildfires and was instantly inundated with ads for Zulilly, Wayfair, and something called Bud Light Seltzer. Is that even a thing?

The neat thing about today’s Psalm is that it takes a kind of decoder ring to get the full message. It is one of eight alphabetic acrostic psalms in the Bible and there is possibly some hidden meaning not only in its content, but in its form.

Alphabetic acrostics go through the Hebrew alphabet with the first letter of the first word of each line in alphabetical order. The “secret message” of a psalm that goes from A to Z (or more correctly, Aleph to Taw) suggests a completeness and wholeness that points to our relationship with God. The secret message in its form says that with God we are UNBROKEN.

In more practical terms, a psalm written in alphabetic acrostic is also easier to memorize.

Keeping in mind that the decoded message is “You are complete and unbroken,” read this psalm and think about what is missing in your walk today that needs to be filled in so that you might feel whole.

Psalm 145 (Common English Bible)

I will lift you up high, my God, the true king.
    I will bless your name forever and always.
I will bless you every day.
    I will praise your name forever and always.
The Lord is great and so worthy of praise!
    God’s greatness can’t be grasped.

Do you bless and praise God forever and always, or only on the good days?

One generation will praise your works to the next one,
    proclaiming your mighty acts.
They will talk all about the glorious splendor of your majesty;
    I will contemplate your wondrous works.
They will speak of the power of your awesome deeds;
    I will declare your great accomplishments

They will rave in celebration of your abundant goodness;
    they will shout joyfully about your righteousness

    The Lord is merciful and compassionate,
    very patient, and full of faithful love.

Remind yourself of this truth if you are feeling broken this morning.

9 The Lord is good to everyone and everything;
    God’s compassion extends to all his handiwork!”
10 All that you have made gives thanks to you, Lord;
    all your faithful ones bless you!
11 They speak of the glory of your kingdom;
    they talk all about your power,
12     to inform all human beings about God’s power
    and the majestic glory of God’s kingdom.

When you got up this morning, did you remember God’s compassion?

13 Your kingdom is a kingship that lasts forever;
    your rule endures for all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all that he says,
    faithful in all that he does.
14 The Lord supports all who fall down,
    straightens up all who are bent low.
15 All eyes look to you, hoping,
    and you give them their food right on time,
16     opening your hand
    and satisfying the desire of every living thing.

And let us not forget that God provides!

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways,
    faithful in all his deeds.
18 The Lord is close to everyone who calls out to him,
    to all who call out to him sincerely.
19 God shows favor to those who honor him,
    listening to their cries for help and saving them.
20 The Lord protects all who love him,
    but he destroys every wicked person.
21 My mouth will proclaim the Lord’s praise,
    and every living thing will bless God’s holy name
        forever and always.

Make your day complete by contemplating these things. I know it’s long (all 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet-long) but read it again. God will fill in your empty spaces with his presence and the glorious splendor of his majesty. From A to Z, God’s goodness is everlasting, and with him you are unbroken.

Unbroken by Wende Pritchard

The Back to Egypt Committee

Every institution has one. It is typically self-appointed and is often the first group of folks to greet the new boss on the first day. Stakeholders of a sort, they want to be sure that (1) nothing changes, (2) traditions are honored, (3) the new leader respects the culture of the institution, (4) it is understood that THEY represent the culture of the institution, and (5) nothing changes.

When the institution is the church, this group is fondly referred to as the “back to Egypt committee.” Let’s read Exodus 16 and see where that nickname comes from.

Exodus 16 (Common English Bible)

The whole Israelite community complained against Moses and Aaron in the desert. The Israelites said to them, “Oh, how we wish that the Lord had just put us to death while we were still in the land of Egypt. There we could sit by the pots cooking meat and eat our fill of bread. Instead, you’ve brought us out into this desert to starve this whole assembly to death.”

In Moses’ new appointment to the Church of the Wilderness Whiners, he had to contend with the self-appointed leaders who expressed a wish to go back to Egypt where they had been enslaved and abused for years. “BUT we were fed MEAT there! We could eat our fill of bread in Egypt! Why, oh why did you bring us to this desolate land to start a new life of freedom? We wanna go back to Egypt and die!“

Friends, the people were HANGRY.

The next part of the story is a reminder of how gracious, loving, and caring God is. It’s a good thing I’m not God, because I wouldn’t have had this much patience. Would you?

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I’m going to make bread rain down from the sky for you. The people will go out each day and gather just enough for that day. In this way, I’ll test them to see whether or not they follow my Instruction. On the sixth day, when they measure out what they have collected, it will be twice as much as they collected on other days.” 

Our good and gracious Father responds with not only food to meet their immediate hunger, but a proper lesson in depending on God for all of their needs. See what he did with the sixth day? He provided a double portion for the next day, which was the sabbath.

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “This evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt. And in the morning you will see the Lord’s glorious presence, because your complaints against the Lord have been heard. Who are we? Why blame us?” Moses continued, “The Lord will give you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning because the Lord heard the complaints you made against him. Who are we? Your complaints aren’t against us but against the Lord.”

Notice that Moses does a little blame-shifting here. He says that even though he is the leader who brought them this far, it’s not really his fault. Of course, we clergy-folk never do that! Except for when we blame the internet/sound/tech feed, or the District Superintendent, or the rules of our denomination. Or that time we pointed accusingly at the bishop for making us preach on controversial issues, or outed the loud church member who actually was actively trying to undermine our authority. Or when…..OK, we clergy people sometimes shift blame as well. Leadership means shouldering the responsibilities of everyone’s decisions and quietly trying to remain gracious and patient through the consequences.

Listen, negotiating life in the desert is hard on all of us. Remember this when you are in a situation that is changing all around you. LIFE IN THE DESERT IS HARD ON EVERYONE. The pandemic has certainly proved that.

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole Israelite community, ‘Come near to the Lord, because he’s heard your complaints.’” 10 As Aaron spoke to the whole Israelite community, they turned to look toward the desert, and just then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared in the cloud.

This is possibly the best part of the passage. “They turned to look TOWARD the desert, and just then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared.” This is just one of many times in scripture when we are promised that when we look for God with our whole heart, we will find him. Even in the desert places.

Change is inevitable. Change is all around us. We can never go back, but God is out in front, leading us into our future. We will all be painfully aware of this as we attempt to re-gather for worship at some point.

11 The Lord spoke to Moses, 12 “I’ve heard the complaints of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat. And in the morning you will have your fill of bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”

So quit your complaining! Take it up with God. He hears our grumbling and whining and he provides. God is truly good to us, much more than we deserve. No matter what desert you are in right now, the glorious presence of the Lord is already there, right with you. Just turn and look for him.

The Glorious Presence of the Lord by Michelle Robertson

Equal Pay

A man in my church passed away earlier this year. He was gifted, funny, and had a lovely personality. He also had a son who is lost from the world. Drugs and alcohol have controlled his son’s life for years, yet the father wrote his son’s name on a prayer request card every Sunday. He never gave up hope that his son would be saved. Knowing the full measure of blessing that comes from a relationship with God, the father prayed earnestly for his son to receive this fullness for himself even after decades of estrangement. It is never too late to come home.

In our passage today we see a group of vineyard workers who are in the middle of a labor dispute with the foreman. Some worked a long, hard day in the blazing sun for their wages. Others were hired at noon, and still others came in an hour before quittin’ time. Yet they all received the same wage. Unfair! The workers protested.

Matthew 20  (The Message)

1-2 “God’s kingdom is like an estate manager who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. They agreed on a wage of a dollar a day, and went to work.

3-5 “Later, about nine o’clock, the manager saw some other men hanging around the town square unemployed. He told them to go to work in his vineyard and he would pay them a fair wage. They went.

5-6 “He did the same thing at noon, and again at three o’clock. At five o’clock he went back and found still others standing around. He said, ‘Why are you standing around all day doing nothing?’

“They said, ‘Because no one hired us.’

“He told them to go to work in his vineyard.

“When the day’s work was over, the owner of the vineyard instructed his foreman, ‘Call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first.’

9-12 “Those hired at five o’clock came up and were each given a dollar. When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar. Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the manager, ‘These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.’

This is something the man in my church understood. If his son were to give his life to Christ tomorrow, he would receive the same wage as the father who spent his ninety-plus years following Jesus. It’s never too late to receive equal pay. That’s how generous God is and the reason why we should never stop hoping and praying for the unrepentant to turn their lives toward God.

13-15 “He replied to the one speaking for the rest, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn’t we? So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?’

Is there someone in your life that you’ve almost given up on? Are you praying for a friend or family member to find Christ? Don’t give up. The reward is great. Even those who offer a deathbed confession are eligible to come into the Kingdom at full pay.

16 “Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.”

This last sentence stands as a warning. If you’ve been “earning your keep“ all your life and think there are categories of people you won’t have to suffer in heaven, think again. All those people you assume won’t get in because of their sin will likely be seated right next to you at the heavenly banquet. God decides to give to those whom he decides to give. He owns the vineyard and determines what is fair. His measure of fairness is weighed in grams of grace, mercy, and unconditional love. Better get ready now. And by the way, they might not be expecting to see you, either.

Somewhere Over by Joe McGraw

The Unbaptized Heart

Nineteen years ago our world changed forever. In a modern day Pearl Harbor event, America was attacked and we watched with horror as the Twin Towers fell, a plane plowed through Pennsylvania farmland, and the Pentagon, the symbol of our military strength, was partially decimated. We know families who lost loved ones. We all lost our innocence that day. But America rose up from those ashes. People turned to patriotism and prayer.

Today is a good day to let a Psalm calm those memories and visions. It is a good day to remind ourselves that it is God who delivers us. With his right hand and his holy arm, he brought victory. It is a good day to sing to the Lord a NEW song and tell of his marvelous works. It is a good day to study Psalm 98.

There is an old “preacher story” that has made the rounds in churches that tells about Ivan the Great and his baptism into the Greek Orthodox Church. He desired to marry the daughter of the King of Greece, who required that he be baptized. Ivan’s entire army was also to be baptized, but there was a problem: they would have to resign from fighting, as the church did not permit its members to commit bloodshed. This was a huge issue for the 500 soldiers, but a compromise was reached. They would withdraw their swords as they entered the water for their full-immersion baptism and hold that arm above their heads as they were immersed. Thus the arm and its sword were “unbaptized” and could be employed in fighting.

If you are sitting there scratching your head, you are in good company. How can one truly withhold a part of themselves in a baptism? How could one part of a person be reserved for bloodshed while the rest of the body is being cleansed by the blood shed by Christ?

But before we get too judgmental, ask yourself this: are you raising your arm with something clutched in your hand and keeping it from God? Your time, your talent, an inappropriate relationship, your worship, a destructive habit, your resources, your tithe, your energy…can you say that you have given God a full immersion of your heart?

God shows us by his own example that victory can only come when all of us, including our arms and clutching hands, are holy and wholly engaged in his work.

Psalm 98 (New Revised Standard)

O sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
    have gotten him victory.

You see, when God was fighting for the Israelites, he was ALL IN. He withheld nothing. He raised his right hand and lifted his holy arm in their defense. He remembered his steadfast love for the house of Israel and brought them back to himself.

The Lord has made known his victory;
    he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
    to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
    the victory of our God.

Every nation was made aware of God’s complete love for his people. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for them…including sending his only son to die on a cross so that they might have an eternal home with him.

Are you holding back? Are you holding out on God? Is there something you know you should be offering that you have resisted?

History proves that God will always be there for us. Will we be there for him?

When the people gave up their sinful ways and repented, they returned to God and he restored their nation. The breaking forth of joyful praise was heard everywhere.

It is nineteen years since our nation’s horrific day and we remember the cost of freedom and how God was with us. As we dwell on this today, let us remember to make a joyful noise for God’s presence in our lives.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
    break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
    with the lyre and the sound of melody.

Break Forth by Bonnie Bennett

Better Than Gold

I received the most incredible gift this week. A cherished high school friend contacted me about a month ago and said she had found a cross stitch that she had started as a wedding present for me in a box in her basement. It reads,

Be unto me kind and true as I be unto you.

I’m sure you recognize this as a kind of “wedding version” of the Golden Rule. We were all raised on the Golden Rule, which instructs us to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Did you know that the Golden Rule comes from scripture? Here it is in the Message version:

Luke 6 (The Message)

31-34 “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!

There is a lovely irony for me in this. Several decades ago my friend painstakingly stitched the Golden Rule onto a sampler and this month she completed it and mailed it to me with some of her beautiful homemade cookies to match. She isn’t just stitching the Golden Rule, she is living it out. She is treating others with love, care, and respect, much as she would hope to be treated in return.

Read what the rest of the passage says:

If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.

35-36 “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.

What a powerful example for us today. My friend gave her time, talent, and resources so that I might have an incomparable gift for my upcoming 40th anniversary in November. I can never hope to repay her and she knew that when she completed the work she began so many years ago. I am deeply humbled and inspired. I hope you are too.

How can you live out the God-created identity that Luke is talking about? Can you be generous? Can you help someone today? Where is God calling you to be gracious to someone who can’t possible return what you give?

Our Father is kind: you be kind as well. You’ll never regret it.

Golden Friendship

Used for Good

It is hard for most of us to be able to claim much good coming out of this pandemic. So when you hear a story that actually has a good ending it needs to be shared.

My daughter is an airline employee. Her company is working hard to not furlough any employees in the midst of the catastrophic economic impact that airlines are facing. They have come up with creative ways to mitigate their situation, including offering early retirements, extending leaves, and creating job-sharing possibilities. She is currently on “bonding leave” with her baby, and was just awarded a one-year extension. She will maintain her seniority with the company and was given other incentives, the best of which is an additional twelve months home with her baby at a critical time in his life.

Talk about a blessing coming from a dark time! We are so thankful.

In our scripture today, we see the culmination of the Joseph story. You remember that his brothers sold him into slavery and he ended up in Egypt. There he succeeded in capturing the Pharaoh’s admiration and eventually rose to a position of power. He led Egypt to store enough grain to survive the famine that came to the land.

Joseph’s brothers, living in famine-starved Israel, have had to travel to Egypt to find food. Lo and behold, they find themselves in front of their own long-lost brother who now controls the grain stores. Their guilt is overwhelming and when news comes that their father is dead, they fear that Joseph will exact revenge on them.

Genesis 50 (Common English Bible)

15 When Joseph’s brothers realized that their father was now dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us, and wants to pay us back seriously for all of the terrible things we did to him?” 16 So they approached Joseph and said, “Your father gave orders before he died, telling us, 17 ‘This is what you should say to Joseph. “Please, forgive your brothers’ sins and misdeeds, for they did terrible things to you. Now, please forgive the sins of the servants of your father’s God.”” Joseph wept when they spoke to him.

Even in this moment, the brothers are trying to manipulate Joseph’s feelings in hopes of a positive outcome.

18 His brothers wept too, fell down in front of him, and said, “We’re here as your slaves.”

At this point, one might expect that Joseph would load them up on a slave cart and have them hauled off to some miserable work site, just as he was hauled off on a slave cart when they threw him in a pit many years earlier. But watch what happens:

19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I God? 20 You planned something bad for me, but God produced something good from it, in order to save the lives of many people, just as he’s doing today. 21 Now, don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your children.” So he put them at ease and spoke reassuringly to them.

“What you intended for evil, God used for good.”

This maturity of hindsight is a good lesson for us today. Can you say the same thing? Are you able to look back at a particularly difficult time in your life and see how God used it for your good?

I can. I wouldn’t be here in the Outer Banks if it weren’t for decisions made to restructure the church staff where I was serving. The pain of those decisions was crushing. I was exiled. But I landed on this island, and I can look back and see how God indeed used it for my good.

My prayer for you today is that no matter what awful place you find yourself in right now, you will be able to claim God’s good work breaking through the dark. Hang on. God will use even this for your own good.

God’s Good Work by Amy Sasscer