Figuring the Cost

I enjoy the HGTV renovation shows, especially the ones that are a sequel to the House Hunters series. In House Hunters, you watch people view houses that they are considering buying, and at the end they reveal which one they picked. They work with a local realtor with a specific budget in mind, and it is always exciting when they negotiate a price for less than the asking price.

In the renovation shows, they make a list of improvements and repairs, set a budget, hire a contractor, do some of the demo themselves, and then you get to see the newly renovated house. However, it never, ever, ever comes in on budget. Never. They always underestimate both the cost of materials and the time required to complete the project, and thus go way over their budget in the end just to get the job finished. Not to mention that there is always a mold or water damage situation that they didn’t spot when they were buying the house, so now they are stuck. So even if they were under budget when they purchased the house, the renovations put them way out of budget.

If you’ve ever remodeled even a closet in your house, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

In the fourteenth chapter of Luke, Jesus taught his followers about estimating the cost of being a disciple. It is not cheap. Most will underestimate the true expense. Many will walk away.

Luke 14 (The Message)

25-27 One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.

This may be the harshest of Jesus’ teachings. He stated that you may have to walk away from your family’s unbelief in order to be a disciple. You may need to separate yourself from people’s behavior and actions. You may need to even deny yourself, your habits, or your lifestyle to follow Jesus.

You will need to pick up your own cross.

28-30 “Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’

31-32 “Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce?

Estimating the cost of following Jesus is a serious business. Jesus wants you to go into it with your eyes wide open. If you are still in a relationship with someone who continually pulls you away from God’s will and toward sin, get out your calculator and do the math again.

33 “Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.

Plans, people, behaviors, and habits that don’t lead you to Jesus will need to be set aside for the disciple-life. Is God telling you to kiss something good-bye so that you can follow his son?

Follow Me by Michelle Robertson

Loving Like Family

This morning I was reminded that Hurricane Irene hit the Outer Banks with a vengeance eleven years ago this week. I was immediately transported back in time. My mother lived in a waterfront condo 30 minutes away in Manteo and her building’s elevator system was wiped out, so she came to live with us until it was repaired. I stepped into the role of “disaster relief coordinator” for my church and organized teams to go and help people muck out from the flood waters. Two teams from my home conference and church came from Georgia and we deployed them to a small church in Stumpy Point and to local homes to help with clean up and repair. It was a time of great exhaustion but also great joy, seeing my new church in Kitty Hawk come together in such a beautiful way.

In my own home, we suffered $25,000. worth of damage. A chimney blew apart, bringing rainwater into two rooms for days, and a large dock was dismantled in the raging storm. We also lost two cars. A few days after the hurricane subsided, a neighbor from down our canal rang our doorbell to say that part of our dock had landed intact on his boat lift, and would we please come and get it off. I immediately called my chain saw crew from church and gave them the address.

Hebrews 13 was part of last week’s lectionary assignment, and it fits perfectly with this memory today. I was privileged to see my church love each other like family. I was privileged to watch people open their homes to others. I was privileged to see church members donate supplies and food to the needy, never counting the cost. I was privileged to learn once again that the Lord is our helper, and we need not be afraid.

Hebrews 13 (Common English Bible)

13 Keep loving each other like family. 2 Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it. 3 Remember prisoners as if you were in prison with them, and people who are mistreated as if you were in their place. 4 Marriage must be honored in every respect, with no cheating on the relationship, because God will judge the sexually immoral person and the person who commits adultery. 5 Your way of life should be free from the love of money, and you should be content with what you have. After all, he has said, I will never leave you or abandon you. 6 This is why we can confidently say,

The Lord is my helper,
and I won’t be afraid.
What can people do to me?

Have you ever been in a time of great distress and saw the Lord rush to your aid? Can you tell that story to someone who needs a reminder today? We need not be afraid with the Lord at our side.

7 Remember your leaders who spoke God’s word to you. Imitate their faith as you consider the way their lives turned out. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!

Your life circumstances will change with the prevailing winds. Storms will come and go. People will come and go. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Thanks be to God!

Seating for Two

Jesus’ Way

We continue our exploration of Jesus’ ethics in the Sermon on the Mount. In typical Jesus fashion, he is about to flip the table on what people thought they knew on several subjects. Today we tackle adultery and divorce. (By the way, for those of you who are The Real Housewives of New Jersey fans, please don’t think that Teresa Giudice was the first table-flipper. Oh, no. That accolade belongs to our Lord. But I digress.)

Matthew 5 (New Living Translation)

27 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 

People of a certain age will remember a very controversial comment made by presidential candidate Jimmy Carter in an interview with Playboy magazine where he talked about sex and forgiveness, stating that God had forgiven him for “committing adultery of the heart by lusting.” Suffice it to say that this clear understanding of Jesus’ ethical view on adultery nearly cost him the election. (You can read more about this here.)

Jesus is on the right track. One thing that the “Me, Too” movement exposed was the level of adultery being committed against unwilling participants who were subjected to inappropriate comments, touching, veiled threats, misogyny, and rape. Adultery in Jesus’ ethics is not confined to sexual infidelity between two married people, but rather addresses a wide range of destructive and harmful behavior that undermines society. Jesus’ ethics are more concerned with the purity of the heart than the strict adherence to the law.

29 So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

What can we say about this except Jesus ain’t playing. Many a high positioned leader … from the White House to the local school to the local pulpit … have fallen hard after committing adultery of the heart. It’s Jesus’ way.

Teaching about Divorce

31 “You have heard the law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’32 But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery.

To put this into perspective, the law of Moses only granted men the right to divorce. It became a freewheeling way for men to get out of a marriage. The simple written notice was all that was required to sever a marriage. Women, of course, had no say in the matter at that time.

Jesus upped the ante with this statement. He reminded the men that there is more to a marriage than a legal contract … there is a heart contract as well. He pressed the issue here by reminding the men that there must be sufficient grounds to divorce, and narrowed the conversation even farther to identify those grounds as unfaithfulness on the wife’s part. Divorce set up a chain of adultery because the heart contract can’t be broken, even though under Moses’ law, the written notice suffices. Jesus explained that adultery resulted when two people are still married in the eyes of God but the wife has been “dismissed with a notice.”

While the divorce laws have obviously drastically changed since then, don’t miss the important part here: what we do, say, feel, and believe in our hearts matters. Matters of the heart trump matters of the law every time. As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:

1 Corinthians 6 (Amplified Bible)

12 Everything is permissible (allowable and lawful) for me; but not all things are helpful (good for me to do, expedient and profitable when considered with other things). 

The application of these passages is clear. What you believe in your heart matters. Every attitude and behavior we have flows from the heart. When the heart is kept pure and in alignment with God’s word, things go well for us and we continue to be centered in God’s will. When the heart is corrupt, the body follows and we risk being “thrown into hell.”

How is your heart today, friend? It’s never too late to change.

So Goes the Heart by Kathy Schumacher

Amplified Ethics

When I was a young college student studying journalism, we were required to take an upper-level course on Journalistic Ethics. That may give you an indication as to my age, for surely it appears that recent graduates of communications degree programs are no longer required to study it. The cynic in me wonders if more emphasis is being placed on strategies of click-baiting, how to write a misleading lede, and how to pass off fake news entertainment as factual investigative reporting. Is it just me?

Today we are going to look at Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount” in the fifth chapter of Matthew to explore Jesus’ ethics. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what my professors, news people, politicians, or even world leaders think about ethics. It only matters what Jesus thought. Watch for phrases like “but I say to you” and “therefore.” These are indications that Jesus is about to amplify the current understanding and application of what is ethical.

He begins with the standard Ten Commandment statement on the subject of murder:

Matthew 5 (Common English Bible)

21 “You have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago, Don’t commit murder, and all who commit murder will be in danger of judgment.

This understanding is completely in line with the sixth commandment, “thou shalt not kill.” But watch where Jesus takes it next:

22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell. 

Jesus is warning about the deadly effects of anger, name-calling, and put-downs. By associating these things with murder, he is raising the bar on our understanding of killing. Can you kill someone’s self-esteem with a derogatory remark? You bet. Can you choke the life out of someone’s joy by spewing out your anger at them? You know you can, and you probably have.

Next, Jesus pivots to forgiveness and reconciliation. Here he raises the bar even higher by stating that you should not come to the altar until you make things right with everyone who has something against you. The fact that the pews are filled every Sunday may be an indication that we don’t take this literally, for surely our churches would be empty if this was a requirement of admission:

23 Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift at the altar and go. First make things right with your brother or sister and then come back and offer your gift. 

Then Jesus gives guidance about how to settle disputes quickly in fair and civil terms, rather than drag grievances through the court.

25 Be sure to make friends quickly with your opponents while you are with them on the way to court. Otherwise, they will haul you before the judge, the judge will turn you over to the officer of the court, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 I say to you in all seriousness that you won’t get out of there until you’ve paid the very last penny.

Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4:26 to not let the sun go down on our wrath. Jesus urges us to quickly settle our disputes so that they don’t fester and grow, and so that we can move past them and get on with things. In a beautiful figure of speech, he likens a drawn-out dispute to being in prison, where you realize that you’ve become jailed because you didn’t resolve an issue before it was too late. This is also an illusion to the kind of eternity that we subject ourselves to when we refuse to deal swiftly with an adversary.

We will deal with the rest of this portion of the Sermon on the Mount in our next devotional, but for now, consider this: are you guilty of “murder” in Jesus’ definition? Are you killing someone’s joy or hope? Are you harboring a grudge as you worship and pray? Have you let a falling out go on for too long?

According Jesus’ ethics, these things have changed.

So must you.

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down by Carol Riggin

Comfort Zone

A summer sermon series on classic stories of the Bible has landed me in Esther. Truth be told, Esther’s story may be one of the lesser known of the well-known bible stores (most of which are about men), but I was determined to tell the story of a woman. Deborah, Rahab, Delilah, Elizabeth, Eve, and all the Marys popped up in my mind, but I have always loved Esther’s story because she reminds us that we can find ourselves in a place we never expected, doing a thing we never thought we would do, and suddenly, it all comes out okay. This was my exact experience when I did five years of jail ministry. God indeed has a tremendous capacity for pushing us out of our comfort zone.

You may remember that Esther was the winner of a beauty contest that she had no intention of joining. She was selected by the Persian King Xerxes to replace his fallen queen, and she was installed as the new queen. Unbeknownst to the court, Esther is an exiled Jew from Jerusalem, and had no business being there. Her nationality and family were a secret, but her faithful cousin Mordecai, who brought her to the court, is able to keep an eye on her.

While waiting at the King’s gate to check in on her, Mordecai overhears a plot to assassinate the king, and immediately tells Esther. She tells the king, giving credit to Mordecai, and the would-be assassins are killed.

But trouble begins to brew for Mordecai when he refuses to bow to Haman, the highest-ranking nobleman. Much like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Mordecai takes a stand against bowing to anyone but God. Haman responded by putting out a decree that all the Jews should be killed, and he tricked and bribed the king into sending it out under the king’s seal.

In desperation, Mordecai sends word to Esther. He asks her to intercede, but for Esther to approach the King when she hasn’t been sent for would mean certain death, according to the law.

Esther 4 (New King James Version)

11 “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days.” 12 So they told Mordecai Esther’s words.

Mordecai sends word back to Esther and urged that she reconsider her leverage in this matter:

13 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Such a beautiful sentence, one which makes us pause to consider OUR purpose and place in the kingdom.

For such a time as this, you have been called to speak out.

For such a time as this, you have been instructed to intercede.

For such a time as this, God invites you to take a stand.

Where and how does this speak to you? Is God calling you to act? Are you in a place you never meant to be? Are you meant to step way out of your comfort zone to do something big, new, and scary?

If this relates to your situation, read this next part carefully. Every big change of direction requires a period of silence, prayer, discernment, and perhaps even fasting. Watch what Esther does:

1Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”

We have to admire this woman’s boldness, but also recognize that it was a matter of submission to the mission God had given her.

Do you have a mission? Submit, and you will be blessed.

Royal Garden by Suzanne Wrenn

‘Tis A Gift To Be Simple

Stuff happens. Then more stuff happens. And before you know it, stuff has taken over, and you find yourself spending much more time than is reasonable just managing your stuff.

I have been trying to clean out my home office for two weeks. I have found a few treasures under the piles, but for the most part, I uncover something and wonder why the heck I still have it. I have come to the conclusion that stuff has a secret nocturnal reproductive life that we don’t know about. Surely every morning there is more stuff than there was the night before!

Stuff is the biggest challenge for folks who make the crazy decision to move into a tiny house. Made popular by HGTV, tiny houses are a fascinating (if wholly unrealistic!) trend for folks desiring a more simple and uncomplicated life.

Tiny houses range from 300-500 square feet. Think of that: you need to cram a kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, living room, storage space, and an eating table in less than 500 square feet. And then …. where do you put your STUFF?

But what do you really need? If you could pare your life down to the essentials, what would remain? Imagine you had to move into a 300 square foot tiny house: what would you keep, and what would you throw away?

The early church found out. They actually sold all their things so that they could support one another and live together in community, where everyone had what they needed, and nobody had too much:

Acts 2:45-47 Common English Bible (CEB)

45 They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them. 46 Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity.

47 They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved.

They shared, with gladness and simplicity.

Do you ever wish for a simpler life? Is life too complicated? Have you lost sight of the simple delights God has provided? What does the Lord desire for you … more stuff, or more simplicity?

I believe we are all called to simplicity. Removing anything that distracts us from our calling as disciples enables us to experience a certain level of godliness that comes with simple contentment. Paring down to the essentials of what is necessary is a pathway to holiness.

And you might even fit it all in a tiny house, with room left over.

1 Timothy 6 (NIV)

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

It’s that simple!

Beach Cottage Simplicity by Michelle Robertson

Breaking Free

This summer we took our family to the charming town of Manteo to a place called “Island Farm.” It is a recreation of an 1840’s era family farm, utilizing the land and some of the original buildings from that time. We saw a blacksmith make iron nails, explored the family home with its primitive furnishings, and enjoyed a wonderful storyteller who made the entire experience come to life. We even got to feed a very loud rooster, who snuck up behind me and tried to sample my shoe, much to the delight of the children.

I had been to the farm two years earlier, when the gracious owner allowed my colleague and I to film our Christmas Eve service on the property. We were not able to meet in person due to the pandemic, and so we staged various scenes to bring our service to life. I was filmed reading the children’s message while sitting in the middle of a sheep field, and my partner read the nativity passage standing in front of an open sheep stall as three sheep listened intently.

The stalls by the field were larger, and as we began to film my portion, the keeper opened the stall door. Suddenly I was besieged by an entire flock of sheep, lured to come into the camera range by the placement of sheep food that had been strategically strewn around my feet. I was almost knocked over by their enthusiasm! Lesson learned … don’t get in the way of hungry sheep! Or roosters!

In today’s passage, Eugene Peterson cleverly compares a miraculous healing to being led from a stall in which Satan had bound a woman in for eighteen years:

Luke 13 (The Message)

10-13 He was teaching in one of the meeting places on the Sabbath. There was a woman present, so twisted and bent over with arthritis that she couldn’t even look up. She had been afflicted with this for eighteen years. When Jesus saw her, he called her over. “Woman, you’re free!” He laid hands on her and suddenly she was standing straight and tall, giving glory to God.

14 The meeting-place president, furious because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the congregation, “Six days have been defined as workdays. Come on one of the six if you want to be healed, but not on the seventh, the Sabbath.”

15-16 But Jesus shot back, “You frauds! Each Sabbath every one of you regularly unties your cow or donkey from its stall, leads it out for water, and thinks nothing of it. So why isn’t it all right for me to untie this daughter of Abraham and lead her from the stall where Satan has had her tied these eighteen years?”

As usual, the Pharisees were locked in a stall of their narrow understanding of the Law and their extreme piety, unable to see or accept the freedom that God authorized Christ to bring to his people. They would rather see the woman suffer than to have her healed on the Sabbath. But Christ is greater than the Law of small-mindedness, and he set the woman free.

Are you tied up in a stall, locked in by Satan himself? Have abuse, addiction, anger, revenge, jealousy, envy, adultery, or some other sin got you so entangled you can’t open the door to get free?

Take heart. Jesus has the key to the stall door. If you pursue him, he will let you out. All you have to do is ask.

17 When he put it that way, his critics were left looking quite silly and red-faced. The congregation was delighted and cheered him on.

Freedom by Becca Ziegler

Bee Still

Have you ever been stung by a bee? Have you ever been stung by a bee eight times all at once? This was my unfortunate experience last week on a long run. I was on a wide path bordered by the most beautiful flowering bushes when all of a sudden, I felt as though I had been pierced in the hip by a poison blow dart. It was excruciating. Then the sensation repeated itself seven more times as the vicious agent of hell continued to attack, landing on my neck, arms, back, and even my face. I kept running and took my hat off to swat at it, to no avail. I may or may not have spewed a string of words that no clergy member should even know, much less say.

Worst of all, it happened at mile 5 in a 10-mile run with no way to get home except to run. I should have just stopped and called an Uber.

The aftereffects stayed with me for days. I was nauseated, dizzy, itchy, and generally felt puny. I developed roving hives for 24 hours that would appear and disappear in different places on my body at will. I still have a small crater on my cheek and red patches that haven’t faded.

That nasty bee sure did leave its sting!

But praise be to God, death won’t.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote these beautiful and cherished words about the impotence of death in the face of the strength of Christ:

1 Corinthians 15 (Contemporary English Version)

50 My friends, I want you to know that our bodies of flesh and blood will decay. This means they cannot share in God’s kingdom, which lasts forever. 51  I will explain a mystery to you. Not every one of us will die, but we will all be changed. 52 It will happen suddenly, quicker than the blink of an eye. At the sound of the last trumpet the dead will be raised. We will all be changed, so we will never die again. 53 Our dead and decaying bodies will be changed into bodies that won’t die or decay. 54  The bodies we now have are weak and can die. But they will be changed into bodies that are eternal. Then the Scriptures will come true,

“Death has lost the battle!
55 Where is its victory?
    Where is its sting?”

This is a passage that is read often at funerals, and it brings much comfort to the bereaved. The mystery of God’s prevenient gift of eternal life is something we can cling to when our loved ones die. It is a lifeboat of hope when we contemplate our own passing. God gave Jesus the victory over death itself, and we can stake our very lives on that fact.

56 Sin is what gives death its sting, and the Law is the power behind sin. 57 But thank God for letting our Lord Jesus Christ give us the victory!

58 My dear friends, stand firm and don’t be shaken. Always keep busy working for the Lord. You know that everything you do for him is worthwhile.

So, keep working toward that day. Don’t be shaken! Keep singing, praising, worshipping, studying, and being busy for God. All of this will soon pass away, but the love of the Lord lasts forever.

Just keep running.

Bee Still by Kathy Schumacher

Joe on the Go

The main ingredient of these devotionals is scripture, but my favorite part of this morning devotional-writing routine is making that first cup of coffee and sitting down in my chair by the corner windows that overlook the harbor. With a steaming cup of joe in one hand, I begin to pray and write, and look to see where God is taking us each day. I know that many of you read these writings first thing in the morning, and I imagine you in a comfortable spot with your own cup of “cawfee regulah,” as they say in New York. BTW, “coffee regular” is caffeinated coffee with two sugars and two creams. That’s what it takes to wake up in New York.

And since we’re learning about all things coffee this morning, the phrase “cup of joe” comes from the morphing of “java” and “jamoke,” according to Snopes:

“Of the two best theories, jamoke morphing into joe is the strongest contender thanks to this find by linguist Michael Quinion: “It is significant that an early example appears in 1931 in the Reserve Officer’s Manual by a man named Erdman: ‘Jamoke, Java, Joe. Coffee. Derived from the words Java and Mocha, where originally the best coffee came from.’”

We only do serious research here at At Water’s Edge, people.

Coffee is an amazing industry now. Back in the ancient of days, during a period of history before Starbucks (known as B.S.), folks usually made a cup of something called “Chock Full of Nuts” or “Maxwell House” at home and then got on with their day. Now we have Starbucks beckoning us from every corner, and the Starbucks culture has become prevalent everywhere. Children now learn to say Caramel Macchiato and Grande, Iced, Sugar-Free Vanilla Latte With Soy Milk before they say dog and cow. Next time you are in a public setting, take note of how many people are carrying the famous Starbucks cup with their names misspelled on the side. Starbucks reported 4.2 billion dollars in sales last year. We prize our caffeine, depend on our caffeine, need our caffeine, and kinda worship our caffeine. And coffee shops everywhere are at our service.

Apparently, there was no coffee in Biblical times, which may explain all of the fighting that went on in the Old Testament. The writers of the Psalms, however, were very much in touch with their need for a morning cup of God:

Psalm 143

A psalm of David.

1 Lord, hear my prayer,

    listen to my cry for mercy;

in your faithfulness and righteousness

    come to my relief.

2 Do not bring your servant into judgment,

    for no one living is righteous before you.

3 The enemy pursues me,

    he crushes me to the ground;

he makes me dwell in the darkness

    like those long dead.

4 So my spirit grows faint within me;

    my heart within me is dismayed.

5 I remember the days of long ago;

    I meditate on all your works

    and consider what your hands have done.

6 I spread out my hands to you;

    I thirst for you like a parched land.

7 Answer me quickly, Lord;

    my spirit fails.

Do not hide your face from me

    or I will be like those who go down to the pit.

8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,

    for I have put my trust in you.

Show me the way I should go,

    for to you I entrust my life.

9 Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,

    for I hide myself in you.

10 Teach me to do your will,

    for you are my God;

may your good Spirit

    lead me on level ground.

11 For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;

    in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.

12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;

    destroy all my foes,

    for I am your servant.

Out of everything that is beautiful in this passage, this verse absolutely sings:

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my faith in you.

What might your day look like if you made that your prayer? Think about all the routine tasks you have to do today: work, relationships, chores, child-rearing, etc. How might all of these things be if you woke up every day and asked God to teach you his will, and to use his good spirit to lead you on level ground? What if you poured a hot, steaming cup of God and ask him to show you the way to go every morning with the same faithfulness and regularity you apply to drinking coffee?

Prevenient grace assures us that God is already present in your day, waking you up and wooing you to his side. So, take a sip, savor the flavor, and settle into his promises. In God, we find our hiding place, our life preserver, the silencer of our enemies, the one who brings relief, and the one who hears our cries for mercy. And that, my friend, is better than caffeine.

Joe on the Go by Vic Miles

Outta Control

A few months ago I had the pleasure of touring the Tillamook Air Museum in Tillamook, OR. It is located at old Naval Air Station inside a large K-Class airship hangar. There were many amazing exhibits of full-size airplanes, cockpit trainers, jets, helicopters, and more, but my attention was caught by an old F-4 Phantom cockpit that had been used in the movie “Sully.” Captain Sully Sullenberger flew F-4s in Vietnam, and the owner of the F-4 cockpit allowed it to be used in the movie and then donated it to the museum.

The events of Captain Sullenberger’s heroic saving of a US Airways A320 airplane that crashed landed into the Hudson River in 2009 are well known. Just after taking off from LaGuardia Airport, the plane was struck by a flock of Canadian Geese that flew directly into the engines, causing complete engine failure. In a miracle of bravery and expertise, Captain Sullenberger landed the plane on the water and assisted all 155 passengers to evacuate to safety.

When things get out of control, it is good to have a captain around. I know this from personal experience. I have had two emergency landings in an airplane in my lifetime. One was due to the windshield cracking, and the other involved evacuating down inflated chutes immediately upon touchdown due to an engine fire. Knowing that the captain was in charge kept me calm and assured under great pressure. Plus, I’m married to a captain, so I know the training, experience, and expertise that it takes to be one.

Today’s Scripture likens Jesus to a captain in control of everything. In this passage we see evidence that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. In the fullness of his humanity, he is a brother to us and thus lower than the angels. But in the fullness of his divinity, he wears the crown of glory and honor, and controls the ship like the Captain that he is:

Hebrews 2 (Common English Bible)

God didn’t put the world that is coming (the world we are talking about) under the angels’ control. Instead, someone declared somewhere,

What is humanity that you think about them?
        Or what are the human beings that you care about them?
For a while you made them lower than angels.
        You crowned the human beings with glory and honor.
        You put everything under their control.

When he puts everything under their control, he doesn’t leave anything out of control. But right now, we don’t see everything under their control yet.However, we do see the one who was made lower in order than the angels for a little while—it’s Jesus! He’s the one who is now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of his death. He suffered death so that he could taste death for everyone through God’s grace.

Hebrews 2 (New King James Version)

10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying:

“I will declare Your name to My brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.”

Is your life in disarray? Do you feel out of control? Do you need a Captain-Savior to bring you to safety? Does chaos reign in your family?

In his glory, Jesus conquered death and restored humanity’s place of dominion over the earth that was lost when Adam fell. We become rightful heirs to the promise that all things will be sanctified in God’s time.

In the meantime, remember that God is in control, even when the plane is going down. Your Captain is at the helm. Thanks be to God.

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