Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Good/Evil Treasure

"The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks."
(Luke 6:45)

Although I don't believe that a person is either "all good" or "all bad" (we're probably closer to a mix of both), this passage from Luke 6 causes me to ponder. Whatever comes out of a person's mouth (or out of MY mouth!) is a direct reflection of the "treasure" inside a heart. Is the treasure good or evil, generally? Jesus says we can tell by what a person says. Wow.

It was Thumper (aka "Bambi" fame) who reminded us, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." While that's good advice, we need to be looking at the "bigger picture" of our language. Most of us can curb our comments at particular points (with some people or in some situations - except maybe in traffic, right!?!). But over the long term, our "treasure" is revealed by how we speak - especially when no one is around (that blows my traffic comment out of the water) or when we're surrounded by friends (and we think it's "safe" to say anything).

Do words of life and grace come out of my mouth? I hope so. But I know that's not always the case.

PRAYER: Remove any "evil treasure" frmo my heart, Lord... so I can share Your goodness in all I say and do. AMEN.

God is great...

{from Monday, November 24, 2008}

"We do not present our supplication before you on the ground of our righteousness, but on the ground of your great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord listen and act and do not delay."
(Daniel 9:18b-19a)

Daniel is praying on behalf of the people of Israel - in all their sinfulness. He's "coming clean" with God, acknowledging all the ways they've not followed God's will. He's being brutally honest. And from that baseline of sin, he pleads for God's mercy. Then he states quite plainly that it's all because of God's grace that he can pray - and it's nothing to do with their own goodness.

This may seem quite obvious. God is great. We are not. But I think we sometimes forget it. We're not called to wallow in self-deprecation, of course. But to have an honest assessment of one's reality, hopefully bathed in humility, opens one up to the amazing power of God's healing forgiveness.

PRAYER: Help me to intercede more for the people you've entrusted to my shepherding care, Lord. And keep my feet on the ground, too, as I fall upon Your mercy, not my illusion of righteousness. AMEN.

Off the radar...

{from Saturday, Nov. 22, 2008}

"In the 15th year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea & Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas & Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, son of Zechariah in the wilderness..."
(Luke 3:1-2)

Something big is about to happen. Luke the storyteller is setting it up. He lists all the big "movers and shakers" from Jesus' time - in both the political & spiritual spheres: the Roman Emperor, Tiberius... the Roman Governor in Israel (Pilate)... the local Jewish "kings" (Philip & Herod)... a neighboring ruler (Lysanias), and the two Jewish High Priests (Annas & Caiaphas). BUT NONE OF THEM WERE THE FOCUS HERE. Instead, the word of God came to JOHN. A 'nobody.' And yet, we know he became a very important 'somebody.'

This is a great reminder that God can speak to anyone! And God often chooses to work with those who are "off the radar screens" of most people. We shouldn't be surprised when God does this - it happens all the time in scripture.

PRAYER: Speak, Lord! Use whomever you will. Keep me humble enough to be able to notice your messengers. Thank you for transcending our expectations! AMEN.

Friday, November 21, 2008

River of LIFE

"On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing."
(Ezekiel 47:12)

I first heard about this amazing "river of life" at a Chris Tomlin concert. He sang a song called "Dance in the River." He told us that it was from an OT passage that talked about a holy river that gave life to everything it touched. This is that river.

What was interesting to me, however, is the fact that the river originated at the Temple in Jerusalem. Evidently, there was an underground spring that surfaced under the Temple. So while God created the water that brought life and healing, the church (temple) was the place from which that flowed. As it should be!

I just prayed for a group of 30+ people walking from my church to downtown Honolulu today. It's the 10th day in a 10-day "Walk the Talk" journey around the island on foot - to raise money and awareness for homelessness. I won't attempt to take credit for any part of this amazing project (my friend, Utu Langi, is the leader!)... but it was great to see so many from my congregation bring food last night to share with the walkers (plus a few came back this AM to make breakfast for them - as they slept over at the church!). The vision of Ezekiel is how it should be. The church SHOULD be the place where life-giving & healing waters flow. When we "get it right," this indeed happens. When we don't, it doesn't.

PRAYER: Lord, send healing waters out from our church - not just for those who come to worship here, but for ALL in the larger community & world. You are too powerful for us to keep to ourselves. Use us to bless Aiea and beyond. AMEN.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


"This shall be (the Levitical priests') inheritance: I am their inheritance; and you shall give them no holding in Israel; I am their holding."
(Ezekiel 44:28)

The prophet Ezekiel is in the midst of a massive vision of the temple in Jerusalem, being shown all the aspects & dimensions of how the rebuilt temple shall be (personally, it's kind of boring reading, to be honest). Then here in chapter 44, God gives regulations for the Levitical priests. Among the instructions come this poignant statement about their inheritance (their share of the land they'll receive, like the various12 tribes received): THEY GOT NO-THING... no property at all. Why? Because GOD was their inheritance!

At first glance it may seem like the priests get the short end of the stick. "Yea. We get God. Wow. Thanks. That's just great." Doesn't everyone get God? How is this an "inheritance"? Sounds more like a cost-savings measure! But then I thought about it a bit deeper. People at large need a place to live and a means by which to make a living. So they get allocations and inheritances. "But the priests don't need those things," says God, "because they'll have me!" God is saying that He'll be ALL they'll need! Not only that, but that His presence with them is an inheritance! The privilege of communing with the Holy One of Israel on a regular basis is indeed a gift of great value!!

We clergy can get into the inheritance/benefits race. We know we won't get rich by being pastors, but that doesn't stop us from thinking about (and lobbying for) a bigger salary, greater benefits, increased expense accounts, more money for our 401K, etc. And sure, we need to provide for our families just like everyone else. BUT... we also have an incredible gift by the very nature of our calling. We are together with God on a regular basis. Everyone can, of course. But we are intentional about it (hopefully!). "I am your inheritance," says God. "I AM!"

PRAYER: Forgive me, God for getting caught up in the quest for "more." Thank You for reminding me that You are all I need! What a privilege. What a gift. What a calling. AMEN.

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's a Generation Thing

"One generation shall laud your works to another... they shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness."
(Psalm 145:4, 7)

The psalmist writes about the importance of one generation witnessing to another generation about God. About God's works, goodness & righteousness, to name just a few. It's a generation thing. It's the responsibility of one generation to share the faith with another.

In the traditional sense, this occurs all the time in churches. Sunday School teachers tend to be "older generations" as compared to the children that are being taught. But I don't know if we see it as a generation thing, though? Kids can't teach themselves, so we plea for adults in the church to teach. But if we take Psalm 145 to heart... we can appeal to the responsibility of the collective faith of other generations!

Outside the church, however, I think we tend to gravitate toward similar generations. Meaning, we look to people our own age (or close to it) for guidance, inspiration, leadership & insight. That's fine, of course, but are we missing the gifts that other generations have to offer - both older and younger? Could it be that God is calling us to move outside the comfort zones of our own generation, to both give and receive God's witness?

PRAYER - Speak to me, Lord, through the testimony of other generations... and use me to encourage other generations to faith as well. AMEN.

Self-glorification & Luxury

[ NOTE: This is from Saturday, November 15th]
"Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great... Render to her as she herself has rendered, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double draught for her in the cup she mixed. As she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, so give her a like measure of torment of grief..."
(Revelation 18:2, 6-7a)

"Babylon" is seen as a woman personified here in Revelation 18... and it's time for her judgment. She will be repaid for her wickedness. But what's interesting here is the indictment: "She glorified herself and lived luxuriously." She glorified herself - looked after her own interests and did whatever she wanted to do, whatever "felt good" at the time. She focused on herself - no one else. And she lived in luxury. Wow.

In the U.S., a vast majority of us long to "live luxuriously." Nice house. Car. Clothes. Food. Toys. Travel. Entertainment. Luxury is marketed all over our culture. "You deserve the best," we're told. And we buy it. Literally! But far too often "living luxuriously" and "glorifying oneself" go hand in hand. We want the very best and are encouraged to go for it.

And yet Jesus taught about giving ourselves away for others... about becoming servant leaders... about reaching out to help "the least of these" among us. Despite everything we've heard, it's not about us and the pursuit of our own personal gain. It's about sharing the resources we've been blessed with... and giving glory to God.

PRAYER: Gracious God, you have indeed abundantly blessed us. May I not get caught up on accumulating things or acquiring wealth or living in luxury. I don't want to be self-centered or focused solely on my own self-glorification. I want to be the kind of person you need me to be. I want to give myself away for the world. I want to be like Jesus. Please help me. AMEN.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Favor & Compassion

"Now God allowed Daniel to receive favor and compassion fromm the palace master."
(Daniel 1:9)

Four young men... in a foreign land... against their will... forced to serve their new king. This is where Daniel & Co. found themselves. They were chosen as part of a group of the "best and brightest" (of the captives) to learn the ways of Babylon & commit to a lifetime of service to the king. The three-year training began with daily "royal rations" of food & wine. The only problem was this went against Daniel's Jewish dietary laws. So he asked the palace master if he could have an alternate "vegetarian menu." The storyteller says that "God allowed Daniel to receive favor and compassion from the palace master." Excellent!

Which got me thinking... a friend of mine (who is also a pastor) was looking to acquire a new worship space for his church. After many, many months of searching & praying... they were finally close to an agreement. A really great property! But an adjacent retailer had a contractual stipulation that would not allow "houses of worship" anywhere nearby. My friend & his church prayed fervently. God allowed them to receive favor & compassion from the retailer.

I wonder how often we, as humans... as people who claim to be followers of Jesus... are faced with a potential roadblock or hurdle or challenge... and we freeze up!? WE get stopped in our tracks. 'Oh well, I guess it wasn't meant to be," say to ourselves. And yet, what if we, instead, would look to God in prayer and commit the situation to Him? What if we prayed for God to grant us favor & compassion from some entity that holds power over the situation?

All things are possible with God. We just don't trust that promise enough. All things may not be probable. But it seems like we could do a bit more in the "intercession department" (I know I sure can!).

PRAYER: Lord God, today the Cal-Pac cabinet is meeting with the Conference Board of Congregational Development to discuss the many proposals submitted this fall. Among them is our request to launch/fund a satellite ministry. Please grant us favor & compassion in the eyes of the Conference Leaders. And no matter what their decision, keep us faithful to Your calling for our church. We want to do Your will. AMEN.

"Worth their weight in gold"

[NOTE: This was from 11/12... server was down yesterday. Sorry.]

"The precious children of Zion, worth their weight in fine gold - how they are reckoned as earthen pots, the work of a potter's hand."
(Lamentations 4:2)

The temple in Jerusalem, once a majestic image of splendor & riches, now lies in pieces. The sacred stones are scattered. The gold has grown dim. And yet, there is FINE GOLD all around, if only the people could see! That gold is the CHILDREN of the city. The children, however, are being treated as clay pots - not the priceless gold they truly are.

Children continue to be a much-maligned group today around the world. Our youth group recently finished watching a powerful DVD from "Invisible Children" (www.invisiblechildren.com) about the children of Uganda - those being abducted as child soldiers, and those involved in "night commuting," traveling long distances just to sleep in a safe place at night, and not get abducted. Wes Stafford's incredible book, Too Small To Ignore, about children & poverty around the world, also speaks loudly to my heart. Here in Hawaii, Aiea UMC is involved in Common Grace, a local ministry that matches the kindness of a local church with the needs of a local elementary school (mentor/friend relationships - one hour a week!). God yearns for the children of the world to be loved, cared for, and be able to grow into their future!

PRAYER: May I ever keep the plight of children in my heart, so I can always reach out to them in love, grace & compassion... both here and abroad! AMEN.

Monday, November 10, 2008

"Au Contraire!"

"Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, in order that it may go well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD our God."
(Jeremiah 42:6)

Be careful what you wish for - 'cuz you just might get it! We're back in Jeremiah today... and the Babylonian army is advancing on Judah. The people are scared. They ask Jeremiah, God's prophet, to inquire of the LORD for them. "We'll do whatever God says we should do!" they profess. (Sure you will.) Jeremiah prays... and 10 days later receives the answer: "Stay here! Don't flee to Egypt. Don't be afraid of the king of Babylon. I'll be with you," says the Lord. When Jeremiah told the people, however... they were SHOCKED! "No way! God didn't tell you that!" they exclaimed. "You're lying!" They ignored Jeremiah's message, and fled to Egypt.

Reading the story, it's easy to be judgmental. "How could they not trust God & Jeremiah?! What a bunch of hypocrites!" And yet, are we any different (am I any different)? We want God's direction and guidance... but too often we come with a preconceived notion of what that direction will be! Can we trust the LORD enough when God just might be calling us to do something we NEVER expected? (The challenge, of course, is making sure we hear from God, and it's not just our own desires/projections!).

PRAYER: I wnat to be faithful to You, Lord, no matter what the message may be. Keep my heart open and my feet ready to respond. AMEN.

Broken Healing

[NOTE: This was from 11/8... catching up!]

"Mortal, I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt; it has not been bound up for healing or wrapped with a bandage, so that it may become strong to wield the sword."
(Ezekiel 30:21)

I know the focus of this passage is supposed to be God's judgment on the Egyptian Pharaoh. Metaphorically, his "arm was broken"... his power & authority damaged. And it will not return to normal, says God. No healing will come. That's the message. But I heard something else today...

I heard a word of HOPE! I heard the truth behind an injury: if treated well, an injury can heal! As painful and devastating as a broken arm may be (whether literally or metaphorically), it can return to full strength! This is a word of encouragement to those in the midst of trauma/struggles. It's a call to make sure a "broken body part" is "set" correctly - that safeguards, accountability, rest & proper healing are put in place.

Whether it's in my life, my family, or the larger AUMC "Ohana," I have a responsibility to help ensure the proper healing & recovery for those with broken "limbs." God provides the healing... but there can be healing!!

PRAYER: As painful as it may be at the time, LORD, help me to make sure all things broken can heal correctly. AMEN.

"So... what happened?!?!"

[NOTE: This is from 11/7... just haven't updated the site in a while.]

"Moreover, the word of the LORD came to me: Mortal, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him... Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you."
(Ezekiel 28:11, 17)

"You had so much going for you... but you wasted it! You abused your position and now you'll face divine consequences!" So says God, via Ezekiel, to the king of Tyre (a costal region just North of Galilee). So much promise, potential, opportunity... so much disappointment in the eyes of God.

I know this was written for a specific individual who wielded great power & influence... and God was holding him accountable... BUT (here's where it gets personal)... But this same question haunts me. With all the opportunity, giftings, responsibility and authority God has given me personally... will I be able (am I currently!?!) to be found faithful? Or will God one day say to me, 'You had so much going for you. What happened?!?"

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, as much as I love this life and the relationships/responsibilities you've placed before me, most of all I want to be faithful to You! Keep me faithful to You. Please. AMEN.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Divine Silence

"When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for almost half an hour."
(Revelation 8:1)

The first six were quite colorful: seal #1 - white horse & rider with a bow; seal #2 - red horse & rider with a sword; seal #3 - black horse & rider with measuring scales; seal #4 - pale green horse & Death; seal #5 - martyrs; seal #6 - earthquake, darkness & blood-red moon! Now the seventh (and final) seal is about to be opened. When the Lamb (JESUS!) opened it, there was silence in heaven, says the author. Silence.

Why silence? Was it just for "dramatic effect"? Maybe. But perhaps it was more about "holy anticipation." What in God's Name was about to happen, people wondered?!?! And in that silence, there was a devotion... a reverence... a divine expectation.

I also thought, "Wow, even in heaven they have 'quiet time' in God's presence!" Yet this just isn't your run-of-the-mill regular 30-minutes-of-quiet-time quiet time that so many of us are used to. You know... sitting still... "being reflective"... not talking... etc. No. This is 30 minutes of active awe! 30 minutes of anticipation! 30 minutes of wondering, "What, in God's Name, is about to happen?" What if I practiced that same kind of quiet time? What if I spent time in silence (whether it was 30 minutes or some other amount) actively anticipating God's actions in my life? I bet it would be a lot different from how I'm quiet before Him now!

PRAYER: Give me an eager anticipation, Lord, as I sit in silence before You're awesome presence! AMEN.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Heart Transplant

"When they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, so that they may follow my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them."
(Ezekiel 11:18-20)

I remember a story from my Greek mythology studies (9th grade English!!?!) where a person had the power to turn whatever he or she touched into stone (or am I confusing that with the story of Midas' golden touch? Was the stone guy a Saturday morning cartoon? Or a scene from "The Chronicles of Narnia"!?!). Anyway, Ezekiel writes about the opposite of that today: the people have hearts of stone and need God's touch to turn them into hearts of flesh.

We might say "cold hearts" instead of stone hearts. Uncaring, unfeeling, unaffected hearts that are not moved to compassion or shamed into righteousness based on our actions. The people of Israel apparently weren't affected by the many sins they propagated in the temple itself - in the very house of worship that was supposed to be Holy! That must change, God said. And God wasn't waitng around for the people to "come to their senses" and willingly return to Him. No, God would take matters into His own hands and perform a "heart transplant." No more stone cold hearts. Now we'd have God-created, living hearts! Hearts that would desire to know and follow God's ways.

I think it's a human condition to need a divine heart transplant. We are easily distracted, amused, and led astray. We know what we want to do, but often can't (or choose not to) do it. We have wandering hearts far too often. It must break God's heart to see how easily we stray. We allow sin to harden our hearts over time - it happens to us all. And yet God doens't give up on us. God still gives divine heart transplants! We are saved from our own frailties, by the grace of God.

PRAYER: I so want a heart of flesh, not stone, God. Keep my mind & heart focused on Your word and Your will so I can stay in line with what you want for my life. Thank You for Your Holy Transplant! AMEN.