Monday, May 24, 2010

Card-holding AARP'ers?!?!

"...And here I am today, 85-years old.  I am still as strong today as I was on the day that Moses sent me... So now, give me this hill country of which the LORD spoke on that day..."
(Joshua 14:10-12)

"Senior Citizens."  "Elders."  Those in their "Golden Years."  Call them what you will... just don't call them "elderly."  Caleb would never have been called "elderly."  He & Joshua were the only ones who believed God's promise of giving Israel the Promised Land.  He was part of a 40-day espionage endeavor, scouting out the aforementioned territory.  Ten of the twelve scouts said, "No!  We can't take it!  They're too powerful for us!"  But not Caleb.  He knew God would provide the victory, despite the apparent obstacles.

That was 45 years prior.  Now, at age 85, the Israelites are finally moving into the Promised Land.  They're dividing up territory.  Numerous battles have been fought... with more battles to come.  Caleb gets up to speak.  He's ready to finish what he knows God started!  "Give me this hill country," he cries.  He's ready to drive out those who resist.  "I'm still as strong today as I was (45 years ago)."

I don't doubt him!  I've had the honor of knowing men & women in their "mature years" who had incredible energy, vision & passion.  People like Gaius Thede, Shig Tanabe, Helen Williams, Maude Jensen, to name just a few.  Men & women who have taught me what it means to live in God's abundant grace - for a long, long time!  Thanks be to God for their witness... and the witness of countless other "Calebs" like them!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Comeback

"When all these things have happened to you... if you call them to mind... and return to the LORD your God, and you & your children obey him with all your heart and with all your soul... then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you..."
(Deuteronomy 30:1-3)

God has just set a new agreement (covenant) with the people of Israel.  They're about to enter their new land and God wants to make sure they keep their relationship with Him a priority.  A lengthy list of "blessings & curses" takes place... and now it's up to the people.  They decide: blessing or curse?  Life or death?

But in chapter 30, God makes an interesting statement: no matter what happens to them (ie. blessings or curses), if the people use it as an opportunity to RETURN to God with all their heart & soul, then God will have compassion on them.

Life happens.  All the time.  All around us.  Good, bad & indifferent.  But how often do we use those experiences (whatever they may be) to draw our hearts back to God?  This passage from Deuteronomy 30 reminds us that's what's ultimately important.  The great Come-back... coming back to God... either out of blessings or struggles... that's what counts!  Amen to that!


[from May 17, 2010]

"Because you did not serve the LORD your God joyfully & with gladness of heart for the abundance of everything, therefore..."
(Deuteronomy 28:47)

Disaster.  Panic.  Pestilence.  Fever.  Inflammation.  Mildew.  Boils.  Ulcers.  Scurvy.  The itch.  Madness.  Blindness.  Confusion.  Robbed.  Abused.  Cuckolded.  Bereft.  These are just a few of the repercussions for NOT obeying God, says Deuteronomy 28.  (It's actually quite a foreboding list!  And probably the source of the idea that if things are going wrong in your life, it's due to your sin!)

But it's verse 47 that really grabbed my attention.  The people didn't serve God JOYFULLY and WITH GLADNESS OF HEART "for the abundance of everything."  Since "small kid time," we've been reminded (especially by our moms!) to be thankful.  Here, however, that's taken to a new level.  God has blessed us with abundance!  Look around.  All of us living in the USA have abundance - whether we feel "wealthy" or not.  But are our hearts glad because of it?  Are we joyful?

If the answer is no... we've been warned!  (We don't want to mess with "the itch!")


[from May 13, 2010]
"Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live & occupy the land that the LORD your God is giving you."
(Deuteronomy 16:20)

NEW LAND!  New opportunities.  New responsibilities.  God is preparing the Israelites for their life in the promised land.  God is laying out the expectations for the people - from worship to relationships.  But God makes it clear ("crystal clear!") that He has one basic command when it comes to disputes among the people: JUSTICE!  Pursue justice.  Period.

God recognized the human tendency towards sin.  Bribes were a part of life, even "back in the day."  But God wants nothing to do with that.  "You must not distort justice; you must not show partiality; and you must not accept bribes..." (v.19).  God holds the people to a higher standard than the rest of society.

Justice is one of those things that most everyone believes in... at least in principle.  But putting it into practice... especially when it doesn't involve us personally... well, that's a bit harder.  We like to think of our "rights" as Americans... and demand what we're due.  But we don't often transfer that thinking to others.  We're at a time in our country where the poor economy is causing many to look more inward.  "If it doesn't directly affect me, I don't care."  But we should care!  We should be about seeking justice for ALL - those who are in power and those who are not... those who have resources at their disposal and those who don't... those who've been here a while, and those who are new... those who can speak for themselves and those who can't.


Maybe I need to open my eyes a bit more and look around.  How can I be about God's call to justice today?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Blessing or Curse?

"See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God... and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn from the way that I am commanding you today, to follow other gods that you have not known."
(Deuteronomy 11:26-28)

Some might call it an ultimatum. Others as a challenge. I think it's simply "the way it is." After receiving God's commandments on Mt. Sinai, God reminded the people of what they now had before them: both a blessing and a curse. If they lived the way God designed them to (relationally with God and others), then life would be a BLESSING! But if they went off on their own & did not live the right way, their lives would feel CURSED. Period.

I really don't see this as a Divine "threat"... but more of a reality check. God's commandments, when seen as a whole, are really about integrity of relationships. When we live in that integrity (with God and others), life is blessed. Why? Because that's how God set things up! When we honor God with our heart & actions... when we treat others with respect & sacred worth... when we are for creation... EVERYTHING & EVERYONE is blessed!!!

Unfortunately, it's human nature to "skew" toward being selfish. We are easily distracted & lose focus. We tend to seek our own interests, benefits, and desires. Those aren't always bad, but often move us away from God's plans for us. Thus, life never seems to be quite right. We miss out on the blessings & joy that God has in store for us.

This doesn't mean that we'll never have problems in life if we follow God's commands... stuff happens to the good an bad all the time. But there will be a sense of blessing even in the struggles, as we do follow God's will. That's a promise! Likewise, when we're wandering off on our own, even if "all is well," it will never quite seem enough. It's the way God "hardwired" us, if you will.

So what'll it be: blessing or curse?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


"On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.."
(1 Corinthians 12:22)

God didn't create us with many 'spare parts.'  Oh sure, if pressed, we can make do without a hand, or arm, or foot... heck, even with one less kidney!  But basically, we need ALL our body parts if we're going to function at our best - the way God intended.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul is reminding the beloved community in Corinth that no one is more "valuable" than another in the Body of Christ.  We all have gifts, roles & a place designed by God.  All are vital!  Evidently, some of the Corinthians were having problems with this.  Which got me thinking... have we changed all that much?  Despite our best intentions, I think it's human nature to want to "size people up."  We sort people out by how "useful" they appear to be to us.  Oh, we may never admit it to anyone... but I daresay we do it nonetheless.

So today's reading challenged me to think about these people (especially in the church) that seem to be the most "high maintenance."  The ones who push our buttons, seem to need the most help, or simply don't seem to do much at all!  What would it mean to begin thinking of them as INDISPENSABLE?  We may not know exactly why God has deemed them indispensable - but it's not our job to figure that out.  Our job is to love them... treasure them... encourage them... and honor them.

Who knows... maybe someone will be led to do the same to us!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Excessive Celebration?!?!

"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God."
(1 Corinthians 10:31)

I love watching football!  We have season tickets to the University of Hawaii games, and it's such fun to follow the "Rainbow Warriors" during the fall season.  I also love watching NFL games - though I don't get to see many live, due to the hazards of being a pastor in Hawaii, when the games coincide with worship!

One of the big differences in the rules between the college & pro games is the "celebration rule."  Basically, there's absolutely NO CELEBRATING after a play in college (no matter how amazing it was)... while int he NFL, it can be done as long as it's not deemed "excessive."  So guys like Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco have a blast when they score a TD... or DE's celebrate after a sack... or RBs/WRs do a little "first down signal" after a big play.  Personally, I love it.  It's fun to watch (And guys like Chad get very creative sometimes in their celebrations!).

A few players will acknowledge God first.  Whether it's a simple gaze up to the heavens (sometimes with a finger pointing upwards, too)... or making the sign of the cross... or dropping to one knee in prayer... some players do give glory to God.  With millions of people watching, their first inclination is to credit the LORD.

The apostle Paul, writing to the church in Corinth, had never heard of American football, of course.  But he had heard of the various religious controversies that community was dealing with.  Problems with communion (people getting drunk on communion wine - in church!) and eating (especially food that had been sacrificed to idols, then resold in the marketplace).  Some people got all worked up over these situations.

Paul comes down with the following simple reminder: WHATEVER YOU DO, DO IT TO THE GLORY OF GOD.  Whether it's eating a meal, playing sports, traveling on vacation, going to school, driving to work, etc.  Whatever you do - do it with a heart for God... so others who ware around you and see you came come to know the goodness of the LORD.  I don't think this necessarily means that we have to be verbal about everything (shouting "Praise Jesus!" all the time).  But a grateful & thankful heart can be contagious.  If nothing else, it will change us.

PRAYER: "Oh Lord, may everything I do today be done for your glory... not my own.  AMEN."