Ecclesiological Etchings: 10-31-12

Scripture: Isaiah 29:24 (the Message)
Those who got off-track will get back on-track, and complainers and whiners learn gratitude.

Thought for the Day: The comedian Seth Meyers said, “A new study shows that kids who eat a lot of candy are more likely to be arrested for violent behavior as adults, said that weird old lady who gives out apples on Halloween.”  There were always the people who gave out toothbrushes, a religious tract or a nice shinny penny on Halloween.  And there was the one woman who gave out full-sized candy bars, but first lectured us on some hot issue from our local paper.  We often debated if the time lost in listening to her rant was really worth the larger bar.  I’d like to pretend that as a young child I was appreciative of each gift I received on Halloween, but I was not.  Some stops were much better than others.  For parents, Halloween and other holidays can be important teaching moments around the notion of gratitude.  We need to help our children (and a lot of adults) look behind the gift and see the heart of the individual who gave it.  The old guy down the street might be handing out the worst candy ever, but he took the time to buy it and greet you with a smile at the door.  Gratitude for the generosity and care of another is so important…even if the gift wasn’t what you really wanted.

Prayer: God, give me an openness to see the beautiful intent of a gift, and then honor that intent through genuine gratitude.  Amen.


Ecclesiological Etchings: 10-30-12

Scripture: Matthew 10:7
As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Thought for the Day: I’ve spent the last few days with some amazing pastors who are currently starting new churches or are in the process of discerning a call to start new churches.  It is a courageous crazy bunch, and I must confess a great sense of humility as I listened to their stories.   These folks are not looking for comfortable pulpits from which to preach the good news.  They are willing to sacrifice much of who they are to make sure others have a full experience of this good news.  I ask that you pray for all these pastors, but specifically for Geoff Mitchell and Doug Kriz who are making sure their little part of the world knows the kingdom of heaven has and continues to come near.

Prayer: I give you thanks for the call to be servants of the Gospel, O Lord, but also for those who say, ‘yes’.  Amen.


Ecclesiological Etchings: 10-29-12

Scripture: 1st Timothy 3:14-15
I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

Thought for the Day: It is so important that if, by chance, the author cannot make it there in person, the following instructions will suffice.  The author is concerned about behavior in the household of God.  Not just within the technical building known as the church, but within the community of believers.  From the beginning, leaders within the church recognized how the behavior of Christians was more profound than any sermon or credal statement.  The bad behavior…the unhealthy conduct inside the community of Jesus followers has been so deplorable at times that everyone of any integrity should have run away.  It is only by the grace of God that there are even a handful of people who desire to claim membership within a church.  That’s the reason our behavior is not simply important, but is all we have to define Jesus to the world.

Prayer: Give me a faithful heart, Merciful God, that more fully reflects the teachings of Jesus and love he had for all creation.  Amen.

Ecclesiological Etchings: 10-28-12

Scripture: Proverb 23:18
Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.

Thought for the Day: The writer and poet, Oscar Wilde, gives us a perspective so often forgotten.  He wrote, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”  The words are powerful, but they feel a bit too idealistic for the person sitting in the gutter.  It is in those moments when a simple glance toward the stars can draw us beyond the moment of despair and into the realm of the possible.  It’s not some naive or preposterous dream, but a belief that our current existence doesn’t have to be our destiny.  Yet without the occasional glimpse toward the stars, our present reality will be our only reality.

Prayer: Draw my glance toward the possible, O Lord, so that hope may encourage my spirit to what is possible with you.  Amen.



Ecclesiological Etchings: 10-27-12

Scripture: Psalm 16:11
You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Thought for the Day: I don’t know who actually said it, but I love the words, “Enjoy life!  This is not a dress rehearsal.”  How often do we approach the day at half speed and with a ho-hum attitude as if some other day in the future is going to be the one that is really important?  This kind of attitude is a mistake for the simple reason that this is the only October 27, 2012, we will ever have.  Let us not allow it to slip through our fingers.

Prayer: Creator God, awaken me to the wonderful and joyful possibilities of this day; help me to embrace the fullness of the day; give me contentment at the end of the day that is found in a grace-filled person who didn’t waste a second.  Amen.



Ecclesiological Etchings: 10-26-12

Scripture: Acts 7:26
The next day he came to some of them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, “Men, you are brothers; why do you wrong each other?’

Thought for the Day: A few years back, Edward Gilbreath wrote an article about St. George’s Methodist Church in Philadelphia.  Two hundred years ago, a group of African American members of the church refused to sit in the black-only balcony.  The leadership of the church tossed them out, and it gave birth to the African American Methodist Episcopal Church (AME Denomination).  Just recently, the two churches reunited for a service of reconciliation.  At the service, a cross was given to an AME pastor that was made from the nails that were kept after they tore down the black-only balcony.  This is a wonderful moment of reconciliation in the life of the church, yet it took 200 years.  May we learn to humble ourselves, ask for forgiveness, and seek healing with a little more expediency.

Prayer: Merciful God, as you have bridged deep divides with your grace, may you also assist the church as it ventures into the bridge-building of reconciliation. Amen.



Ecclesiological Etchings: 10-25-12

Scripture: Matthew 28:19-20
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Thought for the Day: In 1903, President Teddy Roosevelt slipped away for a three-day camping trip in the Sierras.  John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, was his guide.  Because of Muir’s insight and passion, Roosevelt caught a glimpse of what a national park system might look like.  During the next six years, Roosevelt worked to set aside nearly 150 million acres of land.  Classrooms are okay settings for basic education, but if you want to help form people who will make a difference, you’ve got to take them where they can see and touch the subject of their course work.  Christians can take a lesson from Muir’s technique.

Prayer: As you have formed me, O Gracious God, may I help to teach others in the way of discipleship.  Amen.


Ecclesiological Etchings: 10-24-12

Scripture: 2nd Chronicles 15:16-17
King Asa even removed his mother Maacah from being queen mother because she had made an abominable image for Asherah. Asa cut down her image, crushed it, and burned it at the Wadi Kidron.  But the high places were not taken out of Israel. Nevertheless the heart of Asa was true all his days.

Thought for the Day: At staff meeting yesterday, we discussed this passage (a continuation from yesterday’s devotional) about King Asa.  It’s a story about courageous change both individually and corporately, but what I appreciate is how the story doesn’t end with a perfect resolution.  It’s still kind of messy, and though Asa is able to live his days in faith, the world around him doesn’t magically fall inline.  Too often Christianity is portrayed as the guide to quick-fixes where all our difficulties end with everyone joining hands and singing Kumbaya.  Maybe that’s the experience of some folks, but the rest of us find that faith is not a means of escaping the struggles, but a mixture of wisdom, encouragement, forgiveness and hope amidst this crazy experience we call life.  For even in its craziness, there is joy and beauty to be found.

Prayer: God, I seek to grow in my faith, not as a solution to all life’s challenges, but to engage you and your friendship amidst all the experiences of life.  Amen.


Ecclesiological Etchings: 10-23-12

Scripture: 2nd Chronicles 15:7-8a
“But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”  When Asa heard these words, the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded, he took courage…

Thought for the Day: The prophetic words of Azariah, to take courage, were very encouraging and resulted in Asa doing exactly that.  And for Asa to bring about the dramatic shift that was needed in his own life and in the life of Israel, he would need courage.   It was Maya Angelou who wrote, “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”  For anyone to strive for the virtues of integrity, faithfulness, righteousness or compassion, s/he will need to first have courage.  Why?  It’s because these virtues are constantly named in political speeches and religious fundraising, but they are actually rarely achieved because their real manifestation is not popular at all.  Nonetheless, God desired for Asa and the Israelites to strive for these high ideals…and I believe God desires for us to do the same.

Prayer: God, you have inspired courage among so many amazingly faithful people.  Gift me with just a little bit so I may endeavor to live the life you would have me live.  Amen.


Ecclesiological Etchings: 10-22-12

Scripture: Proverbs 17:22
A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.

Thought for the Day: I was reading an article a couple years back about a Christian man from Eastern Congo who has helped to create a University where more than 800 students now attend. It is located not far from where most of the violence was taking place in that country.  He was asked if there was anything that discouraged him, and though he talked about the violence and the young children who have been forced into military service, he explained that nothing causes his spirit to be disheartened.  He remains hopeful.  I read that story and I wonder why I am so easily discouraged over petty and insignificant things.  Let us gain strength from the great examples of hopefulness in the midst of difficulty and tragedy.

Prayer: Mighty Counselor, introduce me to faithful men and women whose stories will inspire and challenge my life.  Amen.