August 31 – September 6, 2015
Monday, August 31, 2015
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
Kyle had experienced a tough life growing up. Both of his parents were physically and verbally abusive. Along with a slap to the face or a belt to the behind they constantly told him that he was no good, that he wouldn’t amount to anything and that he was worthless. Kyle lived every day of his life with these words echoing in his mind. The worst thing was that he believed those words; they shaped his life.
A friend invited Kyle to attend a Sunday worship service with him and Kyle accepted. Kyle didn’t know what he had said, “Yes,” to, but he didn’t want to disappoint his friend. During the sermon, Kyle heard about a loving God, who accepted people just as they were and would never stop loving them no matter what they said or did. Those words spoke to Kyle’s heart and started his transformation.
It took a while but Kyle replaced the words telling him he was worthless, with the words that affirmed God loved him with a steadfast and unconditional love. Kyle lived in the reality of God’s love. The “conviction of things not seen” transformed his life.
Loving Lord, Constantly speak your words of love to us and enable us to live our lives in their truth. Amen.
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
“By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God” (Hebrews 11:3).
The debate between the Creationists and the Evolutionists continues over one hundred and fifty years after it began. This Hatfield/McCoy feud steals the headlines from Christian congregations and ministries that seek to serve the poor and needy while sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. A majority of Christians are quite comfortable believing that God created the universe and that one of the ways God did this is through evolution. What’s important is that God was the one who created.
The writer of Hebrews asserts that this belief that God is the God of creation is an important part of the Christian faith. If God is involved in creation than God is involved in life. Christians assert that God is as active in the world today as God was when the universe was a dark, formless void. Christians can even have the audacity to claim that by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are an intricate part of God’s continued creative activity.
By faith we acknowledge that God created—and that God continues to do so.
God of creation, we are your tools. Use us as you continue your creative activity and bring in a new heave and a new earth. Amen.
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
“By faith Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s” (Hebrews 11:4).
The writer of the story of Cain and Abel in the book of Genesis never gives a reason for God’s displeasure at Cain’s sacrifice and God’s acceptance of Abel’s. The writer of Hebrews says it was because of Abel’s faith. Cain may have offered his sacrifice because it was expected of him, or because he wanted to appear righteous and holy before others. His sacrifice wasn’t in response to God’s love and grace; it wasn’t an expression of Cain’s love for God.
We can see so much of ourselves in Cain, even though we may want to think we are mirror images of Abel. Frequently we act only because it is expected of us or because we want to keep up the appearances of being righteous followers of Jesus. God sees our heart, however; God knows our intentions.
It has been said that there has never been a fully altruistic action. We’re complicated people and we do things for a multitude of reasons. We may serve in the food pantry in order to help others, while at the same time feel good about doing so. We are challenged, though, by the intentionality of Abel’s sacrifice. He sacrificed the firstlings of his flock as an act of faith. May the decisions that we make and the actions that we take intentionally be an act of faith.
Almighty Lord, forgive us when our religion becomes a sham. May your Holy Spirit work in us so that all of our words and actions—our lives are an expression of our faith in you. Amen.
Thursday, September 9, 2015
“By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark” (Hebrews 11:7).
There is a classic scene in the original movie “Karate Kid” where Daniel comes to Mr. Miyagi expecting to learn karate. Instead Mr. Miyagi hands him a rag and has him begin to wash his cars. When Daniel is finished, Mr. Miyagi hands him a polishing rag and instructs Daniel to wax the cars also. Through a lot of hard work Daniel wonders what washing and waxing cars has to do with learning karate. Daniel, though, faithfully and obediently completes his assigned tasks.
Noah was Daniel’s role model. Noah lived in tumultuous times. He might have felt that something needed to be done. But really? What does God instruct him to do? God instructed Noah to build an ark. This was not a time of global warming when climatologists were sounding the alarm and predicting torrential downpours and a rise in the sea level. The storyteller doesn’t indicate that Noah is even near a body of water. Noah hears God speak and obeys. He builds an ark on dry land.
Obedience is a key element in the life of faith. Often the Holy Spirit leads us to do strange and foolish things: tithing (how dumb is that!), missing “Dancing with the Stars” in order to tutor students or going on a short term tour as a missionary. We may not see any rhyme or reason in the Holy Spirit’s guidance, but as people of faith—disciples of Jesus Christ—we obey.
Spirit of God, guide us in our daily journeys and empower us to obey you so that others may experience your love and grace as we have. Amen.
Friday, September 4, 2015
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out from a place that he was to receive as an inheritance” (Hebrews 11:18).
Sgt. Sheila Connors was near the end of her second tour of duty in Afghanistan when the Humvee in which she was riding hit an IED. The next thing Sgt. Connors remembers is waking up in a hospital without her right leg. To say the least this was a life changing experience. Sgt. Connors had been looking forward to a career in the military and suddenly that was no longer an option. Her physical, mental and spiritual recovery took several months. Eventually Sgt. Connors was able to walk with a prosthesis and also able to believe that God had her life in God’s hands and would lead her in her next steps along a different path.
Few of us have been directed by God to leave our extended families and travel to a distant land. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t descendants of Abraham and Sarah, though. God’s Spirit leads us through the changes of life—through unexpected situations and turns of events. Like Abraham and Sarah’s Promised Land, the Holy Spirit opens door for new experiences of God’s love and grace.
At our baptism, God made us children of God. The Lord assured us that nothing could separate us from God’s love and promised us that the Holy Spirit would always be with us. We can rest in the knowledge that God keeps promises and boldly take the first steps on a new path in life.
Ever present Lord, we do not know the future, but you do. Enable us to live lovingly and boldly as we journey through life knowing that you walk with us. Amen.
Saturday, September 5, 2015
“By faith he received the power of procreation even though he was too old” (Hebrews 11:11).
Carlota and Jose had no children, though the desperately wanted a family. They had seen countless doctors and spent thousands of dollars on scores of treatments to no avail. Unlike Abraham and Sarah, it did not appear that God would give them children of their own even if they waited beyond their child bearing years. In one sense their situation was hopeless, but “hopeless,” and “God” are not words that can be placed next to each other.
Carlota and Jose ran their business from their home. While parents in their neighborhood trudged off to work, Carlota and Jose were always around. Their neighbors realized this and began to ask Carlota and Jose, if they would keep an eye on their children when they returned from school. Some parents even asked them to take their child to a music lesson or soccer practice. Over the years Carlota and Jose became the unofficial “Tia,” and “Tio” for the children of the neighborhood. They had a family they never would have imagined having.
None of us escape finding ourselves, at one time or another, in hopeless situations. In these situations, there are times when our prayers are answered and our fear and mourning are turned into dancing. Many times, though, God doesn’t do what we want God to do; our prayers aren’t answered in the way we want them to be answered. Our hopelessness does not need to be turned into despair, however.
The story of Abraham and Sarah remind us of God’s unlimited power, that God is true to God’s promises and God will not leave us or forsake us. Where there is God there is hope.
Faithful Lord, in the difficult and almost hopeless situations that we encounter in life, help us to keep our eyes on you and never lose hope. Amen.
Sunday, September 6, 2015
“But as it is they desired a better country, that is a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16).
The writers of the Hebrew Scriptures make very few comments about the heavenly aspirations of the people they wrote about. Most Biblical scholars believe that the concept of an afterlife where the righteous are rewarded and the wicked punished is a rather late developing concept. Still, the people of faith who the writer of Hebrew listed had an air of expectation about them.
Abel anticipated a life lived in relationship with God. Noah envisioned a world without wickedness. Abraham and Sarah looked forward to the Promised Land. The prophets longed for a time of peace, justice and prosperity for all.
The idea of heaven and eternal life may not be as motivating as it was for our forebears, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t envision a better world. We hold on to the unseen belief that God is moving in this world. In a world of hate and war we cling to the realization that love is the most powerful force on earth. In the middle of hopelessness and despair we see ourselves as God’s people who are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be a part of establishing God’s Kingdom. The best rather than the worst is yet to come.
Our Father, may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.