May 7, 2021

Boldness in Prayer

Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.

Psalm 25:5
An excerpt from R.A. Torrey's classic, How to Pray, originally published in 1900:

The passage 1 John 5:14,15 is one of the most abused passages in the Bible: And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. The Holy Spirit beyond a doubt put it into the Bible to encourage our faith. It begins with “This is the boldness that we have in him,” and closes with “we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.”

May 6, 2021

God's Masks

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing.
Psalm 145:15-16
When we think of providence, we too seldom remember that what God gives us almost always comes through the hands of our neighbors. Instead of manna from heaven, bread comes from a baker—or these days from a grocery store which bought the bread from a baked goods factory. And it's the same thing with virtually all our resources these days. 

Martin Luther taught that receiving nourishment in this way is no less providence than the bread Israel received in the wilderness. It's just that God wears the masks of the baker and the milkmaid to provide for us.

May 5, 2021

God Loves the Poor

It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the people and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever I please.
Jeremiah 27:5
One of the most controversial concepts in the field of religion as the 20th century came to a close was the rise of liberation theology. Though it came to the fore in many areas of the world, it is the Latin American form of liberation theology that was best-known (and most debated) in the United States. 

Mostly a reaction to poverty and social inequality, one of the main claims of liberation theology is God's preferential treatment of the poor. Though this is a claim that ruffles many feathers, in the life and teachings of Christ, we cannot reject this teaching outright.

May 4, 2021

Call Back

On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.
Psalm 138:3
Yesterday, I meditated on God's call to us—a call that draws us from the prison of walking the world alone to the broad places of freedom to follow Christ. But servants of God are not just at the receiving end of God's call. We are also free to call back.

In the Hebrew Bible, a shepherd whom God had called to lead his people met with resistance. The powerful king God had chosen him to replace was out to kill him. But he called to God, and was answered with patience, courage, and strength. Centuries later, outcasts are told not to bother asking for God to hear their cries, for they are not the right kind of people.

May 3, 2021

Some People Talking

The Lord was my stay. He brought me out into a broad place.

Freedom is the bedrock of our lives, or so we think. We're free to choose, free to speak, free to do. But are we really that free? Anybody my age remembers a song by the Eagles called Desperado. And one of its most memorable lines goes like this:

Freedom? Ah freedom.
That's just some people talking.
Your prison is walking
through this world all alone.

Though I suspect most of us don't consciously subscribe to what Don Henley sang back in 1973, there must be some reason we're haunted by those words; there must be some truth to what we're hearing—why else would we remember it so well?

May 2, 2021

Easter 5 Worship

This morning was a perfect sunny and warm May morning in the Western Reserve. Today's theme, God Is Love, was taken from the epistle reading: 1 John 4:7-13. Our hymns were Love Divine, All Loves Excelling and For the Bread Which You Have Broken. They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love was played as an interlude after the sermon. Ginger Hannon was presiding elder, Ann Doersam, organist, and Bill Arotin, videographer. Here's the video of the worship service: 

The Meaning of Life

Take to heart all the words that I am giving in witness against you today; give them as a command to your children, so that they may diligently observe all the words of this law. This is no trifling matter for you, but rather your very life.
Deuteronomy 32:46-47
Viktor Frankl was a Viennese psychiatrist who was put in a Nazi concentration camp in 1942. Though nearly everyone around him died, he survived. After the war, he wrote a book called Man's Search for Meaning in which he said that those whose life had meaning were more likely to have lived through the horror of the holocaust. 

The meaning of life, he says then, is meaning. And different people find meaning in different places. For people of faith, the meaning of life is found in God. This might take several forms: the search for God, our identity in relationship to God, the worship of God, serving others for God's sake, to name but a few.

May 1, 2021

Be Ready

The needy shall not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor perish forever.
Psalm 9:18
It was impossible in ancient times to set exact times and dates for planned events. Food and drink had to be purchased and gotten to the site. But back then availability was often a problem. And transportation was an even bigger problem. So that's the setting for the story in Luke 14 of the man who invited the respectable people of his town to a banquet. Of course they accepted. But when they received word that all things were finally ready and the banquet was to take place that day, it turned out they were busy.

Jesus compared this situation to God. Those who had all the advantages were invited into God's Kindom. But they had other priorities.