St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Monday, May 14, 2018
Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.
This verse should come with a “Go, team!” banner. It rouses us to be energetic in our faith, fervent in our beliefs, and committed to serving God. That’s great, but most of us cannot sustain that kind of energy and enthusiasm endlessly. We become physically tired and emotionally discouraged. Zeal lags and ardor evaporates. God understands. Even Jesus had to have time alone to rest and be refreshed. What this verse tells us is that there is always an opportunity to pick ourselves up, to be re-energized, to find that spark that we need to keep going in our lives, our faith, and our service. We may need to rest awhile. We may need to let others minister to us. But in God, we have a connection to an always available, always renewable, source of strength, inspiration, and energy.
“Give me rest and peace, Lord. Then give me the energy and strength that only you can provide, for the work you’ve called me to do and the life you want me to lead. Thank you.”
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you, nor again the hand to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.
1 Corinthians 12:21-22
If you’ve ever had a broken arm or a broken leg – needed a cast or crutches – or had back pain, knee pain, or eye problems, you understand today’s verse. Often, it isn’t until we injure a part of the body that we realize how dependent on it we are. And it doesn’t have to be a large muscle, organ, or bone. A broken toe, small as it is, becomes a daily reminder that we can’t take any part of the body for granted. We also can’t take each other for granted, in the church, the community, or the world.
That’s a lesson we seem to learn slowly, but we neglect it at our peril. In some ways that we can see, and in many ways we’ll never see, we are one people, on one planet. We’re all part of God’s creation. And only as we respect, care for, and protect each other … and our shared earth … will this great ‘body of creation’ survive and thrive.
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps. Proverbs 16:9
It is an ongoing mystery-- the dance we do with God. Sometimes we lead, sometimes God leads. We have ideas and desires. Where do they come from? Has God planted them within our minds and hearts? If our desires are intended for good, they are at least God-blessed. If they are evil or destructive, we can be certain that they don’t come from God, and will never have his blessing. Certainly, our talents and skills come from God. They’re as much a part of us as our DNA. When a dream or desire is persistent, and when we can see love or compassion or good coming from it, we can be fairly certain that God is nudging us.
What happens when the desires or plans don’t materialize, as sometimes happens? Perhaps it’s a matter of God’s timing … which is rarely our desired timing … or perhaps a larger picture is being painted and we can’t yet see how it all fits. That’s where faith and mystery meet. “I need you, Lord, to place the right desires in my heart, and then to guide me in their fulfillment. Give me wisdom, patience, perseverance, and faith. Thank you.”
Thursday, May 17, 2018
Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.
Why do some people experience healing, and others – even those with great faith – do not? Surely, that is one of the most heart-wrenching questions we bring before God. Why? Why does one heart attack victim survive and another succumbs? Why does one tumor disappear and another grows and kills? Why does an accident take one life but not another? Why? Let’s recognize, now, that on this side of heaven, we’re unlikely to have any definitive answers to ‘why?’ We can try to craft answers – God has a greater plan, God knows that this life is temporary – but those answers don’t really satisfy us, and we know it. In the face of this enormous question, we can know a few things: that God hears our prayers for healing; that there are no ‘faith tests’ or deeds that trigger more or less healing, no way we can earn God’s healing power; that our faith can open us to understanding and acceptance as well as to healing; and that ‘all things work together for good.’
We will all leave this life and live on in eternal life. Until we’re on the other side of that heavenly divide, those assurances will have to suffice when we plead for healing. “Merciful Physician … the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow … hear our prayers for healing. Please, heal _____________.” Thank you.”
Friday, May 18, 2018
From the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. Jeremiah 6:13-14
It’s amazing – and tragic – that one of the things that is unchanged from Jeremiah’s time (650 B.C. -570 B.C.) to ours, more than 2,400 years later, is the reality of human greed, lying, cruelty, and violence. You would think that, in 24 centuries, we would have learned something about these evils. By now, we should know that greed is a bottomless pit that can never be filled, that our lies come back to hurt us, cruelty increases our own misery, and violence has never solved anything.
You’d think we would have learned. “How you must weep, Father – truly weep and agonize – over the follies and failings of these human children of yours. Perhaps our only prayer, our only hope, can be in the words of the well-known prayer: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”
Saturday, May 19, 2018
I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13
Many of us, in our prayer time with God – even at other times – hear a voice or a message, somewhere within our hearts. We know it isn’t our voice. We know God is speaking to us, opening our hearts to a realization or insight. That’s a wonderful experience. Today’s verse reassures us: “… it is I who say to you ….” It can be easy to wonder if it really is God speaking to us, if God is truly the source of the words we seem to hear and the messages we sense. But again and again, in the times of the ancient Hebrews and in Christ’s time, God tells us that he does, indeed, come to us and speak to us.
He allows us to know things … to perceive, to discern, to sense his will and his answers … in ways we may not be able to explain to anyone else. This connection, this communication, is as real and natural as it is sacred and powerful. We can know that when we reach out to God, he is reaching for us.
Sunday, May 20, 2018
Christ Jesus abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 2 Timothy 1:10
Abolished death. What a breath-taking concept! What a life-changing promise and reality! We have probably heard this verse in worship or read it in our Bibles scores of times. But we should not let its familiarity obscure its power. Jesus, in his resurrection, obliterated the prospect of permanent death – that dreaded void of nothingness and disconnection.
He “brought life and immortality to light”. In our earthly lives, in the focus that we naturally have on the here and now of our existence, it can be hard to imagine the peace and joy of life eternal. But that life awaits us, and it began with Christ’s abolishing death.
© Carol Dean Henn 2018
Paul wrote: “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength.”
2 Timothy 4:17
Have you ever seen one of those handyman’s trucks that advertise “No job is too small”? Today’s verse reminds me of those words. When we read Paul’s writings, it is easy to think that what he endured – death threats, imprisonment, beatings – is so far removed from anything in our lives, that God’s deliverance must be just as improbable. Not so. Yes, God still creates miracles and delivers many from extreme situations. But, he is also with us in our everyday fears and troubles.
He can give us strength when we’re nervous before an interview, presentation, or test. He gives us strength when our patience is gone and we’re ready to snap. He stands by us and strengthens us when we wonder if we’re making the right choice or decision. God is
with us in the smaller as well as the larger challenges of life. No job is too small for God.
© Carol Dean Henn 2018
Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far off; for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Isaiah 59:18
What is true and what is not true? Truth is having a rough time in our world of fake news, internet false-hoods, and political and business leaders who tell lies with ease and pleasure. This year, I finally read the book “All the President’s Men,” 40+ years after the Watergate scandal. I was astonished by the depth of lies and deceptions-- tens of thousands of phony telegrams sent to supposedly support the President’s positions; fake letterheads printed to look like the stationery of his opponents, and then used to send fake letters to people to make them angry with those opponents. The list of deceptions was endless. Four decades later, it seems we have become even more skilled at lying and deceiving across the whole spectrum of national life.
A team of Yale doctoral students has developed software that will display a warning label on websites known to disseminate fake news. Perhaps that will help. But perhaps what we can all do – must do – is to demand the truth; to state loudly and clearly that truth matters, that lying is not just ‘business as usual’ or ‘everybody does it.’ We should not surrender to those who lie and deceive, and we should make truthfulness a non-negotiable standard for our willingness to do business with, elect, or support any persons or organizations. And we can always ask God to guide us in discerning what is true and what is not true. Because God values truth, he will lead as toward it, if we are willing to do the work of thinking, listening, and searching for what is true.
© Carol Dean Henn 2018
So God created God in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he
created them. Genesis 1:27
What is the truth of who we are as human beings? Today’s verse tells us the most important thing we
have to know: we were created in God’s image. We are made for truth – to know it, speak it, honor it –
because God is truth and we are created in his image. However we view creation and evolution, one thing can be affirmed: we have the essence of God within us-- a God-spark, a God-light, a God-life-force that enables us to conceive of God in the first place. We are made for truth because God is truth, just as we are made for love because God is love. Part of our truth as human beings is that we are amazingly diverse. We each have strengths, weaknesses, talents, limitations. We’re capable of feeling love and hate. We laugh, cry, hope, and fear. Like crystal prisms reflecting the sunlight, there are thousands of dimensions to our physical natures, to our personalities, and to God’s spirit within us. Our truth is that we are God’s creation-- we in him and he in us; and God’s creation – each of us – is wonderful in his sight. Because truth is embedded in us, falsehood is poisonous to us. It puts a distance between us and God, between us and the ‘better angels’ of our own natures. The need for truth is as much a part of us as our bodies, minds, and souls.
© Carol Dean Henn 2018
And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you
have sent. John 17:3
Truth. It is as powerful a word as love. It is a word that is often in the news; a word that is the focus of conversations in classrooms, roadside diners, and around breakfast tables. It is a word – a concept, a reality – that matters mightily to God. This week, we’ll look at truth from several directions, beginning with What is God’s truth? Who is God? Today’s verse tells us that the Creator God, and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, are truth—the true God. In what God has created – all of life, countless universes, the miracle of humanity – he shows the truth of his power.
In his interactions with us, he shows the truth of his love. In his dwelling within each of us, he shows the truth of his identity. God is love. He is also truth. That alone should tell us how important truth is … or should be … to us. “Open my mind, heart, and soul to truth, Lord; your truth, and the truth in me and in the world.”
© Carol Dean Henn 2018
“See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth,
I tell you of them.” Isaiah 42:9
God is always doing new things in our lives, but often we’re too busy to notice, too afraid to welcome new things. God’s surprises are intended for our good, to bless us, to help us grow more fully as his much-loved children. If we look back in our lives, most of us can see so many blessings-- promises fulfilled, even promises that seemed like impossible dreams. If we listen closely in prayer and in our quiet time with God, we can hear that inner voice, hear his words of promise for what is to come, for the blessings that await us, even before they appear on the horizon.
“Thank you, Lord, for past blessings and blessings yet to come. Help me to hear your words and your voice, to sense and to know and to believe the promises you are making to me today for the blessings you will give me tomorrow.”
© Carol Dean Henn 2018
Grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:18
What makes for growth? Several things: light, air, water, time, nourishment, warmth, and loving attention.
All living things need these elements for life and growth. In Christ, we have all of these: the light of God’s
love and wisdom, the breath of life, the fresh air of freedom, the everlasting water of life, God’s timing, the
food of God’s word, the warmth of his love, and his constant watchfulness over us. “What abundant and
amazing blessings, Lord! Thank you for providing what I need to grow as a human being and as a child
of God. Help me to welcome growth at every stage of my life, and to always be growing closer to you.”
Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Matthew 10:16
The tall, distinguished, grey-haired man who walked into my office in Silicon Valley was, like me, a member of the company’s senior staff. He was also a retired Marine colonel. He exuded strength and authority. But on that day, he seemed nervous. He closed the door, sat down, and spoke to me in a low voice. “I’ve been told to lease and purchase more buildings-- a lot more. Millions of dollars’ worth of property.” He pushed a sheet of paper across my desk. It was a signed authorization, typical for expenditures in excess of a million dollars. “It seems in order,” I said. “What’s the problem?” He replied, “When X signed it, he said, ‘You know, I suspect that sometimes people forge my signature.’ Then he just stared at me. I think I’m being set up. He must want me out and he’s setting me up. What do I do?” I’m sure my colleague wasn’t expecting my first response: “Read the psalms.” My second response: “Don’t worry. We can do some things to make sure he doesn’t trap you.” – was one that he understood. But I meant both responses.
What do you do when you’re outmatched, feel trapped, and don’t know how to fight? When someone is plotting against you? The Bible gives us two tools: Asking
God to fight for us, as the psalmists did, when we cannot fight for ourselves; and being as wise as we can be in the ways of the world. Two tools. Both necessary, both understood by God.
© Carol Dean Henn 2018