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