Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

Here’s the Plan

June 1, 2012 • Category: Proverbs
Today’s scripture: Proverbs 19:21-29 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) and James 4:13-17 (The Message) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Steve Adams):

The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.

Plans! They’re a good thing, aren’t they? As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!” Good plans make me feel secure, because then I know I’m giving it my best shot to work toward a successful result. But a part of life — especially the life of a disciple — is dashed, revised, and altered plans. Something happens to derail (or at least jeopardize) the the plan, so we’re forced to come up with a new one.

Here’s a simple example: it was a Monday night. After getting home from work and cooking dinner, I was tired and looking forward to a night of relaxation and completing this devotional which was due the next day. Just before dinner, though, my spouse Dan told me he’d received a call from a good friend of ours who’s a widow. She asked if we would come over to her house in order to scan her large back yard for dead animals, because she thought her dogs had been rolling on something that had a foul smell. The back of my mind was sending me the message, “I’m tired, and I’m afraid to deal with a dead, possibly rabid animal!” You see, I sometimes have a fear of “ordinary, every day” germs, but a stinky, dead animal — now that’s a tough one! Yet, God’s purpose for me was to help this lady, and my own plans could wait. So, we went over and searched the yard, finding no animal, but instead pulling up poison ivy and burr bushes.

I know those of you who are parents have many incidents like this. Your child is sick, or in danger, or needs some extra time spent with them, so your plans are shelved. I have little doubt God was trying to re-teach me the service principle, that I occasionally need to sacrifice my “comfort time” in order to help somebody else.

When I think about his verse, it seems that the moral is to give our utmost to come up with plans that are consistent with the purpose of God. Otherwise, we’re destined to live out some variation of the Jurassic Park story — no matter how much genius we pour into the plan, it will eventually unravel in ways we could never imagine if it’s not in line with God’s purpose. And, to put it bluntly, that would waste a lot of God’s time, as well as ours.

Think of getting a glimpse of all the plans each person in the world has at this moment! The sheer number would be mind-boggling. How many would miss the mark because they’re out of line with the nature and will of God? How many are doomed because of greed? How many are well-intentioned but destined to fail because of faulty strategizing? Which ones are misguided? Which ones are downright evil? And, which ones are gems, part of God’s plan to spread love and justice throughout the world? It’s only these last ones that will be established in eternity.

So what’s the bottom line? Wisdom is elusive, so we need to give top priority to tapping into it. And since many of our plans which we’ve painstakingly crafted can be dashed in a moment of time, we need to have an attitude of humility toward them. As for John Hammond, the man who came up with Jurassic Park, it seems the above verses from James are appropriate. In his pointed style, James seems to be saying, “Be humble! Everyday is a gift from God! You may not even be here tomorrow to execute those highfalutin’ plans of yours! So what are you bragging about, anyway?”

Thought for the day: God, help me be ready for the next time you blow away those (seemingly) great plans of mine with something superior and perfect — your purpose!

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.

Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

Starving

May 31st, 2012 • Category: Proverbs
Today’s scripture: Proverbs 19:11-20 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (David Zier):

As I read today’s passage, I got stuck on verse 15:

Laziness brings on deep sleep; an idle person will suffer hunger.

We can read this verse simply, on the surface. If you do nothing in life, you will starve! If you make no living, how will you get food? Or as in ancient times, if you do nothing, where will you get your crops and other food that requires tending and searching?

Reading this passage brought to my mind St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis was the son of a wealthy merchant who lived the wealthy life. He was known as a “party animal” in his youthful days. Francis wanted more than wealth; he wanted to be noble, like a knight. He went to war thinking he would achieve the glory he thought he wanted. But it was when he went to war that he lost his appetite for his wealthy life.

He had a dream, where God told him he had it all wrong. He took in Jesus’ words to the rich young ruler, “If you want to be perfect, go sell all your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and come follow me.” This, however, did not happen overnight. Francis spent more time in prayer, going to a cave and weeping for his sins. It was as if God’s grace overwhelmed him with joy. His search for Christ, discipleship, and conversion led him to the church at San Damiano. While he was praying there, he heard Jesus speak to him to repair the church.

Francis did not try to abolish poverty; his purpose was to make it holy. When he met someone poorer than he, he would give his shirt off his back. His Order, the Friars, worked only for necessities and only begged if they had to. Francis would not accept money. He told the Friars to treat coins as if they were rocks and pebbles in the dirt. What could you do to a person who owns nothing? Francis would say, “You can’t starve a fasting person, you can’t steal from someone who has no money, you can’t ruin someone who hates prestige. We are truly free.” Francis was a person of action and simplicity.

So now what do you think of Proverbs 19:15? Francis was not idle. He fasted, many times up to forty days. But his hunger was not the physical hunger; his hunger was for God. Most people are not St. Francis. I am not St. Francis. But how is it that we pursue God? How is it that we pursue how God wants us to live? How God wants us to love?

Thought for the day: Are you idle in how you are growing and building your relationship with God? So, how hungry are you?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.

Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

Extreme Makeover

May 30th, 2012 • Category: Proverbs
Today’s scripture: Proverbs 19:1-10 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Tommy Chittenden):

I must say that these recent assignments in the Book of Proverbs by our beloved editor have proven to be more challenging than expected.

However, I have found some personal treasures with which the Spirit has gifted me. Don’t you just find it exciting and gratifying when those “a-ha” moments happen? When, with our petition of God to teach or impress upon our heart spiritual meaning that would serve us and subsequently others, we make that connection and see or hear or just know it to be Truth, and in that place of knowing experience a release from emotional bondage, or a fear now overcome, or clarity where once there was chaos! This is when we truly understand what John meant when he wrote, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32

My new relationship with these “bite-size snicker-bar-like wisdom morsels” has resulted in precision-like surgery within my heart opening wounds, locating chambers of pride and resentment that both on a conscious and unconscious level I denied were still active. Hebrews 4:12-13 — Egads!

God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it — no matter what. The Message

On the other side of all of this, however, is where the miracles take place. For whenever darkness meets Light, true and sustainable healing begins — but only 100% of the time! So as I continue to read, study and meditate with these flashlights, I wonder with each verse, each chapter, will this be the next guest arriving at my heart’s door looking to lovingly gain entrance? With each visitor (verse, chapter) I can choose to peek from behind the living room blinds to see if i want to open the door or i can trust that,

God has breathed life into all of Scripture. It is useful for teaching us what is true. It is useful for correcting our mistakes. It is useful for making our lives whole again. It is useful for training us to do what is right (2 Timothy 3:16)

…and therefore I can freely invite Truth in to turn on all, ALL of the Light in EVERY dark place, ushering in more and more of the Kingdom of God. I can’t wait!

And this gift is yours too — freely given. If you so choose you are welcome, you are invited to have your own extreme makeover.

Thought for today: I’d like to share a poem with you written by Rumi. It beautifully describes how you and I could choose to look at any sacred text that comes into our awareness.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

–Rumi

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.

Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

Hard Times

May 29th, 2012 • Category: Proverbs

Today’s scripture: Proverbs 18:17-24 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (John Seksay):

Have you heard the true story about the hiker who got his arm trapped by a boulder while out in the wilderness? It was the classic animal-in-a-trap decision. Die in the trap, or sever the trapped limb to escape. In his case, he chose to sever the limb and seek help. It’s the literal image of the phrase “stuck between a rock and a hard place”! The loose translation is: being caught between two powerful forces, and having to make a very difficult choice. Sometimes our choices are between two paths we would rather not take at all. Or sometimes we must give up what we want most to get someone else what they need.

One family story in this category belongs to my father. His parents came to the coal fields of Pennsylvania seeking a new life, and he was the first generation born in this country. His father died before he was born and he was being raised by his immigrant parents, mother and step-father, who went on to have eleven more children. He spent two years in the first grade learning English from scratch because his parents only spoke Hungarian. He studied hard and helped with the family garden and chickens; all 14 of them shared half of a double house owned by the mining company and bought their goods at the company store. His goal was to become educated and escape the perilous life of coal mining, helping his family acquire farmland and be financially self-sufficient.

But the Great Depression took its toll. His parents lost their savings in a bank that failed; the county, being short of revenue, implemented a charge of 50 cents a month to ride the bus to high school. The following week, my father was working beside his step-father in the mines, his school days over. He remained a coal miner for over 20 years before moving his family to the big city.

For retirees, medicine or groceries? For struggling families, gas for the car or rent for the house? I feel like the reading for today speaks to the Israelites about making hard choices the best they can. Verse 18 mentions the most extreme scenario, with the casting of lots when mediating between powerful forces. The term for it was consulting (or using) the Urim and Thummim, a form of cleromancy (divination by the casting of lots as a way of determining the will of God in a given situation).

If you look this up on Wikipedia, you will get a great deal of information about the history of the terms and where we see them in the Bible. What you will not get a description of what it, or they, actually were. Various cultures have used bones, marked sticks, or dice. Regardless of the mechanism, the function is clear — to make a choice that is too overwhelming or challenging for the person to make. In the eyes of the Israelite culture, the decision was given to God, and God selected the outcome that was correct for everyone involved without fail.

It seems when life requires us to roll the dice, it’s time to put your faith in the right things and trust the answers you get more than your own impulses. It suggests not putting yourself forward, but patiently seeking a greater good. Hard times mean hard choices.

The picture below shows my meditation corner.

The four items are:

  • A bristlecone pine that has survived for over 5000 years.
  • The Chinese symbol for patience.
  • The Chinese symbol for diligence.
  • My father’s certificate for mastering Palmer Cursive writing in June 1931, the only official award he received during his school years (I estimate he was 14 at the time, finishing the 8th grade).

These are the things I reflect on when faced with hard choices and want to hear from God in the matter.

Thought for the day:  Am I prepared to listen to God’s voice within and around me and trust in God’s outcome for me?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.

Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

“Me” Intelligence

May 28, 2012 • Category: Proverbs

Today’s scripture: Proverbs 18:9-16 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (David Zier):

As I read this group of proverbs, the contrasts that are presented in each verse seemed very intriguing to me, especially how they are translated in various versions of the Bible. Jump between a contemporary version, the NRSV, King James, and NIV, and the flavor of the contrast is presented more starkly in some versions over others.

The Good News translation of verse 15 is a simplified statement, “Intelligent people are always eager and ready to learn.” The NRSV places a contrast here, “the intelligent mind acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” I love this contrast because it reminds me how I can sometimes place too much emphasis on what I have learned or acquired in my life. Just because I have many degrees, or I have taken many classes in a variety of areas, certainly means I have acquired much knowledge over my lifetime. But this proverb reminds me that it is not about what I have acquired, but what wisdom I seek and what do I learn and live by. We are taught in society to get well educated and get into a good profession, and all will be set well for our lives, career, and financial security. Times are changing, and that may not be such a guarantee like when I went to college.

This reminds me of the book Falling Upward by Richard Rohr. He describes that in the first half of life, which varies from person to person in events and years, we care about our careers, courtship, finding a mate, establishing ourselves, financial security, climbing the corporate ladder, etc. I guess one could call that ego-centric. In the second half, after falling down many times over the course of life (being fired, illnesses, broken relationships, etc.), the joy of life is about getting back up, learning from what life throws at us, and being more about opening ourselves up and understanding “me” a lot better; getting beyond the more personal concerns for material things and getting to a place of a more spiritual nature. Truly seeking God and understanding self is a big part of the second half. Verse 15 is a good summary of the book. (This is not the movie version, so you still need to read it!)

As I have read about many ancient Christians in seminary and in my monastery classes, the saints, and followers of Christ over 2000 years, male and female, all seem to get to a place where seeking knowledge, learning about self, and integrating that self with God and Christ’s call in life takes precedence. I know we all have a different take when we read the proverbs. But Proverbs 19:15 carries with it a lot of history of wise Christians and their experience and knowledge. Don’t waste a day longer. Dig down deep, pray, and seek knowledge; about who you really are.

Thought for the day: Am I willing to do the hard work of looking inward and understanding myself better; daring to understand God better. After all, God wove me together. Do I seek knowledge?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.

Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

Be a Friend

May 24th, 2012 • Category: Proverbs

Today’s scripture: Proverbs 17:22-28 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Ben Lamb):

For some reason, many of today’s verses made me think, “Those are qualities of the perfect friend!”

People who bring cheerfulness are enjoyable to have around. People who constantly stress gloom and doom aren’t fun to have around.

I’m comfortable sharing confidential information with people who are bribe-proof. I tend to think they’re subsequently likely to do what is right in all situations.

It’s great to be surrounded by people who use their brains for long-term edification instead of short-term gratification.

It’s usually not a great deal of fun to hang around people whose family is genuinely saddened by them for legitimate reasons.

I want to be surrounded by people who believe in upholding the values of integrity and protecting the innocent.

Being a motor-mouth certainly proves what’s spewing forth from a person’s lips; but not necessarily the whole of what’s stored in the person’s brain. I particularly like one of Abraham Lincoln’s quotes that relates to the message of this verse: “I am rather inclined to silence, and whether that be wise or not, it is at least more unusual nowadays to find a man who can hold his tongue than to find one who cannot.” (The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume IV, “Remarks at the Monogahela House” (February 14, 1861), p. 209.)

Thought for today: Societal ideas for etiquette come and go. However, the Bible is chock full of ideas for humans in general which are worth perpetuating.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.

Daily Devotional LifeJourney Church (MCC)

I Miss You, Norman

May 23rd, 2012 • Category: Proverbs

Today’s scripture: Proverbs 17:15-21 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Tommy Chittenden):

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (v.17)

Most of us can fondly remember our childhood best friend, a friend with whom we shared our secrets, wrote notes back and forth, had weekend sleep-overs. I certainly do.

Norman was my protector. You see, little Tommy, as I was called until I left Florida to go to college, was in fact, a tall, thin, blonde lad who loved any thing that had to do with water. Every weekend it was my mission to figure out a way to get to the beach to surf, ride buggies over sand dunes, and enjoy clam bakes and singing with guitar-playing friends. Norman was ALWAYS with me. He was the athlete who could play any sport and was good at each one. I rarely missed any games in which he was playing. By default, I was the one who would be there to give him just enough praise for the part he played in a team win and also the one who took the brunt of his frustration when he liked to take personal blame for a loss. We’d go to the boardwalk and play games and eat the kind of food you find at beachfront fast food joints. I loved Norman. While it would be many years before I “came out”, I trusted him explicitly with all things Tommy — including my feelings for boys!

I left Florida in 1970 to go to college in Atlanta, and while I was truly excited about this experience, I had a difficult time leaving my best and closest friend. The last time I ever heard his voice he said to me, “Thank you for always being there for me and for loving me.” A couple months after I left for college, Norman went to Vietnam. He never came home. Today, even now, I still cry for my teenage friend.

Only many years later, would I realize what a gift he was to my life and the part he would play in the path of my journey.

In this Old Testament book filled with great counsel and encouragement, there is amazing wisdom about our relationships with one another. This one verse, coupled with several other Proverbs, points us to the great value of a true friend. In this one verse we are gifted with a classic definition of what it means to be and have a friend.

It is a rather interesting fact of life that friends are oftentimes forged in times of adversity. Difficult times are the proving grounds for true friendship. Untested friendship may be genuine, but tough times reveal their authenticity. A true companion who walks with us through the storms of life and remains loyal is a precious and holy thing — a gift from God. There may be battle scars in a friendship, but they also serve as proof the friendship has been tested and proved.

Proverbs tells us that a “true friend is born for this type of situation.” At times a friend’s role is to encourage and at other times to challenge us, holding up a mirror to our blind spots, holding us accountable. God’s infinite wisdom brought the church into being so we could have a place of refuge and edification with others on their own life journey. But God also understanding the absolute need for his children to be in relationship with others, to come into our lives and love us as we are, in the good and in the bad times.

If your “best friend” is still available to you today, please connect with him or her and express your gratitude for the wonderful gift they have been to you!

Thought for the day: Many will say that they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is really faithful? Proverbs 20:6

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.

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