Thursday, July 30, 2009

Come to the water!


In Seattle yesterday we broke all records for heat. 102 up to 108.
(Of course, if you live in Arizona that seems tame. But for us it was huge.)

Isaiah called out to people used to being in a "dry thirsty land." It applies to us today just as well. There is a thirst for meaning. For eternity. For security. For hope. All things that are only found in God. He calls out...

1 -5 "Hey there! All who are thirsty, come to the water! Are you penniless? Come anyway—buy and eat! Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk. Buy without money—everything's free! Why do you spend your money on junk food, your hard-earned cash on cotton candy? Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best, fill yourself with only the finest. Pay attention, come close now, listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words. I'm making a lasting covenant commitment with you, the same that I made with David: sure, solid, enduring love. I set him up as a witness to the nations, made him a prince and leader of the nations, And now I'm doing it to you: You'll summon nations you've never heard of, and nations who've never heard of you will come running to you Because of me, your God, because The Holy of Israel has honored you."
6 -7Seek God while he's here to be found, pray to him while he's close at hand. Let the wicked abandon their way of life and the evil their way of thinking. Let them come back to God, who is merciful, come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Beloved!


Patti.
Today is our 37th wedding anniversary.
A while ago I asked her how was it possible that she keeps getting better looking as she gets older.
"I'm not," she replied. "You are just going blind!"
My sweet, loyal, humble godly wife.
The Bible says,
"Relish life with the spouse you love Each and every day of your precarious life. Each day is God's gift. It's all you get in exchange For the hard work of staying alive. Make the most of each one! Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily! " Ecclesiastes 9:8,9

Monday, July 27, 2009

The One. The Only.


This summer I decided I would revive and nourish my little back yard lawn.
So every morning I turn on the sprinklers as I read in the back yard.
Birds chirp and whir by.
Occassionally our little bunny hops through the yard.
And my lawn is green and lush.

Today's words of comfort from Isaiah talk about desert, dry ground and water...

Isaiah 44
1 -5 "But for now, dear servant Jacob, listen—
yes, you, Israel, my personal choice. God who made you has something to say to you;
the God who formed you in the womb wants to help you.
Don't be afraid, dear servant Jacob,
Jeshurun, the one I chose.
For I will pour water on the thirsty ground
and send streams coursing through the parched earth.
I will pour my Spirit into your descendants
and my blessing on your children.
They shall sprout like grass on the prairie,
like willows alongside creeks. This one will say, 'I am God's,'
and another will go by the name Jacob;
That one will write on his hand 'God's property'—
and be proud to be called Israel."


No embarassment to be called one of God's own.
Because, who is like God?
There is One.
He is the Only.

6 -8God, King of Israel,
your Redeemer, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, says:
"I'm first, I'm last, and everything in between.
I'm the only God there is.
Who compares with me?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

But you never got hungry for me...


As we navigate through the most difficult economic times since the Great Depression, a word from Amos the shepherd jumped out at me...

2 -3"This is serious—I, God, have sworn by my holiness!
Be well warned: Judgment Day is coming!
They're going to rope you up and haul you off,
keep the stragglers in line with cattle prods.
They'll drag you through the ruined city walls,
forcing you out single file, And kick you to kingdom come."
Decree.
4 -5"Come along to Bethel and sin!
And then to Gilgal and sin some more!
Bring your sacrifices for morning worship.
Every third day bring your tithe.
Burn pure sacrifices—thank offerings.
Speak up—announce freewill offerings!
That's the sort of religious show
you Israelites just love."
God's Decree.
6"You know, don't you, that I'm the One
who emptied your pantries and cleaned out your cupboards,
Who left you hungry and standing in bread lines?
But you never got hungry for me.
You continued to ignore me."
God's Decree.
7 -8"Yes, and I'm the One who stopped the rains
three months short of harvest.
I'd make it rain on one village
but not on another.
I'd make it rain on one field
but not on another—and that one would dry up.
People would stagger from village to village
crazed for water and never quenching their thirst.
But you never got thirsty for me.
You ignored me."
God's Decree.
9"I hit your crops with disease
and withered your orchards and gardens.
Locusts devoured your olive and fig trees,
but you continued to ignore me."
God's Decree.
10"I revisited you with the old Egyptian plagues,
killed your choice young men and prize horses.
The stink of rot in your camps was so strong
that you held your noses— But you didn't notice me.
You continued to ignore me."
God's Decree.
11"I hit you with earthquake and fire,
left you devastated like Sodom and Gomorrah.
You were like a burning stick
snatched from the flames.
But you never looked my way.
You continued to ignore me."
God's Decree.
12"All this I have done to you, Israel,
and this is why I have done it. Time's up, O Israel!
Prepare to meet your God!"
13Look who's here: Mountain-Shaper! Wind-Maker!
He laid out the whole plot before Adam.
He brings everything out of nothing,
like dawn out of darkness.
He strides across the alpine ridges.
His name is God,
God-of-the-Angel-Armies."

This time could bring us as a nation and as individuals back to God.
I believe that is God's plan.

But I could easily busy myself with struggling to make a living.

God's words ring in my ears...
"But you never got hungry for me!"

A Shepherd Speaks

"Hi. My name is Amos, and I've got something to say..."

So begins today's reading. A simple shepherd, without status or wealth or position or power, is given a Word by God. And does he ever deliver!

2 "The Message:
God roars from Zion,
shouts from Jerusalem! The thunderclap voice withers the pastures tended by shepherds, shrivels Mount Carmel's proud peak.
3 -5 God's Message:
"Because of the three great sins of Damascus
—make that four—
I'm not putting up with her any longer.
She pounded Gilead to a pulp, pounded her senseless
with iron hammers and mauls.
For that, I'm setting the palace of Hazael on fire.
I'm torching Ben-hadad's forts.
I'm going to smash the Damascus gates
and banish the crime king who lives in Sin Valley,
the vice boss who gives orders from Paradise Palace.
The people of the land will be sent back
to where they came from—to Kir."
God's Decree. "

He goes on, delivering messages of judgement from God on the nations nearby...
And he has a word for his own people too!

Amos 3
"The Lion Has Roared
1 Listen to this, Israel.
God is calling you to account
—and I mean all of you,
everyone connected with the family that he delivered out of Egypt. Listen!
2"Out of all the families on earth,
I picked you. Therefore, because of your special calling,
I'm holding you responsible for all your sins."
3 -7Do two people walk hand in hand
if they aren't going to the same place? Does a lion roar in the forest
if there's no carcass to devour?
Does a young lion growl with pleasure
if he hasn't caught his supper?
Does a bird fall to the ground
if it hasn't been hit with a stone?
Does a trap spring shut
if nothing trips it?
When the alarm goes off in the city,
aren't people alarmed?
And when disaster strikes the city,
doesn't God stand behind it?
The fact is, God, the Master, does nothing
without first telling his prophets the whole story.
8The lion has roared—
who isn't frightened?
God has spoken—
what prophet can keep quiet?"

Then he hammers home a message that could apply directly to you and me...

7 -9 "Woe to you who turn justice to vinegar
and stomp righteousness into the mud.
Do you realize where you are? You're in a cosmos
star-flung with constellations by God,
A world God wakes up each morning
and puts to bed each night.
God dips water from the ocean
and gives the land a drink.
God, God-revealed, does all this.
And he can destroy it as easily as make it.
He can turn this vast wonder into total waste.
10 -12People hate this kind of talk.
Raw truth is never popular. But here it is, bluntly spoken:
Because you run roughshod over the poor
and take the bread right out of their mouths,
You're never going to move into
the luxury homes you have built.
You're never going to drink wine
from the expensive vineyards you've planted.
I know precisely the extent of your violations,
the enormity of your sins.
Appalling! You bully right-living people,
taking bribes right and left and kicking the poor when they're down.
13Justice is a lost cause. Evil is epidemic.
Decent people throw up their hands.
Protest and rebuke are useless,
a waste of breath.
14Seek good and not evil—
and live!
You talk about God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
being your best friend.
Well, live like it,
and maybe it will happen.
15Hate evil and love good,
then work it out in the public square.
Maybe God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
will notice your remnant and be gracious."

Wow!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wonder! ... and Cynicism

One of the joys of childhood, and having children, is the unadulterated wonder and awe of life! The joy in the smallest of things. I think of the delight my little granddaughter and I shared as we watched little ants crawling around on our cement driveway.

One of the things we have to fight as we go along in life is cynicism. We have more years. Experienced more battles. Seen more wickedness. Observed (and been on the receiving end of) more injustice. And we can get a very jaundiced view of the world.

Today we hear from "The Cynic".

Solomon was "born with a silver spoon in his mouth", as the saying goes. He was rich. Handsome. Became powerful. Took any of the most beautiful women that he wanted. (And he wanted a lot. 700 concubines, 300 wives) He should have been the happiest man in the world. Here are some of his words...

1These are the words of the Quester, David's son and king in Jerusalem

2 -11 Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That's what the Quester says.]
There's nothing to anything—it's all smoke.
What's there to show for a lifetime of work,
a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?
One generation goes its way, the next one arrives,
but nothing changes—it's business as usual for old planet earth.
The sun comes up and the sun goes down,
then does it again, and again—the same old round.
The wind blows south, the wind blows north.
Around and around and around it blows,
blowing this way, then that—the whirling, erratic wind.
All the rivers flow into the sea,
but the sea never fills up.
The rivers keep flowing to the same old place,
and then start all over and do it again.
Everything's boring, utterly boring—
no one can find any meaning in it.
Boring to the eye,
boring to the ear.
What was will be again,
what happened will happen again.
There's nothing new on this earth.
Year after year it's the same old thing.
Does someone call out, "Hey, this is new"?
Don't get excited—it's the same old story.
Nobody remembers what happened yesterday.
And the things that will happen tomorrow?
Nobody'll remember them either.
Don't count on being remembered."

Isn't that inspiring?

Don't read this when you are depressed. You will probably go jump off a bridge. Into the path of an oncoming train!

He goes on...

Ecclesiastes 2
1 -3 I said to myself, "Let's go for it—experiment with pleasure, have a good time!"
But there was nothing to it, nothing but smoke.
What do I think of the fun-filled life? Insane! Inane!
My verdict on the pursuit of happiness? Who needs it?
With the help of a bottle of wine
and all the wisdom I could muster,
I tried my level best
to penetrate the absurdity of life.
I wanted to get a handle on anything useful we mortals might do
during the years we spend on this earth.
I Never Said No to Myself

4 -8 Oh, I did great things: built houses,
planted vineyards,
designed gardens and parks
and planted a variety of fruit trees in them,
made pools of water
to irrigate the groves of trees.
I bought slaves, male and female,
who had children, giving me even more slaves;
then I acquired large herds and flocks,
larger than any before me in Jerusalem.
I piled up silver and gold,
loot from kings and kingdoms.
I gathered a chorus of singers to entertain me with song,
and—most exquisite of all pleasures—
voluptuous maidens for my bed.
9 -10 Oh, how I prospered!
I left all my predecessors in Jerusalem far behind, left them behind in the dust. What's more, I kept a clear head through it all. Everything I wanted I took—I never said no to myself. I gave in to every impulse, held back nothing. I sucked the marrow of pleasure out of every task—my reward to myself for a hard day's work!"

24 -26 "The best you can do with your life is have a good time and get by the best you can. The way I see it, that's it—divine fate. Whether we feast or fast, it's up to God. God may give wisdom and knowledge and joy to his favorites, but sinners are assigned a life of hard labor, and end up turning their wages over to God's favorites. Nothing but smoke—and spitting into the wind."

More next time...