Posts Tagged With: Life Journal

Mixed Blessings (Life Journal – 1/19/2015)

Scripture

17 When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”

19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.” (Genesis 48:17-19 NIV)

Observation

This act of blessing is an important one in the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Here near the end of the narrative and the end of Jacob’s life it becomes so again. Throughout this history, the younger son gets the preferential treatment that tradition said was the older son’s – Isaac, Jacob over Esau, Joseph ahead of many of his brothers, and now Ephraim over Manasseh.

Blessings were important and had power. When Isaac blesses Jacob thinking he is Esau and Esau then comes to receive his blessing, Jacob tells him he cannot undo it, he cannot take it back and that he cannot pronounce the same blessing on Esau that was already given to Jacob.

Application

One reminder to me in this story is that God often overturns our expectations and cares little for our human traditions and rules. What we think is “right” bears little resemblance to divine justice or to God’s intentions.

God over and over chooses a younger brother over an older one, women rather than men, poor and lowly rather than rich and powerful. God’s choices are God’s and remind us how flawed our judgments and valuations often are.

How do I live a life that values people as God does? That sees people for their worth in God’s eyes and plans rather than by the measures I usually use? How can I bless as the patriarchs at their wisest emulated their Lord who chose the weak and the lowly and the powerless to shake the foundations?

Prayer

Lord may I not judge by human standards but by yours. May I not see as my prejudices would see but as you see. Remind me how like Joseph I can be – a younger brother who experienced a blessing he did not deserve but then tried to impose the same old, tired traditions and standards on his own sons. In the name of the Son who chose as you choose – who used and uses the lowly, the poor, and the powerless to bring the Kingdom. Amen.

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Laughing at God (Life Journal – January 7, 2015)

Scripture

“Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.”  But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.” (Genesis 18:14-15 NRSV)

Observation

Abraham recognizes that these three men are an appearance of the Lord – or at least messengers or something special (hence the special treatment in verses 1-8). How does he know? We know because we are told the Lord appeared to him (vs. 1) but not how Abraham did.

This was no quick interaction either – the bread was made fresh, the calf was slaughtered and prepared. And Abraham doesn’t eat with them but rather stands ready to serve them as they eat what he has prepared.

Sarah’s reaction is laughter – to ridicule what the “man” says. How can this be when both of them are old? Does she still believe the promises?

Application

Yesterday I saw this Tweeted – “What are you praying for in 2015 that is so big only God can get credit when it happens?” And truthfully I had to answer – nothing. Most of my prayers are responses to specific needs in the moment – things I need, family members or friends in distress, church family members who need me and have asked for my prayers.

But do I pray for laughable things – things at which Sarah would also laugh? No – I because I laugh at God too. I laugh at the greatness, the goodness, the largeness of our Lord. I laugh or mock. I am cynical towards even my Divine Father, toward my Gracious Savior, toward the Ever-present Spirit.

And like poor Sarah I am caught out by God for my ridicule. I deny my laughter even as it is still on my lips. I deny my gentle mockery of others and of God for such audacious hope.

Prayer

Lord of Abraham and Sarah,
whose power is greater than my imagination of it,
whose promises are more enduring than my mockery of them,
whose presence sees into my heart and my unbelief:

Give me bold dreams, dreams as great as the on you gave to Abraham and Sarah. Give me courage to pray for what you would do that only you can do in my life, in my relationships, in my church, in my community, in my world.

May my laughter be replaced with joy, my mockery with awe. And may I in due season see you revealed at the end of such a time of prayer.

In the name of the one who came from Abraham’s line and whose words also brought laughter and unbelief and yet proved true – Jesus, the Son. Amen.

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Transaction Denied (Life Journal – 1/6/2015)

Scripture 

“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35-36 NRSV)

Observation

Much human relationship is transactional – Jesus speaks in this section of Luke 6 about loving those who love us, doing good to the persons who do us good, and lending to those whom we expect will repay. Something is returned from what we give – love for love, good for good, money for money. Quid pro quo.

Jesus negates transactional relationships in God’s economy – an economy based on God’s behavior not ours. Love those who will not love, be good to the ones who will not return it, lend but expect nothing back.

Application

The holidays often bring is into situations like this – where we weigh what has been done to us before we do. When past wrongs are rehearsed, when old debts of various kinds are remembered. This way that Jesus commands is hard in real human lives – the lives we live.

Do I measure my interaction by what I might gain by it? Do I evaluate someone’s worth in how much he or she is worth to me? Do I base my response on what response I think the other will give, has given, or – worse yet – what the someone deserves in my judgment? More often than I care to admit.

A reminder to me today that to love as God loves, to extend mercy as God extends mercy is my calling. God’s expectation of me.

Prayer

Merciful God, make me to love as you love – especially those whom I find it hardest to love. Make me offer good to those who most would offer me nothing or worse in response. Make me lend, give, share with those who take advantage. Make me like you in fact. More today than yesterday. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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God’s Embarrassing Posts (Life Journal – 1/1/2015)

Scripture

10 A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. 11 The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12 and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush.14 The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.” (Genesis 2:10-14)

Observation

It is is easy to skip past these verses in the creation account. They are filled with mention of specific places (rivers and regions) that do not mean to us what they meant to those who first read these words. And they are so specific! A quick Google of these rivers will show you where they probably were. Which means Eden is placed in a fairly specific locale.

Application

When I was a child, my parents would say things that embarrassed me. Things I wish they hadn’t said. Usually such pronouncements were made in front of friends or family (hence the embarrassment!). Even now I can remember a few such occasions and I still feel those feelings when I recall those moments.

Looking back, however, I realize that my parents did not mean to embarrass me. Often what they said so long ago makes sense to me now although at the time I turned crimson. Sometimes I hear myself when one of children say “Dad, why did you have to say that? Couldn’t you just have kept your mouth shut?”

Sometimes we wonder why God preserved what we have in the Scriptures. Some burning questions just aren’t addressed. Some details that we crave are missing. And then we have the four rivers that branch out of the river that watered Eden.

I am reminded on this first day of a new year that some things God will reveal in time to us. Some things not in this life. Some details that made perfect sense to men and women long ago need our work to understand. And some things in the Bible, some stories just don’t make any sense. And when we are honest we might even confess we are embarrassed they made the cut.

I hope to begin this year with a deeper sense of humility and of longing. A humility that admits that I cannot and will not understand every word or story in Scripture – nor every event that this year will bring. A longing to understand and to grow closer to the One who holds the answers. Who speaks still. Who steps into my specific life and speaks to my specific situation even when I am embarrassed or shamed or convicted and wish that God has just kept quiet.

Prayer

God of Creation, who made the heavens and the earth, who caused these words to be preserved for my instruction and my transformation: make me humble in this year as I admit what I do not know and live with what I cannot understand. Give me a longing to draw nearer to You, to dig deeper into the precious words left for us in the Bible. And even when I wish you would remain silent or would speak more… may I remember my earthly parents, too, and thank You for them as I thank You for knowing what to say to me and when to say it. Amen.

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