Archive for September, 2020

Mark 13:24-31

September 30, 2020

“But in those days, after that suffering,

the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light,

and the stars will be falling from heaven,

and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Mark 13:24-31

William Miller was a Baptist preacher in New York. He was fascinated by the apocalyptic passages in the Bible, seeing them as “predictive.” In 1831 he began teaching that Jesus was soon “coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” Eventually, he named the date. October 22, 1844.

His followers took him seriously. They sold their land and all they had. They gathered on a hill when the fateful day arrived….oops….

I don’t know how long they waited. I don’t know how they expressed their disappointment. I don’t know if they went back to their neighbors to “undo” the sale of their lands. All I know is that they weren’t whisked off to heaven. Did that cause a shift in their understanding of the Bible? No, they just figured they must have gotten the math wrong. A new Christian denomination was born.

In the Apostles’ Creed, a statement of faith shared by the vast majority of Christians, we confess “He ascended into heave and is sitting at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” That confession is not about timelines or Bible math or following the latest crackpot end of the world predictions. It is a simple expression of trust that life is moving toward God. And it is about accountability.

We are accountable to God. Our words and actions have consequences. How we act. How we treat others. How we do our daily work. How we respond to the world around us. How we use the resources that have been entrusted to us. We are accountable for our lives.

Whenever I think of the word “accountability” as it pertains to our relationship with God and other people, I always want to remember the “accountability trinity.” We all need to know that we have a God we can count on. We need to know that we count to God. And other people need to know they can count on us. In all things.

Those first readers of Mark must have been much like the followers of William Miller. They heard the words – “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.” – and they took them literally. They were sorely disappointed. Maybe some quit. But others humbly re-imagined their meaning. They walked away, not disappointed that the celestial armies didn’t descend to trounce the Romans, but encouraged with the promise, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

We ought to do the same.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, we don’t know what the future holds but we know you hold the future. Shape, form, and use us that we might be good news in the world. May our hope for your good future keep us going every day, always mindful that what we say and do matters. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Mark 13:14-23

September 29, 2020

“But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; the one on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away; the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not be in winter.

For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days.

And if anyone says to you at that time, ‘Look! Here is the Messiah!’ or ‘Look! There he is!’ —do not believe it. False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be alert; I have already told you everything. Mark 13:14-23

You would think that it is much easier to remember the past than to predict the future but, in the reality of our lives, it isn’t as simple as that. Memories can be deceiving. Four children growing up in the same house will have four separate experiences and thus four different ways to understand their shared past. As for predicting the future, even stockbrokers are required to assure us that the future might not mirror what past experience seems to suggest.

This does make life much more complicated and mysterious than we prefer. We like answers. We don’t want anyone trifling with the understanding of the “past” that we are comfortable with. Just look at the varying responses to the removal of statues celebrating Confederate leaders. And we want clear direction for where we are going in the future – even if mindlessly following our GPS makes us take a wrong turn into a lake.

Many Christians read the apocalyptic literature in the Bible and see it as a roadmap to the future, to the second coming of Jesus. They play deciphering games with the symbols, numbers, and poetry. They see these verses as “predictive” of what will happen in the future in order to prepare people for what is coming. That isn’t my understanding but I can appreciate the allure for those who do.

I prefer to see these passages as “descriptive” of what has already happened. They were written to bring comfort and encouragement to people as they pass through difficult times. Rather than looking forward to the second coming of Jesus, I see them as faithful witness to the continual coming of Jesus.

The “desolating sacrilege” in the first verse likely reaches back to Daniel and the memory of the defilement of the Jewish temple under the Greeks.  After the victory of the Maccabean’s, the temple was cleansed and rededicated – only later to be defiled again when the Romans would demand daily sacrifices to Caesar. That memory was triggered when the Romans destroyed the temple in the more recent experiences of Mark’s readers.

As for “false messiahs”, we do well to heed this warning for there has never been a time when there hasn’t been voices calling out for us to follow them into the Promised Land. Idolatry requires false messiahs. Cults require leaders. Throughout history, politics and religion have coalesced to be primary sources for false messiahs that take our eyes off of Jesus.

In our day that might include Democrats who saw President Obama as God’s anointed leader to usher in a new day of hope and change or Republicans who weren’t repulsed by President Trump saying things like “I alone can fix it” or standing in front of a church holding a Bible upside down after sending in troops to clear the way.

Jesus tells us this morning not to be deceived. He has told us all that we need to know. He is the Past and the Future. He is with us now. All of us.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we are scared. We feel overwhelmed. It is as if the world is crumbling away under our feet. We are torn by the voices of those shouting for us to follow. We are afraid of a virus we can’t see and natural disasters that we can. Where can we run but back to you? Give us the faith, hope, and love that will see us through. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 13:9-13

September 28, 2020

“As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Mark 13:9-13

It is fashionable for some people to say that the Christian faith has long been under assault in the United States. Such complaints range from the design of Starbucks coffee cups to public policies and laws that some Christians find objectionable. Most recently, the public health initiative to ban or discourage large gatherings of people, including Sunday morning worship services, have been denounced as “anti-Christian.” Such charges demean a phrase like “under assault.”

In fact, there are places in the world where it is exceedingly dangerous to be a Christian. Places like Pakistan where church buildings have been bombed. India, where people have been killed for converting to Christianity. El Salvador, where a death squad entered a church and killed Bishop Oscar Romero while he was celebrating Mass. Saudi Arabia, where pastors serving international congregations have to register as “postal workers.” Places in Africa and the Middle East where minority Christians live in fear of majority Muslims.

Yet even in those places, it isn’t just about theology or Christian discipleship. It is always about tribalism, about political power, about domination, about scapegoating.

In the first century after Jesus, the Christian movement was a tiny minority. Despite the outlandish numbers in the book of Acts, according to Rodney Stark, a sociologist at Baylor University, in The Rise of Christianity, there were less than 8,000 Christians in the world by the end of the first century. In every age, minority status invites majority oppression.

It is easy to imagine that those who first heard or read the book of Mark would have seen their life experience reflected in what we will hear from the 13th chapter. The aftermath of the disaster in Jerusalem would have continued to echo. For the dominant culture, from the perspective of Rome, the death of Jesus was a political act. He was an insurrectionist whose followers challenged the supremacy of Caesar. It was his impact on the hearts and minds of his followers that needed to be snuffed out. But they couldn’t do it.

Martin Luther used to teach that people can’t confuse the “public” church with what he called the “hidden” church. Such an idea gives rise to a line like “sitting in a garage doesn’t make you a car.” (Probable Corollary: Standing in a pulpit doesn’t make you a pastor.) Luther’s distinction is less about how humans respond to God and more about the mystery of God’s work in the world. God can’t be stopped.

The coronavirus has spread so widely now that it is the rare person who can’t name a friend or loved one who hasn’t gotten sick or even died. When Mark was written, it would have been a rare Christian who couldn’t tell stories of friends or loved ones who had suffered because they followed Jesus. Yet they kept the faith. They trusted the promise that “the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Let us pray: Dear Lord, keep us strong in the faith. Let us not be distracted by attackers or swayed by the shifting sands of public opinion. Give us the courage to speak truth to power. Protect those who live in fear because of their faith. Help us endure to the end. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 13:1-8

September 25, 2020

As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs. Mark 13:1-8

The disciples marveled at the size and majesty of the temple. The heart of Judaism. A big, impressive, monumental building. That, one day, would all come tumbling down. By the time Mark was written, the temple was already gone.

We are still in the month of September. We are still in the grip of a world-wide pandemic that has taken the lives of over 200,000 Americans. Wildfires in the West have taken lives, homes, and businesses. Hurricanes in the Southeast have done the same. As I write, we in the Houston area are breathing again after yet another storm closed life down this past week. More homes were flooded. Social unrest continues. We lost a hero in Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We still live in the memory of 9/11.

Watch TV, listen to the radio, or attend the right churches (stubbornly still hosting in-person worship) and you will hear the voices of religious leaders warning that the end is near. The end is near! The end is near! The sky is falling! Everything is falling apart!

And Jesus says, “Beware that no one leads you astray”.

We aren’t the only, and we aren’t the first, people to pass through gut-wrenchingly difficult times. The New Testament was written in the aftermath of times like this. The Roman army had destroyed the city of Jerusalem. After years of little skirmishes led by rebellious Jews, Rome’s hammer fell. In 70 CE Jerusalem was put under siege for months. No food. No water. Until finally the army marched in. By the time it was over, the city was destroyed. The majestic temple was reduced to rubble. Judaism, as it had been practiced for centuries, would never be the same.

People always look for scapegoats when times get tough. The tiny fledgling Christian movement served that purpose (minorities make great scapegoats). After the destruction of Jerusalem, those who believed Jesus was the Messiah were no longer welcomed within their own families or worshipping communities. Christianity was forced beyond its beginnings as a reform movement within Judaism.

How were they to understand what had happened? They started writing. Mark, then later Matthew and Luke, and still later, John, were all written to the decades following the fall of Jerusalem to guide peoples’ understanding of the purpose and the significance of the life and ministry of Jesus.

As you will see in the 13th chapter of Mark, the writer uses a literary genre called “apocalyptic.” From a Greek word meaning to “uncover”, apocalyptic writing wasn’t new to Mark. There are places in the Old Testament, in books like Ezekiel and Daniel, that use the same literary forms. They use symbolism, numbers, and poetry to uncover the end of the world. It is a type of writing designed not just to comment on the world, but to bring hope to those losing hope. The final book of the New Testament, the Revelation, is an archetype of apocalyptic literature.

All next week we will hear from chapter 13, Mark’s “little apocalypse.” But don’t be misled. Keep following Jesus as he teaches us less about fearing tomorrow and more about living today.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, day after day we hear more and more that is discouraging and disheartening. We long for rescue. Remind us, and guide us, to trust both that the future is in your hands, and that we are your hands, in building a better tomorrow. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 12:41-44

September 24, 2020

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44

Oh Oh! Now he’s preaching!! Suddenly Jesus digs the knife a little deeper for the hypocritical scribes and Sadducees. He hits them in the wallet. In front of the crowd, no less!

The rich people put in large sums. Oh, how impressed we are with rich people and large sums. Maybe it has always been that way. There is nothing new about materialism and greed. The Bible has plenty of rich heroes.

Despite Abraham’s humble beginnings, not only did he become a hero of the faith, he also became a very wealthy man. To focus on his wealth twists the story into equating wealth with being blessed by God’s special favor. (NOTE: Beware of those who constantly talk about “God’s favor” in talking about the Christian faith.)

Solomon was born in David’s palace and soon parlayed that head start with an obnoxious accumulation of wealth, splendor, hundreds of wives and concubines, and all of the idols they brought into his life. All that proved his downfall yet we still somehow respect someone who turns the millions they are born with into even more millions. (NOTE: Beware of those who are born into money and forget the advantages that gives them for the rest of their lives.)

But wealth alone doesn’t do it. It isn’t enough. It is what wealth can buy. But that isn’t enough either. It really is about how other people think of you when they see the signs of your ostentatious wealth. It is about honor and privilege, about fame and acclaim. As Jesus said yesterday, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets!”

I know a few people of great wealth who do not define themselves by their money. They see their wealth as a gift of God that comes with a deep responsibility to be a good steward. They know that, for those to whom much is given, much is required. 

Bottom line – even though we do it all the time, we can’t judge a person by their bank accounts, their stuff, or their charitable contributions. It isn’t about what we have; it is always about what we do with what we have. And beyond that, it is about noticing the societal systems we set up and defend that create ever greater advantages for the rich to get richer while keeping the poor poorer.

Enter, the widow. Remember that Jesus has just pointed out how the scribes abuse widows like her? Now she comes before them as a model of financial stewardship. She gives all she has. Why? What else ought she do with her last two copper coins? She gives it all away. She casts herself completely on God’s care and keeping. Her gift is an act of trust.

The rich give large sums. Good for them The work of the temple requires financial support. And if their hearts are in the right place, such gifts are good for the giver too. But, no matter how much they give, rest assured that they have will have plenty left over. But the widow gave all she had with no back up plan. No back up plan beyond trusting God.

Life in America is never perfect, we are always striving to be better. But today we don’t let widows starve. We have established systems of social support that take care of people who need it. We have learned that, when we share out of what we have, there is always enough for everybody.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, protect us from the subtle idolatry of greed and materialism. Teach us to do the best we can with what we have, always mindful that all that we are, and all that we have, is a gracious gift from you. Teach us to be good stewards, including provision for the common good, lest anyone be left behind without access to the basic necessities of life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 12:35-40

September 23, 2020

While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,

“Sit at my right hand,

until I put your enemies under your feet.”’

David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?” And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.

As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” Mark 12:35-40

Today we continue with this series of exchanges between Jesus and his opponents, the Sadducees and the scribes. Remembering David, Jesus fires another broadside at the Sadducees who don’t believe in the resurrection and teach that God’s Law has been cast in stone (except when they twist that law to their own advantage.) The crowd loves to see that one. Today Jesus teaches them, and us, a lesson about hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy is a problem for all of us. The word itself comes from the Greek theater where the same actor would play several roles, each differentiated by the hand-held masks they would hold up for each role. This is where the phrase being “two-faced” comes from. A hypocrite is someone who says one thing but does another. They play to the crowd. They shamelessly live with a radical disconnection between the values they espouse and the reality of their words, actions, and true beliefs.

The Sadducees and the scribes were easy targets for Jesus’ assertion of the depth of their hypocrisy. Both groups held significant societal power. What they said and did made a difference in the lives of everybody else. But they didn’t wield that power for the common good – they did so only to enrich themselves as they basked in the glow of their positions.

Jesus says, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

Notice that Jesus said, “They devour widows’ houses…” If you have any understanding or appreciation for the Bible, then you know full well that there is a preferential place in God’s heart for widows, orphans, strangers, foreigners, the oppressed, the imprisoned, the poor, the sick, and the lost. Jesus has absolutely no interest in helping the rich get richer or the so-called “honored” among us getting more acclaim.

Both the Sadducees and the scribes had powerful positions of impact in the lives of others. Human community requires such roles. It is why football requires referees and baseball requires umpires. We need leaders and we need rules and we need leaders who follow the rules.

What are the rules which God sets in place for all of us to follow? To love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The hypocritical Sadducees and scribes among us – no matter how often they abuse the word by using it – wouldn’t recognize love if you spotted them three of the four letters.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, today we will be mindful, in ourselves and others, of how our words and actions align with the deeper values which you have placed in our hearts. Open our ears and open our hearts to the acid of hypocrisy lest it eat what is best in us and leach into the soil of our common life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 12:28-34

September 22, 2020

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question. Mark 12:28-34

Whenever you read “the scribes” in the Bible, imagine a small-town lawyer. They were the local experts on the law as a means of structuring community life – marriages, divorces, contracts, mortgages, etc. Some assumed powerful positions as administrative assistants to the ruling class. In Mark – except in the case of this exchange – they were primary adversaries of Jesus.

Listen closely to how Jesus answers the question posed by the scribe. Jesus goes beyond Moses’ tablets of stone. Jesus cuts through to the more fundamental idea that lies behind and beneath the Law. Life is about BOTH loving God and loving our neighbors.

Jesus quotes the Shema, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” So far, so good. Jesus reaches back to Deuteronomy 6, something that parents were supposed to teach their children every day of their lives. But then he goes beyond that.

Jesus adds, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Life is about BOTH loving God AND loving our neighbor. Life is about love. Even the scribe admits to that truth.

Many people live with a very transactional, if-then, concept of God. That is certainly the theology underlying Deuteronomy. “If you do good, God will bless you; if you do bad, God will destroy you.” Certainly doing good is a good thing….but we are sinful people and we can quickly twist “good deeds” into self-righteousness, pride, superiority, and privilege. We’re Number One! Soon we think we own God. We control God based on what we do or don’t do.

History is full of examples of people doing atrocious things to other people even as they convince themselves that they are following God’s will. What’s love got to do with that?

The corrective to self-righteousness and tribalism is the call to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Jesus didn’t invent this idea. It is the logic of God’s grace, God’s mercy, God’s call to justice and righteousness. This a relational, because/therefore, concept of God. Because I trust that God loves me, therefore I will love my neighbor.

Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Even if that means wearing a mask in public, social distancing, and purposely choosing not to gather people together in large indoor crowds. Even if that means not name-calling, scape-goating, blaming, misleading, or manipulating our neighbor.

If you think you are loving God while behaving unlovingly toward others, you are kidding yourself.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, to love you is to trust you, to follow you, to obey you, to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Help us be loving today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 12:18-27

September 21, 2020

Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that ‘if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’ There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.”

Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.” Mark 12:18-27

The Sadducees were more than the priestly class of Jews in Jesus’ day, they were the “strict constitutionalists”. Just like modern day conservatives who constantly grouse about “strict constitutionalism” – as if James Madison and the others drafted it on unchanging tablets of stone – the Sadducees only accepted the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, as holy scripture. They rejected all the “modern” scriptures, the historical books, the wisdom literature, and the prophets. And because of that, they didn’t believe in the idea of the resurrection of the dead, a concept you won’t find in the Pentateuch.

Which was very convenient for them. The privileged status the Sadducees enjoyed was actually born, not at Creation or even in their beloved book of Leviticus, but it stretched back to Zadok, the high priest at the time Solomon built the first Temple. Those were the glory days of Israel’s imagination – glorious because Israel enjoyed a brief period as an independent people, profiting mightily from its geographic blessings as center of trade. It wouldn’t last.

All of that ended with the fall of Israel to the Babylonians and the Babylonian Exile. After that dark period, the returning exiles sought to rebuild Jerusalem, including the construction of the Second Temple. The party of the Sadducees kicked into gear. They re-membered history to reassert what they claimed was their God-given role to control the business operations of the Temple. By the time Jesus came around, they were the richest members of Jewish society, their pockets filled with the profits of the Temple, their lavish homes a sign of their privileged status. All of which was made possible because of their embrace of their Roman occupiers.

Jesus – like all the prophets of old – was a threat to their privilege. Jesus had to go. So they set him up. They played the “whataboutism” word games that the powerful love to deploy which cloak their idolatrous grasp of power. They challenge him with their silly hypothetical of a woman whose husbands kept dying.

Jesus sees through their self-justifying charade. He doesn’t hesitate to challenge their hypocrisy. He tells them they are wrong. Why? Because they don’t care about the scriptures or the power of God. “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?”

All they care about is maintaining the myth of their own superiority and privileged status. If that meant that Jesus had to go, so be it.

I don’t want to be a Sadducee.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we always are tempted to twist faith into a self-serving scheme to gain privileged status, in this life and the next. You are the Living God, may we find our life in you. Give us the humility to see when we are wrong and the courage to speak truth to power. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Welcome Back

September 20, 2020

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Sometime in my childhood? Sometime after that? I have no idea where and when I first sang this song. But it got inside of me. Even before I truly entrusted my life to Jesus, that song was there. It still sings within me.

I quit writing these Daily Devotions back in July. Sometimes things just jolt me. They leave me flabbergasted. Sometimes my daily rituals change. And when that happens, I can’t write Daily Devotions anymore. Or better, I re-enter a season where “obey” doesn’t include writing every morning.

And then something happens.

This time that “something” is a Facebook reply from a guy I drew up with back in Wahpeton. I met Kraig in kindergarten. The first time I ever saw a color television in anyone’s home was a Saturday morning at Kraig’s. His mom was our den mother when I tried to be a Cub Scout. (I’m still jealous that Lane Wateland got to be Abraham Lincoln and I was a slave in paper chains with a charcoal black face in our skit at Bethel Lutheran Church.)

Kraig and I don’t see the world in the same way. Grew up in the same town. Same school. Same teachers. At least through grade school, same friends. So how is it that we see things so differently?

Maybe it is life experience. His home life was very different than mine. Sports became my life; Kraig’s life went a different direction. And, that one day in the summer after my first year in college, I gave my life to God (as best as I could understand the concept way back then) and everything changed for me. I trust that Kraig is on his own spiritual journey. Maybe it is that.

Trust and obey, there’s no better way.

I love Paul’s vulnerability with the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

I’m not saying that I work harder than anyone else – there is no way that is true – but I do pray that God’s grace toward me has not been in vain.

So today marks a new chapter in my life. As I continue to serve God and the community at Faith Lutheran Church, as what I do spreads through social media, I will trust and obey that it is time for me to write in the mornings again.

You may or may not like that. You may or may not like or agree with something I write. I’m not in charge of that. My work is to pass on what I see and hear in the connections between the Word and our lives that day. Feel free to post any replies you wish.

As this new chapter begins, I am confident that God’s Word will continue to be both a comfort and a challenge as it guides us through life. It will continue to be the two-edged sword it has always been.

Thank you, Kraig, for inviting me to do what it is that I sense God calling me to do. Trust and obey, there’s no better way.