January 31, 2022

Proverbs 1:1-7

The book of Proverbs has 31 chapters and so one spiritual discipline when you are not sure where to read in the Bible is to pick the chapter that corresponds to the day of the month.  Tomorrow is February 1 so we will do a chapter a day for a month and see where we end up.  Proverbs is famous for being wisdom literature and a collection of sayings, proverbs and words of advice from Solomon, whom many consider one of the world’s wisest men, to his son.  It starts with a prologue in chapter one so I looked up prologue on the Internet.

         https://www.masterclass.com/articles/writing-101-what-is-a-prologue#what-is-a-prologue credits Euripides, a famous Greek playwright with the start of prologues.  The author continues to say:

“A good prologue performs one of many functions in a story:

  • Foreshadowing events to come
  • Providing background information or backstory on the central conflict
  • Establishing a point of view (either the main character’s, or that of another character who is privy to the tale)
  • Setting the tone for the rest of the novel or play.”

         Solomon introduces himself as son of David, king of Israel.  He lived 990 BC to 931 BC but the sayings gathered and recorded come from older times.   He writes the proverbs for “gaining wisdom and instruction, for understanding words of insight and for receiving instruction in prudent behavior doing what is right and just and fair.”  It is possible to read and reread a chapter in Proverbs daily and have a different verse “jump out” and speak to a situation you are facing.  We all need wisdom and understanding.  The prologue closes with the foreshadowing that the wise will gain understanding in fearing the Lord while the simple, the gullible, those without moral direction and inclined to evil will reject the wisdom.  Ouch!  We will see that dichotomy grow and certainly deciding who are the good guys and who are the misinformed is a topic of discussion in our country today.

         My daughter in first grade in Kenya would entertain us as we drove with “Kitenda Wili” sayings, riddles, and proverbs.  For example she would ask what house has no windows and no doors.  The answer is an egg.  We learned many as a child also, what has ears but no legs?  Corn!

         Proverbs prologue offers sayings that will help us be wise, points out the difference between wise and foolish, is shared by King Solomon and does set a teaching tone.  What proverb has impacted your life and helped form you?  I can remember my mother saying, “A stitch in time saves nine!”  Deal with my problems and don’t procrastinate because the problem will only grow.  What proverb would you share with someone if you could?  Lord may our ears be attuned to hear proverbs in our culture that are forming us today.

“I Cast All My Cares Upon You”

January 29, 2022

1 Peter

We’ve come to the end of another week.  We have gone through 1 Peter.  The apostle Peter writes from prison to young Christians around the Roman Empire who are facing rough times, trials and persecutions.  We all have bad days, bad weeks and bad years.  Some days it feels like the world is against us and doubts that God is on our side plague us.  We know he could do a miracle but it does not come and we suspect the fault is our little faith or our big sins.  Peter reminds us that we are not only inheritors of an eternal inheritance that is being stored for us and does not depreciate with interest rates but we are also inheritors of living hope.  That’s not wishing hope but living hope based on the proof of the resurrection and the knowledge that God, the judge, is impartial.  He revenges and vindicates and we don’t need to.  We are free to live in “reverent fear” that is respect for God who has true power and not fear of punishment.  We do not need to conform to the rules of the game for this world – an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth – but we can return good for evil because we have been forgiven our sins and been recipients of blessings.  Returning good for evil is the only way to silence those who accuse.  And ultimately, if we are to suffer, then let us suffer for doing good.  Our model is Jesus Christ and the cross.  He rose from the dead.  God is able to bring about good that we cannot even anticipate.

         In third grade I had to turn in my little Bible memorization award badges and I received a little wooden plaque with 1 Peter 5:7 on it.  That plaque sat by my bed, went to college, went to Africa and now sits on my dresser – about 70 years of comfort! 

1 Peter 5:7

“Cast all your anxiety of him because he cares for you.”

Enjoy this worship song based on this verse.  It has comforted me many times when I am down.  Blessings.


January 28, 2022

1 Peter 5

Peter concludes his letter by encouraging humility.  Elders should humbly care for those under them in true love and not looking for gain or power.   Be a good shepherd even as Jesus is known as the Good Shepherd. Youth are to be humble towards elders understanding the the weight of responsibility they carry.  Peter reasons, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. (v 5)” 

         So I reflected on what God does oppose even if we do not see his hand in the situation.

Proverbs 6:16-19

16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
    seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
    and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
    feet that hurry to run to evil,
19 a lying witness who testifies falsely,
    and one who sows discord in a family.

That has always seemed to me to be a list of attitudes that will lead me astray.  “Haughty eyes” are mentioned first.  Perhaps when we start evaluating ourselves better than others, we have started the process of dehumanizing them and devaluing them.  One of the challenges facing us today is how to incorporate the many fleeing dehumanizing lives to come to our borders in hope of finding a respectful life. 1 Peter’s challenge to us, even if we are not the person in trouble but the person able to help, is how we are keeping our focus on God and not on ourselves, trusting him as the impartial ultimate judge who sees our lives and cares.

         Perhaps our prayer today is “Lord, help me stay focused on you and help me keep my priorities pleasing to you!”  Blessings on your journey!

“Why did you do that?”

January 27, 2022

1 Peter 4

Peter in chapter 4 of 1 Peter brings in a new thought.  Often our actions are questioned. “Why did you do that?”  Verse 5 says, “But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”   Our lives are called to account in the court of public opinion but ultimately we will face our creator.  Peter reasons that a “guilty” in the kingdom of this world will be an honor in God’s court.  When we refuse to live by actions that please the crowd so that we can fit in and so that we can satisfy the emotions of the minute whether that be sexual, revenge, greed or covetousness, we are choosing approval by the world but missing the mark with God.  The harder path is to choose God’s standards that calls us to “our better selves.”  The world will find us guilty of being boring and weird but we will in reality be living by higher standards that please God.  We will be guilty as charged by human standards “but live according to God in regard to the spirit.”

         Verse 5 is Peter’s famous quote, “Love covers over a multitude of sins.”  We are charged to love, to offer hospitality, to speak, and to serve as unto God.  We are not to be surprised by these struggles but Peter encourages us that any struggles should come from doing good, not evil.

         So which of the areas Peter lists: love, hospitality, speech, or service challenges you today?  Perhaps set a simple goal of saying kind words to three people today – a friend, a spouse, a child, a neighbor.  Everyone loves to be complimented when it is genuine so think what you might be able to slip into a conversation.  Be genuine. If words fail you then give a smile or a hug.  Blessings as you bless others!    

“Do good!”

January 26, 2022

1 Peter 3: 13-22

Peter advises his friends to do good in the face of evil.  “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? (v. 13)” Well, the definition of “doing good” is often open to debate.  “Nights at Rodanthe,” the movie based on the Nicolas Sparks novel of a doctor who goes to talk to the husband of a patient who died while he operated.  The doctor is convinced he did all that could have been done but the husband is furious about the death of his beloved wife.  Doing good, as we see it, is not always understood as good by the receiver who is looking at the situation from a different perspective.  Peter reasons though that we expect bad people to do bad and retaliate  but when a person returns good for evil, actions speak louder than words.  The doctor in the movie chooses to respond to the husband’s letter requesting a visit and learns through the drama that the husband does not want a visit to blame but to grieve through sharing just how special his wife was.  She was perfect in the husband’s eyes without the operation.

         When we follow Christ’s example and sometimes suffer unjustly as Jesus did, there can be unforeseen benefits that we cannot anticipate.  Christ’s death on the cross resulted in eternal life for all who believe.  Those years of struggle as a college student thinking I would become, well not so certain what I would become, resulted in teaching skills in Kenya that helped young women.  In college I could not foresee that future.  It does not remove the pain but comforts us that God sees a future we cannot.

         Peter draws a parallel with baptism.  We baptize believing and trusting that God claims myself or my child.  We have yet to receive the blessing of heaven but we believe our future holds blessings we do not know now.

         We do good because it calms anger, because it silences slander, because it follows Christ, and because it opens a future that is still unfolding.  Anger and hate poison our souls and our lives so today let us think of a good thing we could do for someone we find difficult to love. Try to be practical.  Perhaps it will be something inexpensive like giving a smile to someone you don’t know but it could be asking God to help you bless someone who has hurt you.  Doing good is not always easy but usually it is the right thing to do.  Blessings as you try!


January 25, 2022

1 Peter 3: 8-12

Peter continues his discussion of speaking truth to power.  “Finally…” he says, but actually it will take him two more chapters to wind up his advice to these young Christians spread around the Roman empire who are experiencing hard times.  We are listening in for many of us like those people long ago are grieving the impact of Covid, the pinch of inflation, and fear the clouds of war on the horizon.  We feel helpless as the world events seem unsolvable by our individual lives.  Evil is big and we are little.

            A Chinese proverb speaks beautifully to this dynamic:  “The flapping of the wings of a butterfly can be felt on the other side of the world.”  If I considered myself defeated because the task is too big, the proverb reminds me that I can impact the lives of those who touch me and so a ripple effect begins – around the world.  Peter says it this way,

         “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.  On the contrary, repay evil with blessing because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (v. 8,9)”

As we do good to those who do not deserve it, like a pebble thrown in a lake, we do not know what the final ripple will impact.  Likewise, Peter reasons that because we have all fallen short of perfection and yet are loved by God, we too can pass on that blessing by loving those who are not perfect towards us.  This is not to condone abuse nor to encourage continuing in destructive situations to those touching our lives but as much as is possible we are encouraged to meet evil with good.  Peter says this is the only way to achieve real peace.  Escalating power to meet power, threats to meet threats, and revenge to pay back evil, we will probably achieve little eternal peace.

         I cannot control the world but I can try to discipline my own emotions and actions.  As we think about this today and realize our lives cannot change world dynamics, we must not forget we have a weapon. We can pray.  May I suggest we take time today to pray for those starving in Afghanistan and for the foreboding politics on the borders or Ukraine?  God is listening to you!

“Truth Speaks to Power”

January 24, 2022

1 Peter 3: 1-7

When we went to Kenya, the question, “How many children do you have?” is one of those complicated cross-cultural situations that we learned to avoid.  One answer was 27 as they had 3 wives and all had the same father.  Another answer involved questioning how many children survived which can be a painful conversation.  A third response was that they had as many children as the stars in the sky because to give a specific answer might doubt God’s ability to provide more children and amount to a curse.  It was quickly explained that the question about children was paramount to asking an American how much money they have in the bank.  We don’t do it.  It was also true that all the children of the people in my age set were also my children so “individual” ownership of children was not understandable.  But the most common answer was a number where the speaker numbered his wife as one of his children because he was responsible for her, like a child.  I gained a new insight into passages like the first part of chapter 3 of 1 Peter.

         Peter is addressing a culture where women are counted a bit higher than a slave but certainly not with all the social power and respect as we have in the Western world today.  It is grating on our ears and hard to hear past our cultural lenses to understand the message.  The big picture Peter is talking about deals with the evils and injustices that plague our lives and how we are to look to Jesus as a model.  The word he uses is “submit.”  That is a different word than “agree” nor does it imply “correct.”  We are looking with a microscope at that tension we talked about between injustice and faith.  Another way to say it today is to ask what is the best way to speak truth to power?    Wives are advised to submit, not agree, not endorse or approve.  The reality is they were not in a position of power.  We use idioms like “a tablespoon of sugar makes the medicine go down,” “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” or “a soft answer turns away wrath.”  Jesus is the model.  He did not approve of the cross or slavery but violence spins out more violence and love is the best approach.  I think the clincher is the final sentence, ”If you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”  Fear is the enemy. Evil is the enemy, not the other person.  I do not like to have to submit naturally but I know all of us doing what WE want leads to anarchy.  Keeping my heart focused on a greater picture of a God who is just, impartial and values me, helps me when I have to swallow my pride and work with the system.  “A quiet, gentle spirit” that genuinely loves and cares in a friend is a wonderful gift.

         Ponder how you might show more love and respect to just one person you care about this week. “Pay love forward” in faith that God can multiply your investment.  Blessings.

Third Sunday in Epiphany: State of the Union Address

January 23, 2022

First Reading: Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10

1All the people [of Israel] gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. 2Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. 3He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. 5And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 8So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
  9And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. 10Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Psalm: Psalm 19

1The heavens declare the glory of God,
  and the sky proclaims its maker’s handiwork.
2One day tells its tale to another,
  and one night imparts knowledge to another.
3Although they have no words or language,
  and their voices are not heard,
4their sound has gone out into all lands, and their message to the        ends of the world, where God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5It comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;
  it rejoices like a champion to run its course.
6It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens and runs   about to the end of it again;
  nothing is hidden from its burning heat. 
7The teaching of the Lord is perfect and revives the soul;
  the testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom to the simple.
8The statutes of the Lord are just and rejoice the heart;
  the commandment of the Lord is clear and gives light to the eyes.
9The fear of the Lord is clean and endures forever;
  the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold,
  sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.
11By them also is your servant enlightened,
  and in keeping them there is great reward.
12Who can detect one’s own offenses?
  Cleanse me from my secret faults.
13Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not get  dominion over me;
  then shall I be whole and sound, and innocent of a great offense.
14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be     acceptable in your sight,
  O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. 

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
  14Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
  27Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31aBut strive for the greater gifts.

Gospel: Luke 4:14-21

14Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
  16When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
  because he has anointed me
   to bring good news to the poor.
 He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
  and recovery of sight to the blind,
   to let the oppressed go free,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

CHILDREN’S SERMON:  It is not long now until the President gives his State of the Union Address.  Share with your neighbor a couple items that you think will be on his agenda…..  I will be surprised if he does not cover accomplishments surrounding Coved, need for movement on voting rights, thoughts on international situation brewing, and of course finances.  Truly we need God’s help and mercy!

Let us pray:  Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.


This week’s text returns us to the Gospel of Luke, the writer through whom we are experiencing Epiphany this year.  After the nativity story of Jesus, Luke glimpses Jesus at age 12 differentiating himself from Joseph as he remains at the temple in Jerusalem, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”  At age 12 Jesus knows who he is and during Epiphany we too are getting insights into who this God incarnate is.  Two weeks ago Jesus was baptized and we saw the Trinity’s presence, Father speaking, Holy Spirit descending like a dove, and Jesus identifying with us, you and me.  We are baptized into that Trinity!  Jesus was then driven into the wilderness by the Spirit and tested by Satan. Our text skips that scene and jumps to the next. Luke now tells of Jesus’ opening ministry experience. Jesus chooses his hometown Nazareth of Galilee in Northern Israel to give his State of the Union Address.

15He began to teach in their synagogues

and was praised by everyone.

         Jesus begins preaching but chooses Nazareth to “introduce” himself and his vision.  It’s not Congress like the President but the opinions later will be divided. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though.  Jesus has had a unique experience at his baptism but there was no CNN, no telephones, and so awareness of him as an adult grew with personal encounters.  Our relationship with Christ grows as we interact with him, more and more.

         For sure Nazareth knew Jesus as the child of Joseph and Mary, perhaps they even heard stories from the wedding at Cana nearby but Jesus is notching up that understanding of himself.  Everyone is praising Jesus as the rumors of his ministry circulate but they are about to meet him face to face, not as the person whom they think they know but now as an adult living out his mission.  Jesus introduces himself through the words of the prophet Isaiah.  Jesus is about to give his State of the Union Address.  Are we tuned in?

         We know about State of the Union Addresses.  In fact around January 20th I start listening for when the President of the USA will address the combined Congress and the American people.  I looked up the history of this speech.       
         “The address fulfills the requirement in Article II, Section 3, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution for the president to periodically “give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

George Washington gave the first address to a joint session of Congress on January 8, 1790 in NYC, our capitol then.  Until 1934 reports were written to Congress.  But in 1913 Woodrow Wilson started giving the address in person in Congress.  With technological advances, Americans and others now see the speech in all time zones.  In 1934 Franklin D. Roosevelt gave the speech in January but in 1981 Ronald Reagan switched to February.  This year President Biden will address Congress and the US public on March 1, 2022.  The opportunity to hear this message has only become available in our lifetime!!!  We can hear, watch and critique today. Because of the gift of Scripture we can tune in and sit and listen to Jesus give his speech connecting the writings of the prophet Isaiah to his present. What topics will Jesus touch on as he brings to life for the people at his time the issues he sees and how will his words challenge us as we ponder how these words come alive in our context?  Is he relevant today?  Perhaps an epiphany moment of “ah ha” will open in our hearts today.  Lord, give us ears to hear and open our hearts.
18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
  because he has anointed me
   to bring good news to the poor.

“Good news” makes me think of the Good News Bible that translates Scripture into easy English.  I think of the message of salvation and the hidden challenge to evangelism for followers of Jesus.  We are often charged to make the good news of salvation through Jesus known to people who do not know. These are both cognitive, or knowledge interpretations.  We think bringing the good news is reading the Word and sharing a verse here and there!  Wait, let’s dig a little deeper.

         I note this starting point of the prophet, does not start with sharing Scripture but with the Spirit of the Lord who anoints.  As baptized Christians, we have that same Spirit working in our hearts and speaking to us about “bringing”, carrying, living out God’s desires surrounding the sharing of the good news for whom?  The poor. 

         The poor throws us to Jesus’ opening talk in the Sermon on the Mount as recorded by Matthew, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)” I think of Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”  Isaiah and Jesus are not talking just about the ignorant or the financially burdened.  Other words for “poor” might be discouraged, defeated, guilty, shamed, forgotten, or unseen.  When we take our eyes off God and look at our plight in life, it is easy to sing the “Woe Is Me” song.  That is when we need Jesus and the representatives of Jesus to put their arms around us and offer a hug.  It may not mean to lecture about salvation but to love.  The “good news” is that we are seen, we are forgiven, we are important and we are saved.  Our life has purpose and meaning even if we have dementia, cancer, no education, and different talents.  Jesus has been anointed by the Holy Spirit to bring good news to the poor – you and me.

“He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
  and recovery of sight to the blind,
   to let the oppressed go free,”

Do I hear you thinking: I am not a captive, I am not blind, and I live in the country of the free and the home of the brave.  These words must apply to the Jews who were dominated by the Romans.  We think of the blind beggars who pleaded for sight.  Jesus has come for a ministry of release and recovery from that which seems to “own” our lives.  I may not be a “captive” to Rome or in prison but for sure every month I pay my rent or mortgage.  For some we are captive to dementia.  For some it is alcohol or that TV show that we just have to watch.  That clock speaks of our responsibilities or lack there of, of our age, of our debts.  Oh my.  Is this verse a promise of a check in the mail or a healing?  Perhaps but I have my doubts. 

         Release is not just a promise to those of great faith who believe and can move the mountain into the sea.  What does Jesus release us from?  The realities of being alive?  I do not think he is referring to miracles but that faith in him releases us from the weight of worry and anxiety, from guilt and shame, and from loneliness – those things that weigh us down and lock us in a prison of fear.

         “Recovery of sight to the blind” often is preached as if my dark heart becomes enlightened and I see Jesus clearly.  Some are gifted with that kind of clarity and certainty but I agree with Paul that, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (I Corinthians 13: 12)” Faith does open my heart to Christ and the blindness and hopelessness of sin disappears but much is still unknown.  Perhaps then the blindness that Jesus can remove is our inability to see God acting in our life.  As Jesus’ representatives we can help each other persevere during our trials and we can encourage each other to see the hand of God.  Without help, the blindness that gives us tunnel vision in crisis often blinds us to resources and God.  We may be the eyes for someone, not to remove the speck but to help them see Christ alive in our world, acting to help us recover sight.

19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

NOW is the time.  Today is the day.  The past is forgivable and the future may not be ours to see.  Isaiah’s time was the year of the Lord’s favor.  Jesus’ time was the year of the Lord’s favor.  Now is the day of the Lord’s favor.  God is alive and active.  He does not slumber or sleep.  His arm is not short and he is not slow to act as we count time.  That word “favor” implies to me that the heart of God is seeking to bless, to forgive, and to walk with us.  He does not want any to be lost.  The evil one would have us look to our left and to our right comparing our selves and our blessings and to believe that God is somewhere in the heavens and we need to climb up to him with our good deeds.  Christianity, Jesus, brings a different message to those listeners at Jesus’ time who were prisoners of Romans, of disease, of ignorance, or injustice and prejudice.  God is working to bless and defeat the powers of evil.  He is walking with us into a future of hope.  Right now is the time God is working for good.  Now is the year of the Lord’s favor.

“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

When President Biden gives his State of the Union Address on March 1, he will probably spend some time talking about the challenge of Coved, of getting everyone vaccinated, and encourage masking.  Of course the government is working on it but it is a problem we are learning to live with.

         Jesus in his State of the Union Address brings good news to us poor.  He talks about the diseases beyond Coved that plague our lives and hold us captive.  He can set us free from guilt and shame; will walk with us through detox from addictions, and offers eternal life insurance.  Good News! 

President Biden will address our concerns about Ukraine and Kazakhstan and the threat of war that looms on our horizon.  I suspect he will say US diplomacy is effective.  Our alliances are strong.

         Jesus, on the other hand, brings the good news that the war is won and Satan is defeated.  Diplomacy is not needed as God is in control.  Allies are found in the body of Christ, the Church universal.  Good News!

President Biden will address the reality of inflation that is pinching the pockets of so many people.  He might try to reassure us that Social Security is strong and if Congress will only pass the proposed bills then the social network that supports our country will be even stronger.

         Jesus offers a long-term vision that does not necessarily offer health, wealth and prosperity now.  But he is about releasing us from the blindness that closes our eyes to his presence in our lives, working to eternal solutions.  He is about giving us freedom from the oppression of fear from the evil one. Good News!

President Biden will probably also talk about broadening voter security by passing the proposed bills surrounding voting rights. 

         Jesus uses the word “favor”.  We do not have to vote or fear our voice is not heard because “this is the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Happiness will not be voted on for only some and life will be fair and just for all.  God is working for us now.  Good News.”

As we reflect on Jesus’ State of Union Address impacting our lives today we see the heart of God who favors us with his presence as we go into this week.  God’s kingdom does not work like the powers of this world. 

Thank you, Lord! And the people of God said, “Amen!

“Trading My Sorrows”

January 22, 2022

by Darrell Evans

This week we looked at chapters 1 and 2 of 1 Peter.  Peter, known also as “the big fisherman” was one of the three that often were at Jesus’ side.  It is thought he died in the 60s, possibly under Nero.  He wrote this letter to young Christians spread across five Roman provinces when Christianity was just becoming.  No scriptures had been gathered together yet and Peter is writing to encourage people who are facing hard times.  Maybe it was not Covid or possible war but choosing to follow Jesus meant persecution and struggles.  Peter honestly faces the tension between our dark days and trying to live a faith modeled on the life of Christ.  Christ did not lead rallies, confront the government, or rant and rave.  He lived a life of principles and love, healing, preaching, and making life easier for the masses.  How does one find inner strength to follow him?

         In 2 Corinthians 4:8,9 Paul says, “I am pressed but not crushed, persecuted not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.”  Darrell Evans in 1997, while playing background music for people kneeling at the altar, started pondering what he would do with his past, what he wanted to lay down and get rid of.  Interestingly he chose the word “trade.”  He did not deny his mistakes.  He did not cover up his mistakes.  He did not blame others for his mistakes.  He realized that he could help heal those memories of failure and problems by focusing on Christ and turning them over to a just judge.  This song that came out of a spontaneous moment of worship is a popular worship chorus sung in churches now.  Amazingly it upbeat tune lifts the heart after a bad day, bad week, bad year.  I pray you enjoy it.


January 21, 2022

1 Peter 2:23-25

We finish chapter 2 of 1 Peter today and I feel a tension.  Two truths are presented.  Our lives will experience injustice and wrongs.  Sin is sin and people get hurt.  We cannot deny that.  On the other hand Peter presents Jesus as our model to follow. 

         “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate, when        he suffered, he made no threats, instead, he entrusted himself to him   who judges justly. (v. 23)”

How is Peter understanding the cross and responses by Jesus to trials?  These words encourage us to look inside ourselves and look at the words we use to describe the cross experience.  Was Jesus just passively allowing evil to beat him up to pay the penalty for our sin?  Did God just absorb evil to eliminate it so we can go to heaven?  Should an abused wife continue to submit to beatings of an alcoholic husband because Jesus submitted to the cross?  Often the abuser will use that reasoning to justify abuse but I do not think that is what Peter is saying.  Turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, and giving away our coat are words of advice we receive.  I believe there are deeper questions to be pondered.  If what I am doing is pointless, then submission is passive resignation to a situation I am trapped in. Then my suffering serves no purpose.  We call it martyring, deceiving ourselves that we are acting like Jesus.

         Jesus’ suffering was neither passive nor purposeless.  He walked through horrible suffering in his identification with humanity, true man.  In the process he confronted all participants involved with truth – “I am the way, the truth and the life” – even to Pilot.  He offered eternal life to the thief who turned to him on the cross – “today you will be with me in Paradise”.  He restored the ear to the man in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He told Peter that Peter would betray but Jesus would pray for him. Jesus proved that he is stronger than the worse evil that we can experience and rose three days later proving life in God cannot be destroyed – for you and me.  Suffering confronts us with the tension to martyr for our own glory or suffering to benefit others.  It is never easy to see the way forward in these situations and so the help, insight and wisdom of others is often needed.

         As we watch the news and ponder how we will respond to the ethical dilemmas facing our culture today we need God’s wisdom.  Let us pray for judges, lawyers, and law officials who deal with crime and law daily.  Lord have mercy!”T