A Fast to End Injustice and Oppression

From the verses in Isaiah I used last week for an Ash Wednesday sermon, starting the season of Lent:

“This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The GOD of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, GOD will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.'” (Isaiah 58:6-9 MSG)

These verses are on my heart as I think about the challenges schools so close to our home face, and my own prospects for teaching in the year to come.

Ash Wednesday Sermon: Isaiah 58:1-12

This evening I had an opportunity to share the Ash Wednesday sermon at our church in Edmond, Oklahoma. The sermon text I chose was Isaiah 58:1-12.

1 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Here is an audio recording of the sermon, which ran just under 20 minutes. I recorded this with iTalk Recorder on my iPhone, which displays elapsed time, so I used this to make sure I didn’t run over the suggested 15-20 minute time limit for the meditation. After transferring the file to my laptop tonight, I uploaded it to Auphonic to normalize and compress it into a 32 kbps mp3 file.

The most powerful part of the service for me was participating with our three pastors in the “imputing of ashes.” As church attendees came forward to receive communion, we first marked a cross on their forehead with ashes from a small bowl. I have been very moved as a participant in this service in past years, but it was even more moving to help lead it. Young and old, people I knew and did not know, I said “From ashes you came, and from ashes you shall return.” A sobering but important reminder of our own mortality, and our universal need for God and the saving grace of his son, Jesus Christ.

Praise to God and thanks to God for his blessings, love, and grace. Praise and thanks to God for the opportunity to be a part of our church community of faith.

penance by Sarah Korf, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Sarah Korf 

Our Bodies Are Temples for God’s Holy Spirit

Today’s sermon message focuses on how we should act and care for our own bodies, which are temples for God’s Holy Spirit.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭6‬:‭19-20‬ NIV)

I used iMovie for iPad to create a narrated version of this sketchnote.

Keep Your Eyes on the Action

Rachel took her academic application tests this morning for ClassenSAS, so she was unable to bowl in the Saturday morning youth league she has started participating in this semester. As a result, this evening she is doing her “pre-bowl” (or in this case post-bowl.) It’s $12 for three games. The bummer is I am unable to join her. It’s an official league bowl, so extra participants are not permitted.

I am testing a post-by-email option for WordPress, and I need to activate this on our family learning blog as well.

My connection to tonight’s bowling and “Eyes Right” is this: Just as we need to keep our eyes on Jesus each day, going bowling with your daughter is all about watching every frame with her. At any time, she could get strike or a spare, and she wants to share those moments with me. It is also important to see frames where she is not as successful, including the occasional gutter ball. Every frame, she is looking back to see if I have watched her and what she did.

I think our own kids, and our spouses, are probably constantly looking at us in the same way even when we are not bowling. Did you see me? Are you watching what I’m doing? Are you experiencing this moment with me?

It is a lot easier for me to use Siri on my iPhone to dictate this post than type it on my laptop or iPad. Bowling time like this is not about having your eyes completely on a screen. It’s about keeping my “eyes right” on Rachel & her bowling lane!

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Brene Brown on Vulnerability

Several months ago I watched Brene Brown’s excellent Ted Talk on vulnerability. I highly recommend it.

Today a good friend recommended one of her books, and I’ve added it to my Amazon wish list. I definitely agree that vulnerability is a key element in friendships and relationships. I also resonate with the idea of this title, that we stop trying to force ourselves to live in an image someone else has created for us, and instead discover and embrace the person God created us to become. I don’t think Brene wrote this from a religious standpoint, but I can certainly project that into her thesis just as I have with the “Essentialism” book I finished listening to on Audible a few months back.

Sent from my iPad

God Identifies Us By Giving His Holy Spirit

A powerful & important reminder this morning via Don Boyd’s message at our Friday Morning Men’s Group:

13 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭1‬:‭13‬ NLT)

Identity is so important and I’m thinking about it more as our kids get older. I want to define my identity in Christ. I need to seek guidance and direction from God and His Holy Spirit. Today especially, My eyes are open to the direction God wants me to go in my life.

I know sometimes God brings us into situations of great discomfort to shift our thinking and behavior into a new direction. I think sometimes we bring ourselves into those situations by our own poor choices, but God has mercy on us and lifts us up with His grace when we call upon His name.

Please pray for me to have faith in the promises and truth of God and His word.

It is dark in the valley, but there is light & help above in the heavens.

Do Not Covet or Be Greedy

These are notes from Mateen Elass‘ sermon on Sunday, January 25, 2015, at First Presbyterian Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. Our focus verse today is Luke 12:13-21.

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (‭Luke‬ ‭12‬:‭15‬ NIV)

“Contentment means seeking to live simply so we can use our extra resources for the sake of God’s kingdom.”

Book recommendation: Culture Shift: The Battle for the Moral Heart of America by Dr. R. Albert Mohler

We are stewards of our possessions not owners, everything comes from God and we are called to use our gifts and “things” to further God’s kingdom.

Money can easily become our idol.

The goal of a disciple of Jesus is to have nothing in our daily lives which supplants our love of Jesus Christ.

Jim Elliott: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Old Testament Prophesy About Jesus

We are starting a study of the book of Hebrews today. Here are some verses we read about Old Testament prophesy about Jesus.

I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. (‭2 Samuel‬ ‭7‬:‭14‬ NIV)

This verse calls us to worship God instead of the idols and images of our culture. How timeless this is, and relevant to us today in 2015!

All who worship images are put to shame, those who boast in idols— worship him, all you gods! (‭Psalm‬ ‭97‬:‭7‬ NIV)

A reference to how God will balance the scales of justice, following the sacrifice of His Son, is included in these verses from Deuteronomy:

Rejoice, you nations, with his people, for he will avenge the blood of his servants; he will take vengeance on his enemies and make atonement for his land and people. (‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭32‬:‭43‬ NIV)

We discussed how references to Angels (heavenly beings) indicate they are finite and not immortal. In these verses the words “They will perish” can be understood to reference Angels. I have not ever thought of angels as finite.

He also says, “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” (‭Hebrews‬ ‭1‬:‭10-12‬ NIV)

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