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Help support the vision of Woodland Hills Community Church!
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Saturday, September 29

Today’s Readings: Psalm 17 & 91; Hosea 14:1-9; Luke 13:18-30 & Romans 2:1-11

One of the greatest lessons I learned from my mother was how to embody the spirit of Paul’s words to the Romans in Romans 2:1. The NIV translation of that verse reads as follows: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” My mom has the amazing ability to never put down or judge those with whom she doesn’t see eye to eye. Instead of going after folks who see things differently, she re-channels the negative energy she might feel toward others and pours that energy into re-doubling her commitment to living out her own beliefs. In an era when our society encourages us to attack and discredit those of different political, theological, and social perspectives, I invite you to think about following my mother’s example and avoid the tendency to judge. Just imagine what might happen if all of that negative energy it takes to judge was transformed into a spirit of mercy and grace. Now that you’ve taken the time to imagine it, go do it. Til next time…

Friday, September 28

Today’s Readings: Psalms 67 & 85; Hosea 11:1-9; Luke 13:10-17; Romans 1:26-32

I wish that I could say each of every day’s passages has something that comes alive for me. Unfortunately that’s not always the case. Some days I struggle to connect spiritually with any of the five passages. Today’s readings were the exception, however. I could have easy pulled a topic or theme from any of the five passages. The one that I found most encouraging today was the passage from Hosea. Let me tell you why that is. You see part of me struggles with a theological theme that runs throughout much of the Hebrew Scripture. That theme goes as follows: if you do good things, God will like and reward you; if you do bad things, God won’t like you and will punish you. My problem with that theological line of thinking? It makes it appear that God’s temperament is no different than yours of mine! I’d certainly like to think that God is capable of greater acts of grace and mercy than I am! Today’s passage from Hosea revealed a much bigger – much more merciful God than is sometimes the case. Let me pick up the passage from Hosea 11 with the second half of verse 8. I’ll be using Eugene Peterson’s translation, The Message. “My [God’s] heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man – the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath [emphasis added].” What wonderful words of assurance that God’s ways aren’t our ways! Today I give thanks for a compassionate God whose heart can be changed. I pray that those who claim an allegiance to God may follow God’s example and become compassionate people whose hearts can be changed as well. Til next time…

September 27

Today’s Readings: Psalm 80 & 12; Hosea 10:1-15; Luke 13:1-9; Romans 1:16-25

The parallels between today’s passage from Romans and the writings of the prophets that we’ve been reading lately are striking. Both deal with what is presented as God’s number one beef with God’s people: idolatry. I particularly loved Eugene Peterson’s translation of Romans 1:19-22. The passage reads: “What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat [God] like God, refusing to worship [God], they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life.” Isn’t that a great phrase? Illiterate regarding life. I loved the implication that literacy regarding life is linked directly with a sense of reverence and worship toward God. These words are timely for me as I’ve been struggling with my own sense of literacy toward life as I’ve become more consumed with trying to control things that lie well beyond my means. Today’s readings reminded me that if I want to become more literate in my approach toward life, I need to fight my constant urge to turn inward for solutions and instead turn outward by opening myself to God in more reverent and worshipful ways. Perhaps you’ll join me in this process. Til next time…

September 26

Today’s Readings: Psalm 30 & 19; Hosea 5:8-6:6; Luke 12:49-59; Romans 1:1-15

In African-American faith communities, there is a tradition of sharing faith journeys with one another as a part of the community’s spiritual life. The practice is usually referred to as giving one’s testimony. I’ve often wondered over the years why progressive mainline churches have been afraid to embrace the practice of sharing faith journeys. While I have a couple of theories about why that is the case, I thought today I would share just one of those with you. The reason I think many progressive communities are afraid to share faith journeys is the way they’ve come to think about how this process is done. We tend to see the faith journey sharing process as one dominated by a formula (i.e. string together tons of Scripture – including chapter and verse) and one that demands that the person listening to the faith journey arrive at the same place as the person who shared the faith journey. The best description of the purpose of sharing faith journeys I’ve found is in this morning’s reading from Romans. In that passage, Paul writes that we share faith journeys so "you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (vv 11 & 12). What a wonderful way of thinking about the process of sharing faith journeys -not as an imposition but as a means of encouragement.. Today I invite you to think about how your faith journey might be used as a means of encouraging someone else on their journey. Til next time...

September 25

Today’s Readings: Psalms 36 & 73; Hosea 4:11-19; Luke 12:32-48; Revelation 22:16-21

While I have been an avid supporter of the arts over the years, I have to confess that I connect with some forms of the arts more than others. For instance, ever since I was a child I strongly connected with music of almost all types. One form of the arts I had difficulty connecting with over the years, however, was poetry. For someone whose mind is as concrete as mine, I had a difficult time connecting with the abstractions of poetry. Consequently, for years I had a hard time appreciating the Psalms. It wasn’t until I hit seminary – and had a wonderful ritual and worship professor named Tom Troeger – that the Psalms came alive for me. Through his class, I came to appreciate the many ways in which the Psalms capture the depths of our relationship with God: the joys, the fears, the thanksgivings, and the frustrations. Today’s reading from Psalm 36 is a great example of this. For two-thirds of the way through the Psalm, the psalmist gives a wonderful – and VERY relational – voice to the fullness of our connection with God. The psalmist writes in Psalm 36:6-7: “God’s love is meteoric, [God’s] loyalty astronomic, [God’s] purpose titanic, [God’s] verdicts oceanic. Yet in [God’s] largeness, nothing gets lost; Not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks” (The Message). The next time I feel like my life has become insignificant or inconsequential, I’ll come back to these beautifully poetic words and remind myself that nothing escapes the bounds of God’s love. Not even me. Not even you. Til next time…

September 24

Today’s Reading: Psalm 49 & 39; Hosea 4:1-10; Luke 12: 13-31; Revelation 22:8-15

What a comfort today’s words from Luke were for me – especially the passage from Luke 12:22-31. These words were helpful since they addressed one of the biggest challenges I face in my spiritual life: my tendency to worry. This is the passage that contains those timeless words: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing…” The more I sit with Jesus’ words in Luke, the more I realize my tendency to worry is directly related to my need for control. The more I desire control, the more I worry; the less I desire control, the less I worry. Sounds simple enough, right? But then I head back out into the “real world” and get immediately sucked back into my familiar patterns and the worry pops up once again. Perhaps the greatest antidote for worry is prescribed by Jesus in his closing words from today’s passage. Here Jesus recognizes our very human need to replace those things we have surrendered. So if I surrender my tendency to worry, what will take its place? “Instead, strive for [God’s] kingdom” (Luke 12:31). Sounds good to me. Today I invite you and I to consider the ways we might redirect the energy we might have previously spent worrying and instead invest that time and energy striving for the realization of God’s kingdom. In our world… In our hearts… Til next time…