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Help support the vision of Woodland Hills Community Church!
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Sunday, December 2

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 122; Isaiah 2:1-5; Matthew 24:36-44; Romans 13:11-14; Psalm 145

Each Advent season I love hearing the words of the prophets create an image of the One for whom we wait. Their words create such a stark contrast between the “what is” and the “what could be”. The sense of possibility is amazing! In today’s passage, Isaiah does a beautiful job creating a vision of transformation. He talks about swords being transformed into plowshares – spears being turned into pruning hooks. Often we hear these words of transformation and relate them solely to those things outside ourselves. Today, I invite you to do a personal inventory and see if there are parts of yourself that are the equivalent of a sword – maybe your anger, your fear, your jealousy. Find that part of yourself. Now, take that piece and spend some time imagining how that part of yourself might look if it were transformed into something more positive: the equivalent of a plowshare. Imagine, for instance, if your anger were transformed into a passion that motivated you to get out and help others. Imagine if your jealousy were transformed into a sense of love and appreciation that caused you to grow deeper into your relationship with another. Just think what might happen. Real peace might be achieved in the one place that matters most: your heart. Til next time…

Saturday, December 1

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 87; Isaiah 1:21-31; Matthew 24:46-51; Romans 13:8-14; Psalm 14

Buried near the middle of today’s passage from Isaiah lies one of my VERY favorite theological concepts. Let me first share the passage from Isaiah that I’m referring to and then reveal that theological concept to you. After Isaiah begins by pronouncing God’s disgust at Israel’s practices in the first four verses of today’s passage, Isaiah then tells us God says in Isaiah 1:25b (NIV): “I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities.” In my old Wesleyan circles, the concept here is referred to as sanctification. Sanctification is the process wherein the Spirit of God works within the heart of an individual to clean things up. The key thing to remember here is that sanctification is the work of God – NOT the work of an individual. In order to understand this process I’ve always thought of sanctification in terms of what happens to an individual when she or he falls in love. When the individual falls hard for that special someone, each and every element of her or his life begins to fall in line. You unconsciously start finding time to be with the special someone; you think about that special someone incessantly when you are apart; you find excuses to seek out that special someone’s presence. That’s what happens in our spiritual lives as well when we fall in love with God. This Advent season – as we once again fall for the incomprehensible love of God that we find expressed in that manger in Bethlehem – may we give thanks for the ways in which sanctification kicks in and helps our lives catch up with our hearts. Til next time…

Friday, November 30

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 50; Isaiah 1:10-20; Matthew 24:29-35; Romans 13:1-7; Psalm 15

Each Christmas season it is easy to get so caught up in your “to do” lists that you never stop to think about what you are doing. Instead, if you’re like me, you become so focused on the next item on our “to do” list that the holiday seems to be over before you know what hit you. This morning’s passage reminds us about the important of taking the time to slow down and spiritually think about what you are doing before you do it. Isaiah 1:11 (NIV) cries out to us: “’The multitude of your sacrifices – what are they to me?’ says the Lord. ‘I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.’” Here, God reminds us that it is not just the practice of ritual that matters most (i.e. the next item on our spiritual “to do” list), but rather the heart that lies behind those actions. This Advent season I invite you to examine your “to do” list with new eyes. Is there someone on your list, for instance, who might benefit more from some relationship-building time and truth-sharing than yet another scarf or tie for their collection? If there is, slow down and tend to the heart of the matter. In doing so you will honor the coming of the Christ-child in new and transformative ways. Til next time…

Thursday, November 29

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 38; Isaiah 1:1-9; Matthew 24:15-28; Revelation 1:12-20; Psalm 128

There’s no other way to put it than to say this morning’s readings aren’t a lot of fun to read. In Isaiah, for instance, you have words talking about the impending doom to be visited upon Israel; and in Matthew you have a disturbing apocalyptic vision of the future. Needless to say, not the most comforting words I’ve experienced in my daily times of devotion. Today’s first Psalm – Psalm 38 - did raise an interesting issue for me. In that passage, the psalmist cries out in verse 18: “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.” This verse got me to wondering: is the psalmist troubled by his/her sin simply because of the consequences he/she’s received, or is he/she troubled by his/her sin because of the distance it’s put between him/herself and God? For some, this distinction might not seem significant. To me it is. The first option suggests a sort of mechanical relationship with God (“Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it so my life turns out the way I hope”) rather than a relational connection with God (“I’m deeply in love with you God and want to make choices that strengthen our relationship rather than weaken it”). How would you describe your approach toward God: is it mechanical, relational, or perhaps something else? Is your approach what you would want? During this season of Advent, I hope you’ll take the time to nurture the sort of connection with God that you feel called to create. Til next time…

Wednesday, November 28

Today’ Lectionary Readings: Psalm 18:1-50; Nahum 1:1-3; Matthew 24:1-14; Revelation 1:4-11

There are so many aspects of ourselves that can be our defining piece. For some, for instance, the defining piece is our family. For others, it might be an affiliation with a political party or social cause. For still others, it might be an allegiance to a sports team. This morning’s reading from Revelation reminds us of a piece that ought to be a bedrock piece of us. Revelation 1:8 in the NIV reads: “’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’” In that passage, we are reminded of the foundational nature of God. The question to consider is, “Is God the foundational – or defining piece in my life? Is God my Alpha and Omega – my beginning and end – or is God something I turn to after exhausting my other resources first?” As we head into the first Sunday of Advent this Sunday, may we once again use the anticipated coming of the Christ child to ground us in the One who is, who was, and is to come. Til next time…

Tuesday, November 27

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 27: Obadiah 15-21; Matthew 20:29-34; Ephesians 1:15-23; Psalm 127

Some folks read the words of the prophets and experience them solely in a moralistic way. This means that they understand the prophets to teach us that the good things in life are simply rewards from God for the righteous decisions we have made in our lives while the bad things in life are punishments from God for the poor decision we have made in our lives. Approaching the prophets’ words solely from this angle, however, contributed to the emergence of the question of theodicy – a question Rabbi Harold Kushner made famous through his book Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? That question got me to thinking about the prophets’ words in a new way several years ago – a way that incorporated the notion of natural consequences into the equation rather than just relying entirely on the traditional reward/punishment model. For instance, if you don’t exercise and eat a healthy diet – instead of thinking God smote the afflicted individual with either heart disease or cancer, I understood the subsequent health issues that developed to be the natural consequence of one’s lifestyle. This allowed me to be present (with myself or others) in difficult situations in a way in which God could be seen Friend, Ally, and Supporter instead of as solely the Enforcer that some had made God out to be. I was reminded of this when I read the words from the prophet Obadiah, which read: “As you have done, it will be done to you, your deeds will return upon your own head” (Obadiah 15b). As we approach the end of 2007 and many of us ponder what resolutions we might make for 2008, I invite you to explore your deeds and see what cycles or patterns you would like to break for the coming year. The good news is that these resolutions won’t just lead to a healthier life for you, they could lead to a healthier relationship with your Creator as well. Til next time…

Monday, November 26

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 105; Zechariah 14:12-21; Matthew 20:17-28; Ephesians 1:3-14

In reading today’s Psalm, I was reminded once again that God doesn’t enter our life in broad, generic ways. God enters into our stories in very specific, very concrete ways. The psalmist makes this abundantly clear as – after assuring us God remembers God’s covenants or age-old promises in Psalm 105:8 – he proceeds to spell out the very specific, very concrete ways in which God was present in the lives of the people. This is the same point that the Christmas story makes for us as well. For each Christmas we are reminded the Christ child didn’t appear in a broad, generic way; the Christ-child appeared at a specific time, in a specific, place, to a specific set of people. Of course the notion of the healing and reconciling spirit of Christ's appearance doesn't have to be limited simply to a geographical place. That appearance can be within a location of an individual's life as well: within a relationship, within a piece of one's self image, etc. This year, as we embark upon the season of Advent and prepare our hearts to once again receive the Christ-child, I invite you to think about the specific, concrete area(s) of your life in which you seek to receive the healing, reconciling spirit of the Christ-child. May that Christ-child bring unprecedented levels of joy and peace into those areas of your life this year. Til next time…