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Help support the vision of Woodland Hills Community Church!
For those of you who would like to support the vision & ministry of Woodland Hills Community Church (the faith community I serve that continues to encourage me to minister outside the box), please click on the link just above.

Saturday, December 15

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 42; Isaiah 8:16-9:1; Matthew 17:9-13; Romans 13:8-14; Psalm 33

I learned an important lesson early in my life about balance. You see from an early age I was always someone who expressed my love for – and understanding of – God through service to others. This way of being led me to become an activist for peace and justice concerns by the age of 22. For nearly 8 years I devoted most of my spare time to these causes. But over those 8 years, something happened to me. I become more and more connected to the causes and less and less connected to the God who inspired me to become involved in them in the first place. As a result, I felt burned out by the age of 31. That’s why I so appreciated Paul’s words of perspective to the Romans in Romans 13:11 where he said: “But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all of your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God” (The Message translation). Perhaps there is a day-by-day obligation in your life that is overwhelming your life and minimizing the time you devote to your relationship with God. I invite you to step back, look at your life, and see if you’ve become oblivious to God. If so, find a way of balancing your commitments so that God doesn’t get pushed out of your life. Til next time…

Friday, December 14

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 58; Isaiah 8:1-15; Matthew 11:16-24; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Psalm 25

After years of reading Scriptures, it’s easy to develop a cavalier attitude about the language and imagery used to capture the nature of our connection with God. You can start to think you’ve mastered all of the images used - that there's no insights left to gain. Unfortunately, that’s been the case with me at times in my life. Thankfully whenever I get to that point, God often throws me a curve that reminds me I still have much to learn. Today’s second Psalm provided me with a great example of this. For in reading the 25th Psalm, I encountered a phrase that was used to describe our connection with God that was new to me. In the fourteenth verse of Psalm 25, the psalmist says: “The Lord confides in those who fear [God]; [God] makes [God’s] covenant known to them.” The language suggesting we are confidants of God was totally new to me. I suppose that’s because I’ve been so use to relating to God in such a way that I think that I am the only one sharing things in my relationship with God – a relationship where God is solely my confidant. The psalmist’s suggestion that I might be a confidant of God reminded me that in order for a relationship to be healthy, it requires both parties have a willingness to be there for the other and listen to the other. In these busy last days before Christmas, I invite you to slow down and starting looking for – and listening to – God. This might empower you to be a better confidant for God. Good luck in your efforts! Til next time…

Thursday, December 13

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 86; Isaiah 7:10-25; Matthew 11:7-15; Hebrews 10:32-39; Psalm 127

Each year around this time, a faith-based controversy seems to arise in my community. A couple of years ago, for instance, the controversy was around Denver’s “Parade of Lights” that was in the practice of banning faith-based participants. A year or two ago the controversy had to do with retail persons who were saying Season’s Greetings instead of Merry Christmas. Those controversies showed me to what a large degree today’s Christians in the United States have developed a sense of entitlement. It seemed as if many of those complaining wanted society to make it as easy as possible to live out and express their faith – not even acknowledging or caring about other expressions of faith. This saddened me greatly on multiple fronts. Today’s passage from Hebrews is a great reality check about what it REALLY means to hold on to your faith. Wouldn’t you know it? There’s no mention of being guaranteed parade permits. In place of a parade is mention of enduring insults and persecution. And wouldn’t you know it: there’s no mention of Christmas greetings by retail clerks. In place of catchy greetings is mention of solidarity with the imprisoned and confiscation of property. The passage culminates with these words from Hebrews 10:36 in the NIV: “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what God has promised.” The next time you find yourself starting to complain about inconveniences that pop up in your life, stop and remember the spirit of today’s passage from Hebrews. May this passage move us beyond a sense of entitlement in regards to our faith to a sense of perseverance as we face the challenges ahead. Til next time…

Wednesday, December 12

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 61: Isaiah 7:1-9; Matthew 11:1-6; Galatians 6:1-10; Psalm 31

As someone who was raised in a small town (1,500 people), it was a thrill for me to move to the big city. That was because the city offered so many things a small town couldn’t: a diversity of people and cultures; access to professional sports teams and the arts; economic opportunities; you name it. For the first several months I was here I was in heaven! But then one day when I made my first trip to the Rocky Mountains, I got another take on the effects of living in the big city. Coming down from the mountains, I gazed down upon the city and saw a gray cloud of pollution hanging over the city. It showed me very clearly the results of city life in a way that was difficult to deny. Had it not been for having the luxury of a different view, I would not have seen this side of city life. I remembered that experience today as I read the psalmist’s words from Psalm 61:2 in the NIV: “From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to a rock that is higher than I.” Those words reminded me of what happens when you experience things from God’s eyes rather than our own. We get a different take or perspective on things – a healthier perspective. Today, as we live in a world still reeling from the effects of things like the shootings at the Omaha mall and the shootings on two church campuses here in Colorado, I would encourage you to make the time to ascend to the higher rock. May our faith and courage be strengthened as a result of that climb. Til next time…

Tuesday, December 11

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 119:65-120; Isaiah 6:1-13; John 5:30-47; Revelation 22:16-20

Today’s readings are all rich with imagery involving themes of coming times. The opening passages of Isaiah, for instance, use powerful imagery to describe a vision the prophet has of God on the throne. The passage from Revelation uses dramatic imagery of the culmination of days. In the midst of all of these bigger-than-life images, there was another smaller – less dramatic use of imagery that caught my attention today. It was the imagery used in verse 10 of this morning’s passage from Isaiah. In this passage the prophet uses various body parts to establish a link between senses and our spiritual insights. The first two pairings are to be expected; the prophet links eyes with seeing and ears with hearing. But then things get interesting. In the third pairing the prophet links understanding not with the brain (as we modern folks might expect) but with another part of the body: our heart. Over the last several decades we mainline folks have increasingly approached our spiritual lives as if the brain were the epicenter of our experience of God. We analyze Scripture using extensive historical and cultural tools; we study methods that others use to connect with God (i.e. methods of prayer and meditation); and we apply the principles of marketing to better understand outreach/evangelism. In other words, we do a WONDERFUL job feeding our intellects and gaining knowledge. But how are we at using our hearts to gain understanding? Today, I invite you to take a risk and take a few steps out of your head and into your heart. See if perhaps the Spirit’s leading in the process might bring you a little more understanding as together we inch ever closer to the manger in Bethlehem. Til next time…

Monday, December 10

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 109; Isaiah 5:13-17, 24-25; John 3:22-36; Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 12

The church I serve had its annual congregational meeting yesterday. That meant that for the past several weeks, I had the opportunity to spend time thinking about our ministry together in very concrete, very specific ways. What I re-discovered during this time is that as faith communities look toward the future, there is certainly no shortage of materials that identify keys to success for one’s ministry. Unfortunately a large percentage of these materials approach the topic programmatically. If you add a (fill in the blank) ministry, you’ll attract more people from this (fill in the blank) demographic. While much of their words made sense in my head, most of them didn’t make sense in my heart and spirit. Luckily today’s Gospel reading from John provides an element that is missing from the programmatic approaches. It adds a spiritual dimension to the issue. And what’s so beautiful is that the approach it suggests works not just at the corporate level, but at the individual level as well. The key that I’m speaking about comes from the mouth of John the Baptist who, in speaking of Jesus’ burgeoning ministry in John 3:30, says: “He must become greater; I must become less” (NIV). In those eight simple words, John lays out a plan that can benefit us all. During the last two weeks of Advent, I invite you to spend time in prayer and meditation as you begin to live into John’s way of being. Til next time…