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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, March 1

Today’s Lectionary Reading: Psalm 23; Ezekiel 34: 1-16; John 7:14-36; 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5; Psalm 25

One of the largest 12 K road races in the world occurs in the area in which I was raised. Spokane, WA has an annual road race called Bloomsday. At its peak the race attracted over 50,000 runners from around the world! As someone who was not a runner, I was always intrigued by how runners were able to motivate themselves to prepare for the race – often months in advance. Training programs at local schools, for instance, would start in the winter months in order to prepare runners for the upcoming race. I wondered how participants in the race could be motivated to train for the spring race in the cold, dark days of winter. Today’s passage from 2 Corinthians speaks to a similar issue of how we can stay motivated in life when the spiritual event we long for seems so far off. Of course the author of the passage isn’t talking about a road race – he’s talking about something far more important. So what does the author have to say? He writes: “The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. God puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less” (2 Corinthians 5:5 – The Message). As we face the daily temptations to break our training habits and lose sight of the finish line, may we draw strength from the Spirit’s presence in our daily lives. May the little piece of heaven in our hearts that we experience each day give us the courage to strap on our gear and continue putting one foot in front of the other. Til next time…

Friday, February 29

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 3; Ezekiel 33:21-33; John 7:1-13; 2 Corinthians 4:7-15; Psalm 116

As someone who struggles daily to keep his Type-A tendencies in check, I have to confess that today’s reading from John’s gospel is huge challenge. Why is that? Well, as someone who likes to take charge and move things forward on my time and in my terms, it’s hard to relate to Jesus’ response to his brothers – “Don’t crowd me. This isn’t my time” (John 7:6 – The Message). You see living in our fast-paced society, I’ve gotten so use to assuming it’s always my time. Of course this approach wasn’t just limited to our time. It popped up in Jesus’ time as well; hence, his words to his brothers in the latter part of John 7:6: “It’s your time – it’s always your time; you have nothing to lose”). Today, I invite you to join me as I do a counter-cultural thing and challenge myself whenever I fall into the old “it’s my time” routine. Find ways shifting from the popular assumption that time is ours and join me in the exploration of what it means to devote our time to God. Let’s see what happens. Til next time…

Thursday, February 28

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 119:153-176; Ezekiel 33:12-20; John 6:60-71; 2 Corinthians 4:1-6; Psalm 6

When most people these days think of the things they need to do to get ready for the Easter experience, they think of doing things like calling their loved ones and inviting them over for Easter dinner, buying the ham and all the trimmings for Easter dinner, coloring eggs, buying candy for Easter baskets, and purchasing a new outfit to wear for the holiday. In other words, they equate getting ready for Easter with relatively easy, pleasant things. About the only difficulty involved might be cleaning your house so you can have company over. If only it were so easy! We’re reminded of how challenging it can be to be a true disciple of Jesus’ – not just a professed disciple – in today’s passage from the Gospel According to John. As Jesus finished his Bread of Life discourse, he reminded the disciples that “sheer muscle and willpower don’t make anything happen” (John 6:63 – The Message) and that only God’s grace makes it happen. Many of the disciples gave Jesus’ a rather unexpected response to his teachings. And what was that response? “From this time many of [Jesus’] disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66 – NIV). As we move from a secular approach toward the Easter that involves nothing but comfort and ease to a spiritual approach toward Easter that involves wrestling with the difficult teachings and callings of Jesus, what is your approach? Is your tendency to be like one of the peripheral disciples who leaves when he/she hears a call that is difficult, or is your tendency to be like one of the core group who sees the challenges in a way similar to Peter’s - as an opportunity to reaffirm your faith? Til next time…

Wednesday, February 27

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 119:105-152; Ezekiel 33:1-11; John 6:52-59; 2 Corinthians 3:1-18
Nothing has helped me understand the sentiments expressed in many of the Epistles better than the experience of serving as the pastor of a local church. When Paul, for instance, wrote of the strength and encouragement he received from his fellow believers, I know just what he meant for I too have been greatly strengthened and encouraged by the examples of those with whom I minister. This happens because of the remarkable faith I see first hand as I have walked with my parishioners through the many, many, many challenges life has thrown in their way. You can’t help but be encouraged when you experience that kind of faith. This sentiment is picked up on once again in today’s passage when the author of today’s passage writes: “Neither do we need letter of endorsement, either to you or from you. You yourselves are all the endorsement we need” (2 Corinthians 3:2 – The Message). The part that really captured my attention, however, was the very next verse. This verse read: “Your very lives are a letter than anyone can ready by just looking at you.” This got me to wondering: what does your letter – your life – say about you? I would encourage you to sit with that question and see what answer emerges. Then give thanks for the One whose mercy, love, and grace has produced such a beautiful letter. Til next time…

Tuesday, February 26

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 119:56-104; Ezekiel 31:1-11; John 6:41-51; 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:17

If you were to ask me which group of Christians I have the hardest time getting along with, you might be surprised by my answer. Some who know me well, for instance, might expect me to say those who are self-righteous. And yes, those who are humility-impaired do bring me an inordinate amount of grief. Others might expect me to say those who are judgmental. Once again, this response would have to rank right up there. But you would still be missing the group that most challenges me. So who’s left? Let me tell you. The group that most pushes my buttons are those who try to take credit for initiating their relationship with God. Those, for example, who throw around the phrase “born again” as if it were a badge of honor they could claim credit for; or those who would restrict the sacrament of baptism only to those who can give intellectual assent. So if we aren’t responsible for our initiating our relationship with God, then who does initiate the relationship? Get ready for a radical response (drum roll, please): God!!! You get a taste of that in a couple places in today’s readings. In today’s passage from 2 Corinthians we heard words like “God had opened the door; all I had to do was walk through it” (2 Corinthians 2:12 – The Message) and “In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade” (2 Corinthians 2:14 – The Message). Of course the notion that our relationship is built on God’s initiative and not ours isn’t limited just to our reading from 2 Corinthians. The author of John’s Gospel quotes Jesus as saying, “You’re not in charge here. The Father who sent me is in charge. He draws people to me – that’s the only way you’ll ever come” (John 6:44 – The Message). So what’s your take on the issue? Do you feel as if you are the initiator in your relationship with God, or do you feel as if God is the initiator? My question might seem like just a play on words to some, but I’ve found over the years that how you answer that simple question goes a long way in determining the character and nature of your faith. Til next time…

Monday, February 25

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 119:1-56; Ezekiel 30:1-9; John 6:27-40; 2 Corinthians 1:12-22

There are so many things that seem to command our attention these days – things that you might say seek to shape our lives. Our careers, for instance, demand at least ½ of our waking hours and often dictate the pace of our lives. Our families teach us ways to express our love and shape our values, and even our hobbies give us a chance to escape from the pressures we face and enjoy another dimension of reality. Sadly, there is one area of our lives that often gets neglected – that gets whatever energy is left over after all the other areas of our lives are tended to. That area? Our spiritual lives. There was a line from the psalmist in today’s reading that captured my eye for it seemed like a valuable resource to help get our priorities back in check. That line came from Psalm 119:41: “Let your love, God shape my life with salvation, exactly as you promised” (The Message). If you’ve found yourself in a position where all of the other demands of life have been the primary shaping influence of your life, I invite you to step back today and consider the psalmist’s words. Think what it would mean to have your life shaped first and foremost shaped by God’s love. My prayer for each of us today then is that we will take a step in that direction. If we do that, our lives - our very beings - will become visible expressions of God’s promise! Til next time…