Help support the vision of Woodland Hills Community Church!

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, June 20

Today’s Readings: Psalm 10; 1 Samuel 16:1-13; John 19:12-26; 2 Corinthians 10:7-12; Psalm 13 (Sorry, my hotel browser won't allow me to post hyperlinks so you'll have to look the Scriptures up on your own).

As someone who has followed American politics for years, it always amazes me how fickle the American electorate is. One example of this is how Americans evaluate the viability presidential candidates. Early each primary season, the media goes to great lengths to identify potential candidates. One of the first criteria they use is the question: “Do they look as if they could play the role of president?” By this, they mean is the candidate attractive and charming enough to play the role of president. That superficial evaluation has always frustrated me a great deal – for that “beauty show” often eliminates some of the best minds in our country. I find it ironic, for instance, that the one president who regularly rates as the best ever was a man who would never ever be elected because of his appearance and manner. That man? Abraham Lincoln. All of this is to say that we human beings are not always the best judge of character. God makes that very same point in today’s reading from 1 Samuel. When it came time to select Saul’s successor, Samuel thought he could easily select the candidate based upon appearance and first impression. That’s why he was ready to anoint Eliab as Saul’s successor. God threw a wrench in his plans when God noted: “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 from The Message). Perhaps there is someone in your life that you’ve judged prematurely in terms of the role they could play – someone you’ve dismissed for rather superficial reasons. If so, spend some time today prayerfully opening yourself to seeing that someone in a new light – in God’s light. Til next time…

Friday, June 19 - Travel Day

Hey there: I spent today traveling from Denver to Los Angeles (left home at 5:30 AM) so didn't have a chance to blog. I'll try to return to my blog tomorrow morning. Thanks for your patience with me!

Thursday, June 18

Today’s Readings: Psalm 54; 1 Samuel 15:1-23; John 18:28-40; 2 Corinthians 9:7-15; Psalm 35

For the majority of my twenties and early thirties, I lived my life as an activist. There were several causes I devoted my life to. I worked as an advocate for women’s rights, LGBT rights, reproductive health care rights, the rights of religious minorities – you name the cause, and I was there. By the time I reached the tender age of 32, I found that I was completely and totally burned out. You might wonder why I got burned out when I was working for such important causes. At the time, I wondered that myself. It took me several years to realize how I got to that point. The primary reason I got burned out was that I spent the bulk of my time and energy working against various forms of oppressions and -isms. It was that negative focus day after day that burned me out. Paul saw the spiritual danger involved in focusing primarily on the negative and went to great lengths to encourage folks to take a more positive approach toward life. In talking about one’s approach toward caring for the underprivileged in the community, for example, Paul gave us some great advice for how to avoid burn out. “Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians,” Paul wrote. “It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God” (2 Corinthians 9:12 from The Message). I believe it is the second half of the statement – the encouragement to incorporate a genuine spirit of thanksgiving into your daily life – that represents Paul’s recipe for avoiding burn out. Perhaps you are in a space much like I was earlier in my life –a place where you find yourself working AGAINST - rather than FOR – various causes. If so, take a moment to do a reality check. Remind yourself of the many blessings that exist all around you. Those blessings can become the fuel that will power your spirit of thanksgiving – and that spirit of thanksgiving will spur you on as you work to extend those blessings to others. Til next time…

Wednesday, June 17

Today’s Readings: Psalm 38; 1 Samuel 14:31-45; John 18:19-27; 2 Corinthians 9:1-6; Psalm 39

The timing of today’s second psalm seems uncanny since today is my 42nd birthday and the Psalm talks about things like “Oh! we’re all puffs of air. Oh! we’re all just shadows in a campfire. Oh! we’re just spit in the wind. We make our pile and then leave it” (Psalm 39: 6 from The Message). Kind of puts a different spin on one’s birthday, doesn’t it? Nevertheless, I do love the place where the psalmist takes us after bemoaning the fleeting nature of life. Immediately after finishing his rant, the psalmist goes on to say: “What am I doing in the meantime, Lord? Hoping, that’s what I’m doing…” Psalm 39:7 from The Message). What a transformative way to spend one’s time: hoping! Of course the notion of hoping then raises the question of what one is hoping for. That’s a question that will be on my mind today as I prepare to blow out birthday candles this evening. While you may not have an opportunity to blow out candles today, all of this makes me wonder where the hope in your life is taking you. What are YOU hoping for? As you consider that question, let that sense of hope lift your soul today as we remember that as people of faith our lives are not dictated simply by the “realities” that surround us; rather, our lives should be shaped by the hope and possibilities that engulf us. Til next time…

Tuesday, June 16

Today’s Readings: Psalm 47; 1 Samuel 14:16-30; John 18:12-18; 2 Corinthians 8:17-24; Psalm 136

One of the many things I find fascinating in the gospels is the variations that occur in the telling of a particular story. For some, the variations might seem minor at first glance – but often those variations are tremendously important. Take today’s passage from the Gospel of John, for example. Each of the four Gospels contains an account of Peter in the courtyard following Jesus’ arrest. Matthew tells his version of the story in Matthew 26:69 ff; Mark tells his in Mark 14:66 ff; and Luke tells his in Luke 22:56 ff. There’s something interesting about these first three accounts. Not one of them bothers to mention how Peter made it into the courtyard. They simply tell us Peter was there. Only today’s passage from John bothers to include an explanation for how Peter made it to the courtyard. John’s passage tells us “the other disciple went out, spoke to the doorkeeper, and got Peter in.” So what significance might such a minor detail provide? Well, there are a couple of possibilities. One might be that John’s telling was an attempt to minimize Peter’s standing in the early Christian community by suggesting Peter needed help to get in. Another explanation might be that John’s telling of the story was an attempt to maximize the role of “the other disciple” (which some have suggested was the infamous Beloved Disciple). As you can see, a detail which some might have considered to be a minor could have a huge impact on how Jesus’ story was played out. Of course the authors of the Gospels weren’t the only ones who shaped the way Jesus’ story is told; every one of us modern folks shape Jesus’ story in the way we tell it as well. Today, I would invite you to think about the way you tell Jesus’ story. As you think about your telling, pay special attention to the details you include. It is those very details that set your account apart from others. Through a careful examination of those details, you might arrive at a deeper understanding of what theologically matters most to you in Jesus’ story. Til next time…

Monday, June 15

Today’s Readings: Psalm 18:1-24; 1 Samuel 13:19-14:15; John 18:1-11; 2 Corinthians 8:9-16; Psalm 18:25-50

Ever since I returned from my summer sabbatical experience, I have looked at the life of local churches with a different set of eyes – a set of eyes that tries to sees things not as a church-insider but as a church-outsider. There was one thing I noticed right away when I started seeing things that way. So much of the life of our churches is predicated upon the notion that people should be doing things they don’t enjoy (or even hate!). The standard defense of such an approach? “Well, if we don’t do those awful things, then they’ll never get done.” It’s no wonder that so many of our churches are dying! Who – in their right mind – would want to volunteer to be part of an organization where everyone spends their time doing things they hate!? Paul speaks to these issues in his letter to the Corinthians when he noted: “Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go do it. Once the commitment is clear, you can do what you can, not what you can’t. The heart regulates the hands” (2 Corinthians 8:11-12 from The Message). So how do you approach your life? Do you spend your time and energy developing your passions (i.e. spiritual gifts) that excite and enliven you, or do you spend the bulk of your time doing onerous activities to which you feel guilt or duty-bound? I sure hope it’s the former and not the latter! Til next time…