Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Beyond The Wilderness With I AM

Exodus 3 (Wed - Aug 31) 
What does this mean; beyond the wilderness?  Moses is on Mt Horeb (Mt. Sinai), the Mountain of God, when he is called by God from the flames of a bush.  He is standing on holy ground.  Is this beyond the wilderness, when one is standing on holy ground in the presence of God? 

If this is beyond being in the wilderness, Moses is surely being called and sent by God back into the wilderness.  God sends him to go and deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  Somehow he's suppose to convince them to follow him out of Egypt into the wilderness.  One lone person to stand against Pharoah.  That's going to be quite an adventure!  One that Moses doesn't appear to be sure he's the man for the job.  He wants to know God's name.  God tells him, "I AM WHO I AM."  "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you." 

I AM WHO I AM.  I AM WHAT I AM.  God is who he is.  God is God. God will bring the people up out of their misery to a land flowing with milk and honey.  This is the word of the Lord. 

Part of the fun of studying the Holy Bible is all the journeying you can do through the pages as a couple little words like "I AM" send you off looking in other places to see "what does this mean?"  I've been lost in the wilderness for hours by doing that.  If you would turn to the book of John starting at about Chapter 6, you will find a multitude of "I am" sayings by Jesus, who is God.  He tells us:  I am the bread of life, I am the good shepherd, I am the resurrection and the life, I am the way, and the truth, and the life, and much more.  By studying the word in scriptures we find ourselves on holy ground in the presence of the living Word, who is God, we find ourselves beyond the wilderness.

Off to Bible study on the book of John...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Moses - No Place To Call Home - Probably a Good Thing!

Exodus 2

We moved around a bit for the 20 plus years my husband was an active duty Marine.  I would often be asked the question where I was from - where was my home.  Most years, I would smile and tell them Camp Lejeune because at that time, that is where I had spent most of my years.  My extended family included the Marine Corps and the LCMS congregation I belonged to.   

As I read chapter 2, I wondered about Moses' roots.  Who did he consider to be his family?  Where did he consider he belonged?  Born a Hebrew; saved by daughter of Pharoah (who had ordered his death as a baby in the first place) to be her son; yet, raised by his own Hebrew mother; it appears he did not live with Pharoah's daughter until he grew up (whatever that means); then running from his foster/adopted grandfather, the Pharoah, he ends up living for many, many years in Midian, acquiring a whole new family there. 

I realize that family is important.  But, what I have noticed over the years (and it's probably due to the fact that I've moved so much) is that people will sometimes be so connected to the people and place that they consider their home (birth place) that they disconnect themselves from the rest of the world, from possible extended families that have much to offer.

Years ago, while working at a juvenille corrections facility one of the most heartbreaking things I witnessed was the desire of these teens to return home no matter how much that home-life had contributed to them being in a correctional facility in the first place.  The youth insisted things would be different this time.  But, I knew it probably wouldn't be different.  Some had stolen and some had sold drugs for parents to help feed their siblings, to help support their parents' habits.  Their parents life-styles hadn't changed and they would expect their children to continue in the life-style they had taught them. 

Some of the foster children my husband and I cared for over the years came from terribly neglectful and abusive homes, yet, the children always wanted to go home.  They always held out the hope that their parents had changed.  I don't recall that ever really happening. 

Where exactly is home?  Where was Moses' home?  Who was his family?  Was he at all attached to Pharoah's daughter - his foster or adopted mother?  Since we know the rest of the story, I wonder if it was easier for Moses to guide the eventual exodus out of Egypt because he really had no place to call home in the first place.  Was he open to God's call because he had no permanent attachment to a place?  His attachment it seems was to people, oppressed people:  the Hebrew people, the women at the well who were discriminated against.

May God help us to remember that this world is a very small place, but it is filled with people who need to be cared for and loved.  It doesn't matter where you are, God has placed all around you people to love and care for.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Exodus 1

We begin exodus where we ended Genesis, with Joseph's death.  We begin with a reminder of the Israel's exodus from Canaan into Egypt in the first place, where they were treated well.  But, now the people are numerous and the whole first generation is dead as well as the ruler who had welcomed Joseph's family.  This new pharoah is not so nice.  There are just too many Israelites running around and he's concerned they might overthrow the Egyptians.  Fear causes pharoah to enslave the Hebrew people.  Fear causes pharoah to try to put an end to the multiplying of the Hebrew people.  He orders Hebrew mid-wives to murder Hebrew children, specifically the sons, as soon as they are born.  Seems the king of Egypt is helpless against even the Hebrew mid-wives.  The killing part doesn't happen.  I suspect his fear his probably escalating, so he tries again.  He orders the mid-wives to throw all of the sons born to the Hebrews into the Nile.

A little bit of fear can be a healthy thing.  Children should be taught that strangers indeed can hurt them and that they should be cautious.  But, fear can make us react in ways that is beyond cautious.  It can cause us to strike out before we are struck, damaging others as well as ourselves, as we will see soon enough was the case for pharoah and all of Egypt. 

But, here we end today...  The king's fear caused the ordering of the deaths of innocent children.  This too, we will see repeated.  We will see it again with the massacre of the first martyrs for Jesus - the children - by King Herod.  (Matt 2:16-18)    

Consider this day if the fears you have are reasonable fears or if they will hold you (and others) back from being all that God intends for you to be.  Are the choices you make based on fear - the lack of trust in God?  Or will you make them knowing that God has a good plan for you and will be with you every step of the way?  Even as we may have unreasonable fears, there is one fear that can be very healthy:  We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. (Luther's Small Catechism on the first commandment) As one of our parishioners reminded me the other day, when we put first things first, in the proper order that God gave us, then things work.  When we take them out of order, they don't work.  The first priority is always to put God first.  When we put the world first, fear of losing the world, what we have in this world, jades our thinking and all that we do.  But, when we put God first, we trust him to be with us through all things and things just work out a whole lot better for all people in the end that way.

May God heal your fears, that you might trust in Him for all things.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Plan For Good

Genesis 50

With the death of Jacob and Joseph we come to the end of the beginnings.  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have been firmly established as the fathers of Israel, as heirs of the promised land.

So much grieving was never seen.  Jacob, the shepherd, is mourned by not only his family, but all of Egypt.  He is carried back to Canaan to be buried.  Once buried, his sons, the sons who had sold Joseph to the Egyptians, realize that they could be in a bit of trouble with Joseph now that their father is dead and so they lie to Joseph trying to insure his forgiveness.  They seem to forget that he has already forgiven them.  Just as we often forget that our Father, through our brother, Jesus Christ, has already forgiven us.  Sometimes it is difficult for us to move on in our lives, not because we have not been forgiven by our Father, but because we have not forgiven ourselves and it is hard to believe that the one we have offended has forgiven us.  Believe it! 

Joseph tells his anxious brothers what I think sums up the book of Genesis well, "Do not be afraid!  Am I in the place of God?  Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today."  As we encounter wilderness journeys; as we encounter low valleys in our lives, and experience much pain and sorrow we can know that God is with his people and he has a plan for all his children  - a plan for good - not for evil. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Genesis 49

My NIV has Chapter 49 under the heading "Jacob Blesses His Sons."  Think I'd have gone the other way if I were Reuben or Simeon or Levi or Issachar or....  Sounds more like fortune telling or maybe natural consequences for their life styles rather than blessings. 

Jacob (Israel) shares these blessings with his children on his death bed.  I wonder about how those who received blessings that were not blessings grieved.  How did those blessings affect the rest of their lives? 

Joseph gave his sons instructions and then was gathered to his people.  What exactly does this mean...."gathered to his people."  I'm assuming we're talking eternal life.  After all, what kind of gathering could the dead have?  The dead don't gather together, but the living do.  So in spite of all the mistakes they made; in spite of all that I perceive as poor parenting in the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, even though they have died, they live?

Just another reminder that it is not by works, but by faith that we are saved.  We are reconciled to God and the whole communion of Saints in the Kingdom of God through faith alone.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Last, First Again...

Genesis 48

Through thick and thin, God has been Jacob's shepherd all the days of his life.  It has not been an easy journey for Jacob, but as his days come to an end, he calls upon the Lord who has been his shepherd, the Angel who delivered him from all harm, to bless Joseph's boys.

And then he does something really weird - but - no so weird as the stories we have been reading have unfolded.  He puts the younger son ahead of the older.  The younger will be greater than the older.  The last shall be first.  The first shall be last.

I wonder at how often this happens in life today.  Seems I see it quite a bit.  The younger is favored over the older for no apparent reason.  But, there is a good side I see in this as well.  Often, those who are last in the eyes of the world, come to know the Lord as their Shepherd in a way that others do not.  Those who are last learn to depend on the Shepherd to comfort, and guide them in their journey through this world.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Slave or Child

Genesis 47

Pharoah is feeding everyone in Egypt thru Joseph.  However, there is a cost to the Egyptians... everything they have now belongs to Pharoah.  They trade their land for food.  They are now renters and are grateful to have to pay 1/5 of their harvests to Pharoah in order to eat and live.  1/5!  Everytime I mention that scripture speaks of a tithe, 1/10 of all we have should be given to the Lord's work - I get some really strange looks - some not so pleased with me looks.  Pharoah demanded more.  Pharoah made them slaves.  God has made us his own children - free to love and serve him - but - not forced. 

It reminds me of what sometimes happens when you give some children a really good gift.  Since they did not earn it, they don't take care of it and sometimes don't even use or play with it even though they may have begged for it in advance.  However, if they have to work for it.  If it costs them something, it is a little more precious in their site.  Why is it that we think so little of God's free gifts to us and so much of what we earn with our own hands?  Will we trade our (abundant) lives to be slaves to those things that we think will give us temporary life (abundance) in this world?  Or... will we receive the freely given food that will give us eternal life?  Slave to the world or child of God - that is the question?


Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Genesis 46

On their way to Egypt...  Jacob (Israel) is quite excited to see his son, Joseph.  God reassures him again through dreams that while he is in Egypt, God will make him a great nation.  He packs up everything and everyone including the 70 persons who belonged to his household and journeys to Goshen.  Joseph meets him there.  His plans are that they should stay there in the land of Goshen, because he is aware of how difficult it would be for them to live closely with the Egyptians.  Shepherds and Egyptians apparently don't mix.  Joseph's father Israel and his family would be abhorrent to the Egyptians.  They would be seens as "low-lifes."  It is these same "low-lifes" who are the chosen ones of God.

I think it would behoove us to remember this - the last shall be first and the first last. And since I am late this morning... have to start heading to my last confirmation class for the week so I am not the last to get there.  God's Peace be with you all... 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

He Lives! We Live!

Genesis 45-46

Joseph lives!  Gone from his family, thought dead for so long, Joseph finally reveals himself to his family as the one whom God sent to save Egypt, to save them, from the famine.  Joseph tells them not to be worried, not to be angry with themselves for having sold him into slavery because God had used those things to send him to Egypt to work good for the land, for the people.  Go and get my father, he tells his brothers.  Bring him down with the whole family that nothing will be lost to the family in the famine. 

As I've had the opportunity lately to drive through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan a couple of times, I noticed that small businesses that have existed for decades are now closed down - many in foreclosure.  Driving up the hill in L'Anse the other day, I noticed all the for sale signs on the homes.  Some of those signs say the homes are for sale by the bank.  Times are pretty hard here in Baraga County for many people.  The last unemployment statistics I could find were for June - unemployment was at 26% in the county, the third highest in the nation.  Many small family businesses can no longer afford the taxes or the insurance (including the unemployment insurance) that is required to keep running.  They simply cannot afford to hire any more people to help them in their businesses.  Many people have had to pack up their families and their belongings and travel to other places in search of work so that they might support themselves and their families.  Unfortunately, the rest of the country is not so far behind us in their lack of job opportunities and many of them won't find work. 

I don't know what the answers are to these difficult times (actually I think I do, but I'll keep politics out of this blog...).  I don't know the answers, but God does. We can be assured that God has a plan.  Although, we might feel as though this world is dying for awhile.  Remember, that everyone thought Joseph was dead, yet by the providence of God, he lived and was brought to prosperity.  And not just he, but those around him as well.

Resurrected life through tough times, through death, is not an uncommon theme in the Bible.  It is after all the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that is the constant reminder to us, that even though we die, we shall live, even as he lives. 

It might feel like you're dying, the world is dying.  Yet, God in Christ Jesus gives us hope.  It might take some tough times to get us through these difficult days.  It might take some eye-opening experiences, might even take death.  It might take some drastic changes in the world around.  But, in the end we know that we shall live.  God has a plan for his people and it is good.  It just might take some journeying in the wilderness, through some dark places in order to see the light in order to recognize life.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Genesis 42 - 43

Jacob is rich, yet his children and their children are hungry.  All the money in the world will not satisfy the hungry when there is no food.

How about our children?  Do they hunger?  We live in one of the most well fed countries, yet we still search for more.  Many (but not all) of our children in this country go to sleep at night in private or at least semi-private rooms with coverings that reflects their favorite cartoon, television star, or musician.  They go to sleep with full stomachs, maybe not filled with the healthiest foods, but they are filled with those things that they have desired.  Yet, they are hungry for more.  They go to sleep to dream about the things they hope will fill their hungry hearts.  Always seeking, never finding what it is that will fill their empty lives.

Jacob's family, in spite of their wealth (and we know he is wealthy because on the 2nd journey of his sons, they return to Egypt with double the amount of silver they had found in their sacks from the first journey), are hungry and the sons go to Egypt in hopes of finding food that will fill them. 

Their search for food to feed their family has led to the fulfilling a part of Joseph's dream.  His brothers have bowed down to him.  Yet, even as they bow down, we can see Joseph's love and compassion for them.  He exerts his authority publicly, yet he weeps privately.  Joseph, it appears, is hungry too - hungry to have his family love him.

I wonder, is this the hunger of our children - a hunger to be loved?  All those things - but - do they have family who really shares their lives with them?  Are they starving?  Who will feed them?  Who will satisfy their hungry hearts?

"Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." John 6:35 (NIV)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I Cannot, But God Can

Genesis 40-41

Usually our dreams are lost to our remembrance a few moments after we've woke up.  But, every now and then you might remember one for a day or two and you might wonder what they meant.  Why are they so important that you remember them for days to come?    We might wonder what our subconscious is trying to tell us. 

Joseph, the dreamer who had dreamed that his family would bow down before him is now involved in interpreting dreams.  First he interprets the baker and the cupbearer's dreams accurately even in regards to the time these things will happen. Yet, he tells them both, "Do not interpretations belong to God?" (40:8)  And when Pharoah asks him to interpret his dreams for him, Joseph tells him, "I cannot do it, but God will give Pharoah the answer he desires."  (41-16) Then, Pharoah tells him the dream and out of the lips of Joseph comes the interpretation.  

The interpretations, as well as the dreams, in these cases came from God.  God was warning the people, but they did not understand.  They needed an interpreter.  Joseph says that it is God who is the interpreter.  Now and then someone will thank me as they tell me how much they enjoyed "my" sermon.  I usually remind them, that they should thank God.  Because, if they hear a good sermon, if they have heard the Word, it is not because of my work.  It is God who is speaking the Word to them, through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

I cannot preach, but Christ who abides in me certainly can...  So all that we say and think and do that is truth, that is edifying is Christ, not we, not me.  As Joseph did, may we always remember to give God the glory, for without Him, we can do nothing.  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Lord is With You

Genesis 39

The Lord was with Joseph!  He was with him as he was sold into slavery.  He was with him and blessed his service to Potipher.  He was with him when he was tempted by his master's wife.  He was with him and blessed when he was thrown into prison.  He was with him and blessed him when the warden put him in charge of his fellow-prisoners and all that they did.  Through all the times, those that would seem good and those that would seem bad in the eyes of the world, the Lord was with Joseph and continued to bless him. 

Even when it appears that we may be journeying through the darkest valley of death, we can be confident that the Lord is with us. Even when the world would see nothing but trouble on the horizon,  God has a way of working things out for the good. 

Take a look back into your past.  How many of those events that you thought at the time you'd never get through, you not only got through, but they actually helped you in some way over the years.  Maybe they helped to make you a stronger person, maybe more faithful; or maybe just wise enough not to repeat what ended so painful back then.  Child of God, you are who you are, who will be who you will be, not just in spite of but also because of your past journeys in the wilderness.  And God was (and is) with you leading you through those dark valleys of death so that you might live and dwell in His house forever.  It is by His own hand that we are blessed.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Last Shall Be First

Genesis 38

Brothers!  Who shall be first and who shall be last?  “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matt 20:16 NIV (also Matt 19:30)

Zerah, the first to put his hand out of his mother's womb, ends up being born last.  And the other son, Perez, ends up being born first.  Perez ends up blessed in that he is in the direct geneological line between Adam and Jesus Christ. (Matthew 1:1-16, Luke 3:23-37)

Now their mother, Tamar, had been married to Er, Judah's firstborn son.  According to scripture, Er was wicked in the Lord's eyes, so the Lord put him to death. (Gen 38:7)  Now in order to perpetuate the family line, it was the obligation of a brother to fulfill the late husband's duty by producing off-spring for the brother who had died.  The second son didn't want to have children for his dead brothers, so he cheated her out of off-spring.  The third son never showed up as promised by Judah.  So Tamar tricked Judah into impregnating her.  This was pretty risky business. It's not just a matter of ending up humiliated.  She could have been burned to death for this little maneuver.  But, she was shrewd and Judah recognized that in the end she was more righteous than he.  So the woman who was last in the eyes of Judah and his sons, has received honor (placed first) as she became one of the women in geneology of Jesus.  Those who are last will be first :)

How often do we lament that we can't seem to get ahead?  That someone else pushed their way in front of us.  That no matter how hard we try we seem to be the last on the totem pole.  Relax and remember that often, God has a habit of working things out so that those who are last in the eyes of the world are first in the kingdom of God.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Genesis 37

LOL - can't believe we're dealing with favoritism of a younger son again!  But, jealousy is not funny.  In Joseph's case the jealousy sent him into slavery.  It caused his brothers to plot to kill him, then sell him.  They lied to their father.  Their father grieved the loss - the death - of his son.

Now, Joseph of course is a victim.  However, I wonder how much of this jealousy he stirred up purposely.  He was only 17 years old, but should he not have known how much additional dissension he would cause by bringing a bad report to his father about his brothers?  Didn't he have a clue as to how upset his family would be when he told them that he had a dream which implied that he would be lifted about them and that his family would one day bow down and serve him.  Could he not have been quiet about these things?

And Jacob?  Why did he give such a lavish gift as the coat of many colors to one son and not the others?  Did he not have a clue what kind of trouble this could cause among his children? 

Favoritism leads to jealousy - to envy.  Jealousy leads to slavery (to people or things) and even death.  Yet, death can lead to life.  Death can lead to reconciliation - which we will get to see in upcoming chapters.  God can take what seems to be the worst situation and turn it into something good for all people.  Watch for it... Keep on reading.

And may God keep our hearts and minds from thinking too highly of ourselves and from seeking our own good above the good of others.  May God empower us to seek that which is best for all His people, according to His will.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Genesis 35

The geneology of Esau the father of the Edomites...  I know how much some of you like geneologies - not!  Whenever I read them, I try to read them aloud so I can remember a few of them a little better.  My memory is not so good. 

Esau married women from the exact place his father Isaac told his brother Jacob not to, that is Canaan.  But, after marrying them and having a few children, he found that the land was not enough to support both he and his brother Jacob.  So he took his entire household and all that he had acquired and left to settle in the hill country of Seir. 

So much moving around!  In the last 40 years, my household has been moved 15 times - across country - overseas.  It entailed a lot of work!  We've been here in this place for about 4 years.  Just thinking about packing up and moving again tires me out.  We have many snow-birds up here in the U.P. - that is retired people who pack up their households and move south during the too cold winters and then back north for the cooler summers.  My husband sometimes hints strongly that he'd like to do that once we retire permanently.  That's probably another - not!  Sounds to me like we'd just be making more work for ourselves.  I have no interest in making arrangements for those kinds of journeys twice a year.  My idea of traveling is to pack a small bag and get on a plane. 

Esau, like many people today, packed up everyone and everything to journey to a place where they "could make a living."  Esau nor any of the other early wilderness travelers had to fight traffic, but think about how they got where they were going.  I don't imagine they were easy journeys. For me - I thank God that I it's been a while since he's moved me - I'd rather not!

I will be leaving in a few minutes for another Bible Study.  Only have a few miles to go. On the way, I will probably only meet one or two vehicles, if any.  That is all the journeying I want to do.  I pray that it stays that way...

I will also pray that I wake up a bit earlier tomorrow so I have time to really think about Joseph's story :)  In the meantime, even though it may seem like hard work to open up your Bible every day (requires just a bit of self-discipline) to follow the journeys of the characters you find there; at the end of the journey you will find that it has been well worth the time and effort to keep on turning the pages and reading.  The purpose of this blog; afterall, is to remind you to keep on reading the Holy Scriptures - 1 page at a time :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gathered together

Genesis 34-35

Is there nothing new under the sun?  (Eccl 1:9)  After reading these 2 chapters, I had to go back to review a few things in the life of Abraham.  I wasn't sure if I wasn't confused with who did what and when.  It sounded all too familiar.  Particularly the part where the two sons who wre not on friendly terms got together to bury their father.  Isaac and Ishmael got together to bury their father, Abraham.  Esau and Jacob got together to bury their father, Isaac. 

Death has a habit of bringing families together - uniting us - at least physically.  Sometimes death of a parent unites us in other ways.  Sometimes we are truly reconciled to one another.  Sometimes it brings more strife as children fight over property - eager to accumulate more false gods. 

I do find verse 29 of chapter 35 rather interesting.  "Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years."  What exactly does this mean?  What do you think?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Playing Games

Genesis 32-33

Lots of angels showing up in the lives of God's chosen people...  God chooses whom he will choose.  I'm just not all that comfortable with Jacob's sneakiness, his shrewdness (sly as a serpant comes to mind).  He fears the wrath of his brother whose blessing he stole, so he sets out to win him over; not out of love but to protect his own life.  He sends his servants with a huge gift ahead of him to Esau.  He sends his first wife, Leah, and his children out in front of him.  He sets his servants and his family between himself and his enemy, his brother.  But, God will choose whom he will choose and he has chosen Jacob, in spite of his very human nature or maybe because of.  Who can know the mind of God?

I have to confess that my uncomfortableness with Jacob, Isaac and Abraham is directly related to who I am, a sinner for sure. One who does not like playing games.  I don't like playing people, don't like playing politics (especially not in the church) to save or advance myself or anyone else.  And if put in a situation where someone is trying to get me to "play" I will usually let it be known that I am not interested in games - in twisting the truth.  I don't like tiptoeing around the truth.  The truth is what it is.  I tell my granddaughters and confirmands often that they need to watch what they say and do - to watch the integrity of their words - and if honesty is going to hurt someone unnecessarily then they should consider keeping their tongues to themselves.  Don't twist the story with their lips - don't be hurting others with their words.  And... if I think you're lieing or otherwise being just plain old sneaky to justify your own actions or save yourself, I will probably call you on it.  There is nothing we can do to justify ourselves or to save ourselves - that work was done by Jesus on the cross.  So cut out the games and live - enjoy the life that God gave you to live, one day, one moment at a time.  One of my granddaughters was told not long ago, by one of her great-great uncles that this moment is the only moment you have so you need to live the moment.  Yes, we have the opportunity to live in this world and the kingdom of God - right now!  What a privilege! And it goes a whole lot smoother when we're not busy coming up with a new game to play.

So now you know, at least in part, why my comments on Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have been slanted toward their sinful natures.  That and the fact that I think we need to be reminded that we are all sinners, including these saints of old, who by faith, not their good works, were saved.  It is indeed by faith that we are all saved - not our works as we all fall short.

Thanks be to God for only through his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord we are justified and saved! 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Children and Grandchildren

Genesis 31

Children and grandchildren are a blessing, but they can also break your heart.  Everytime I read of Rachel stealing her father's household gods, something inside me wants not to hear about it.  I don't want to hear about a daughter stealing from her father.  I am glad that Laban didn't find out; not for her sake, but for his.  Two of his daughters and a whole bunch of his grandchildren are going off wandering in the wilderness -sneaking away without even saying good-bye.  And my hearts cries out for him.  To be sure he had demanded a lot from his son-in-law, Jacob.  But, still I can feel his pain at such a loss.   I feel his pain and am thankful that he did not have the further heartbreak of knowing that one of his daughters would steal from him.  I wonder how he would have felt if he had found the gods and the promise that Jacob made to him was fulfilled and Rachel were put to death.

Those objects that Rachel stole also concern me.  She took household gods - false gods.  She had been married to Jacob about 20 years, so why were these gods so important for her to take?  Did she also worship them or did she just take them to spite her father? 

In the end the story ends well or as well as can be expected.  I suspect that Laban will always feel an emptiness in his life remembering how he was disrespected by his daughters.  But, Jacob and Laban do enter into a treaty of reconciliation - an agreement to not harm one another.  And... Laban gets to bless and kiss his daughters and grandchildren goodbye as they depart into the wilderness for Jacob's home.

Children grow up and they do leave home.  Will they give their fathers - their parents - the opportunity to kiss them and bless their journeys?  How sad it is that some cannot leave with respectful reconciliation when situations have not been good.  How sad it is that some would prefer to leave in a huff and puff rather than with a kiss and a blessing from their parents.  How sad it is when some parents don't care how they go as long as they go.

God meant children - God meant family - to be a blessing - but - often false gods (and we are our own false gods most of the time) get in the way of family.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Genesis 30

A bit of bartering going on - Rachel barters for a few mandrake plants with her Leah.  Rachel gets the mandrakes - Leah gets a bit of private time with Abraham resulting in the birth of Issachar.  Lots of children in chapter 30 born to Abraham...  Most of his family was born while serving his father-in-law to pay for his brides - yet another exchange - work for wives.

Appears though that Abraham is getting a little tired of paying for these wives and after all these years he finds he's made Laban rich and he has nothing except for wives and children.  Nothing to support this large family with - dependent on his father-in-law - he strikes up another bargain with Laban, taking away all of the herd that is speckled or spotted. He ends up with a really nice sized herd. You have to read the chapter to see how that little miracle occured!

Jesus did a little bartering himself.  The stakes weren't mandrakes or herds - well maybe they were - herds of lost sheep.  On the cross, he gave his life for ours. 

I'm sitting in Durand, MI this morning and heading out in a few moments.  Anxious to get on the road and get back home and get prepared for the rest of the week... :)  Anxious to get back and share the events of the NALC Convocaton.  I don't have the patience that Jacob had - can you imagine working for your father-in-law for 14 years to pay the price you owe to marry his daughters?  That kind of patience I'm still working or rather God is still working on in me..  God's Peace be with you all...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Family Ties

Genesis 29

Two wives in one week!  Wow! Just can't even imagine...  However, the truth is Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah.  He really loved and wanted her younger sister, Rachel.  Sadly, Leah knew this and God knew this so he blessed Leah with children to love.   But, I can't imagine a week that included two marriages in one household.

This section of scripture deal with heritages - with family lines - family lives.   As I am at the North American Lutheran Church Convocation in Hilliard, OH, I have been reminded many times throughout of my own Finnish heritage.  Many of my ancestors came from Finland.  Bp. Sutton of the Anglican Church of North American spoke of the Finnish theology - the focus on the incarnational presence of Christ in you.  I'd like to launch into a sermon on how we receive Christ in the Word and Sacraments but...  I'll save it for when I have more time.  The point I want to make is that although my family history -my bloodline - is important - there is a blood that is thicker than blood and that is the blood of Christ that is shed for me - for you. So I thanked God yesterday a great deal for the family who taught me about the abiding presence in Christ - I thanked God for those spiritual fathers who helped me to understand the promise of the kindom more fully and they were of Finnish descent.  I thanked God for my teacher, Karlo Keljo and for the writings of Walter Kukkonen, Sr., (as well as others) that taught me much.   This morning I noticed this blog had two hits from Russia (as well as a couple other countries.)  Our missions there are related to our heritage.  Our (Suomi Confernce) Finnish ministry in Russia, as many of you know is very important to me.  I also thanked God for Bp. Don McCoid (ELCA), whom I spoke with yesterday.  I am most grateful for all that he has done to help Suomi Conference continue our missions in Russian Karelia as well as other places in the world that we are able to connect with and minister to our family in Christ in Russia.

Yes, a little off track this morning.  Lots of things to think about at National Convocations.  Just wanted us to think about thanking God for family this morning - those of our blood-lines and those in the family of God, through the blood of Jesus Christ.

P.S.  I thank God, too, for Antti Lepisto for all the work that Christ has accomplished in and through him to advance the missions in Russia.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Heirs of the Kingdom

Genesis 27- 28

Talk about dysfunctional families!

A  couple chapters back we had twin boys, Esau & Jacob tussling in their mothers womb; later, Esau the first-born who is starving (or maybe just really hungry) sells his birth-rite to his younger twin Jacob for a bowl of soup.  For whatever reason, in Chapter 27, we find Jacob lieing to his father in order to steal his blessing from his older twin.  Isaac blesses Jacob.  Esau begs his father to give him a blessing, too.  Isaac refuses.

Esau plans to kill his brother after his father dies.  So Jacob runs away with the excuse to his father that he wants to go and marry someone from his mother's house.  Isaac sends him on his way with an additional blessing, but commands him not to marry anyone from Ishmael's house (Abraham's disowned first-born and Isaac's brother). Esau, in his desire to pay back his father for not blessing him, goes to his disenfranchised Uncle Ishmael and marries his daughter.

Stuff soap-operas are made of?  As dysfunctional as these families and individuals seem to us, God is with them.  He talks with them.  He directs their ways.  He blesses those whom he will bless. 

As Jacob is on his way to find a wife, he stops to sleep and he dreams...  He dreams of a stairway that extends from the earth to the heavens with angels of the Lord ascending and descending on it.  The Lord God is above the stairway and speaks to Jacob. The Lord promises Jacob that he is the heir to the promise he made to Abraham and to Isaac.  He promises many descendents (heirs) and land (a kingdom).  He promises to be with him always.  And... God promises that the all peoples on the earth would be blessed through him.   

The God of Abraham, the God or Isaac, the God of Jacob, our God has indeed blessed all peoples in that many generations later (Matthew 1), he sent a son to bless those who were not born first into the family of Abraham's lineage (God's chosen people) but who through faith in Jesus the Christ have been adopted as sons (children) of God.  Imagine that, through this son, Jesus the Christ, we have been forgiven our sin. We who were not God's children are now God's children.  As dyfunctional as any of us might be, God blesses us and is with us always for the sake of Jesus the Christ.  There is nothing we can do to win God's favor. It is by faith that we are saved.  Just as Jacob inherited the promises God made to Isaac and Abraham; we too are heirs of the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Like Father - Like Son

Genesis 26

Hmmm - didn't we hear this story once before.  Isaac pretends that his wife Rebekah is his sister to protect himself.  Back in Chapter 20 didn't Isaac's father, Abraham, say the same of his wife, Sarah, to protect himself.  Is this genetic or had Isaac heard the story and thought it might be a useful strategy for him, as well.

I sometimes shudder at the thoughts of what my children and grandchildren have learned from me.  Some things were good (I hope) - some not so good.  I have tried, where possible, to make corrections, so that my mistakes don't negatively impact others in the long term.  But, once a mistake is made, there usually not much we can do to fix it except repent - apologize - and strive to not make the same mistakes again.  I also find myself praying that God would intercede that the mistakes I've made would not impact others.  Simply put - I pray that God would fix my mistakes so that my actions would not bring harm to others.

It's not all bad....  Notice too - that God promises this son of Abraham that he will be blessed because of his father Abraham.

May God help us all to be more aware of how our words and actions affect the lives of others, not just those around us, but sometimes for generations to come.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Genesis 25

After Sarah's death, Abraham takes another wife and has 5 more children.  How old was he?  Wasn't he over 100 years old when Sarah died?

I love children.  I am missing my granddaugther this morning as I anticipate her home-coming this week.  It will be good to have her home!  My husband and I had foster children for a few years, now we have an adult foster home.  One of the ladies reminds me now and then that now that her parents are gone, we're like her parents. It makes me feel guilty that I don't have more time to spend with her.

This morning I find myself trying to wrap my head around the idea of wanting and having and trying to raise so many children as they did in Abraham's and his children's time, as they did even a generation or two before me.  100 years old and still having children?  My grandparent's generation had some huge families.  There are advantages to large families for sure; especially in communities where you must live off of the land.   But, this morning I can only imagine a dozen children in front of the television - all wanting the remote.  Who wins?  Probably dad.

Brothers and sisters don't always get along.  Parents don't always help the matter, either.  Isaac and Ishmael were from one of those broken families where the children were separated from each other while they were young.  But, like many families today, they get back together, a family reunion of sorts, to bury their father. 

We are told that Ishmael, the first-born of Abraham (but not Sarah) whom Abraham pretty much abandoned after Isaac's birth, had 12 sons - 12 tribal leaders. 

Isaac we are told, had two sons, twins.  Even before they were born they were tussling in the womb.  The Lord told Isaac's wife Rebekah that the two peoples in her womb would be separated and the oldest would serve the younger. Again... with separation of families and the first-born being last. 

What does all this mean?  Don't know... Will have to read on some more tomorrow and tomorrows after that.  But, for today I better finish getting packed for the Theological Conference and NALC Convocation and pick up my granddaughter!  Don't forget you can watch it live by going to the NALC web-site


Monday, August 8, 2011

Trusting Servant

Genesis 24 - Isaac and Rebekah

Can you imagine?  I have a hard time imagining - comprehending - this kind of total confidence in the Lord's will and directing of circumstances that we find in the search for a bride for Isaac. 

The servant prays for a sign and gives God instruction as to what he will accept as a sign.  The Lord gives him that sign and everyone just accepts that it is the Lord's will that Rebekah will be Isaac's bride.  I am glad to see though, that in spite of all the talk of money and wealth someone actually asked Rebekah if she wanted to go with the servant to become Isaac's wife. 

If only we could have the confidence in God that Abraham's servant had.  How much easier would life be if we could go where we are sent and do those things that God would have us do!  If we would only listen!

Speaking of listening - his word is spoken every Sunday in every congregation (at least in the scripture readings) that I know.  Faith comes by hearing that word.  How will you know God's Word - his will for you - if you do not listen?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Funeral Arrangements

Genesis 23

Abraham makes burial arrangements for his beloved wife, Sarah.  He weeps for her and then sets about finding a suitable place in which she can be buried.  I have officiated at hundreds of funerals and memorial services and even more committals.  I have spent so much time with the local funeral home directors, that I have long considered them my friends.  They are amazing people.  They take care of all the administrative and organizational tasks efficiently and compassionately, leaving me to minister to the spiritual needs of those who have lost loved ones and also leaving me time to deal with my own grief as many of those whom we have lost; I too have grown close to and love deeply. 

In the story of Sarah's death, we see Abraham spending a lot of time in preparing for Sarah's burial.  It is not so different for us today.  Death usually comes so unexpectedly that we are thrown from the shock of the loss of it all right into making arrangements to prepare for the body's (or ashes) final resting place.  We have so many things to take care of (and usually in 3 days) that we don't have time to experience the full measure of our grief and that may be a good thing.  For many, the loss would be too great to endure if they were not kept so busy.  But, grief comes to us all, as we gather together to remember our loved ones and to commend them into the hands of Almighty God.  The impact of our loss finally has the opportunity to more fully hit us as we are gathered with our friends and family members in a place where our grief can be shared with those who love us and where we can find peace in the promises that because Jesus' lives, all who believe in him, shall live as well, receiving the promise of His Kingdom.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

God With You In Times of Trial

Genesis 22

Answering God's call is not always as easy as it sounds.  When we are called we are sometimes; no, often tested.  We often lament the fact that our confirmands fall away right after they affirm their baptisms.  We rarely see them.  Well, here is the deal as I see it.  God has called them to serve him.  They make promises that they're not really ready to keep.  But, God hears their promises and he helps them keep them.  To do this, there seems to be a need for testing, for refining by fire.  And eventually (when they are much older), they are ready to keep the promises they made as young people.  A few come back within a year or so after confirmation for private confession.  It is difficult for me not to smile during some of these times.  Yes, I feel their pain and their frustrations, even their anger.  But, something I know from years of my own falling away and that is that God can and is using these times to help grow their faith in Him.  I smile in the knowledge that God is with them.  In 20 or 30 years, these children of God will look back and will be able to say with confidence that God works all things for the good for those who love him.

I have to confess the story of Abraham's willingness to answer God's call to sacrifice his son, his only son, on the mountain makes me a little anxious.  We know though, from the reading, that God did not intend to have Isaac put to death - he was testing Abraham's obedience to him.

This "only son" language in this chapter causes me a little pause as well.  We also know from previous chapters that Abraham exiled his first-born, Ishmael and his mother, but to never acknowledge this son?  What was that all about?  Traditions from generations before us are sometimes difficult to understand.  But, on that mountaintop, Abraham was willing to do God's will by sacrificing his "only son."  God interceded by providing a lamb for the slaughter.  The lamb died and Isaac lived.

On a hilltop, many generations later, God did not withhold his own "only begotten son." Jesus was the sacrificial lamb - God's only son who died that we might live.

As God calls you to follow and to serve him, know this:  that God is with you. Even when you even when you think you've messed up royally, he is guiding you through the mess.  He has promised you life, through his only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ, our Lord, the Sacrificial Lamb.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Blessings; In spite of...

Genesis 20-21

We all make mistakes - make really poor choices - that will affect others negatively.  But, somehow God can fix the messes for us - turn them around - and bless us richly.

Wandering around in questionable territory, Abraham's wife is taken by King Abimelech to be his wife.  Abimelech doesn't know she's married to Abraham - Sarah covered up the marriage to protect Abraham.  It's a favorite story because it shows Abraham's propensity to protect himself - willing to give his wife to another man - so that he will remain safe.  It shows his weakness; yet, he is still one of God's favored ones.  Seems like a pretty messy situation to me.  Yet, God manages to use it so that everything is worked out for the good of both Abraham and Abimelech.  They both end up blessed.  And... Sarah gets to go back to her husband, Abraham.  Not so sure if I'd want to go back to a husband who just gave me away.  But, those were different times and places.

She not only goes back, but the Lord blesses her and she has a son, Isaac, for Abraham.  She is overjoyed with Isaac's birth while a bit (a lot) jealous over Ishamael, the first-born son, that Hagar, her maid-servant, had for Abraham.  At Sarah's request and with God's approval, Abraham sends his first-born and mother out into the wilderness where Ishmael almost dies from hunger and thirst.  But, the Lord saves them. 

Lots of wilderness in these stories, but more importantly, I think, is that the Lord manages to bless just about everyone.  What appears to be a bad thing turns out for the good.  And so it is in many of our own lives.  Sometimes our lives get pretty messy.  We struggle with fear and with jealousy.  We may feel like we're lost and alone.  But, God is with us working all things out for the good of those whom he chooses to favor.  We don't deserve to be blessed, we just find (sometimes with time) that we are.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sodom & Gomorrah

Genesis 19

I remember well the first time I was involved in a Bible Study and was informed that the sin of Sodom was inhospitality.  My reaction was and is:  They've got to be joking!  Inhospitality is when I neglect to serve my visitors and guests coffee; rape is way beyond being inhospitable!  How can the two be compared?

When I read this story, I have a feeling that in order for these men to act (to become)like this, they must have been imbibing in a little more alcohol than is wise.  It was, afterall, late in the evening (course time may not matter).  I cannot imagine sober men enmass acting like these men - maybe I'm naive - maybe the whole town was insane.

Whatever the problem - oh yes the problem was sin..., God saves Lot because of Abraham.  God tries to send him out into the wilderness - but - Lot begs him to send him to a small town (Zoar) nearby that apparently God was also planning on destroying.  God relents and allows it.  God spares Zoar.  Doesn't take long for Lot to figure out that this is not such a nice (hospitable :) ) place, either.  He is afraid for his life so taking his daughters; he heads out into the wilderness.  They move to a cave in the mountains.

Now his daughters are lonely - their fiance was destroyed in Sodom - they want children.  The only man around is their father.  Apparently Lot doesn't know when he's had enough to drink (not an uncommon problem it seems).  His daughters give him wine and he passes out two nights in a row.  They rape their father and have children by him to preserve the family line - or at least that is the justification offered.

So it would seem, these daughters raised in an unhealthy (understatement as is inhospitality) learned quite well the lessons from the community they lived in.  What is it that we teach our children in our community?  Are they growing up in unhealthy environments or are we teaching them to love and serve the Lord and his people?  Are they learning any respect for others or is it all about themselves?

May God bless all that we say and think and do that they may be acceptable in his sight and glorify him, our Lord, our Rock, and our Redeemer.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Visits and Conversations with God

Genesis 18

The last stranger to knock on my door, out in this wilderness, was a young man with a machete strapped to his leg - a really long one!  He came on foot through the woods.  It took me a few moments to open that door as I considered whether I would trust the Lord and be a bit hospitable toward this trespasser (land is posted) or if I should act totally un-Christian-like and answer it with a 20-2.  A little anxious, yet managing to remember to pray that God be with me, I chose the former.  It turned out he had legitimate business.  But, I didn't see him walking around again with a machete after our brief visit, either.

The story today of the Lord's visit to Abraham has me wondering how I would react if the Lord showed up to have a talk with me.  Would I answer the door?  Or would I be trembling in fear?  Would I listen to him?  Would I hear the blessing the Lord is promising?  Would I hear any warnings?

I think that if the blessing were to have child, I am quite sure I would not laugh as Sarah did.  He has already blessed me with children and grandchildren.  And if the Lord gave me a warning that he was about to destroy a place or someone who did not walk in his ways, but sinned grievously, so that the outcry against them was so great, would we respond as Abraham did - interceding for the righteous, interceding for the innocent?  Save them all, begs Abraham, for the sake of the few.

What if the Lord gave you a warning that he is about to bring destruction upon your neighbors, your friends, along with the enemies of God?  If you knew they were in danger of destruction would you not try to save them by interceding for them?  Then let us pray - that the Lord would bless them and keep them, that the Lord would make His face to shine upon them, and be gracious to them, granting them (granting all) His peace.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Stars In The Sky

Genesis 15 - 17

There is just so much good stuff in these 3 chapters:  the covenant between God and Abram (exalted father) or Abraham (father of many) the name God gives Abraham when he confirms his covenant with him.  We see again the beginnings of the first-born son being placed last.  God tells Hagar that the child she bears for Abram will live in hostility toward all his brothers.  Yet, God tells Abraham that he will establish an everlasting covenant with his second son, the one that Sarai (whose name God changes to Sarah) will bear for him.  This covenant that God makes with Abraham and promises to establish in Sarah's son is to be father of many nations - more offspring than he can count.  Just as their are more stars in the sky than he can count, so shall his offspring be. 

Not long ago, I had occasion to be reminded of Abraham and the covenant God made with him when God told him to look up at the heavens and count the stars.  We were driving around the northern edge of Lake Michigan late at night.  The water sparkled as the moon shone on the slightly rippling water.  It was one of those nights when the sky looked black against the brilliance of the stars.  There were so many bright shining lights in the sky you wouldn't even consider counting them.  And I suddenly had this over-powering realization that these were the same stars that Abraham beheld, the same stars that David may have gazed at as he kept watch over the flock in the fields, the same stars that lit the night for Jesus as he went out alone to pray. 

Time sort of collapsed in on me for a few moments as I realized a closeness with the generations before us that I had never realized before.  These are the same stars, the same moon that lit the night skies for Abraham, for Jesus, for the many generations before us, so many generations that we cannot count them.  This is the same earth that they walked upon.  How very precious the land, the whole of creation, became to me in that moment.  I felt the desire to touch the ground, to lay my hand upon it - to bless and pray for the land which God made and gave to us to walk upon, to live upon, to care for.  I also was deeply aware of how many of our brothers and sisters, how many of God's children live in places, where the city lights are so bright that they cannot look up and behold the stars.  The children cannot run and play and roll around in the grass, they cannot touch the land for concrete and asphalt have entombed the land.

I look to the stars and thank God that he has allowed me to live in a place where I can see them.  In the wilderness, I can see the stars and even a rainbow every now and then and remember the covenants he made with his people.  I can look at the stars and I am reminded of the line from the favored hymn "Away in a Manger" (Author Unknown) "the stars in the sky looked down where he lay."  These are the same stars that look down where you lay.   

May God grant that we should have a better understanding of our relationship with his whole creation, with the generations before us and the generations to come.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Brothers and Sisters Separated, Yet One Family In Christ

Genesis 14 - 15

Separations - Have you ever noticed how the Bible is full of stories of people separating from each other?  Today we find Abram and Lot's herdsman quarreling with each other over the land that they share.  So they separate.  They may separate, but it doesn't divide them for when Lot is captured by the armies of alliance of the 4 kings, Abram goes out to save him.

God's people have been separating for a very long time :) ; however, differences - quarrels should never divide us so that we cannot recognize and support our family members in the Body of Christ.  There should be and are times that we have opportunity to come together with people of other denominations for mutual purpose - to support one another in our mission - to proclaim the kingdom of God in Jesus Christ, our one Lord and Saviour. 

Yesterday, at our Music Fest, I was reminded of our mutual service to God and his people as I looked out on the musicians and the crowd in attendance and saw in our NALC/LCMC congregation members of ELCA, Aura Lutheran Church (no denomination), Roman Catholic, Baptist, United Methodist, and United Church of Christ congregations (yes, I know all these individuals - been around for awhile) all gathered together to Worship God, to celebrate the Spirit of God who stirred our hearts through music and to support the hungry and homeless through their offerings.  I smiled as I was asked about the schedule for the Zeba Methodist Indian Camp Meeting next week.  It appears the larger community has gotten to know my schedule well.  I am usually a guest preacher at the Camp Meeting once or twice during the week; however, this year I will be at the Theologial Convention and the NALC Convocation in Ohio so I had to decline the offer.  But, if you get a chance go - go and meet and hear their new Pastor preach - go and join in some of those old hymns that they sing so well.  Worship with them and on Friday join them as they circle the campfire with hands joined together in Christian fellowship and love.  We may be separated by denomination, but they are your brothers and sisters in Christ.

We thank God for all our brothers and sisters in Christ and for the opportunity to serve with them.