“Then give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his.” Matthew 22:21
Our Caesar is the I.R.S., and every year millions of people try to figure out how to give the government no more than a fair amount. I spend hours going over receipts, pouring through business records, and entering them on a spreadsheet. After filing the tax report (to the best of my ability), I pray that I won’t be one selected for an audit.
I don’t make nearly as much of an ordeal when I write a number on the pledge card on stewardship Sunday. I’m guessing God may see me a bit like the Pharisees who were trying to trick Jesus when they asked him, “So tell us honestly: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” God wants us to acknowledge what he’s given us by what we give back. It may be what’s considered a tithe (10 percent), or it may be time plus talent plus money.
Dear Lord, make me aware of how I value your goodness and mercy and how I can give back. Amen.
“Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation.” 1 Thessalonians 5:8
I often read from several devotional resources before I write a Daily Meditation Moment. Often I find synchronicity in the messages—like today. From Marianne Williamson’s book “Everyday Grace” the topic I read today was from a chapter called “8:00 a.m. Starting the Day.” To jump start your day, I quote the prayer at the end of the chapter:
“Dear God, I give you this morning. Please take away my despair of yesterday. Help me to forgive the things that caused me pain and would keep me bound. Help me to begin again. Please bless my path and illumine my mind. I surrender to You the day ahead. Please bless every person and situation I will encounter.
Make me who You would have me be, that I might do as You would have me do. Please enter my heart and remove all anger, fear and pain. Renew my soul and free my spirit. Thank you, God, for this day. Amen.”
And, I say Amen, too.
“Long before you brought earth itself to birth, from “once upon a time” to “kingdom come”—you are God.” Psalm 90:2
Have you ever told or written a story and began it with “Once upon a time?” As a writer, I ponder how to start a story or article. Sometimes I have trouble figuring out how to end it too, but the middle part seems to flow easier.
Since the invention of computers and word processors, it doesn’t matter what I decide to use as an opening sentence or paragraph. Part of the massive amount of editing I do is switching paragraphs or whole pages around–a form of writer’s dyslexia.
With our faith growth, we don’t have to start reading at the beginning of the Bible and read it like a textbook. God’s story is too complex to read from Genesis to Revelations. Begin wherever you want–such as the Christmas story in Matthew or pray the Psalms or learn life lessons in Proverbs. Just start somewhere and you will eventually arrive at God’s kingdom.
Dear God, thank you for the stories that will help lead us to your Kingdom. Amen.
“Let Wilderness turn cartwheels, animals come dance, put every tree in the forest in the choir.” Psalm 96:12
This Psalm brought back memories of Junior High. I was tall, thin, and gangly—not a candidate for gymnastics or dancing. I loved sports and could outrun most of the boys in my class, but I hated gym class during the tumbling component. Every year I had to prove how I could not do a cartwheel or a somersault. My long legs and short torso would not cooperate.
Also during junior high, everyone took Arthur Murray dance classes as part of social development. Remembering the sight of fifty boys dressed in dress pants, shirts, and ties and fifty girls in dresses or skirts, painfully shuffling around the gym in an attempt to do the waltz or foxtrot now makes me smile. But as a thirteen-year old girl paired up with a boy whose head barely came up to my chin, I felt like a mighty oak tree being climbed.
In the Psalm above, the writer imagines nature and animals performing gymnastic routines, dances, and musical performances to praise God. What a glorious sight in my mind!
Dear Lord, may I have the last dance on earth with you? Amen.
“I’ve singled you [Cyrus] out, called you by name, and given you this privileged work. And you don’t even know me!” Isaiah 45:4
God called Cyrus, the king of Persia and a non-believer, to lead a battle against the Babylonians to free the Israelites from captivity. Cyrus had only one qualification for the job: He belonged to God–as does everyone and everything in the world.
Have you felt God nudge you into some form of ministry and you resisted because you’ve never done it before or perhaps you felt totally inadequate for the project? I could have missed an opportunity to minister through speaking at retreats, conferences, seminars, and other events had I not given into the woman on the other end of the phone who insisted she wanted me to be their retreat leader. I responded by saying, “Let me help you find someone more qualified for your retreat.” However, she insisted, “We want you.”
God didn’t just call Cyrus into action, he paved the road and promised to assist him. “I’ll break down bronze city gates, smash padlocks, kick down barred entrances.” (Vs. 2) God promises to do the same for us.
Thank you, Lord, for calling me through one of your servants into a ministry of inspiring and encouraging others to grow in their faith. Amen.
“He (Herod) said to his servants, ‘This has to be John the Baptizer come back from the dead. That’s why he’s able to work miracles!’” Matthew 14:2
What would you served to you on a platter?
Harod, the regional ruler of Israel, knew John the Baptist well. During one of his drunken birthday parties, he granted the daughter of his brother Philip anything she wanted. After being coached by her mother, Herodias, she ordered John’s head to be presented to her on a platter to satisfy her mother, who despised John for implicating Herodias and Herod for having an affair.
When Jesus of Nazareth began his ministry in Galilee, Herod feared John had come back in the form of this man who worked miracles to haunt him. Apparently, the vision of John the Baptizer’s head on a platter continued to haunt him, and he began to plot Jesus’ death.
It’s hard to believe God orchestrated this whole tragic ordeal with the end in mind–salvation and eternal life for all the sinners of the world–including Herod and Herodias–should they ask for forgiveness and seek a new life in Christ.
Dear God, thank you for John the Baptist who paved the way for Jesus, who paved the way for eternal life in your kingdom. Amen.
“Friend, don’t go along with evil. Model the good.” 3 John 11
John, the writer of several New Testament books, wrote to Gaius about Diotrophes–a power-hungry leader who would go to any length to stay in control of the church. Gaius and his friend Demetrius were solid Christians and were being blindsided by Diotrophes. John told Gaius he would straighten Diotrophes out when he came for a visit. He sensed Diotrophes was all talk and not one to move the church forward.
Years ago, I had a pastor who preached a pretty good sermon, but from Sunday noon to the next Sunday morning created chaos for the congregation. I thought it to be a little strange someone would have to pick him up for church on Sunday morning because his wife needed the car to go to a college class. And, there was the huge snowblower he bought for the church and had it delivered to his home. When it snowed, the janitor at church had to shovel the walks because the snowblower turned out to be too large to transport back and forth from the parsonage.
I don’t know if the pastor had evil intensions or just felt entitled to such privileges. I do know he is no longer serving in the church. God, give us the spirit of Gaius and Demetrius and not Diotrophes. Amen.
“We have a wedding banquet all prepared but no guests.” Matthew 22:9
Brides and grooms begin to plan their special day months or years in advance. After the date is set, a budget is established, and then a guest list is formed. Who will come?
The wedding reception and banquet to follow the ceremony becomes a drama of seating charts, food choices that are sensitive to vegetarians, vegans, and those with gluten intolerance, allergies to seafood, nuts, and dairy. As the event gets closer to the R.S.V.P. date, the one holding the checkbook wonders if formalities have gone out the window. How many guests will just show up?
In the scripture for today, Jesus refers to the banquet God is planning for us. God is the host and prepares the list of who will attend. Our invitations are printed on our hearts and souls. No R.S.V.P. is required.
Dear Host of the best banquet ever, help us to live our lives to become part of the heavenly banquet and to bring along a guest or two. Amen.
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious.” Philippians 4:8
Paul encouraged the Philippians to change their doomsday thinking to create peace of mind. The mind has a way of triggering back to the last thought we dwelled on. So, “stinkin’ thinking” takes over for good thoughts.
I relate bad thoughts to mustard. Yes, mustard. When I make a sub sandwich, I add mustard, but I bury it in the middle of the meat and cheese so that when I take a bite, mustard is not the first thing I taste.
Bad thoughts have a strong mustard-type affect in my brain. When a thought brings fear or anxiety to my soul, I try the sub sandwich method of burying it deeply among good thoughts. It takes practice to make this happen. Each time the bad thought appears, I move it a layer deeper until the thought isn’t the first thing to surface all day long.
Thank you, Lord, for giving our brains a way to bury bad thoughts. Amen.
“We’ve sinned a lot, both we and our parents; we’ve fallen short, hurt a lot of people.” Psalm 106:6
I’ve heard of people who have tried to escape the reputation of their parents. My parents didn’t give me anything to run and hide from. They taught us right from wrong and to work hard to get what we wanted and needed.
I admired my father for how smart he was for someone with only a seventh-grade education. He got on-the-job training on the farm–something common in the early 1900’s. If any of us kids got too big for our britches, he would remind us that just because we passed him in grade level, he was still smarter than we were.
Dad never pushed us or encouraged us to get a higher education, and yet he understood that we can’t live our lives out as our parents had. Our children can’t live in our footsteps, either.
Thank you, Lord, for giving us insight to take the good things we’ve learned from our parents and leave anything behind that won’t help us in our life. Amen.