Turn! Turn! Turn!
Earlier this year rock and roll legend David Crosby died. As a tribute to his career, radio stations played a song that Crosby made famous with his band. Who hasn’t heard of “Turn, Turn, Turn” by the Byrds? The title is an indirect reference to the turning of the seasons in our lives. Those various seasons are spelled out in the lyrics based on King Solomon’s poem preserved in Ecclesiastes 3.
But “Turn, Turn, Turn” would also be a great title for a song based on today’s passage from the prophet Ezekiel. The Lord is calling his people to turn from their self-destructive behavior. “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!” (v. 11, NIV).
While at North Park Seminary I was reminded that the Greek word for repentance means “to turn around.” The Lord is calling us to turn toward him.
Lord, I admit my tendency to walk away from you. Help me turn toward you today. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: BEING GENEROUS WITH OUR TIME
Treating Spiritual Dementia
MONDAY, September 18
As a Covenant Living chaplain, I work with a group of people who have advanced dementia. I came to my assignment with first-hand knowledge of this dreadful disease. My mom spent the last six years of her life lost in the maze of Alzheimer’s. She not only couldn’t remember what she’d had for breakfast, she couldn’t remember I was her son.
But it’s not just dementia patients who have memory issues. Every one of Adam and Eve’s descendants are plagued with an inability to remember. I’m inclined to think it is one of the consequences of the Fall. Our depraved condition renders us forgetful.
In our passage today, the psalmist talks to himself. He calls himself to worship. Then he reminds himself not to forget all the good things the Lord has done for him. And for good reason. Spiritual amnesia is not uncommon. We tend to forget the specific ways God has been faithful. Curiously, when we start to praise God, we begin to remember.
Lord, forgive me for being so forgetful. Remind me of your goodness. AMEN.
The Everlasting Love of a Father
TUESDAY, September 19
I have two granddaughters. The six-year-old is Imogen. The four-year-old is Ivy. Gratefully, they don’t have to spell Asimakoupoulos. Their last name is Anderson. Yet when I look at them, I see my legacy. I get to peek at what will continue after I am gone.
As I observe how quickly they are growing up, I’m reminded just how fleeting life is. The psalmist agrees. He says our lives are like grass that withers and is soon gone. Depressing, right?
Well, if that’s all there was, it would be. But the psalmist is quick to add that one thing doesn’t ever end: God’s love. The love God has for us is everlasting.
“But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those
who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children”
(v. 17). It has no beginning or ending. Like the love of an earthly parent (or grandparent) for their family, it finds a way to envelop those who
Lord, I am blown away by your grace that refuses to let me go. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: A SERVANT’S HEART
Almost Debt Free
WEDNESDAY, September 20
Fifty years ago this week, I began my senior year of college. Because my parents did not have the benefit of a higher education, they were willing to pay my tuition, books, room, and board. In the spring of 1974, I graduated debt-free.
Hearing how much school debt is being carried throughout the US today, I recognize how blessed I was. Debt is like cancer. Unless it is diagnosed and treated, it will likely spread. No wonder the Apostle Paul challenges the Christians in Rome not to owe anyone. There is one exception, however.
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law” (v. 8). Paul believes we should never pay off the debt of love we owe each other. Loving others is our way of expressing gratitude to a God who gave us our salvation (paid in full).
Lord, I choose to love because you first loved me. AMEN.
People of the Light
THURSDAY, September 21
One of the great things about living in the Pacific Northwest is our long summer nights. From the middle of June until the middle of July it remains light until almost 10 pm. Summers are amazing!
But summer comes to an end, and tomorrow is the autumnal equinox. The amount of daylight and darkness will be equal for one day. Then the darkness will increase with each day beyond that. By December, it will be dark when I drive to work and dark when I head home. Even though it’s day, it will seem like night.
In today’s passage the Apostle Paul uses light and darkness to symbolize good and evil. He calls us to be aware of the works of darkness but to live as people of the light—all the while clothed in Christ’s righteousness. In his mind, it must have felt like the spring equinox. The darkness of sin in our world is about to give way to the light of God’s anticipated kingdom on earth.
Lord, I want to live as a child of the light. Help me to be like Jesus. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: COMMITMENT TO READING GOD’S WORD
Seeing One Another as Children
FRIDAY, September 22
Today is a red-letter day in our family. My firstborn daughter is turning forty. I can still picture her at her first day of preschool.
That memorable day I realized just how vulnerable she was. As my wife and I dropped her off, a car at the school backed into our brand-new station wagon. It was a picture of how easy it is for unexpected and unfortunate circumstances to occur.
In today’s passage Jesus pictures the vulnerability of children. He uses that metaphor to caution us against causing others to sin. While we can’t escape the fact that we live in a fallen world, we can play a part in keeping others from falling. Seeing those with whom we interact each day as vulnerable children is a start.
When Jesus says, “And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (v. 5), it’s a reminder of Matthew 25 where Jesus lists the tangible ways we can serve him by serving others.
Father, help me see those I encounter today as children like I am, especially loved by you. AMEN.
Bending Over Backward to Restore
SATURDAY, September 23
In my 45 years as a pastor, I never had to facilitate the excommunication of a defiant member, although one of the congregations to which I was called had faced that unenviable situation years earlier.
In today’s passage, Jesus describes a process for dealing with unrepentant sin. One thing is clear. The process is intended to expose the wrongdoing and deal with it lovingly. The aim is to maintain relationship with the wrongdoer if possible. Something else is clear as well. Willful sin needs to be acknowledged. If it is not, there are consequences. God’s holiness demands as much. But how difficult for a congregation to draw a line in the sand if efforts to reconcile are rejected. What could be harder? And yet this is the original context for a verse so many of us know by heart: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (v. 20). Jesus is with us in difficult scenarios like this.
Lord, my desire is to be a means of grace in my extended family and in my church. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: CONSTANCY IN GOD’S WORD