March 2024 Devotions

 May 23 -- 31

    

May 23, 2024 -- The Dollar Spot Devotions

Mike and Ike – Sounds Like a Presidential Ticket!

 

“These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.” When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.”   Genesis 25:19-26

 

“Mike and Ike are oblong fruit-flavored chewy candies that come in several colors and varieties, including cherry, orange, lime, lemon, and strawberry. Popular varieties are Tropical Typhoon, Berry Blast and Jolly Joes.   The candy is kosher and gluten-free.  They are similar to Hot Tamales, another candy introduced by the same manufacturer in 1950, though they are not spicy.  And as to the origin of the name, well  Mike and Ike (They Look Alike) was a comic strip by Rube Goldberg, who introduced the identical twin characters in the San Francisco Bulletin on September 29, 1907.”  (Mike and Ike website)

 

Mike and Ike (They Look Alike) was a comic strip by Rube Goldberg, who introduced the identical twin characters in the San Francisco Bulletin on September 29, 1907.  (Wikipedia)  

 

Now Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist, but he is best known for a series of popular cartoons depicting complicated gadgets that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways. Goldberg received many honors in his lifetime, including a Pulitzer Prize for his political cartooning in 1948 and the Banshees' Silver Lady Award in 1959. We might know him best though for the complicated gadgets – someone will often look at a device and say “That looks like a Rube Goldberg device”.   “The Rube Goldberg Machine Contest is a contest in which college or high school students build devices to complete a simple task in a minimum of twenty steps in the style of American cartoonist Rube Goldberg. Local contests are held throughout the United States, and local winners are eligible to compete in the national contest.” (Wikipedia)  

 

Jacob and Esau were twins, but they were not alike at all. They were the antithesis of Mike and Ike. Esau was the oldest and therefore the one to receive the birthright and blessing of his father. And Esau was the favorite of his father. But Jacob was the favorite of his mother, and together the two of them would conspire for Jacob to trick his father Isaac into giving Jacob his blessings. And even though Jacob was a trickster and a liar, he will go on to father the children who will become the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel.    

 

Once again we are reminded that G-d does not seek out “perfect” people to participate in spreading the good news of the kingdom of G-d. Instead G-d selects regular people no matter their flaws, people who will trust G-d and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The sons of Jacob will go on to try to kill their brother Joseph – but again, G-d will use what they devised for evil and turn it into the beginning of the Israelite nation. It is a good thing that we are not all alike – and a good thing that G-d will use imperfect people to continue G-d’s work in the world.

 

Pastor Dave

 

May 24, 2024 – The Dollar Spot Devotions

Mamba Fruit Chews

 

“David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.  David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of theLord of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim.  They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart  with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark.   David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs  and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.” 2 Samuel 6-1-5

 

 

Charleston Chew is a candy bar consisting of flavored nougat covered in chocolate flavor coating. It was created in 1925 by the Fox-Cross Candy Company, founded by stage actor Donley Cross and Charlie Fox.   The candy was named for the Charleston, a popular dance at that time. (Wikipedia)

 

Here is another of the interesting candy selections at the local Dollar Spot.  I am always interested in the origins of the names of things – things like candy bars. It is no surprise that there was a candy bar named after the popular dance, the Charleston. The Charleston is a dance named for the harbor city of Charleston, South Carolina. The rhythm was popularized in mainstream dance music in the United States by a 1923 tune called "The Charleston" by composer/pianist James P. Johnson. The dance came out in 1923, and the candy bar in 1925.  

 

I have never tried to dance the Charleston, and I am sure that I would probably break a hip trying. But dancing is not just a secular activity. Dancing for G-d as part of our worship of G-d has been a part of worship for thousands of years. We don’t see it often in the Lutheran church, but maybe we should.  It is always good to try different ways to offer praise to G-d – so why not dance.

 

Pastor Dave 

 

 

May 25, 2024 -- The Dollar Spot Devotions

Now and Later Chews

 

“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village. As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:51-62

 

Now and Laters are bite-size pieces of taffy that last a long time... some for now and some for later. Kids went wild when, in 1962, the Phoenix Candy Company came out with the Now and Later bar. Each Now and Later bar consisted of several individually wrapped taffy squares, and the bars were available in close to fourteen flavors.  The name was selected to suggest to customers that they eat some of the taffy squares in the bar right away and save the rest for another occasion.  The Phoenix Company goes back to 1919, when a little candy company in Brooklyn, New York, was turning out penny saltwater taffy.  In 1953, the company became the Phoenix Candy Company, which struck gold with its popular product. The candy brand has been owned and made by several companies between that time and today, featuring Beatrice Foods, Hershey, Farley & Sather's Candy and currently by the Ferrara Candy Company

 

Some for now and some for later. Almost sounds like the responses that Jesus got from people he asked to follow him. Some, like the disciples followed immediately – Jesus said “Now” and they responded “Now!”. But for others, Jesus said “Now”, and they said “No, Later!”  They wanted to follow but they had other things to do, so they wanted to put it off until later. Of those who came up with excuses, Jesus made that famous quote “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of G-d”.  Or, in other words, there is no way anyone can move forward while they are looking back.  Oh, you can, but the chances of getting off track is extremely great.  

 

Jesus was looking for disciples who would work for the kingdom, but not for disciples who put other priorities first. And yes, we all have other priorities in our lives that will take our focus and our time away from kingdom work. And not all of us can drop everything and follow Jesus like the disciples. But we all can put more time into following, and less time into making excuses. And we can get to following Jesus more now, or get to following Jesus more later in our lives. Question is, how much more time do we have? Better to get to being a closer follower and disciple now, than later…. 

 

Pastor Dave

 

 

 

May 26, 2024 – Holy Trinity

 

“Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:1-17

 

There is a theological motif called the “Happy Exchange”. Now that sounds inviting doesn’t it – the “Happy Exchange”. It goes like this: G-d became human – through Jesus Christ, G-d came to be just like you and me – so that you and I could become just like Jesus. So, there is nothing we need to do to be worthy of G-d’s love, mercy and Grace – G-d makes us worthy because it pleases G-d to treat us as G-d’s children through the “Happy Exchange”. This is what makes John 3:16 so appropriate in its simplicity:

 

G-d so loved the world (first) that G-d gave the world G-d’s Son, Jesus Christ. G-d acted first. G-d did not ask our opinion first. G-d elected to act before we could try to figure it all out – before we could figure anything out about G-d – not that we have a clear understanding of this mysterious G-d we have. 

Today we claim to know G-d as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet we have no right to say we understand fully the Doctrine of the Trinity. But understanding the Doctrine of Election is a little easier. G-d elects to act – G-d elects to choose us – and G-d does this all through elements like G-d’s Word, Wine, Bread and Water. When the Word is preached – when we pour Water on the heads of new initiates – when we partake in the Bread and Wine of communion – Election is in action. We are reminded each time that not only is G-d with us – but G-d has chosen us – G-d has chosen to love us beyond all measure. And when we finally realize how much G-d wants to be in relationship with us, then we can answer that call:

 

“Will You Go To Serve The Lord?”

“With the Help of the Lord – We Will – We Will”

 

Pastor Dave

 

 

May 27, 2024 -- The Dollar Spot Devotions

Cheap Car Chargers 

 

“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds. AfterHe had sent them away,He went uponthemountainbyHimselfto pray.Wheneveningcame,He wastherealone, but the boat was already far from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.…Matthew 14:22-24

 

We have become so dependent upon our electronic devices that we always need to have a charger at hand, because we cannot survive if they happen to lose power. It is a fact that once a week, in my home, someone is looking for a phone charger that they have either lost or someone has borrowed. It is a constant search. The truth of the matter is that we have lost so many chargers that we will find the cheapest one to buy because we are always buying a new one. And so, I was thrilled to spy a cheap charger in the Dollar Spot section the other day. The real hidden truth that bugs me is the fact that the manufacturers of these devices keep changing them, in small annoying ways, requiring us to constantly be buying new chargers. In fact I have two baskets full of chargers that no longer have a device to go with them.

 

So, my children have often ask “What did people do in the “olden days” when they didn’t have the electronic devices we have to keep us entertained?” Well, we found other ways to entertain ourselves. We played board games, played card games, watched movies, and actually talked to one another. Did you know that there is now an “APP” you can put on your phone to remind you to talk or play with your kids every so often? That is a sad commentary on our lives, yes?

 

So, what did Jesus do to recharge his batteries, so to speak? He usually found a quiet place to pray. He went up the mountain, or in the garden and started texting with G-d – that is texting the old-fashioned way – through prayer.  Just like our devices always need recharging, well my friends, so do we. We need time to recharge our faith batteries by going to G-d in quiet, thoughtful and un-interrupted prayer. Try it sometime – no, better yet, try it often.  

 

Pastor Dave

 

 

May 28, 2024 -- The Dollar Spot Devotions

A Fitness Belt – Where do I Keep My Stuff While I Run?

 

“Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air;  but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us.” Hebrews 12:1

 

Being a jogger myself, I have known the problem of trying to decide what to do with my phone, my keys, and other stuff while I am running. The problem has become even more of a concern since there has been the advent of so many devices that we can use while we run. Some people drive their cars to a track to run, or to an area that has more challenges like hills, etc. That means there is the need to have some kind of pouch or belt to keep your keys. The fitness belt that I spied in the Dollar Spot section of my favorite store is just one of those helpers. Some of these belts even have a spot to fit a water bottle, for the jogger who is going on the extra-long run.

 

The endurance that is necessary for the Christian journey is compared to a race. And in some places it is also tagged with a sense of real urgency. When Jesus says “Let the dead bury the dead, you go proclaim the kingdom of G-d” he is talking about that urgency. Not only are we to persevere, we are to run with all our might, and we are to do it now, without concern for any other priorities. And what are we to take for that journey? Nothing – not a belt, not an extra set of jogging shoes or clothes, nothing.  

 

There is a message here that is difficult for most Americans to hear, and that message is un-encumbrance. There is nothing that is to hinder us, to distract us, or to impede us. And we have a lot of things in this country that we have been told that we cannot do without – a lot of stuff that we are constantly told we need to survive. If we are to follow Jesus the way that G-d intends, then we have to shed a lot of stuff – and that makes most of us nervous.  But, in the end, what will become of that stuff? We won’t know because we will have met our ultimate demise and others will be dividing our stuff. So, instead of concerning ourselves with stuff, Jesus says concern yourselves with the kingdom of G-d. That, my friends, will take a lot of thought, prayer, and devotion – maybe even a lifetime of devotion….but this journey has a great reward at the end.

 

Pastor Dave   

 

 

May 29, 2024 -- The Dollar Spot Devotions

Slinky – Even Fun Has Its Ups and Downs!

 

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?”  The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’”   But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”   So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.   Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.   They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.   But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”   He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”   He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Genesis 3:1-11

 

“It’s Slinky; it’s Slinky.  For fun it’s a wonderful toy.

What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs, And makes a slinkety sound?

A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing!  Everyone knows it’s Slinky.

It’s Slinky; it’s Slinky.  For fun it’s a wonderful toy.

It’s fun for a girl and a boy.”

 

I can hear that commercial in my head, and I haven’t heard it for thirty years or more. The slinky is still sold in the Dollar Spot section of my favorite store – unbelievable but true. I must say that the times I remember playing with a slinky, it did not last for hours and hours. And, with animals in the house, they usually became chew toys, getting so twisted that they never would slink anywhere. 

 

We know from the creation story, and from the story of the Fall of Adam and Eve that the snake was a creature created by G-d, along with all of the other creatures. Eve, Adam and the snake are creatures created by G-d, and they are all created and looked upon as “good”. And yet, they all turn out to become rebellious and turn against G-d – at least G-d’s plans for the goodness of creation. For you see, all creatures created by G-d are placed into the garden to be close to G-d – and to be within the influence of G-d. But all good things can also become bad, disobedient, if not downright evil. It is that reason alone that makes me rethink the whole interaction between Eve, Adam and the snake. We come to this story thinking that Adam and Eve have this relationship with G-d, and so therefore have more “reasoning ability” than the other creatures. But the snake seems to have them beat on the “reason and intelligence” scales. The snake seems more able to reason, to influence, to control, and to deceive. Is the snake the embodiment of evil, or a representation of how intelligence can be turned inward to become selfish and controlling?   

 

It begs the question, “Is human reasoning the enemy of obedience?” What is human reasoning after all? It is looking at things from the human perspective—consciously or unconsciously – and in the process leaving G-d out of the picture. Reasoning is trying to figure out spiritual things on our own. It is looking at the trials of this life with just our physical senses—without “seeing” the unseen hand of G-d at work in our lives.  Human reasoning can even assume that G-d sees things as we see them.  

 

Faith, on the other hand, means that we rely on G-d, the one we have not seen (unlike Adam and Eve), and rely on G-d’s nature and plan for all people, which are revealed in Scripture. Without the Holy Spirit, the human mind cannot grasp that level of thinking. That’s why it takes faith to believe what G-d says and does – and not allow evil to slink into our thoughts, our ideas, and our faith – at least in the manner of our own perceptions if they are found to be against G-d’s will.

 

Look, this life will not always be as fun as a slinky – but our trust, faith and obedience to G-d will help us to ride the ups and downs of life.

 

Pastor Dave

 

 

 

 

 

May 30, 2024 -- The Dollar Spot Devotions

Pop-Up Speakers – Can You Hear Me Now?

 

“and he (Jesus) came down with them, and stood on a level place, and a great multitude of his disciples, and a great number of the people from all Judaea and Jerusalem, and the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases; and they that were troubled with unclean spirits were healed. And all the multitude sought to touch him; for power came forth from him, and healed [them] all.  And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said…”  Luke 6:17-20

 

As we acquire more and more devices, we have also been offered more and more accessories to go along with these devices. And since the devices seem to get smaller and smaller, there is a need for assistance in hearing them, especially if we want to use them to play music and we have no headphones.  Thus, as I was looking around my Dollar Spot section, I noticed “Pop-Up Speakers”. These speakers are about the size of a small tomato, but when you extend them about an inch, and plug them into your phone or other device, you get a “Big Sound” as the advertisers would want us to think.

 

Did you ever wonder how people heard Jesus when he delivered a sermon on a mountain (Matthew 5) or in a boat (Luke 5)? I have always wondered how he did it. Were there people placed it the crowd who would repeat what Jesus said so those in the back could hear? Did he speak in places where the sound naturally would have been projected out to the crowd? There is no way to know for sure, but the people flocked around him to listen to what he had to say, and somehow everyone heard it.  

 

Today, the problem is not having the technology to get the sound of G-d’s word out, it is the fact that too few people want to speak it. If we are not proclaiming from the rooftops the words G-d wants us to say, then who will?  G-d is looking for people who will serve as the “Pop-Up” speakers in our communities today. Are you ready?

 

Pastor Dave

 

 

May 31, 2024 – Memorial Day: With Gratitude and Honor

 

Gracious God, on this Memorial Day weekend,

we remember and give thanks

for those who have given their lives

in the service of our country.

When the need was greatest,

they stepped forward and did their duty

to defend the freedoms that we enjoy,

and to win the same for others.

 

O God, you yourself have taught us

that no love is greater than that

which gives itself for another.

These honored dead gave the most precious gift they had,

life itself,

for loved ones and neighbors,

for comrades and country - and for us.

Help us to honor their memory

by caring for the family members

they have left behind,

by ensuring that their wounded comrades

are properly cared for,

by being watchful caretakers of the freedoms

for which they gave their lives,

and by demanding that no other young men and women

follow them to a soldier's grave

unless the reason is worthy and the cause is just.

 

Holy One, help us to remember that freedom is not free.

There are times when its cost is, indeed, dear.

Never let us forget those who paid so terrible a price

to ensure that freedom would be our legacy.

 

Though their names may fade with the passing of generations,

may we never forget what they have done.

Help us to be worthy of their sacrifice,

 

O God, help us to be worthy.

(The Catholic Telegraph, May 25, 2020)