A Josiah Moment

2 Kings 22:11-20 (NLT)

By Chuck Griffin

It’s always a shock to discover we’ve strayed from the Lord’s plan.

In today’s Bible passage, we hear how a young, good king, King Josiah, was introduced to the basics of how his people were supposed to be living, via a rediscovered Book of the Law. A proper understanding of how God was to be worshiped had been lost during the reign of prior evil kings, men who allowed paganism to creep into the land.

When Josiah realized how far his flock had strayed from their very reason to exist, he grieved so powerfully that he tore his clothes. Disaster loomed large. Fortunately, there still were priests and prophets in the land, and the king learned that God’s just response to the rampant unholiness would be delayed until Josiah’s righteous reign had ended.

We live under an expanded, improved version of the plan, of course. Strict adherence to the law was the closest the Israelites could come to establishing a relationship with God. We live in the time after Jesus Christ, knowing that his willingness to die in our place for our sins now makes that relationship possible. All we have to do is believe, allowing God’s Spirit to go to work in our lives.

And yet, we stray.

In many ways, we can be like those ancient children of God, called to serve and worship but distracted to the point of forgetting who God is. One generation fails to adequately tell great truths to the next generation. The shiny things of the world and the worries of the world begin to dominate our thinking.

God’s call on us is powerful, though. It breaks through, and we can have a Josiah moment, grieving for ourselves individually and the people around us collectively. Dawning awareness of how wonderful it is to be in communion with God is an exciting and wonderful experience to have.

I have experienced such a moment in a big way in my life, and I continue to experience similar little moments as I exist with one foot in a time-bound world and the other in eternity. Let’s grieve over what we lose when we take our eyes off God, but let’s rejoice at how God offers to restore us when we lock our eyes on the throne once again.

Lord, help us to keep our eyes eternally fixed on you, and with your guidance and strength, may our lives be conformed to your will. Amen.

Whoredom and Whole Hearts

Jeremiah 3:6-14 (NRSV)

The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah: Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and played the whore there? And I thought, “After she has done all this she will return to me”; but she did not return, and her false sister Judah saw it. She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce; yet her false sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. Because she took her whoredom so lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. Yet for all this her false sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but only in pretense, says the Lord.


By John Grimm

The Bible does get our attention.  The title for this devotion comes from this passage.  Yet, as we read the title over and over, we are offended.  We have not acted like Israel or Judah.  We say we have not used stone and tree to make idols to worship other gods. 

Judah (the Southern Kingdom, which included Jerusalem) saw the faithless ways of Israel (the Northern Kingdom).  Israel was carried away by the Assyrians in 726 B.C.  Around 586 B.C., Judah was going to be carried away by the Babylonians.  Why was Judah going to be carried away, deported from the land of Judah?  Because it was only in pretense, in name only, that Judah returned to the Lord.

God has been calling repeatedly to America since Sept. 11, 2001.  We can return to the Lord.  Returning to the Lord cannot be done only with words, in name only.  Our faithfulness to God must overwhelm our lives so our actions show we love God with our whole hearts.  Our faithfulness to God can be seen in how we love our neighbors as ourselves.

Judging from all the evidence in America today, we have not returned to the Lord God with our whole hearts.  We may still be in our whoredom.

Holy Spirit, thank you for being patient with America.  Your patience allows us to return with our whole hearts to the Lord.  We hear about Jesus Christ and believe he is a good teacher.  Yet, when we believe Jesus is the Son of God come in the flesh, we find the beginning of salvation.  Work in us so that we see and live in the faithfulness of God, the salvation God offers us. We ask that our faithfulness to God be demonstrated by our whole hearts.  May the name of Jesus Christ be found in us before it is too late.  Amen.

For My Welfare?

Isaiah 38:10-20

By John Grimm

For my welfare?  We think we know what is best for ourselves.  We plan, we maneuver, and we make connections so that we can have the best life possible.  Then troubles come our way and we are at a loss.  Getting through the troubles strains us.

We then ask ourselves, is the trouble because of my own sins?  Are we the ones who caused our own souls to be bitter?  Or is the truth that someone else caused our misfortune and our problems?  Is it not that since we live godly lives, we can escape such bitterness?

When we know that we have caused our own bitterness, then we repent of our ways.  We confess our sin to God and he restores us.  We may even eventually see that God had been protecting us, despite our willful rebellion against him.  As soon as we recognize the good God was keeping us for, we thank him that he did not allow us to be punished for all time because of our rebellion. 

When we do not know the source of the bitterness in our life, we should keep turning to God.  It is through Jesus that we find salvation, even in the midst of bitterness.  It is during these times that we catch a glimpse of how much evil that God has kept from us.  Yes, going through the bitterness was for our welfare!

It is by living through bitterness brought on by our own sin or someone else’s sin that we can praise God!  Then we get to be in the sanctuary with other believers to sing and praise God for his work in our lives.  What a witness we have when those around us know of the bitterness of our souls and they get to hear us praise God.  Maybe it is during this pandemic that the bitterness of our souls is for our welfare.  It seems like a good time to praise God for getting us through these days.  What better way to shrug off bitterness than to be in the house of the Lord, thanking God for our deliverance?

God, we know who and what has caused bitterness in our souls.  It was not you.  We allowed that bitterness to grow.  Yet, you are using the state of our souls so that we may see how you are working to deliver us.  As we become content in your faithfulness, may we see the bitterness washing away and hear chords of praise coming from our lungs.  It is in Jesus’ name that we thank you for making a way for our welfare even when we could not grasp what was happening.  Amen.  And Amen!

The One Most Offended

This Sunday’s sermon will be a reflection on deep brokenness and the power of God’s grace, considering what we find in both 2 Samuel 11:1-15 and John 6:1-14. If you want to watch the sermon but cannot attend Holston View United Methodist Church, the message will be available online.

Today’s text: Psalm 51:4

Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight.


By Chuck Griffin

Psalm 51 shows us the three R’s we should hope to experience after sinning: remorse, repentance and restoration. In its introductory header, we are told the psalm reflects what King David felt and cried out after he came to his senses and realized the terrible stench he had become in the nostrils of God.

The fourth verse is particularly enlightening to me. It reminds me that the effects of sin go far beyond human perception. For us, the problem of sin ultimately lies in what God experiences when his creation, made in love, turns against the maker.

When we think of sin, it’s not unusual to consider its effects in human terms, thinking of the people damaged by sin. Certainly, in the 2 Samuel stories tied to this psalm, we’re quick to consider how Uriah lost his wife and his life because of David’s lust and murderous efforts to conceal his shame. It’s also possible to argue that Bathsheba was a victim of power rape.

The losses they experienced certainly should be remembered. When Jesus summarized the law, he placed love of neighbor right up there with love of God for a reason—created as images of God, people matter.

Psalm 51:4 calls us to remember the source of holiness, however. God defines what is holy simply by existing, and as the only all-powerful, uncreated, eternal being, God has the right to immediately destroy that which he finds obnoxious.

How remarkable that we continue to exist! We should be astonished that remorse, repentance and restoration are available to us.

Yes, God truly is love—love is the only divine emotion that could hold the holy hand in abeyance.

Lord, we thank you for your patient love, expressed so clearly when Jesus Christ went to the cross to expunge our sins. Continue to grow us in grace so that sin comes to an end and we live fully in your eternal presence. Amen.

Mercy and Contempt

Psalm 123 (NRSV)
A Song of Ascents.

To you I lift up my eyes,
    O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
As the eyes of servants
    look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid
    to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
    until he has mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
    for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than its fill
    of the scorn of those who are at ease,
    of the contempt of the proud.

By John Grimm

I noticed something cool about my dogs.  When they are lying on the floor or on the ground, they will look up at me.  When they greet me when I arrive at home, the dogs will look up at me.  They look up to me because they know they can trust me.  Or they are looking for their next treat!

Yes, it is about trust when we are lifting up our eyes to the Lord our God.  It is God who can be trusted to give us mercy.  God will correct us, but he also has mercy for us.  Sometimes, we will have to continuously look to the Lord our God.  In the process, it will be a good idea to repent of known and unknown sins.  God hears the prayers of a repentant heart.

Now, those who have been contemptuous toward us and scorned us, what do we do about them?  As this psalm leaves out any retribution, we also leave out any retribution.  It has happened that as God has had mercy on people, those others who have had contempt and scorn towards God’s people actually turn to God.  God will take care of those who give contempt and scorn.  We need not concern ourselves with that.  We do continue to look for the one enthroned in the heavens so we may see him and receive mercy.

O Lord, more than our master or our mistress give us their attention, you give your attention to us.  When we seek you, we find you.  May we know your mercy as people give us contempt and scorn.  May even those who give us contempt and scorn receive your mercy, we ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

What Must Be Done

Ezra 9:5-9 (NRSV)

At the evening sacrifice I got up from my fasting, with my garments and my mantle torn, and fell on my knees, spread out my hands to the Lord my God, and said,

“O my God, I am too ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. From the days of our ancestors to this day we have been deep in guilt, and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been handed over to the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as is now the case. But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, who has left us a remnant, and given us a stake in his holy place, in order that he may brighten our eyes and grant us a little sustenance in our slavery. For we are slaves; yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to give us new life to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judea and Jerusalem.”


By Chuck Griffin

Ezra dropped to his knees to do what must be done from time to time, to do what the people as a whole had failed to do. He repented and sought forgiveness.

Because of their sins, God’s chosen people found themselves enslaved, their way of life decimated. But a glimmer of hope had appeared, the potential to rebuild what had been a glorious temple. And yet, Ezra observed, the people of Israel continued to defy God.

The specific sin causing Ezra grief sounds strange to us today. The Israelites were to be a people set apart, a lesson in holiness to all the world. But instead they had begun to intermarry with the people around them, in the process adopting other gods and unholy practices. The real problem was that they had moved away from God and toward idolatry.

The principle remains the same for us. We are to search for what pleases God and what displeases God, practicing the former and avoiding the latter. Our Holy Bible gives us our baseline for understanding sin, something our broken minds cannot sort out on their own. In our New Testament, we receive refined guidance about sin from Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit working within the early Christian church.

Ignoring this guidance brings grave danger. Our best response is to search our actions and even our thoughts to see where we may deviate from what God desires. We truly practice a religion of the heart.

Such an examination of ourselves should lead us where Ezra went—on our knees, in a state of repentance. Living much later than Ezra in God’s grand story of redemption, we know that because of the work of Jesus Christ, forgiveness, change and hope lie ahead.

A call to such piety is not popular, I know. Sadly, there are people among us who have established themselves as preachers while preaching the opposite.

Their opinions do not change the word of God, however, and they do not remove the need for thoughtful searching of our souls and serious repentance.

Lord, reveal to us through your holy word and directly in prayer where we displease you, and then show us a better way. Amen.

Restore Us, O God

Psalm 80:1-3 (NRSV)

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
    before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
    and come to save us!

Restore us, O God;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved.

By Chuck Griffin

What we now call the Old Testament is full of oscillation, the relationship between God and his chosen people moving in and out of harmony.

God’s abundant love and astonishing holiness never change, of course. It is people, then and now, who draw near to God in works of mercy and piety or run away from God as they sin. Sometimes we run so far that God seems to have slumbered or even poured out wrath.

For the fallen—and we all have been among the fallen—that plea, “Restore us, O God,” is an excellent starting point. Of course, we cannot say “restore us” as we continue to run away. We have to at least turn toward God, like the prodigal son climbing out of the pig sty and taking his first step on the walk home. We have to repent.

While sin deeply offends God’s holiness, God’s love keeps our creator alert to our return. Through his chosen people, he has even made the return easy, ready to embrace us with outstretched arms. He came among us while we were deep in sin, living among us and ultimately paying for those sins on the cross.

“Stir up your might, and come to save us!” the people prayed in Psalm 80. And God did, in ways with far greater global impact than they likely imagined.

Can we lift up the same cry, in our own lives and on behalf of our own people, whomever they may be?

Lord, let us see a turning toward you, moving us into a time when your grace abundantly flows, bringing healing and salvation to all. Amen.

In the Thicket

Micah 7:14 (NLT)

O Lord, protect your people with your shepherd’s staff;

    lead your flock, your special possession.

Though they live alone in a thicket

    on the heights of Mount Carmel,

let them graze in the fertile pastures of Bashan and Gilead

    as they did long ago.


By Chuck Griffin

This particular verse in Micah arises as part of a lament over sin and a longing for better days.

We can process this desire to be led back to the good life on so many levels. As a people, we can always look to aspects of a national past we believe to be better, the good old days, although we do have to be careful. People have a tendency to remember the good and forget the bad.

My wife and I like movies from the 1950s and early 1960s, the ones that fill the screen with images just a little too early for us to have seen with our own eyes. Think of the New York City street scenes in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” or Doris Day at the Automat, or Cary Grant in a finely tailored suit. How nice it would be to go back in time and experience all that—without polio, the Korean and Vietnam wars, racism, sexism bordering on misogyny, and those ever-present clouds of cigarette smoke, of course.

We can have similar longings on an individual level, too, desiring that “better time,” whenever that might have been—maybe when we were in high school, or first married, or when the kids were little. If we get stuck in that longing, the here-and-now can seem very much like a briar-filled thicket.

We cannot go back in time, and we probably would not want to do so, were we to think it through. What we can do is take the best of our past experiences, as a people or as a person, and find a way to carry what we learn from them forward. That’s where this verse from Micah becomes useful.

Followers of God know that the best of times always happen in conjunction with a deep relationship with God. When we are with God, we are tapping into promises of eternal joy, timeless truths that color any present moment for the better.

Whatever thicket we find ourselves in, God can lead us out, usually through fellowship with others who follow God. The Great Shepherd has even gone to the cross so we can forever escape the deadly consequences of sin.

Lord, as we walk with you, give us great optimism for the future, knowing you are leading us toward fertile pastures. Amen.

Not Much Has Changed

Daniel 9:1-14

In the first year of Darius son of Ahasuerus, by birth a Mede, who became king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to the prophet Jeremiah, must be fulfilled for the devastation of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

Then I turned to the Lord God, to seek an answer by prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying,

“Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love with those who love you and keep your commandments, we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

“Righteousness is on your side, O Lord, but open shame, as at this day, falls on us, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. Open shame, O Lord, falls on us, our kings, our officials, and our ancestors, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by following his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.

“All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. So the curse and the oath written in the law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against you. He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers, by bringing upon us a calamity so great that what has been done against Jerusalem has never before been done under the whole heaven. Just as it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us. We did not entreat the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and reflecting on his fidelity. So the Lord kept watch over this calamity until he brought it upon us. Indeed, the Lord our God is right in all that he has done; for we have disobeyed his voice.”


It was a different time and a different nation.  Yet, the prayer that Daniel prayed is one that can be prayed by each generation and each nation. 

Daniel’s prayer is called a prayer of confession.  We can have shame upon our nation for we have sinned against God.  From our rulers to even the ones reading this devotion, we all have sinned.  Paul will even remind us in Romans that we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God.

As Methodist Christians, we realize the importance of repentance.  For when we repent, we are responding to God’s prevenient grace. 

Our confession of our sins, iniquities, and wickedness allows God to give us new birth through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is hard to realize that we have brought calamity upon ourselves.  Yet, thankfully, turning to God in faith we find the forgiveness that he has already prepared for us.

God, we are sinners here in America.  We have not listened to you.  Now, we are listening to you.  We admit we have done wrong by you and our neighbors.  Let us know your forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Faith in Jesus

Romans 9:6-18 (NRSV)

It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants; but “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants.

For this is what the promise said, “About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son.” Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac. Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, not by works but by his call) she was told, “The elder shall serve the younger.” As it is written,


“I have loved Jacob,
but I have hated Esau.”


What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses,


“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”


So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.


God has mercy. God has compassion.

God has called all of us to himself. That is mercy.

Some of us have believed the Lord. We live in the promises that God has for those who have faith. We live like Abraham, and like Rebecca. This life of having faith is how we receive God’s compassion.

When we refuse the mercy of God, then we do not receive his compassion. We harden our hearts when we refuse God’s mercy. It behooves us to believe in Jesus Christ so we can not only know mercy, but so we may know and receive compassion from God.


Lord, sometimes we hear people say that you are mean. Yet, because we believe in Jesus, we know that you have mercy and compassion for us. May our lives be filled with your compassion as our faith in Jesus grows deeper and stronger. We lift people to you who have refused your mercy. Use our lives to show your mercy to this world. May our friends and family accept your promises in Jesus Christ. It is in the name of Jesus that we pray, amen.