Category Archives: Devotional

The Maestro’s Masterpiece

Read Romans 12

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (1 Corinthians 12:21, NRSV)

The Maestro's MasterpieceOne of the most rewarding things I have ever done has been to work on digitally recording some of Beethoven’s works, including Piano Trio’s Number 5 and 6. In order to do this, I had to learn how to read and interpret really complex sheet music. It was a daunting task at first, but the more and more I worked at it and researched it, the more and more I began to have an understanding of not just the sheet music but of music theory itself.

One of the most amazing things to me was recording the movements of the trios, part by part. First I would record the piano parts. Then I would record the violin followed by the cello parts. During the recording of each part I could hear the beauty, the heart and soul, that was poured into it during its composition. Each part is uniquely beautiful and breathtaking; each part could be a song unto itself.

Then there came the point in the recording where it was time to piece the parts together, followed by the first time listening to all the parts play together. What can be said about it? There are no words in the English language, or any other language for that matter, that would adequately describe the feeling of hearing the harmony of three unique parts blending together to make the full measure of a movement of music! What more, there came the time where I completed all of the movements in the piano Trio, followed by my listening for the first time to all of the movements in the trio! WOW! My goodness, what genius does it take to compose such divinely beautiful music?

It is natural for us, as Christians, to get caught up in what we are doing. And often what we are doing coincides with what our local church communities are doing; therefore, it is often that we as Christians find ourselves working together in the larger context of our local churches and our local communities. But it is also safe to say that by getting caught up in what we are doing we often miss the beauty of the whole movement that God is composing and orchestrating.

We tend to lose sight that God’s scope is much larger and broader than ours. We lose sight of the fact that God has many parts playing, each of them unique, beautiful and equally valuable; however, we also lose fact that no individual part, no matter how great or small, ever exceeds the beauty of the whole movement that God is composing and conducting. What’s more, there is no “whole movement” without all of the individual parts! A trio is not a trio as a duo or a solo. It takes all of the parts to make the whole.

God is not only calling us, on an individual basis, to serve Christ by serving others in the unique and important ways that we do; rather, God is also calling us to accept that others are playing their parts in ways that are just as important as the ways we are serving. God is calling us to recognize that though some of those ways look foreign, perhaps threatening to our ways of thinking, and even seem to contradict our understandings of things, it is God who has the full picture…not us. It is God who is composing and conducting the movement, not us. The challenge for us is to not see ourselves as the best part of God’s movement, or the part that leads God’s movement in the right direction. The challenge for us is to trust that God is in control of the orchestra, that God is the conductor and that God is at work in, through and in spite of all of the parts, composing the greatest masterpiece of all time!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Take note that Paul began and ended his letters recognizing and affirming the ministries of others. We should bear the same spirit.

PRAYER

Lord, I thank you for calling me to do my part in your movement and I thank you for all of the others you have called to do theirs. You are ever amazing! You are the master working out the masterpiece and I am thankful to be a part of it. Amen.

From Lofty Words to Faithful Action

Read John 14; Colossians 2:6-10

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2, see also vs. 3-5 NRSV)

From Lofty Words to Faithful ActionWho is God? What relationship is Jesus to God? Is Jesus of the same essence as God? In other words, has Jesus and God been one for all eternity, or was God alone in the beginning before God made the Word who was to become flesh in the world?  Is Jesus God eternal or begotten of God before Creation? These questions and more have been asked throughout the centuries and, depending on which group of Christians one asks one might receive a different set of answers.

This debate came to a head in the early fourth century C.E. between Alexander of Alexandria in Egypt and Arius, who was a presbyter in Alexandria.  Arius believed that people were putting too much emphasis on the Jesus’ divinity that they were forgetting his humanity. After all, does it not say in John 3:16 that Jesus was God’s only begotten son, explicitly stating that Jesus was brought into existence by the Father?  Yet, Alexander felt that to emphasize Christ’s humanity was to strip Christ of his divinity and to make him less than fully divine.  After all, didn’t that same Gospel of John quote Jesus as saying, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works” (John 14:10, NRSV). Doesn’t Jesus imply here that him and the Father are of the same essence, making Jesus GOD ETERNAL?

So, as can be found so often throughout Christian history, two parties disagree on each other’s theology so much that they feel they have to battle it out.  The matter was debated back and forth at the first Council of Nicaea.  In the end, the emperor Constantine, who was presiding over the council, pushed for a happy medium that would hopefully tie the two sides together, with the larger hope of establishing a Christian religion that would tie his empire together.  Thus the Nicene Creed was established and the compromise reached, “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God], Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father” (Nicene Creed, 325 C.E.).

Alexander’s side was appeased and Arius’ concern seemingly addressed, Jesus was both God and the only-begotten son of God. The two were of the same essence. In reality, nothing was solved and the debate carried on throughout the years. As for Arius, he was exiled following the council’s decision, where he remained for many years; however, Constantine finally allowed him and his followers to return to their homes once Arius muted the points found most objectionable by his critics.

While the debate between Arius and Alexander is long over and the vast majority of Christians accept the Nicene Creed as being the creed all Christians have believed from the beginning, there is an important lesson to be learned from this.  Many Christians get caught up in theological debates over this or that.  This stuff is deeply personal to people and anything that goes against what one believes is often taken as a “personal attack” against “their faith.”  Yet, the question is does God care as much as we do? Are we, who are human and fallible, ever going to get our theologies 100% right on the money? Are we ever going to KNOW God perfectly? Is that what God is calling us to do?

Jesus answers this question in, yet again, the Gospel of John: “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves” (John 14:11, NRSV).  For Jesus, it was less about the intellect and much more about the heart. If we believe in Jesus, regardless of what we believe or how we believe it, we will follow him. If we truly believe in the works that Christ did, we will find ourselves doing those works! Faith leads us to action. Theology IS important as it helps us to grasp at the mystery of the relationship between God and humanity; however, faith in Christ and/or Christ’s works (regardless of how that plays out) is what will lead us to where Christ wants us to be.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“If we are to err, and err we shall, let us err on the side of Grace.” — Rev. Alec Park

PRAYER

Lord, lead me to where you want me to be and extend your grace through me to others. Amen.

Reflectors

Read Matthew 23

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)

ReflectorsWhat is the aim of Christianity? A common answer for this question is that “the aim of Christianity is to bring people to Christ.” But what does that mean? When one digs deep enough, one usually finds that to “bring people to Christ” usually translates to “converting” them to Christianity. When John Wesley was sent to the colony of Georgia, he had the goal of converting the natives to Christianity. On his way over, his confidence was shaken by a series of storms that nearly costed him his life. During the storms he realized that he was still afraid to die, which made him question how much he truly believed in Christ.

Still, he moved forward and entered Georgia with a renewed confidence that he could “convert” the natives. But, as everyone knows, nothing works out as planned.  He was never able to convince the natives that Christianity was anything worth “converting” to. During his stay in Georgia, he managed to fall in love with a woman, who happened to be the chief magistrate’s daughter, only to fumble the relationship with her, angering her prominent family in the process. Eventually he ended up leaving Georgia and returned back to England with even more doubt clouding his mind.

On his way back, John had much to reflect on. He couldn’t help but see his entire venture in Georgia as a failure. His initial goal of converting the natives was a complete failure and, to top things off, he had botched his entire ministry over a love affair gone bad.  Wesley went on to write, “I went to America, to convert the Indians; but oh! who shall convert me? [Who] is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of mischief?”

Of course, John Wesley did go on to find faith, and the Holy Spirit, in his life. The rest is history. He went on to lead one of the most influential Christian movements of his day, a movement that sought to not only preach the Gospel, but to live it out.  For John Wesley, following Christ was no longer about “converting” people to Christianity, but about connecting people to the grace of God.

Jesus, himself, clearly had something against placing the focus on religion.  Everything Jesus did pointed to God, not to his “religion”. Jesus harshly criticized those who forgot their identity in God, all the while over-emphasizing their identity in their religion. For Jesus, the focus should be on God, and on the character of God.  Those who centered their faith on God would bear the fruit of such a faith. Those who did not would bear the fruit contrary to the character of God.

While Christianity has often claimed to know “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), it has often failed to bear the fruit of that.  Let us not cross land and sea to make converts to Christianity, only to turn the converts into children of hell; rather, let us be reminded of Jesus’ harsh words and strive toward something more. Let us, by the grace of God, strive to bring hope, healing and wholeness into the lives of those who need it. Rather than reflecting our religion, let us be reflectors of God’s unconditional grace, the very grace that has been given freely to us. That is what we are called to do.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” – G K Chesterton

PRAYER

Lord, I desire to be a reflection of your grace and I strive to live out my faith. Use me in such ways as brings honor to you. Amen.

The Outsiders

Read Exodus 23:9; John 10:10-16; Hebrews 13:2

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50)

The OutsidersThe man sluggishly walked into the room. It was as if he was moving in super slow motion, as if time was moving moment by deliberate moment.  Each step seemed an eternity as the man entered his way in and walked to the table across the room. He sat down, his tall, dark frame resigning itself to the cool, hard steel chair; his figure slumped forward as he put his head into his hands as if the weight of his head would come crashing down to the table without the support.

The tension in the room thickened the air like corn starch thickens juices of a cooked turkey into gravy. The man could feel the cold, glowering stares that were all pointed in his direction.  He could hear whispers of hushed voices from across the room, people speaking as if they were talking about the deceased at a funeral.

“Who is that man?” one person whispers.  “Dunno…never seen ‘im before” another voice responds. “But I don’t like the look of ‘im. He ain’t from around here, that’s for sure.”

“Son,” another man whispered, “he’s not one of us and that makes him dangerous, and in these times we can’t be too careful.”

The man sat there as the snickering judgments were passed from mouth to ear all around the room. But he paid no attention to them, he was just too exhausted; he had too much weighing down on him.  All he could do was sit there, head cupped in his hands, and pray to God. He had traveled all day and he knew the road ahead would be long and arduous. After all, he was heading cross-country to be among those first responders to arrive in NYC after the attacks on 9/11.

While the above story is fictitious, there is an inherent truth in it. People fear what is unknown to them and what is more unknown than an outsider? What is it that makes us so resistant to outsiders? Even Jesus’ disciples were wary of the man who was exorcising demons in Jesus’ name. It seems natural, even instinctual, for us to want to distance ourselves from people who are outside our group. Whether they are from another culture, another race, another religion or, even more subtly, from another denomination within the same religion, people tend to want to exclude the outsider.

Yet, we find Jesus doing the opposite.  In Luke 9:50,  Jesus tells his disciples not to stop the man from exorcising the demons.  He states that no one who is doing the work of God can be against him. In fact, the disciples should be rejoicing to see that this person is casting out demons. In John 10:16, Jesus also reminds his disciples that there are sheep who “are not of this fold.” In every aspect of Jesus ministry, Jesus surrounded himself with, and embraced, outsiders.

The Gospels are clear that God does not view anyone as being an outsider. Paul’s advocacy for the Gentiles to be included in the sacred Jewish covenant with God, points to the fact that God does not view anyone as being an outsider.  In John 3:16, it says that God “so loved the world”…not “God so loved our group.”  Thus, let us remember to resist the tendency to shun outsiders; by shunning outsiders we are, in actuality, shunning God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

In the Kingdom of Heaven, the only “insiders” are the “outsiders”.

PRAYER

Lord, while I was an outsider, you still regarded me as your own. Open the eyes of my heart so that I may see your image in those around me, regardless of who they and whose group they do or do not belong to. Remind me that you are the one any of us truly belong to. Amen.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Read Matthew 6:25-34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” (Mark 5:36, NRSV)

Don't Worry, Be HappyIf one were to sit back and describe what it was like to be alive during 2012, one would have to state that it was a tense, tense time.  Millions of people are without jobs, many of whom have simply given up looking for work and have dropped out of the work force. To make matters worse, this is not just an American problem, but a global problem. All one has to do is turn on any of the news channels to hear about the economic woes in America and beyond.

To add to that, the situation in the Middle East seems to be coming to a boiling point as we watch the chaos that ensues in the streets of cities from Cairo to Benghazi. All of the major news organizations are reporting day and night on the precarious situations that are stirring, speculating on what is to become of our American country and the world.

We so often find ourselves in a place of unnecessary worry and panic as a result of the things happening around us. Will I lose my job? Will my family be able to survive our financial problems? Will we make it through these times in one piece? Will there be World War 3?  Will the future be safe for my kids and their children? These and so many more questions are constantly flooding our heads.  The stress is enough to paralyze even the strongest of people.

It is in times such as these where Jesus words in Matthew 6:25-34 are both poignant and timely. After all, what will worrying about such things do for us in the end. Can worrying and stressing over financial situations help you to work through them and move beyond them? Can stressing over the chaos of the world help change the world we live in? In fact, wouldn’t it be safe to say that a majority of the world’s problems are a result of people stressing over stuff, from the small stuff to things of import.  Adding stress on top of stress is never going to solve any of the problems in our lives.

Rather, Jesus calls us to put God first.  We are called to let go of our lives, we are called to hand our lives over to God and to put our trust in God. We are called to stop paralyzing ourselves in stress-manufactured fear, and to start walking in the direction God is calling us in. We are to walk in faith, serving others as God is calling us to.  Everything else will follow.

If we do have faith in God, if we do believe God is almighty and is ever-present, if we do believe God will never leave us nor forsake us, then what do we have to worry about?  Rather than worrying, trust that God will get you through whatever situations you find yourself in and move forward in the direction God is calling you to move.  Free yourself from the bonds of fear inducing stress and place all of your hope and trust in the Lord.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

PRAYER

Lord, help me to let go of my fear and trust wholly in you. Amen.

The Power of Prayer

Daniel 3:16-18, Luke 18:1-8, Philippians 4:6-7, Hebrews 10:19-23

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” (Colossians 4:2)

The Power of PrayerThere once was this 3-year-old boy who was in the hospital with a viral infection in the blood stream. He was lying in his hospital bed with IV’s and other needles probing into him. The doctors were at a loss about what they could do to bring this little boy back from the brink of death. They had tried everything and the boy seemed to not be responding well to any of the treatments they were giving him. His parents were so distraught fearing the inevitable that their son would probably not make it through.

Being a people of faith, the boy’s parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents had asked their churches to keep their son in their prayers. Prayer was all that they had left, it was the only thing they, or anyone else (including the doctors), could do at this point. Either the boy was going to pull out of this fine or he was going to die at the age of 3. What a horrible thing for any parent to have to go through.

Finally, on a Sunday morning, the church of the little boy (and no doubt the other churches as well) were gathering to meet for their Sunday morning worship. And during that worship service they stood, circled around the sanctuary, and gathered hands to pray that this boy be healed. Within the very hour that they met for worship and prayed, the little boy sat up in his hospital bed and said to his parents and to the other people in the room, “Jesus healed me. Jesus healed me.” Indeed, he had been healed and when the doctors came in upon hearing the news, they too said that they had witnessed a miracle.

The above story I know to be a true one, because the little boy in that story was me. I know the power of prayer, because I have witnessed it throughout my life. From the time I was afflicted with a viral infection in my bloodstream to the times as a teenager and young adult that I was lost in depression and anxiety, I have felt the presence and power of prayer in my life. I would not be where I am today, if I would be at all, if it were not for prayer. I am not just talking about other people praying for me, but my own personal prayer life as well.

Now, I am not one to say that prayer always “works” out in our favor, and that if you do not get what you want you must not be “praying right” or “praying hard enough.” The power of prayer is not that it is the greatest magic trick in the universe, calling into being whatever the prayerful person wishes. There are plenty of stories that counter my own, where people pray for someone to be healed and the healing never comes. Those people are no less faithful than my parents and family are and it would be theologically and morally irresponsible to say otherwise. Even Jesus prayed for the cup of his suffering to be taken from him, only to find out it had NOT been taken away. (Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42)

Rather, the power of prayer lies within the core of our soul. It’s power lies in its ability to give us hope, even in the face of despair. Prayer helps us connect with the hope that lies with in us, namely the love and presence of God, even when we feel like we are alone in the valley of the shadow of death. Prayer anchors us in the rock of faith. It prepares us for the worst but never lets us lose hope for the best. It enables us to see the best out of the worst situations. Prayer pushes us to action rather than to the stagnation of complacency.

If there is one thing we should never cease doing as Christians, let it be that we never cease praying. Know that there is healing power in prayer regardless of the outcome. Even when people do not recover from illnesses, or wars do not cease to exist, or injustices do not go away, there is miraculous healing in the act of prayer. The miracle is not in the outcome, but in the act of prayer itself. Pray and experience its healing power.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Pray, pray, pray! We’ve got to pray just to make it today.” —M.C. Hammer

PRAYER

Lord, let the prayers of my heart reflect your will. Use me to bring hope, healing and wholeness, through prayer and action, in my life and in the lives of others. Amen.

Anybody Got Some Change?

Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-11; Psalm 23

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Both day and night belong to You; You made the starlight and the sun. You set the boundaries of the earth, and You made both summer and winter.” (Psalms 74:16-17)

SeasonsWell, summer vacation is totally over and the season of summer is coming to an end. The leaves are already beginning to change and some of them have already fallen.  Any one who knows me knows that I LOVE the fall. The smell of wood burning emanating from people’s homes, the smell of the leaves, the fall breeze that chills the air, the smell of apples, cinnamon, and pumpkin. My goodness, and who can forget pumpkin spice coffee?  (I would mention Mallomars, but alas…I am vegan).

All of this is enough to make a fall-crazed person, such as myself, extremely happy; however, the fall also leaves me feeling sad and anxious as I await the uncertain season of winter, already starting to leave finger marks on the ground with its bitter cold, icy hand. The fact is that, just as the seasons are ever-changing, so too is our life. Change is inevitable. It cannot be avoided. Whether we embrace it or not, we WILL change. From the moment we were conceived in our mother’s womb, our lives have been a series of changes.  The only thing that is for certain, the only thing that NEVER changes, is the fact that each moment of our lives is filled with change.

Like the seasons of the year, we often go from times of certainty, warmth, and security to times of uncertainty, isolation and insecurity. Our lives are ever revolving in a circle just like the seasons. We are ever marching onward through life experiencing all the ups and downs that come with it.  And each of the ups and downs we experience forever change us.  But, believe it or not, it is in the change that lies the hope.

Can you imagine a world where it was always summer? A world where the earth never got a break from the summer sun? Can you imagine a world where everything stayed the same. A place where water did not exist to cut through and change the landscape? A place where the leaves on the trees never died to be reborn again?  Even if it is not impossible to imagine such a world, it would be impossible to imagine such a world sustaining life.

Though we are not always happy about the changes that occur in our lives, though we are not always happy with the circumstances that befall us, there is hope.  There is hope that though the sun may seem more distant and cold, it will rise to bring warmth into our lives again. THere is hope that, though days are shorter and the darkness lingers with us longer, a new and warmer season will spring forth to remind us that God has been with us all along.

There is one hope we have, as witnessed to throughout Scripture: God will never leave us nor forsake us.  All we have to do is trust in that promise, no matter how bleak things get, and let the seasons come as they will.  There is no doubt that we will change in the process; however, the kind of change we experience depends on our reaction to the seasons we’re in. God is calling us to a life-giving, spirit growing kind of change, a kind of change that reciprocates itself in the lives of others. This kind of change will spark a rebirth in us and in others just as the ever-present sun sparks the budding and growing of leaves on to the trees.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Know that God is with you as you continue to journey onward through the seasons in his grace!

PRAYER

Gracious and loving God, you are always present with me. In the good times and in the bad times, through all seasons, you are here with me. You will never leave me nor forsake me. Be present through me in the lives of others. Amen.

A Costly Affair

Read Luke 14:25-35

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14, NRSV)

I remember in the town I grew up in there was a business person who was going to build a mall.  He bought up the land, tore down trees and removed the unwanted rocks.  All was in the clear and ready to go.  But there was just one problem, he didn’t count the cost and ended up running short of funds.  His entire business went bankrupt and he, obviously, had to cease construction on the land he had built.

I can remember the huge disappointment I experienced as a kid.  I mean, what kid wouldn’t want a mall in his or her own town, and this mall was going to include a movie theater too! How rockin’ would that have been? But now, there wasn’t going to be any such mall.  I would have to continue on lingering on in the realm of “what could’ve been” all because this guy did not count the cost and lost everything in the process.

While I would not be excited to have a mall built in my town today (after all I can drive now), I think this story bears relevance for us all.  How often do we enter into things without really counting the cost?  This happens no more than in our faith journey. We all want to feel accepted, we all want to feel loved, we all want to be forgiven, we all want to be a part of a community-but we all definitely love the price of FREE.

The problem is that nothing comes without a cost.  While God’s grace is certainly free for the taking, there is a cost for taking it.  If we truly accept the grace of God we will change from who we were to who God wants us to be. We will become disciples; we will become a people in motion, a people who hold the love of neighbor in the same regard as the love of self, a people who endure—in service to other—until the end.

It goes without saying that there is also a cost for not accepting God’s grace.  Just take a look at the world around you.  Look at the wars, the famine, the disease, the hopelessness that can be found ad infinitum on any self-respecting 24 hour news channel.  People are rejecting God’s grace everyday and, in turn, they are going about their lives looking out for numero uno.

Life in general is a costly affair, and every choice we make in life bears a heavy cost. The question is not whether you will end up paying a cost, but which cost are you willing to pay? You will pay one regardless. Will the cost you pay be one that is self-motivated and self-centered? Or will you pay the cost of being a bearer of God’s grace? If you choose the latter, know that it will cost you your time, your talents, your tithes and, most of all, YOUR PRESENCE. But do not be deceived that the “easier” way is any less costly. Count the cost.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

What appears to be easy often turns out worse than what we considered to be hard.

PRAYER

Lord, help me to count the cost of following you and weigh it against the cost of being your disciple.  Use me as a bearer of your Grace and guide me ever toward your will. Amen.

Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing

Read Matthew 7:15-29

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1-2, New Living Translation)

Sheep in Wolves' ClothingFor anyone who has known me for a while, it wouldn’t be breaking any headlines if I confessed that I am a heavy metal fan. Really I am a music lover altogether, but heavy metal is definitely one genre I can’t get enough of.  One of my favorite modern metal bands is called “Demon Hunter” and they also happen to be Christian. Yes, you heard me right. There is a Christian heavy metal band named Demon Hunter.

Ryan Clark, who is the frontman of Demon Hunter, was once interviewed about a song he wrote called, “Follow the Wolves.” The interviewer was asking how that song came about as it seems so contradicting to Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:15. For instance, the song states, “Dismantle the ground they stand on, give power a name. You’ve traveled the path of slander, now bury the shame. Shed rejection; learn to follow the wolves.”

Ryan proceeded to tell a story about a person who was facing rejection within the church for the type of music he was listening to (namely Demon Hunter) and how he had corresponded with this person and found inspiration in the story.  He was reflecting on the judgment going on in that church and many other churches like it.  Ryan was reflecting on how we often judge based off of appearance without really looking deeper than what we see on the surface.

While Demon Hunter may sound like a disgruntled legion of demons screaming out in the darkness to many Christians who are not familiar with metal and take no liking of that genre, that does not mean they are, in fact, demonic and “antichrist”.  In fact, it is Demon Hunter’s ferocious sound and image that attracts so many to come and listen to what they have to say.  And behind the façade of a rough and tough metal band there is a message of hope, healing and wholeness—one that resonates with many people who are experiencing hopelessness in their lives.

Ryan concluded his interview with the following reflection, which I will paraphrase. He told the interviewer that Demon Hunter were actually sheep in wolves clothing. They looked like wolves with their piercings and tattoos. They sound like wolves with their shredded guitars and guttural growls. Yet, if you look past the surface you will see that, in fact, Demon Hunter are sheep, leading people to the Good Shepherd.

Who are we to judge? It is very common for Christians to throw the “wolves” accusation around at Christians who don’t seem to be matching up to our vision of Christianity; however, it is not our vision of Christianity we should be following. In fact, we should not be following Christianity at all; we should be following Christ!  While Christ did warn us to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing, he also told us we would know who’s who by the fruit they bore. Which bears better fruit: the tree of judgment or the tree of hope, healing and wholeness? Anyone leading people to the latter is certainly doing God’s work.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

The value of a person lies far beyond the scope of our human sensibilities.

PRAYER

Lord, open our hearts and minds to those who look, live and lead differently and help us to celebrate the work they are doing for your Kingdom. Teach us to be a people of discernment, but not of judgment. Amen.

What’s the Deal God?

Read Romans 8:26-28

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“But you are a chosen [people], a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

Arthur Miller's "The Crucible"One of my favorite plays is Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”, which is about the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and is also a parallel for the McCarthy era in American history. I remember the first time I read the play in high school and how captivated by it I was. I mean, here were Christians being accused of witchcraft by other Christians. These poor, innocent people were being put to death for not confessing to be something they weren’t. Can you imagine being accused of a crime you didn’t commit? Can you imagine being given the choice of confessing your guilt and losing everything you have (including your good name and reputation) or being put to death for the very crime you didn’t commit? What kind of choice is that? Where is God in that?

I remember asking those very questions as I read through the play. As a Christian, I had grown up in the church believing that God would not let anything bad happen to me. I was led to believe that God would make good things happen for those who believed in him. Yet, here in this play and in my own personal experiences, good things were not happening to people who totally believed in God. In fact, they believed in God so much that they were willing to die rather than confess to something they did not do. And die they did.

For most of my life, I have been a Christian who truly believed in God and who tried to live life according to God’s will. I have not been perfect at it; however, I have tried nonetheless. Yet, when I look over the course of my life, I can distinctly remember bad things happening. In fact, I am willing to wager that most, if not all, professing Christians can look back at their lives and find times that were not what they would label as “good”. Yet, doesn’t scripture state that God makes good things happen for those who believe in God? What’s the deal God?

The problem is not that God is failing to make good on promises, but that we aren’t reading or interpreting the Scriptures accurately. Upon a closer reading of Romans 8:28, one will notice that it reads, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” In other words, ALL THINGS, good or bad, work together FOR GOOD for those who love God and…here’s the kicker…WHO ARE CALLED ACCORDING TO GOD’S PURPOSE.

What is important to remember is that we live in a world filled with people who are all trying to make life good for themselves. If we are honest, we too have been numbered among such people. Thus, in such a world, “bad” things are bound to happen to each and every one of us…as what is good for us is bad for others and vice versa. This is just a fact of life.

Our hope, as Christians, does not lie in God magically preventing our mistakes, and the mistakes of those around us, from reaping their unintended consequences; rather, our hope lies in God’s presence with us despite the bad things happening around us. Even as bad things are happening, God is working in us, through us, and in spite of us in a way that will bring good out of our experiences. Would I claim that my experiencing depression as a teenager was “good”? Absolutely not! However, the fact that I can relate to and have reached many teens who experienced the same things that I did, testifies to the kind of good that can rise out of the ashes of what was “bad”.

But let us not forget the most important part of Romans 8:28. Those who are called according to God’s purpose are the ones who bring God’s plan into fruition. They are the ones through whom God brings the good out of bad situations. It is not that they are setting out to make bad things look good—that would be an impossible task—but that they are, according to God’s will, doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with their God (Micah 6:8). Each Christian is called to fulfill this purpose: to be the hands and feet of Christ. If we do that, then despite the fact that bad things will happen…we will, by the grace of God, rise above them!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Be the good you wish to see in the world. God is calling you to do no less than that.

PRAYER

Lord, while bad things will happen, help me to be the good that arises from those bad things and use me to help others. Amen.