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REVISITED: The Inner Skeptic

Read Psalm 14

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering.” (Jude 1:22)

chirrut-imwe-and-jyn-erso

Everyone knows that I am a HUGE fan of Star Wars. Recently, the latest film in the Star Wars Universe was released, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”. The film follows a series of mostly new characters who are on a mission to get the blueprint plans of “The Death Star” from the evil Galactic Empire. If they succeed, it is possible that they can find a weakness that will help them destroy a weapon so powerful that it can eliminate entire planets in a matter of seconds.

Without spoiling the story for you (as I run a strict, no spoiler, ship), the characters of Jyn and Cassian are the unlikely leaders of a slim-to-none chance to infiltrate the enemy base and steal the plans of the dreaded battle station, “The Death Star.” All throughout the film, the characters are constantly being tested in their abilities, in their trust of one another, and in their faith.

In fact, wrestling with faith is a MAJOR theme in this film. Each of the characters, in their own way, find themselves wrestling with their faith in the existence of the force. One of the characters, Chirrut Îmwe, is a member of the Guardian of the Whills, which is a religious order that at one time were protectors of the Temple. Following the Temple being raided by the Galactic Empire, the Guardians remained true to their beliefs and sat out in the streets preaching about the Force.

What’s important to note is that thought the age of the Jedi and their use of the force, are not far removed from the time period that this takes place, many question the existence of such a “Force”. The Jedi themselves are quickly fading into mythological obscurity. How quickly hope fades, how quickly people fall from faith into the hopless state of despair. This is, honestly, the human condition.

When Jyn runs into Chirrut, he asked her if she knew what she was wearing around her neck. The crystals she was wearing were what the Empire had come to the Temple to raid, they were what powered the lightsabers. Chirrut sees it as a sign that the Force was alive and well. In fact, throughout the film, this monk kept reciting a powerful mantra, “I am one with the Force,  the Force is with me.”

Throughout the film, there are many skeptics who question this monk’s devotion to what they see as nothing more than a fairytale. Yet, his unwavering faith to the Force witnesses to these people and causes them to see beyond the inner skeptic within them. One by one, each of them is confronted with the choice between placing their faith in the Force or in continuing to deny the Force that is within them and all around them.

What I want to make clear is this, today’s Scripture is NOT calling the one who wrestles with his/her faith a fool. Everyone should be wrestling with their faith in God. It is was makes that faith real and it is how one grows in faith; however, the Scripture is stating that the one who concludes, absolutely and definitively that THERE IS NO GOD is foolish. Such an absolute proclamation leads nowhere but placing oneself in the place of God.

To make that proclamation is to shut oneself off from the discovery of the divine. There is not a single human being that can definitively know Ultimate Reality and, therefore, it is ultimately foolish for them to shut themselves off to the possibility of God based off of whatever limited “evidence” they may think they have. Not one of us can possibly have ALL of the evidence to make any conclusive and definitive proclamation.

We all operate on faith. We operate on the faith that there is a God or we operate on the faith that there is no God. Skepticism is good and healthy; however, it only gets us so far. The question for us is this, can we silence the  inner skeptic? Can we get to the place where we move beyond skepticism and acknowledge the faith that we are already operating on? If so, we can continue to wrestle with our faith and grow in it. I pray that, if you are struggling with your faith, this devotion may be your inner Chirrut Îmwe, reminding you that you are one with the Force (aka God) and that the Force/God is with you. I pray that you choose to move beyond faith in “no God” to faith in the God who is wanting to work miracles in you and through you.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER
Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief. Amen.

REVISTED: The New Year’s Challenge

Read Psalm 119:101-105

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The American Bible Challenge hosted by Jeff Foxworthy

In the late summer of 2012, Jeff Foxworthy hosted a game show show called “The Great American Bible Challenge.” The premise of the show was to quiz people with questions centered on the Bible to see how Biblically literate they were. The contestants were not actually competing to win money for themselves, but would represent a specific charity and the winners would donate their winnings to that charity.

The show, which first premiered on the Game Show Network August 23, 2012, debuted as the network’s highest rated program of all time, bringing in 2.3 million total viewers on its first night. That was the largest amount of viewers in the network’s seventeen year history, proving that the Bible is still very much a marketable venture for entertainment companies to pursue.

Yet, when you look at Biblical literacy in America, the statistics are astounding. According to a Gallup Poll, 16 % of Americans say that they read the Bible daily, 21 % read the Bible on a weekly basis, 12% say they read at least once a month, and 41% say they rarely, if ever, pick up a Bible. Readership of the Bible has declined from 73% to 59% from the 1980’s to our present time. Those numbers are staggering.

I have often heard people say that they find that the Bible is boring, that they don’t understand it, that they don’t have time to read it, and a host of other excuses. Yet, people clearly have an hour to watch a Bible Quiz Show, or ten hours to watch a Bible miniseries. People don’t seem to find the Bible boring when they are Hollywood-ized versions of the Bible and they flock by the millions to soak it all up.

The problem is that Hollywood tells the stories usually from a very narrow perspective. By nature, they need to be told that way; however, the Bible is so much more exciting when read and studied, particularly in a group setting, then when it is being fed to us via a television show. If you like steamy, scandalous romance, check out Samson and Delilah (Judges 16) or David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). If action and adventure suits you, check out the Exodus led by Moses (all of Exodus). God knows there is plenty of horror in the Bible (Judges 19, Daniel 5, Mark 1:23-26, Revelation 13, etc.). If you like drama, check out a book like Esther who rises up over her circumstances.

The challenge to you for this new year is to not become a statistic! Pick up your Bible and read it. Actually read it! There are plenty of things in there that will catch your fancy. If you come across something that doesn’t make sense or grab your interest, move on to something else; however, read your Bible. In fact, join a Bible Study. Join one that will look broadly at the Scriptures and encourage the kinds of open-ended questions that promote learning, understanding and growth. It is my prayer for you, in this new year, that you will find the depth and relevance that the Bible has to offer you in your life. It is my prayer that you will find it to be an life changing, and illuminating, resource in your life. It is my prayer that it will indeed become a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.” – President Theodore Roosevelt

PRAYER

Lord, I pray that you inspire and motivate me to engage scripture and that, through such engagement, I may grow from who I am to who you want me to be. Amen.

REVISITED: A Carpenters Christmas

Read Romans 12:12-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” (Psalms 33:22)

One of my favorite bands to listen to during the Christmas season is The Carpenters. There is something to be said about Karen’s warm and inviting voice reminding us that “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays” or her wishing everyone have themselves “a Merry Little Christmas”. To me, it just isn’t Christmas without the Carpenters Christmas collection.

Part of my love for the Carpenters comes from my mom, who was a huge fan. I can remember back when 8-tracks and records were still the major mediums for listening to music.  My mom had several Carpenter’s albums on both record and on 8-track cassette. I grew up listening to them all and, when it was Christmastime, out came The Carpenter’s Christmas Collection.

Of course, the Karen Carpenter story is not as warm and inviting as her voice. As many people know, Karen Carpenter suffered from a serious and devastating illness called Anorexia Nervosa. This illness is both a psychological and a physical illness in which the sufferer avoids eating and uses other means to lose weight. Though she was a thin person, Karen did not see herself that way and she starved herself with crash diets, and also took laxatives in order to keep her “weight” down.

Unfortunately, the anorexia took a devastatingly damaging toll on her body. The crash dieting had put a huge strain on her heart and, overtime, she started to suffer from irregular heartbeats. On February 4, 1983, only nine days before my 5th birthday (yes…I know I am “young” or “old” depending on who’s reading this), Karen Carpenter passed away from heart failure, which was the result of her years of struggling with anorexia.

Though nothing can ever take away from the tragedy of her untimely death, it was her death that sparked a nationwide movement to educate young people, women in particular, about anorexia. Karen, through her shocking death, inspired people to not only learn about anorexia, but to also work toward helping diagnose the disease in others as well as developing ways to help people overcome it.

The fact of the matter is that through Karen (despite her death), others found hope, healing and wholeness. It is sad that she died and did not find that for herself; however, her death was not in vain as it brought that terrible disease to light in a country that had otherwise paid it no mind. And in that, I see the hope of Christmas. It is Christmastime that reminds us that hope exists even in the worst of circumstances. It is Christmastime that reminds us that, even though our bodies die, HOPE never dies.

No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve been through, no matter what circumstances currently surround you, know that you always have HOPE. Our Hope is Emmanuel…Our Hope is “God with us” in our lives. Through thick and thin, through ups and downs, through the good times and the bad times, HOPE is with you because GOD is with you. Today’s challenge is to recognize the HOPE in your life and cling to it. If there is one thing the Karen Carpenter story teaches us, it is that HOPE never dies. Be a person of HOPE, a person who is hopeful, and a person who gives hope to others.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.” – Martin Luther

PRAYER

Lord, help me to see the hope in all things so that I may bear witness to the hope in all things. Amen.

REVISITED: The Force Awakens

Read Luke 1:5-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The father instantly cried out, ‘I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!’”

Yoda-Luke

So, this is a pretty awesome week and today is the reason it is awesome. Some of you, no doubt, know exactly why today is awesome. Others of you might be scratching your heads. Today is the day that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is released in theaters. I am a huge Star Wars fan and am so glad to see Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) all reunited on the screen in a battle to save the galaxy from the evil Galactic Empire. Yes, this pretty much constitutes me as a nerd, and I am laying claim on it! Star wars is where it is at!

In anticipation of the new film, I have rewatched the Star Wars Saga, starting with Episode 1 and concluding with Episode 6. As I was watching them, I once again became enthralled with and in awe of Master Yoda’s philosophical and, if I may be completely honest, theological teachings. Yes, Star Wars is theological at its very core and, truth be told, are faith-based movies if I have ever seen any. The only difference between these and the films we know to be “faith-based” films produced by Christians, is that George Lucas and the writers of Star Wars use subtlety and allow the theological and philosophical components impact you as they do. They let the theological and faith elements speak for themselves, if you will.

One such example is, and one of my all-time favorite Yoda moments, is when he is teaching young Luke Skywalker while in exile on the planet Dagobah. He is teaching the young apprentice that if he is going to be a Jedi, he is going to need to confront the darkest parts of his life and conquer himself. If he doesn’t, those darkest parts will conquer him and lead him to the dark side. He needs to conquer and move beyond his fears, his anger, and is lack of faith in in the force, as well as in himself. But this, obviously, is no easy task.

In this scene, Luke sees his ship sink into a swamp, where he accidentally landed it, and he instantly loses hope. Yoda challenges him to use the force in order to bring the ship back up and onto dry land. Luke is doubtful he can do it. “It’s to big for me!” he exclaims. “Size matters not,” Yoda snaps back. He tells the Yoda that the force is in all things and transcends all things. He tells him, in essence, that there is nothing too big or too small for anyone of faith to handle. He then challenges him again to use the force in order to lift the X-Wing plane out of the swamp.

“I’ll try,” a doubtful Luke said. “No!” Yoda exclaimed. “Do. Or Do not. There is no try.” But Luke doesn’t get it. He still thinks the plane is too big FOR HIM to lift it out of the swamp; therefore, he only TRIES to lift it out, rather than just believing and doing what his master is trying to teach him. After failing in his attempt to lift the X-Wing, Yoda shakes his head in frustration and then proceeds to lift the plane out of the swamp through the power of the force. “I cannot believe it,” Luke exclaims. Yoda responds, looking Luke resolutely in the eyes, “That is why you fail.”

How true that is, not just in the intergalactic Star Wars universe, but in our lives as well. We claim to be people of faith, we claim that God has the power to build heaven on earth, to bring justice to the oppressed, to bring freedom to the poor, to bring release for the captive and bring hope, healing and wholeness, peace and tranformation to a world desperately in need of it. Yet, what are we doing? Not trying to do…but what are we doing to bring this about? Do we really believe or, like Luke, are we deflated by our own doubt and our own lack of faith? Do we really believe, or will we have the honesty that finally rose up in Luke to admit that we simply can’t believe? For it is that lack of belief that is the real reason we are failing to see any transformation in our lives…let alone in our world. Just as that acknowledgement didn’t mean Luke was hopeless, neither are we. Luke did eventually come to believe, and we can too; the choice is ultimately ours. Choose to build your faith up in God and allow God to work that tranformation in you and in the world around you.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“My success isn’t a result of arrogance – it’s a result of belief.” – Conor McGregor
PRAYER
Lord, help me in my unbelief so that I may fulfill all that it is that you created me for. Amen.

REVISITED: To Do, or To Do Naught? That is the Question.

Read Exodus 3:1-14

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” (John 21:22 NRSV)

On opening day, my wife and I went to the theater to see the film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”. This film is about the Exodus of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. To be more accurate to the text, Moses led more than just the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, rather, the Scriptures say that Moses led a “mixed multitude” (Exodus 12:37-38) of people out of the land of Egypt. That is another story for another day; however, the film re-enacts the Biblical Exodus. Without giving anything but the obvious away, they develop the dynamic between Moses and Rameses II who would have been brothers since Moses was raised by Rameses’ mother. The film shows Moses go from a person of power to a person in exile. It chronicles how he settled in a foreign land, married the daughter of a sheep herder, and eventually found his way up Sinai and found his God-given calling to be the great liberator of his people.

There is one scene that totally sticks out in my mind. God has sent Moses back to Egypt to liberate God’s people; however, Moses, who would’ve had at least some military training (or so the filmmakers presume), thought that God meant that he was to liberate God’s people using military tactics. At one point, God basically told Moses that the military option will just take too long. God told him to just sit back and watch what God had in mind. Moses, quipped back to God, “Oh…after four hundred years you are now starting to get impatient?” God’s response to Moses is one that slaps back at Moses, and certainly at us: “Am I the only one who was doing nothing?”

While one would never find this exchange verbatim in the Bible, it is certainly a theologically apt and appropriate response…one that is true to the heart of Exodus, as well as all of Scripture. How convenient it is for us human beings to point the finger to God and say, “Hey bud, where have you been?” It’s so easy for us to look up to the sapphire sky and question God as if we are not at all to responsible for the way things are going on down here, or for the fact that nothing has seemed to change.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that it is wrong to question God, or that we shouldn’t have a give and take relationship with our Creator. Actually, our relationship should be just that: a give and take. We, as humans, are so quick to point the finger at anything but us. Remember the Garden of Eden? Adam was told by God not to eat the forbidden fruit. Eve, who was not told directly by God, listened to a talking serpent and decided to eat it. She gave it to Adam who, rather than saying no, took the fruit and ate it. When God found out and asked who did it, Adam pointed at Eve and said, “She gave it to me.” Then Eve pointed to the serpent and said, “It was the talking serpent, he made me do it.” And the serpent hung his head, slithered away and said, “I know, I know…I’m cursed forever to slither around on the grownd choking on dust.”

The fact of the matter is, we need to shape up and take responsibility for the part we have played in the things that are happening. In the case of Moses, it’s not that the God was doing nothing. After all, God had brought the Hebrews into Egypt to spare them from drought and famine. The Egyptian pharaohs enslaved the Hebrew…not God. How many people did God call before finally getting a response from Moses? How many people were too afraid to stand against what they knew to be injust and inhumane? Thank God that Moses rose up and took the risk to become the great liberator of the Hebrews and the countless non-Hebrews who came out of Egypt! So, the question for you is…what is God calling you to do, and will you be the one to rise up and do it? Don’t point fingers at someone else, just stand up and step out in faith.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

PRAYER
Lord, you have called me. Clarify your call on my life so that I may all the more clearly respond with my actions. Amen.

REVISITED: Keep CHRIST in Christmas

Read Matthew 10:37-40

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Keep_Christ_in_ChristmasHere we are mid-Advent, fast approaching Christmas. Can you believe how quick Christmas has come this year? It feels like just yesterday I was sitting down at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort enjoying a nice summer vacation (and what summer vacation beats a Disney Vacation?). Yet, here we are nearing mid-December with the countdown to Christmas fast underway.

Speaking of Christmas, have you ever seen the bumper sticker or the little magnet that reads, “Keep CHRIST in Christmas.” That is a phrase that gets passed around quite a bit during this season. But what does keeping CHRIST in Christmas mean? Does it mean keeping the not-so-Christian tradition of Christmas trees and yule logs? Does it mean keeping the tradition of Santa Claus, Elves and his nine (counting Rudolph) reindeer? Does it mean, racing out to the store to funnel our money into big business in order to acquire an excess amount of gifts and Christmas-time deals? Most Christians would probably say no to all of these things.

So let me narrow the question even more. Does keeping CHRIST in Christmas mean watching movies about the Nativity story? Does it mean going to church once out of the year on Christmas Eve? Does it mean singing carols about the Jesus’ birth? Does it mean Christmas pageants and concerts? Does keeping CHRIST in Christmas mean spending time with family and giving gifts to our already abundantly blessed children?

The truth is that I do AGREE that we should be keeping CHRIST in Christmas; however, to do that we have to be open to the change that God wants to spark in us. If we are to truly anticipate the coming of Christ, and if we are to truly welcome Christ into our lives, we must first realize that ADVENT and CHRISTMAS are not a once-a-year type event; rather, every day we live is an opportunity to experience ADVENT.

Christ would much rather us keep him in our lives than in a holiday set aside for observance once a year! But in order to do that we must live into the life that Christ led. We must be willing to give everything up, to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24; Luke 14:27-35). We must be willing to serve the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the disabled, the outcasts, the marginalized and all of those who our society looks down upon (Matthew 25:31-46). In fact, we are to become, according to Jesus, the SERVANTS of ALL (Mark 9:35)!

So, according to the standards set by Jesus himself, how do we keep CHRIST in Christmas? Clearly, buying presents, singing carols, drinking wassail, roasting chestnuts, buying presents and erecting Christmas trees is not what Jesus had in mind. While those things are nice, the reality is they are not at the heart of who CHRIST is or what CHRIST has called us toward. According to the standards set by Jesus, we keep CHRIST in CHRISTMAS by following in his footsteps…not once a year…but every day of our lives for the rest of our lives, until we go on to glory in Christ Jesus our Lord! Amen!

So, starting this Christmas season, and everyday from this point forward, begin to work toward keeping CHRIST in Christmas. Don’t just say the words, as if they are just another meaningless cliché; rather, live into those words by being all that GOD is calling you to be. Love God, by loving your neighbors. Invest yourself in the lives of others. Be present for those in need. Bring God’s gift of hope, healing and wholeness to this broken world and desperate world. Then, and only then, will you be truly keeping CHRIST in Christmas!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” – Charles Dickens

Lord, guide me toward keeping YOU, not only in Christmas, but in my heart. Transform me into your vessel of hope, healing and wholeness. Amen.

REVISITED: Name It, Claim It, Live It!

Read Matthew 2; Luke 2

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.” (John 10:22-23)

MenorahIt’s no big secret to most people that I am not a huge fan of winter. I mean sure, I get the necessity of having the different seasons and I can certainly appreciate the symbolism the cycle of life, but I am not a fan of the bitter cold, the snow, the ice, the howling winds and commuting in those elements. The shortened days and distant sun can be make one feel hollow and depressed.

But with that said one of my favorite times of year happens to lead up to and directly follow the Winter Solstice. Of course I am referring to the season Advent and Christmas. Ironically, though this season commemorates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, it is almost universally accepted that Jesus was not born during the cold winter month of December but at some other time during the year where the weather would be more conducive to shepherds tending their flocks in the field.

Regardless, I believe this time of year is the perfect time to celebrate the coming of the Christ-child. Theologically speaking, the coming of Christ represents the coming of HOPE into the world. What better time for hope than when we are in the midst of the death. Winter has always represented death and dormancy, where the green of life gives way to the cold, hollow grip of death. Yet, it is in winter where we see the hope of Spring and the return, or resurrection, of life.

Aside from the symbolic nature of the Season itself, it is also around this time that those who are Jewish celebrate Hanukkah. That holiday commemorates the Jews being liberated from Greek-Syrian oppression and the rededication of the Jewish Temple to God. This was a festival that Jesus, who was himself Jewish, observed (John 10:22-23). Following a bloody war against their oppressors, the Jews took back Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple to God. Even though there was only enough oil to keep the candles burning for only one day, those candles kept burning bright for all eight days of the festival. Thus, Hanukkah (also known as the festival of lights) is forever a celebration of the arrival of Hope and the reminder that God is always present with God’s people.

‘Tis the season for HOPE. Whether we look to the natural cycle of the season, or to the celebration of Hanukkah or to the humble birth of a small, vulnerable baby in a cruel and murderous world, this time of year will forever point people to the fact that HOPE never dies! Like the menorah burning on the last drops of oil, HOPE can never be extinguished. Like the birth of JEsus reminds us, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem, HOPE does conquer all HOPELESSNESS!

The challenge today is for you to be a person of HOPE! Instead of getting caught up in the fears and the cynicism that the world produces, never give up HOPE. God is challenging us to place our faith in God, and to be filled with the HOPE that such a faith provides. There is HOPE for a brighter tomorrow, but more importantly, there is HOPE for a brighter NOW! Name it, claim it, and live it! Have the HOPE and allow that HOPE to transform you into an agent who bears HOPE for others!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.” – Dalai Lama

PRAYER

Lord, fill me and transform me with your hope so that I may be a beacon of that hope for others. Amen.

REVISITED: Name Your Demons

Read Matthew 8:28-34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.“ (John 8:36)

supergirl

The last thing that I probably needed in my life was to get hooked on yet another television series. As many of you probably know from previous devotions, I already am hooked on The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, The Voice, House of Cards, and certain news programs in order to keep up with the world around me. So the last thing I needed to do was to add another show on top of it. Yet, when I saw that they were coming out with a television show on Supergirl, I just could not resist. I have a thing for Supergirl, call this my confessional, and I was super stoked to see her being given a proper treatment. Well, I wasn’t disapponinted.

In fact, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only is the show smart, fun and witty, it is also rather deep for a “superhero” film. The more and more I watch of this show, the more and more I start to see that there is something larger going than just the stories themselves. Each week I find that I am not only rooting for Kara Zor-El (aka Supergirl), but I find myself relating with her, and learning from her. I find myself laughing, crying and emoting over stuff I am going through in life. This show has been so well written and thoughtout that it literally transcends mere entertainment and is, at least for me, feeding my soul. All of this in a superhero flick.

This past week’s episode is a prime example. In it she battles a robot that seems hell bent on destroying her. What’s worse, this robot seems to be out of control and virtually unstoppable. She just cannot seem to get an edge on it and it seems to be overpowering her, despite how strong she is. The robot is super fast, he can turn himself into a tornado, and has a strenght that matches, if not bests, the strength of Supergirl. What’s more, his super solid exterior makes him a difficult target. Not even Kara’s superpunches cannot penetrate him and she finds herself at a loss.

As it turns out, there is another thing Kara is battling that is an even stronger force than this robot. That force is the anger that she has internalized of the years. At first she thought that she was just mad because the guy she likes is taken and that she’ll never find a special someone for herself. Yet, as the episode goes on, we find out that there is “anger beneath the anger.” She discovers that she was angry at her parents sending her to earth and choosing to stay and die on planet Krypton. She was angry that she never got to say goodbye to her adopted father, never having closure following his disappearance and death. She was angry because as normal as she tried to be, she was not normal. She was angry because she, as a girl, felt invalidated and felt that she had to work twice as hard to prove herself. Her rage was such that she was losing control of it, which was having some pretty awful consequences.

Looking back on the episode, the robot (though it was a real enemy that posed a real threat) was a living embodiment of the hard, brutal, unquenched rage that was burning inside her. It wasn’t until she came to terms with the things that she was struggling with that she was able to focus her rage in appropriate ways. It’s not that the rage within her disappeared, but that she was able to work through it rather than be controlled by it. The challenge for us today is to be like Kara Zor-El. We need to penetrate deep into ourselves and reflect on the hurts and the wounds we find deep inside. Are you angry, are you hurt, are you envious, are you bitter and/or unforgiving? Whatever the case, name your demons, call them out for what they are, and then be free of them. Allow God to turn your struggles in to triumph.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“If you don’t deal with your demons, they will deal with you, and it’s gonna hurt.” – Nikki Sixx

PRAYER
Lord, help me to name my demons so that, through your power and authority, I may cast them far away from me. Amen.

REVISITED: Where is the Justice?

Read Romans 12:15-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Indeed, the LORD will give justice to his people…” (Deuteronomy 32:36a, NLT)

ferguson-free-hug

In 1999, Mel Gibson starred in “Payback,” which was a 1950’s style crime-thriller directed by Brian Helgeland. I say “1950’s style” because it had Mel Gibson narrating his own story in the kind of way you’d expect to see on the classic police television show, “Dragnet”. The only twist is that Gibson’s character “Porter” is not a police officer, but a petty criminal who ends up being double crossed by his former partner-in-crime and his estranged wife. You see, Porter had cheated on his wife who later, to get back at her philandering husband, joined forces with his partner to plot against him. They shoot him (with the intent of killing him) and steal $70,000 from him…money that he, no doubt, stole from someone else.

To make a long story short, and to do so in a way that does not spoil the gritty fun (or perhaps experience is the better word) that the film is, Porter sets out to payback (hence the film’s name) those who did him wrong. He wages a bloody and intense war on his former partner, on his estranged wife and, eventually, on the crime syndicate that is protecting them. By the end of the film you can’t help but wonder what justice, if any, was done. With that said, it totally satisfies the inner need to see the “bad guy” get his in the end. Of course, porter is a “bad guy” who is getting even with other “bad guys.” This is played up in the film’s slogan, “Prepare to root for the bad guy.”

There are times in our life when we feel we have been wronged by our family, our friends, our neighbors, and other people. In those moments, we often cannot help but feel anger and the desire to get back at such people. Even when we are not seeking to get back at them ourselves, we wish that things would happen to them to “teach them a lesson.” We use terms like karma to express our wish for fate to slap them right where it counts and, if possible, allow us to be there to witness the moment it happens. I know that even while driving down the road, I have prayed that the person who cut me off would pass a police officer and get pulled over. I am sure I am not the only one who has prayed such a prayer.

We live in a world that sees REVENGE as justice. When things don’t go our way, when life seems to be unjust and no one seems to care that it is, we feel that we are then justified to take things into our own hands and exact our own brand of justice. In Ferguson, MO, for example, many protesters turned into rioters when they discovered that no charges were going to be brought against Officer Darren Wilson. As a result, a grieving family had to witness their son’s name being frivolously used to incite riots, store owners and community members alike stood helplessly as they watched their neighborhoods burn to the ground, innocent and peaceful protesters ended up having to endure tear gas and no doubt were fearing for their lives, and police officers had to put their lives on the line to try and keep the situation under control! Where’s the justice in all of that? The fact of the matter is that our own brand of “justice” is often not justice. Revenge is not JUSTICE, revenge is wrong and it solves nothing. All it does is create more victims.

If you want to see God’s justice, take a look at the picture for this devotion. It is of an officer who, in the midst of protests in Portland, Oregon over the Michael Brown case, hugged a twelve year-old boy who was crying because he saw the world around him falling a part. He was feeling the weight of the grand jury’s decision and was concerned about police brutality toward young black kids such as himself. In response to seeing the boy crying, the officer asked him what was wrong and, when the boy told him, he asked if he could have one of the “FREE HUGS” the boy’s protest sign was advertising.  JUSTICE is LOVE. JUSTICE is MERCY. Justice is KINDNESS. While the world around is often UNJUST, God is calling us to LIVE JUSTLY, to LOVE MERCY, and to WALK HUMBLY with God. That doesn’t mean that we sit back and let the innocent get trampled over; rather, that means that we peacefully and lovingly stand in solidarity with the oppressed without falling victim to the urge to GET BACK at the oppressor. LIVE JUSTLY and inspire others, through actions of peace and love, to join you in doing the same.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Social justice cannot be attained by violence. Violence kills what it intends to create.” – Pope John Paul II

PRAYER
Lord, help me to spread JUSTICE through peaceful actions of LOVE, MERCY, and COMPASSION. Amen.

REVISITED: Black Friday

Read Luke 6

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” (Matthew 5:40-42)

Black FridayIt’s the day after Thanksgiving, and if you are reading this there are a few possibilities. 1) You are reading it in a long line waiting to check out at your local department store and have nothing better to do at the moment. 2) You just got home from an all-night shopping spree and were just checking your email before hitting the sack for an all day recovery nap. 3) You just woke up from a nice sleep after eating tons of Turkey and stuffing yesterday; you are not the type to rush to the store for anything and so you are reading this with fresh and rested eyes. 4) You are reading this from outside of the United States and, perhaps, none of the top 3 really applies.

Yes, today is the day Americans like to call “Black Friday,” meaning that it’s the days that sales go through the roof as people go shopping for Christmas toys and goodies for their families.  Traditionally, black Friday was the day that stores went from being “in the red” to being “in the black”, meaning that they were no longer negative in the bank account after “Black Friday,” hence its name.

Now, people head out on Black Friday with the best of intentions.  They want to buy as much for their kiddies and family members as possible, for the least amount of money.  After all, Christmas is about giving, isn’t it?  The problem is that, en masse, people tend to get out of control. What starts off as a nice idea to buy people things that we can give them, turns into a stampede as people literally push through and over people in order to be the first to get their pick!  People have literally died on “Black Friday” as a result of the herd, and I do mean herd, of people trampling over them.

On the flip side, there are billions of people around the world that are going without food, water, shelter, clothing, etc. There are community outreach organizations that will not be able to reach all of the people in need in their communities as a result of a lack of funding.  So many people in this world, and in our own communities, are deprived of the major necessities and yet where do we spend our money and resources?

In the end, we like to think that we are teaching our children and our families about giving; in reality, we are teaching our children and families about receiving.  Christmas is very much centered around our families and close friends, making sure that the wealth is shared our own.  Sure, we’ll drop a coin in a bucket on the way into Wal-mart, for good measure; however, what is important is that OUR kids get the presents they want, that OUR family gets the presents we feel they need or would like, and that OUR friends get gifts too.

Jesus had a much more radical view of what it meant to give. For Jesus giving was to be unconditional, which means that we shouldn’t give just based on relation or friendship or any other kind of condition. And, for Jesus, there was no limit as to how much one should give. Jesus gave his entire life, literally, so that others could have the life he gave up.  This devotional is written, not to discourage you from shopping for gifts for your little ones, family and friends but, rather, to encourage you to view the world as your children, family and friends. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world indeed if the poor, the sick, the naked, the destitute, the blind, and all of those in need got to experience “Black Friday”? If you answered yes to that last question, the challenge for you is to do something about it. God bless you as you answer that challenge!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

It is true that to give is to truly receive; however,  you receive so that you may give even more.

PRAYER

Lord, let me be a blessing in the lives of those who need it. Thank you for those who have been a blessing in my life. Amen.