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A LOOK BACK: Go with the Flow

Read Philippians 4:4-9

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

Imacon Color ScannerMy family and I just recently went on a vacation down to South Carolina. The first four days of our vacation were spent at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort. One of the things my wife, daughters and I did was go on a two hour kayaking tour of the bay. We all have been kayaking before and we thought that it would be a relaxing way to spend the last morning of our stay at Hilton Head. As we got into our double kayaks, paired up with our children, we quickly realized that the kayaking tour was not going to be a “relaxing”, lazy river experience. The winds had kicked up and the current became rather strong.

At one point, my youngest daughter and I started to get pulled in the opposite direction from the way that the group was going.  I started to paddle harder and harder, but it was to no avail. The current was simply to strong. My arms got tired and I became panicked and concerned that we were in a hopeless situation. No matter how hard my daughter and I rowed, we just could not get our kayak to turn around and head in the right direction.

Finally, a light went off in my head. I realized that the whole time we were trying to row against the current. We were trying to rely on our own strength to turn ourselves around and row upstream.  Yet, the forces of nature were simply too powerful for my arms and the arms of a 9 year old to row against.  But what if I began to row with the current, what if I let go my desire to go against the current, what if I stopped fighting so hard to do what was ultimately impossible?

“Row right, row right,” I called out to my youngest daughter! The second she heard me she caught on to what I was trying to do and began to row with the current in synch with me.  As we began to pick up speed, I plunged my paddle into the water on the left side of the kayak and began to feel the vessel turn around. “Shallow ro, shallow row,” I called out! With those words, my daughter began to row quickly on both sides using the double paddle. As she rowed the kayak picked up momentum, turned and before we knew it, we were paddling quickly upstream. With in a moment or two, we caught up to the group and, shortly after, were able to see a pod of dolphins swim gracefully by us only a few feet away.

What this experience taught both my daughter and I is that, often times, we find ourselves caught in a current. Rather, than letting go of our fears and going with the flow, we often find ourselves fighting the current. At best, we find ourselves paddling in place and never going anywhere. At worst, we find ourselves exhausted, lost and hopeless.

If you find yourself in such a situation, if you find yourself rowing against the stream, if you find yourself fighting the current, today’s challenge for you is to let go. Allow yourself to go with the flow and to gain momentum. Remember, you do not have the strength alone to fight the tide. But if you let go of your fears and go with the flow, through the grace of God, you can build moment enough to turn yourself around and paddle to where God is calling you to be. With God, there is no such thing as hopeless. Remember that, let go, and let God take you to those rewarding, refreshing waters.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Don’t stand about on the edge of life afraid to venture in. go with the flow of circumstances. Follow the voice within.” – Unknown

PRAYER

Lord, help me to realize that I have little control over the circumstances in my life; however, I do have the choice to hand my desire for control over to you. Guide my life in the direction you see fit and lead me to where it is you are calling me. Amen.

Sent to Siloam

Read John 9:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then Jesus told him, ‘I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.’” (John 9:39)

siloam

At church I have been leading a summer Bible Study for those in our church that teach Children’s Sunday School during the year, so that they have time to be enriched as well as being an enrichment for others. The Study we have been doing is one called “Unusual Gospel” by Rev. Adam Thomas. In he covers the unusual Gospel of John and the unusual healings, the unusual people, and the unusual questions found throughout it. It is a very engaging and refreshing study.

One of the unusual healings is that of the man who was born blind. You may be wondering what is so unusual about that healing. Jesus healed many people, and he’s known to have healed the blind. The story of the man born blind is a very familiar one and is certainly one that many of us have heard if not have memorized. So what exactly is unusual about it?

In the story, Jesus approaches the man born blind, spits on the ground, makes mud and rubs it on the man’s eyes. Yuck! Then he tells the man to go and wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam. The man, who now has Jesus saliva and dirt mixture smeared on his face, goes to the pool and washes his eyes. As he does so, he finds that he is healed. When he returned from the pool the people around him were astonished. In fact, they were more than astonished…they were confused. Something looked familiar about this man…but they just couldn’t place him.

“Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg,” his neighbors and other witnesses asked each other? Some replied, “Nah…this isn’t that man, he just looks like him.” The beggar kept assuring “I am the same one…I am the same one!” No one seemed to listen or recognize him…and when they did recognize him, they were more concerned with who healed him than the fact that he had been healed. The irony is that this man at one point could not physically see; however, his healing had revealed who was truly blind.

The people were blind to the blind man. They never really saw him for who he was. They only ever saw his limitation. When they looked at the blind man, they only ever saw blindness. And notice what I, the writers of the Bible, Jesus’ disciples, and the Bible translators often do…we all tend to label this man as “The Blind Man” or “The Man Born Blind”, despite that he was healed and HIS BLINDNESS wasn’t who he really was!

Jesus revealed that to him and to the disciples. Through the healing, Jesus also revealed the blindness of the man’s neighbors. They didn’t know anything about this man, but that he was blind. That is how they identified him…as blind. And Jesus revealed their own blindness to them. Through this unusual healing, Jesus reveals our blindness to us as well. How often do we identify people by their limitations. How often do we name them after their limitations. The Blind Person, The Drunk Person, That Suicidal Person, those Old People, that Young person. How often do we only see the label, the supposed “limitation”, but are blind to the actual person…the actual child of God that is before us.

Like he did in this unusual healing, Jesus is showing us our blindness and he is offering us healing from that blindness. If we humbly recognize that we have mud of our own on our eyes, if we obediently wash that mud off, if we open our eyes to the people that we’ve been blind to, we will be healed from that blindness. God wants us to see people as they really are, not for what we’ve deemed them to be. God is sending you to Siloam. Be healed and transformed!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Hate and mistrust are the children of [spiritual] blindness.” – William Watson

PRAYER
Lord, open the eyes of my heart for I want to see you in the people around me. Break me free from the chains of my blindness and give me the ability to see through your eyes. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: The Task at Hand

Read Acts 20:20-24

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:12)

1600x1200-11587-nosferatu-wallpaper-hd

I have been a life-long fan of the classic horror films. Lon Chaney, Sr.’s “The Phantom of the Opera,” F.W. Murnau’s “Faust”, Lon Chaney, Jr.’s “The Wolfman”, Henry Hull’s “The Werewolf of London”, Bela Legosi’s “Dracula”, Boris Karloff’s “Frankenstein” and “The Mummy”. My all-time favorite horror film from the Silent Film era, is F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu: eine Symphonie des Grauens” (translated as “Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror). The film is a German Expressionist film about a vampire coming to Germany to prey on its citizens and it was loosely based on Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”.

What makes me love this film is its use of lighting and shadow to pull off eerie special effects, the makeup work that was done to Max Schreck who plays the infamous “Count Orlok”, as well as Schreck’s amazing character acting. When watching the film, it is impossible to see Schreck’s Orlok as a “human being.” His rat-like features, pointy ears, sunken eyes, long tallon-like fingers, gaunt and lanky stature, and pale skin really make this character appear to be the monster that he is. Looking at him would make anyone’s skin crawl. Murnau created a film that is timeless and never feels dated, even though it is in black & white and has no audio aside from the music that has been added to it.

Back in 2011, I embarked on a project to rescore “Nosferatu.” There have been many attempts to rescore it, each trying to “update” the music in a way that makes it feel fresh and new; however, I have found every attempt (for the most part) to fall short of the film. None of the soundtracks seemed, in my opinion, to do justice to this film. So I figured I would rescore it, not trying to “update” the score with bells and whistles but, rather, trying to keep it simple and foreboding. I wanted a score that would give one the sense that evil was coming, and the urgency to rid the world of it.

As with all “great” ideas, it sounded much easier than it turned out to be. It is now July of 2014, and I have yet to finish the score. Life came in the way and I became preoccupied in other things. Inevitably, I let the rescoring of “Nosferatu” take a back seat to the “busy-ness” of life. Just recently, I decided to pick the project back up and to work on it whenever I have to the chance too. The more I work on it, the closer I get to completing it, the more and more fulfilled I feel. To be honest, whenever I start something without completing it, I feel incomplete.

While I have been using a “hobby” of mine as an illustration, how much more true is it that we feel incomplete when we don’t finish what Christ has called us, the church, to do. We are all called to be agents of God’s Kingdom of Heaven, of God’s hope, healing and wholeness, and we are all called to do different tasks in order to continue to usher in that Kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven. Yet, often times we get “burned out”, or the “busy-ness” of life gets in our way and we begin to fall away from the task that we’ve all been called to.

In the process, we find ourselves feeling incomplete. We often find ourselves lost, literally, in things that fill our time, but not our souls. Christ is calling us to reprioritize and to recommit our lives to the purpose that God has laid out for us. Let us not be a people that only starts projects, but never sees them through to completion; rather, let us be a people that completes that task at hand. Let us keep fighting the good fight and continuing on in the race. Let us remove the distractions of purposeless “busy-ness” and remember what it is that we’ve been called to do. Once we are realigned with our purpose, we shall feel fulfilled!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” – John F. Kennedy

PRAYER

Lord, remind me of my purpose and spark a passion in me to see it through to completion. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Guilt-Free Zone

Read Psalm 22:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

grief

As a pastor and a spiritual counselor, I often deal with people who are going through rough times in their lives. Perhaps they have just lost a loved one and are beginning to go through the grieving process. Perhaps they are struggling in their relationships with others or with God. Perhaps they have been separated (for whatever reason) from their loved one(s). Perhaps they are struggling with alcoholism and/or addiction, or perhaps they know and love someone who is. Perhaps they are going through rough times financially or physically and they do not know how to begin to cope with the problems that are piling on top of them.

Whatever the case may be, each of us struggles in life one way or another. There is not a single person in this world who breezes through life without a host of “somethings” weighing them down. Each of us have our own set of struggles that we go through. I personally have suffered from teenage depression, the loss of loved ones, sudden and unexpected unemployment, financial difficulties, relationship struggles, and a whole host of other issues. And there were times I felt so burdened down by the weight of everything that I wondered if I could even carry on.

It is human to question ourselves, our surroundings, our situations and even God when things seem to be pressing down on us and crushing the life out of us. It is natural and human to be angry at God, to cry out from the depths of our soul in despair, to question where God has been in our lives. It is natural and healthy for us to be able to engage God with those questions; however, often times we feel guilty for doing so.

When we get angry at God, when we question why God is allowing stuff to happen to us, and when we begin to wonder if God is even there at all, we often will feel guilty because we feel that such anger, such questioning, and such “doubt” is a sign that our faith is weakening, or that it is a sign we don’t have faith, and that God will somehow hold that against us. We often pressure ourselves into repressing our emotions and shutting ourselves off from asking the questions that we so desperately need to ask.

What I would like to impart to you today is that you DO NOT need to add guilt to your grief. First, I would like to challenge you to rethink the question, “why is God allowing this to happen to me?” Is God “ALLOWING” something to happen or does life happen, with all of its ups and downs, despite what God does or doesn’t want? Second, God is love. God is grace. God is present. Repeat those words to yourself, make them your mantra and trust that God is with you, that God wants NOTHING MORE than for you to have hope, for you to rise up out of the situation you’re in, for you to heal, and for you to experience wholeness.

With that said, you do not need to add guilt to your grief. God doesn’t do guilt; guilt is not from God! It is not only okay for you to express your anger and doubt to God, but God WANTS YOU TO. It is a part of the grieving process, when we are grieving any type of loss or circumstance, and it is necessary to our health. Anger, doubt, and asking God the tough questions does not show a dying faith or a lack of faith; rather, quite the contrary…it shows a STRONG FAITH and a STRONG RELATIONSHIP with GOD.

So fear not, God is with you! Be liberated in the fact that you are not alone in your struggles. That in spirit, and in the lives of those supporting you, GOD IS WITH YOU. Do not add guilt to your grief, for your grief is enough to bear on its own. God is calling out to you through the words of Jesus, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, for I will give you rest.”

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“I am with you. I will not fail you or forsake you.” – God (Joshua 1:5)

PRAYER

Lord, thank you for your undying presence in my life and thank you for your listening to me in my times of need. Help me to see when I cannot and to have the peace of your presence when the storms rage on and I feel alone. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Dying for Both Sides

Read Galatians 2

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Pray that I will be rescued from those in Judea who refuse to obey God. Pray also that the believers there will be willing to accept the donation I am taking to Jerusalem.” (Romans 15:31)

saint-paul-the-apostle-07

In the Bible, there is a man named Saul who was born in the city of Tarsus in the Roman province of Cilicia. He was well educated and rose up to be a scholar of the Torah, a Pharisee, and a zealous defender of the Jewish faith. When a new sect of Judaism broke out claiming that a Nazarene rabbi by the name of Yeshua bar Joseph was the messiah and that Gentiles should be included in the Jewish covenant, he lashed out against the group, having many of them arrested. According to Acts, one was even killed.

With that said, this Saul encountered the risen Yeshua, you may know him by his Greek name Jesus, somewhere in or around Damascus, which is a city in Syria. This experience transformed Saul into a follower of Jesus. Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians that, following the encounter with Christ, he went into Arabia for a while and then came back to Damascus. After three years he went to Jerusalem and met with Jesus’ brother James, and his disciples Peter and John.

To make a long story short, Jesus’ brother James and Paul didn’t really get along…at all. Peter and John weren’t too crazy about Paul either. James believed that in order for Gentiles (non-Jews) to become a follower of Christ they had to first become Jewish, since Jesus was a Jew. Paul thought this was ludicrous, seeing Jesus’ death and resurrection as the opening up of the covenant to Gentiles. If they had faith in Jesus who was likened to a Gentile on the cross (being under God’s curse as the Torah claims of anyone hung on a tree), then they would be brought into the Jewish covenant despite not being circumcised or being bound to any one of the Jewish laws.

Though they struck a deal and Paul left thinking he had their blessing to go and preach the Gospel as he felt Jesus had called him to do, James, Peter and John never really accepted Paul’s vision. We find out from Paul in his letter to the Galatians, and in Acts, that James and his followers were counteracting Paul’s Gospel message and causing people to question this “self-proclaimed apostle” who had never been an eye-witness of Jesus. This angered Paul, as anyone would imagine, but it did not stop him from trying.

Paul had been gathering up a collection for the church in Jerusalem and he was going to bring that collection to them, hoping to reconcile their differences if it cost him his very life. Paul was afraid it would. His last written words, written to the church in Rome (a community he had never met), ask for prayers that the non-believing Jews won’t attack him (as he was a heretic in their eyes having abandoned his Pharisaic Judaism for this new messianic Judaism) and that the church in Jerusalem would accept his offering. Unfortunately, his prayers were not answered.

Paul was arrested, and eventually died, trying to get both sides (his and James’) to be unified, even if different, in the cause of Christ. Today, like then, the church is split on many fronts and we seem to get stuck on one side or the other. We fail to see Christ in the midst of our differences. Like Paul, we are called to see Christ in those who believe differently than us. We are called to find the balance of reconciliation, even while remaining true to what we firmly believe. There are many contentious issues dividing the church, yet there is still ONE Lord! Rather than deeming each other heretics, let us have the grace and the humility to see that Christ is indeed working in, through, and in spite of us all! Remember, he Gospel calls us to be a people who are unified in LOVE, even if divided by difference.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“You don’t get unity by ignoring the questions that have to be faced.” – Jay Weatherill

PRAYER

Lord, help me to see you even in those who think and believe differently than me. Humble me, I pray. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Risky Business

Read Matthew 8:1-4

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:17-18)

jesus-heals-the-leper

As I have mentioned before, one of my favorite TV shows as of late is the AMC series, “The Walking Dead.” Aside from it being about a world overrun by zombies, the show is filled with situational ethics, moral dilemmas, as well as metaphors for life.  Each character is tested to their limits with the things they have to deal with. They are literally living in a nightmare world and it is hard to imagine yourself having to live in a world like that.

Then again, take a look at the world around you. Our world may not be overrun by the walking dead; however, when you think about it, our world is filled with much worse. There are children being used as human shields, women being treated like property or worse, boys being forced to join armies and die for tyrants and murderous leaders. There are people starving because their economies are being undercut by rich, Western economies. There are people dying of common illnesses because corrupt governments won’t allow humanitarian aid into their countries.

We live in a broken, and often times ugly, world. Our reality may be different than the one found in “The Walking Dead”, however, if it is different, it is only so on the surface. In one episode of the series, the group is being threatened by a nasty illness that is highly contagious. In fact, there is an outbreak in the group and many of the people are isolated to keep the illness from spreading. The healthy people were separated from the sick. The sick, in essence, were left to choke on the blood they were coughing up…until they die.

One man, named Hershel, decided he wasn’t going to sit by and watch those people die. He went out and collected berries to make a tea that he knew was helpful for people who were sick with illnesses like the flu, and he was hoping that it would help buy others enough time to go and find medicine to bring back. But in order to give the people the tea, he had to go into the isolated area and risk being infected himself.

Though the others tried to talk him out of it, he couldn’t be persuaded. He went into the isolated area and began to treat one of the doctors who had fallen ill because he had been treating others. He cared for the man and even had blood coughed up on him in the process. Despite the personal risk to his own health, he chose to be present to someone in need of his help.

When I saw this, I instantly thought of Jesus. How many sick, disease-ridden people did Jesus surround himself with. How many of them touched him, breathed on him, coughed on him? He was laying his hands on people with contagious skin diseases such as leprosy. He was constantly putting himself at risk for others. Ministry, after all, is totally risky buisness…and God is calling us to it.

We have been given the opportunity to not value ourselves above others. We have been given the opportunity to take the next step in our faith and be present for people in need, no matter what the cost is. We have been called to be healers for those who are not well. We are called to risk it all for “the least of these”, just as Jesus did for us. Whether or not people are suffering from a physical illness, from oppression, from poverty, from starvation or anything else, Christ has called us into an active and living faith. Today’s challenge is for you, if you haven’t already, to begin to answer that call.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” – Hippocrates

PRAYER
Lord, use me to bring hope, healing and wholeness to those who need it. Use me also to bring others your peace. Show me what you would have me do today. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Beyond the ‘L’ Word

Read John 14:11-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

Quote

In our culture, we often romanticize what love is, do we not? When we hear the word “love”, we often think of bouquets of flowers, long walks along the shoreline in the moonlight, and romantic gondola rides through Venice. We often think of warm candlelight, nights with a loved one by the fireplace, and all of the warm and fuzzies that make our hearts flutter at the sound of “love.”

How can we help having such an image? Our culture is constantly feeding us with this understanding of love. Our supermarkets and bookstores are lined with romance novels, magazines with tips on having a better love life, cards that tell your significant others how much you love them and many other things that paint this particular picture of love. We are inundated with love songs that fill the radio airwaves and our mp3 players. Just try and find a song on the radio that is NOT about romantic love. They exist, but they are definitely hard to find. Romance also shows up in movies where characters are “in love” with people as well as monsters such as vampires, werewolves and, if you can believe it, even zombies.

If you were a visitor from another planet and you were trying to understand our language, you would come to the conclusion the word “love” mostly means “romance. Yet does that sufficiently describe the word love? Is romance all there is to the word love, or does love extend far beyond that particular definition. I am sure most, if not all, people know the answers to those questions; however, when love plays out in different ways in our lives we often don’t recognize it for the love that it is.

When I was a teenager, my parents loved me by not allowing me to do EVERYTHING I ever wanted to do. The loved me by not always letting me have my way. The loved me by allowing me to make mistakes and suffer the consequences. They loved me by holding me accountable to the expectations the set of me. They also loved me by letting me go to experience the world on my own terms. That last one is, perhaps, the hardest love for a parent to exhibit. Letting go, holding people accountable, allowing people to make their choices and reap the consequences, and saying “no” to people, often does not sound or feel like love. Yet, depending on the circumstances, it can and often is a form of love!

When Jesus called Peter to love and feed his sheep, he was not calling him to romance; however, he was calling him love in a much more profound and powerful way. He was called to love people as a brother, as a friend, and as a parent; however, Peter was also called to love beyond those classifications as well. He was called to love as GOD LOVES. He was called to invite those who wished to be invited and let go those who wished to be let go. He was called to guide and to lead; however, he was also called to step down and be led. He was called to live a life that brought hope, healing and wholeness to others, even if the cost of that would be his very life.

Christ calls us to do the same, we are not merely called to love our significant others. We are not called to get overly attached to the warm and the fuzzies; rather, we are called to exhibit the very LOVE of God. We are called to invite and to let go. We are called to guide and to lead, as well as to step down and be led. We are called to love our neighbors, and even our enemies, as we love ourselves. There is nothing that falls outside the breadth of God’s unconditional and unquellable love. Know that you are loved and BE LOVE in the lives of others. If God is love, and you are in God, then you are LOVE too!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Where there is love, there is life.” – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

PRAYER

Lord, lead me ever deeper into a life of love. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Evil Begotten

Read Romans 12:9-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

Maleficent2

Boy do my wife and daughters know how to make me feel special. Several years ago, for Father’s day, following church and fellowship, they treated me out to see: Disney’s “Maleficent”, which stars Angelina Jolie in the title role. What a spectacular film to get to see and it actually exceeded my expectations, which were quite high, in ways I never foresaw.

While I am not going to ruin the film with spoilers, I will address a theme that is predominant in the film in a way that does not give away anymore of the plot than the trailers and/or previews give. The movie starts off with a young fairy named Maleficent, who was actually anything but Maleficent. She was kind-hearted, thoughtful and filled with the love of life. But all of that changes after her heart, her trust and her hope are broken because of the evil deeds of a greedy and vengeful king.

The evil that was perpetrated against her land, and the evil that was perpetrated against her and her kind, caused her to grow angry and resentful. It drove her to hate the king and all humans for what they had done toward her. It spiraled her downward into becoming a hellish, shadowing, and vengeful queen seeking to bring curses against the ones who sought to destroy her. Evil had begotten evil.

For those of you who have seen the original Walt Disney classic, Sleeping Beauty, you know what becomes of Maleficent and what the evil begotten above did to her. Evil never stays in one place and it found it’s way into the life of an innocent girl named Aurora, who was to be princess of the land. Because of Maleficent’s evil curse, this princess was doomed to be in a “sleep like death”, which could only be broken by “true love’s kiss.” What a sad and tragic story indeed. Where does the evil end?

Some of you might be screaming, “Time out! Why is it that this world wants you to sympathize with the villains? Who cares why Maleficent did what she did?!?! It was wrong and there is no excuse for it!” That is true, there is not excuse for the evil that Maleficent perpetrated on others; however, the world is not so black and white. It is easy when we look at the Maleficents of the world and point the finger, but not so easy when we are forced to look in the mirror at ourselves. How has evil affected you? How have you let the hurts you’ve endured and the challenges that you have faced to effect you? Have you ever lashed out at others because you yourself were hurt and/or vulnerable?

For each of us, the answer to these questions and others like them will be different. Each of us carries around our own set of baggage. Each of us have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and have been a participant in sin, and even evil, whether we realize it or not. The point of this is not to shame you or make you feel guilty, but to humbly liberate you from the judgmentalism we so often get trapped in.

Sitting in the judgment seat of God (as Maleficent ended up doing), is not the way to stop evil in its tracks; rather, the best way to stop evil is to simply choose not to participate in it and to counter act it with our love and compassion. We have the choice to repent of our own participation in evil, to reject its pull on our lives, and to rise up out of it with the strong wings of God’s grace. Though we have all suffered, one way or the other, as a result of evil…we can choose not follow suit. So, say NO to evil and YES to the “true love” that God is willing to fill you with.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. – Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 5:44-45

PRAYER

Lord, pull me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Fill me with your forgiveness so that I may forgive. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Legacy

Read Luke 10:25-37

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

Henry G. Appenzeller

Have you ever heard the name Henry Appenzeller? My guess is that you more than likely have not heard of that name, unless you are a Korean Methodist and/or have happened to study at Drew Theological School in Madison, NJ. Henry Gerhard Appenzeller was born on February 6, 1858 a mother and father who were in the German Reformed Church. In 1879, at the age of 21, Appenzeller joined the Methodist Episcopal Church three years after having a profound conversion experience and quickly started serving as a Methodist minister. Being a  minister led him to Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, NJ and it was there that Appenzeller found the call to be an overseas missionary in Korea. At the time he arrived, Korea was in a political struggle and Christianity was not a welcomed religion. Missionaries could not set up churches, nor could they preach in public. Initially, Appenzeller’s ministry had to be done secretly.

In just two years, though, worship in public became possible and Appenzeller established a chapel for Christian services. In his time as a pastor in Seoul, Appenzeller founded a boys school, converted and trained people as disciples of Christ (in the Methodist tradition), and served on the board of Bible Translators who were working to translate the Bible into Korean. Today, Appenzeller is seen as the founder of the Korean Methodist Church which, as of 2001, comprised of 5,262 churches, 1,396,514 members, and 7,298 ministers. What’s more, six Methodist Universities have since been established, as well as the Methodist Theological Seminary in Seoul, six theological institutes, and fifty-four junior high and high schools.

While these are all some pretty outstanding achievements by a man who, for a majority of American Christians, has mostly gone unnoticed, Appenzeller’s character is best seen through the last thing he did before he died. On a boat that was taking him to a Bible Translation board meeting in the city of Mokpo, the boat capsized and ended up sinking. An advanced swimmer, Appenzeller swam to safety, but soon realized that not everyone had. As a result, he swam back out to help rescue those who had not gotten out.

Unfortunately, he drowned in an attempt to save a young Korean girl from drowning; however, Appenzeller’s legacy did not die with him. It lives on in countless devout Korean Methodists who not only serve Christ in Korea but throughout the world, including here in America. In fact, I was recently commissioned and one of the Bishops who laid hands on me was Bishop Kim of Seoul Annual Conference in South Korea.

In Matthew 16:25, Jesus says that whoever wishes to save their life will lose it, but those who lose it for the sake of God’s GOOD NEWS of hope, healing, and wholeness, will have eternal life. I cannot help but think of Henry Appenzeller and the countless others who have given their life up for the sake others. We are called to not prize our lives over the lives of others, but to see the divine image of God in all people, everywhere. Jesus calls us to be present for the lonely, to be love for the hated, to bear acceptance for the rejected, to be freedom for the enslaved, to bring food for the hungry and shelter for the homeless. We are to bring guidance and direction for those who feel lost. If we do that, if we live as Christ lived and be God’s Kingdom in the world, we too will build a legacy that far outreaches our earthly lives.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER

Lord, teach me to be like the Samaritan and continue to equip me to carry out your work of LOVE in the world around me, whatever the cost. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: From Sand to Cement

Read Hebrews 10:24-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

For where two or three gather together as My followers, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20, NLT)

sandbags

Last weekend, while down at our Annual Conference down in Wildwood, NJ, I made sure that I got up at 6 am every morning to do one of my favorite things in the world. I would get up, get dressed, plug earphones into my music, and take a nice four mile jog on the beach. I just love going for a jog, no matter where I am; however, there is nothing quite like jogging along the shoreline, right by the water’s edge.

One of those mornings my oldest daughter came with me. We ran a good two or more miles South heading from Wildwood to Wildwood Crest. I was very proud of my daughter who jogged the first 2 miles with me. It’s amazing to see how much her endurance has grown over the past couple of years and it is a pleasure being able to share in a run with her, with both of us enjoying the time together and the time exercising.

On the way back, she asked me, “Dad, are we supposed to stay off the dunes?” I looked at her and smiled, while replying, “Yes, we should stay off the dunes.” She then asked me why that was. “Is it to protect the natural habitat of the animals,” she asked, rather wisely and inquisitively. “Yes,” I responded, “part of the reason is to protect the natural habitat; however, the dunes also play another important role. You see, they help to act as a natural barrier when storms cause the water to come this far up the beach. In a major hurricane they wouldn’t be large or strong enough, but they do act as a line of defense against storm surges.”

I then brought up the fact that whenever there is flooding, people will often build up walls of sand bags. My daughter was amazed at this. “How can sand really stop water from gushing out and flooding everything? Sand is so small and washes away so easily.” Her point was a valid one and, so, I responded, “Yes, loose sand is pretty small and insignificant. But when the sand is bound together in a bag, packed in tightly, it goes from being loose and wish-washy to being like a cement wall. One grain of sand is pretty insignificant; however, trillions upon trillions of grains of sand packed and working together is a force to be reckoned with!”

What an important lesson of us, as people of faith, to learn. We often think of doing BIG THINGS and CHANGING THE WORLD; however, when we head out there to do it we feel so small and insignificant. We often find ourselves wondering if we can really change anything. We become confused, discouraged, and we often end up feeling helpless and hopeless. What’s more tragic is that, in the end, we often give up on our call to be an agent of change.

But God has not called us to individual grains of sand. We are not called to be islands floating out in the middle of nowhere; rather, we have been called into community with one another. When Jesus was ministering to his people in ancient Israel (then known as the Roman Provence of Palestine), he did not do so alone. Instead, he gathered a group of twelve disciples and, actually, had many more disciples and followers than that.

Together, they were able to bring REAL change…REAL HOPE, HEALING, and WHOLENESS to the “least of these” in his community. That is what we are being called to do…not alone, but together as God’s children…as God’s community of faith. It is together, working as the hands and feet of Christ, that we really witness to the world the transforming POWER of God’s LOVE!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” – Rollo May

PRAYER

Lord, bring me ever deeper into your community of followers so that I may be a blessing to them and, likewise, them to me. Guide us forward so that we may bring your transformative love into the lives of others, one person at a time. Amen.