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.

Proving God?

Read Romans 8:20-25; Hebrews 11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Those who trust in their own wits are fools; but those who walk in wisdom come through safely.” (Proverbs 28:26)

Michelangelo's "God Touching Adam" segment of the Sistine Chapel CeilingI once read a book by a prominent atheist named Richard Dawkins.  The book was entitled, “The God Delusion” and it put forth the proposition that anyone who believes in God is delusional and ignorant because they choose to believe in God despite what Dawkins believes to be overwhelming evidence that points to a reality in which God does not exist. In it, Dawkins writes, “If all the evidence in the universe turned in favour of creationism, I would be the first to admit it, and I would immediately change my mind. As things stand, however, all available evidence (and there is a vast amount of it) favours evolution” (The God Delusion, 19).

It should suffice to say that Dawkins, while a brilliant Evolutionary Biologist and scientist, definitely overstepped his brilliance when he entered into the world of philosophy and, especially, theology.  Dawkins pretty much falls into the trap of logical fallacies as he builds religion (namely Judaism and Christianity) into a straw man that he can easily knock down, presuming that Judeo-Christian beliefs are, in reality, exactly as he sets them up to be. Some Christian theologians, such as Alister McGrath, countered Dawkins by pointing out the weaknesses of his arguments, his lack of theological understanding, and his misrepresentation of religion in general.

Unfortunately, though, many Christians fall into Dawkins’ trap by entering into the world of “evidence” with him.  In fact, Christians have tried to “prove” the existence of God long before Dawkins was ever born. People like Anselm and Aquinas tried to come up with logical proofs that God exists. The debate over evidence of God’s existence has carried into our modern times as well. In front of me I have sitting the “Evidence Bible”, published by Bridge-Logos, that claims to give “irrefutable evidence for the thinking mind” and claims to “prove God’s existence.”

Not only is trying to “prove God’s existence” a losing venture, it is a senseless one too. Ironically, the very Bible which supposedly gives “evidence” of God’s existence teaches us not to be worried about such things.  Paul writes in Romans 8:24 that we are saved by hope (aka Faith). Paul says, “hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?” And, honestly, that is a very poignant question.  If we empirically KNOW something exists, if we have physical evidence proving the existence of God, what do we need faith for?

Physical evidence does not prove or disprove anything beyond what is in the physical/material world. As believers, we “KNOW” God exists in our hearts (not our heads) because we have experienced God in our lives. Rather than getting caught up in futile attempts to engage people in an intellectual match of wits on the “evidence” of the existence of God, why don’t we show people the hope that we have experienced ourselves by loving others the way God has loved us.  That will have more far-reaching effects than both Dawkins’ book and the “Evidence Bible” combined.

God is not calling us to prove something that can be experienced all around us (Romans 1:20); rather God is calling us to be agents of hope, healing and wholeness in the world. If we don’t get distracted by fruitless arguments and debates, if we don’t get pulled away from our task, we can be a witness of the true presence of God in the lives of those around us. There is certainly nothing delusional about being love in the lives who need it!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Faith is not something that goes against the evidence, it goes beyond it.” ― Alister E. McGrath

PRAYER

Lord, you have not called me to prove you exist, but to bear witness to your presence in me through my love in action. Guide me to be a blessing in the lives of others without getting distracted by trivial pursuits. Amen.

Seeing Beyond the Big Wig

Read John 13:34-35; Colossians 3:12-15; 1 John 4:7-12

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:14)

The Big WigAh, it is a Presidential election year and all one has to do is to turn on the TV to see both sides of the aisle jabbing at each other in hopes to secure the White House for their candidate. Often politicians (regardless of their political persuasion), will maneuver themselves in a way that appeals to Christians who are like-minded with them. This has been effective in past elections (for Republicans and Democrats alike) because Christians often define themselves, and their faith, by the very hot topic “moral” issues of their day.

While this is certainly not a new thing in America, as it has gone on since the very outset of our country, it seems that we Christians, regardless of our political bent, miss the boat when it comes to really understanding what our identity as Christians is, and how that identity plays out in our lives. The following is a parable by Søren Kierkegaard who was a Danish philosopher and theologian:

“It is said to have chanced in England that a man was attacked on the highway by a robber who had made himself unrecognizable by wearing a big wig.  He falls upon the traveler, seizes him by the throat and shouts, ‘Your purse!’  He gets the purse and keeps it, but the wig he throws away. A poor man comes along the same road, puts it on and arrives at the next town where the traveler had already denounced the crime, he is arrested, is recognized by the traveler, who takes his oath that he is the man. By chance, the robber is present in the court-room, sees the misunderstanding, turns to the judge and says, “It seems to me that the traveler has regard rather to the wig than to the man,’ and he asks permission to make a trial. He puts on the wig, seizes the traveler by the throat, crying, ‘Your purse!’—and the traveler recognizes the robber and offers to swear it—the only trouble is that already he has taken an oath. So it is, in one way or another, with every man who has a ‘what’ and is not attentive to the ‘how’: he swears, he takes his oath, he runs errands, he ventures life and blood, he is executed—all on account of the wig” (Kierkegaard, Søren. A Kierkegaard Anthology. Edited by Robert Bretall. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1946.).

Just as the victim of the robbery mistakenly swore that the poor person was the one who robbed him because he saw the wig, it is true that we mistakenly believe that we are Christian because of where we find ourselves in sociopolitical, “moral”, and other issues. If we are truly Christian, our identity does not rest on what side of the divide we find ourselves on; rather, our identity is found in Christ our Savior.

Rather than judging other Christians who disagree with us, rather than judging others as “unsaved” for not sharing our opinion, let us love one another as Christ first loved us (John 13:34). We need not ignore our differences to be united in our true identity: CHRIST.  We just need to be humble enough to see Christ in others, even when they disagree with us. Let us not be like the foolish victim in the parable above by mistaking the wig as the man. Let us not mistake Christ for sociopolitical and economic issues. Let us not mistake Christ for modern-day Christianity or for any other institution.

Also, let us not get stuck on the “what” without ever evaluating the “how”. If we are to truly bear witness to Christ in us, then we will judge not and reflect the love, compassion and understanding that Christ had for all of his disciples, from Matthew the tax collector to Simon the zealot who hated tax collectors.  Even though not one of the disciples was fully in line with Jesus’ mission and message, Jesus still took the time to include them in what he was doing. He still took the time to love them unconditionally. Let us hear each other out; let us love each other even when we don’t see eye to eye. Christ demanded no less of us!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

We do not belong to Christianity, we belong to Christ.

PRAYER

Lord, help us to see others through your eyes. Though we will not always agree, help us to stand up for what we believe in without compromising the love we are called to reflect. Amen.

Where’s God?

 

Read Exodus 3:1-16; Esther 4:1-17

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20, NRSV)

Where's God?Let’s start with a story. There once was a man, let’s call him Joe, who seemed to have an unwavering faith in God and the power of miracles.  One day, a major storm hit that dumped a ton of rain onto the region that Joe lived in.  The rain just kept pouring down and pouring down, but Joe knew he would be alright. “God will deliver me from this storm,” he thought to himself.

Across the TV splashed all sorts of warnings about the severity of the storm and that the residents should evacuate and get to higher ground.  Joe wasn’t going anywhere because he knew, “God will deliver me from this storm.”  The power went out, the rain kept pouring and the water levels kept rising. Joe walked out on his porch and saw an emergency truck heading his way. It was large enough to make it through the rapidly rising water.  They stopped and told Joe, “Get in, your life is in danger!” Joe refused and said, “God will deliver me from this storm.”

The water kept rising and then Joe ended up having to get up to the upper level of his house.  He opened his bedroom window and he saw a boat coming his way. The people in the boat said, “Give us a second and we’ll row over there and rescue you.” But Joe refused, saying, “God will deliver me from this storm.”  The rain kept pouring and Joe ended up out on his roof.  A helicopter was hovering above and one of the people in the chopper was going to lower a ladder down to Joe; however, Joe refused the ladder saying, “God will deliver me from this storm.”

To make a long story short, Joe drowned and went to heaven. Upon seeing God, Joe asked, “Lord, why did you allow me to drown. I had such an unwaivering faith that you would deliver me; yet, you failed to come and deliver me from the storm.” God looked at Joe and said to him, “Son, I sent you TV warnings, an emergency truck, a boat and a helicopter! What more did you want me to do?”

This is not a new story and it is quite possible you have heard it before.  What is awesome about it is that it points us to really question what we consider to be miracles, and what we consider to be the presence of God. We are often too busy looking for people walking on water, changing the water into wine, and raising the dead to notice the truly miraculous things in our lives. Using the story above, which would be the greater miracle: God snapping his fingers and Joe teleporting to dry land, or the fact that 3 different people saw his need and attempted to help him?

And that brings up another point: what are we looking for when we ask to be in God’s presence? What are we expecting? When we look in the Bible, when we look past the grandiose stories of burning bushes, and earthquakes and water walking, we will actually see God’s presence in other people. In the story of Exodus, God did not rescue the Israelites by showing up as a fierce warrior floating in the sky with fiery eyes and a bolt of lightning in his hands.  Rather, God showed up in a stuttering shepherd named Moses who, after much reluctance, found the courage enough to demand of Pharoah that he let God’s people go. God did not rescue his people from the Persians by hurling fire and brimstone down, but through an insecure harem slave-girl named Esther who dared to enter the court of the Persian King, uninvited, and demand that justice be done.

The presence of God is in each of us and it is up to us to be the presence of God in the lives of others.  And no doubt, God has been present in our lives through others as well.  Rather than looking for grandiose “miracles” that may or may not come, let us recognize the miracles that have come, especially the miracle of presence. God was present to his people through other people. In fact, isn’t that what we celebrate in the birth of Christ: God’s presence among us…in another human being? And if the risen Christ lives in us, through us and in spite of us, then truly we are called to be the presence of God, through Jesus Christ, in the lives of others.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Praise God for those who have been present in your life. Be present in the lives of others.

PRAYER

Lord, what is it you would like me to do today? Who is it that you would like me to be present with? Be present through me in the lives of others. Amen.

Nothing is Impossible

Read John 4:1-30; Acts 11:1-18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28-29).

Jarena LeeThere once was an African-American woman, named Jarena Lee (b. 1783), who felt the call by God to preach the Gospel. The only problem with that was the fact that women were not permitted to preach anything during that time period; only men were permitted to preach. What’s more, she was not just a woman, but an African-American woman.

“Go and preach the Gospel,” she heard God tell her. “But no one will believe me,” she replied. And one can understand why she was afraid to approach anyone about her call to preach. But God persisted in calling her through her dreams until she finally decided to approach the Rev. Richard Allen about it. Initially he put her off, telling her that there was no room in the Discipline for a woman preacher. At first, she was thankful, as she thought Allen’s answer would put the calling to rest. But it did not.

Eight years later, during a sermon in which a minister lost the spirit to preach in a sermon on Jonah, Jarena jumped up and began to preach in his place. She proclaimed that she was like Jonah, running away from the call that God placed on her, and preached on the importance of answering the call of God.

Following her exhortation, Rev. Richard Allen, who as the Bishop of the African Episcopal Church at this time, confirmed that she indeed did come to him eight years earlier and that he had put her off. He confessed that he was mistaken and that she was as called to preach as anyone he had ever ordained as a minister. Later writing of this event, Jarena Lee wrote: “For as unseemly as it may appear nowadays for a woman to preach, it should be remembered that nothing is impossible with God.” Indeed, God had done the impossible in the life of Jarena Lee!

Often times, we stand in the way of God with our rules and regulations and man-made doctrines and traditions. We determine who is worthy of being called by God, who is worthy of God’s presence, and who is worthy of God’s grace. On top of judging others, we often deem ourselves as unworthy too. Yet, who are we to decide such things? Jesus broke the man-made barriers and engaged in religious dialogue with a Samaritan woman at a well in Samaria in a day and age where women were property and Samaritans were considered less than worthy of God. And Peter saw the Holy Spirit filling Gentiles, breaking his prejudice against their worthiness.

Time and time again, Scripture shows us that nothing is impossible with God, and no one is unworthy enough to be called by God. Abraham was a polytheist and a fraud, Joseph was a prisoner and slave, Moses was a murderer and stutterer, Rahab was a prostitute, and David was an adulterer and a murderer. All of these people and many more were called to serve God in vital and important ways. Which one of us can be the judge against God working in another’s life? Which one of us can be the judge against God working in our own lives? Which one of us can be a judge against God?

Remember, God loves us all and calls us all to serve him. Each calling is unique; however, each calling is equally important and special. No rules or regulations can stop God from calling you or others. No rules or regulations should stop you or others from answering that call. Do not judge yourself or others; just answer God’s call and let God do the rest!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Oh how careful ought we to be, lest through our bylaws of church government and discipline, we bring into disrepute even the world of life.” — Jarena Lee

PRAYER

Lord God, help me discern your call and refrain from judging, whether I be judging myself or others. We are all worthy. Amen.

Filled for Eternity

Read Matthew 25:31-46; Mark 8:34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

BlueberriesViolet Beauregarde was the third out of five children to win a fabulous tour of a world-famous chocolate and candy factory and, just like the other children, she was there to get her fill. During the tour, the owner of the factory brought her and the other children into the invention wing of the factory, where all the new ideas for candy were being put to the test.

There, in that very room, was a chewing gum that would blow little Violet’s mind.  Not only was this a type of gum, but it also doubled as a filling three-course meal.  Wow, Violet was going to get her fill! After all, that is exactly what she had come there for! Of course, the gum was still in the testing phase of its development; yet, despite much protest from the owner, Violet stuffed her mouth with the gum and began to chew! She was going to have her fill and no one was going to stop her.

The gum started off tasting like a creamy tomato soup and then changed to the flavor of roast beef and a baked potato! Mmmm! That is so tasty! Finally, the gum changes flavor again. This time it’s dessert, and what’s on the menu? Blueberry Pie! Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm…how delicious! Well, it was the most awesome gum she had ever had, that is, until she started to feel sick and bloated. In fact, she was not only ballooning out, she was also turning blue! When all was said and done, she was a giant blueberry…just like the last flavor of the gum in her mouth. She had certainly had her fill.

Many will recognize the story above to be from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. While Violet may be an extreme case, her story is still a parallel for how many have come to view church, and Christianity, in today’s culture. Many people are looking for their fill. They want to show up on Sunday, “be filled”, and move on with the rest of their week.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with being filled. We all need to be filled to sustain ourselves for what lies ahead; however, when all we do is seek to be filled, we end up looking a lot like Violet Beauregarde.  We aren’t filled just so we can merely have our fill; rather, we are filled so that we may go and fill others.

Jesus addressed this in his teachings, never more clearly than in Matthew 25:31-46. The question is, are we the type of Christians to get our fill and keep it for ourselves? Are we the type of Christians who sit around comfortably, filled to the brim, while others are begging for hope, healing and wholeness? Or, are we the type of Christians who have been filled, and who seek to fill others by bringing hope, healing and wholeness into their lives?

There is plenty of work to be done for the Kingdom of God. We are called to be the presence of God in the world. We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ.  God doesn’t need us to be disciples, but God desires us to be a part of filling others with the same hope, healing and wholeness we’ve been filled with.  Once we answer that call, we will be filled in a way that will sustain us for eternity.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

To help is to be helped; to fill is to be filled; to love is to be loved. As you have received, so you should give.

PRAYER

Lord God, we thank you for being our bountiful provider. We accept our fill and we accept your call for us to be fillers in the lives of those who need hope, healing and wholeness. Use us as you will us to be used. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Truly Living

Read Matthew 16:24-27

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble” (2 Peter 1:10).

A scene from the film, "Braveheart"One of my favorite films is the movie “Braveheart”, which tells the true story of the Scottish freedom fighter and revolutionary, William Wallace, who lived in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. Wallace was born and lived in a Scotland that was occupied and ruled by the English.  During this time, Wallace witnessed many oppressive things happen to his people.  The English were heavily taxing the Scots, banning them from observing their traditions, raping their women and killing people as they saw fit.

Wallace, who was a landowner and had much to lose, would have none of that. Instead, he rose up and rallied an army of Scots to fight for their freedom against the English. Though he had some decisive victories, including sacking and taking the city of York in Northern England, Wallace was eventually captured, hung, drawn and quartered as a traitor.

In the film, as he was awaiting his death, the princess comes to him and begs him to plead for mercy, to confess in order to be spared a painful death.  Wallace refused and the princess begged him again saying, “But they will kill you, it will be awful.”  It is here that William Wallace looks her in the eyes and says, “Every man dies, not every man truly lives.”

How true is that? Each and every one of us will die, yet many of us go through life without ever truly living. Jesus says similar words in the suggested reading above, but what does it mean to truly live, what does it mean to inherit true life? This is not a question that is easily answered and, for each person, the answer will most definitely be different.

For each of us, there is a divinely ordained purpose. God has a plan for each and every one of us and until we answer the call to pursue God’s will we will not be truly living. Just as both Jesus and William Wallace did, we too will have to make sacrifices to pursue the calling and/or purpose placed on our lives.  The question is, will you make the sacrifices to serve God’s purpose for your life, or will you try to hold on to the “life” you think you have already? What is God calling you to do? What is the purpose God has ordained for you?

I, the writer of this devotional, cannot answer these questions for you; however, God can and will. Remember what Jesus says in Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you” (NRSV). Be present in the lives of others and seek God’s will in your life. In fact, seek God’s will for your life by being present in the lives of others. If you do so you will most definitely inherit true life.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

A life without purpose is as good as faith without action.

PRAYER

Gracious God, what is it that you would have me do today and beyond? What purpose are you calling me to? Guide me, O God, toward your will so that I may be a flavorful granule of salt and a light for the world to see.  Guide me toward the true life that you have in store for me. Amen.

Dare I Jump?

Read Matthew 6:25-34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6, NRSV).

“I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NRSV).

I can remember back when I was a small boy and I was first learning to dive into water. The lifeguard would take us to the bridge at the small pond where I was learning how to swim and, one by one, we would each take a turn diving. There was just one problem…I was petrified. The water looked so far down that I could not fathom letting myself fall head first. It was a scary thought for me. What’s more, there was a roaring waterfall not even 10 feet beyond the bridge which we were diving off. The sound of the water crashing on the rocks below was a horrifying sound to an 8-year-old boy. What if water’s current sucked me toward and over the waterfall?

I remember standing at the edge, arms over my head and overlapping at the hands, my head tucked in and down. There I was staring down at the water, hearing the sound of what seemed like my demise gushing down and over the rocks below. I stood there paralyzed and could not move. And when the lifeguard finally convinced me to let go, to actually take the dive, I still wouldn’t let go, even as I was falling into the water. The result: SPLASH!!! I belly-flopped and then swam, in pain, for my life toward the beach! Reaching the shore, I realized that the current wasn’t as fearsome as it seemed on the bridge, and the only thing that hurt was the belly flop, which my fear was the cause of. Eventually, I learned to let go and found freedom in the free fall off of that bridge and, since then, I have never looked back!

While the story above describes my early fear of diving, it rings true for many of us in our lives. We let our fears get the better of us. Rather than taking the leap of faith off of the bridge we stand there paralyzed, staring down at the waters. Jesus taught that it was futile to live life in fear, even when it comes to worrying about essential things such as food or clothing. Rather, he called us to live a life of faith. If we seek out the Kingdom of God, which means that it can be found here and now, and if we seek God’s righteousness, then God will provide for us as we need. This does not mean God will provide us with everything we want, but we will never be found wanting of what we truly need!

Therefore, what do we have to fear? Let us seek out the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness! Let us do what it is God has called each and every one of us to do and let us do it fearlessly!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” —Franklin Delano Roosevelt

PRAYER

Lord God, I open myself and hand my life over to you. Please liberate me from the oppressive force of fear and move me toward a life of faith. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Announcement

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In Christ,

Pastor Todd

A biweekly devotional