More than Wind Chasers

Read Ecclesiastes 1-2; Matthew 6:19-34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

More than Wind ChasersThe past eight days have been some of the most awakening days of my life. Last Monday, October 29, Hurricane Sandy slammed into Southern New Jersey, and wreaked havoc for much of the Northeastern part of the United States. Since then, many have been without power. My church, parsonage and my entire town, for the most part, is still without power as we speak. In fact, I am sitting in a public library typing this devotional and trying to get at least some work done.

For those of my readers who do not live in the Northeastern region of the U.S., this time of year is typically not the warmest of times. Winter is fast approaching and, as of today, there is a possible nor’easter storm on the way. These storms can pack a wicked punch in terms of winds and precipitation (which usually is in the form of snow). Add that to no electricity and the people in my area, especially the ones who don’t have any generators and/or fireplaces, are facing a potentially dangerous situation. And my area of the state is mostly dealing with no electricity, unlike the Southern portion and the shoreline which has been utterly wiped out.

Over the past eight days, I have had quite a bit of time to reflect on how much we come to depend on technologies such as electricity, phones, cell phones, smart phones, electronic devices, computers, cars, and other such things that we normally take for granted. It is amazing to me how much stock I, and billions of other people, put into artificial and human-made technologies. When said technologies fail, we are left feeling completely alone, isolated, confused, lost, and utterly hopeless. Like the author of Ecclesiastes, we are left feeling like we have spent our time chasing after the wind. Indeed, we are left feeling like everything is meaningless.

Yet, thankfully,the story doesn’t end there. In this time of reflection, I have seen a power that far surpasses the artificial power provided by electricity. I have seen people reaching out to those in need. I have seen people invite neighbors, friends, family and even strangers into their homes in order to provide them with shelter. I have seen people from across the country and even from Canada, coming down to help with the relief efforts. I have seen people who have electricity sharing it with those who need to charge their phones. I have seen volunteer fire departments opening their buildings as places of shelter, providing food, entertainment, hot showers and places to sleep for people who are in need.

Thankfully, the story doesn’t end with the grim assessment of Ecclesiastes. We are more than wind chasers. What I see, instead, is a grander story of hope, healing and wholeness unfolding in the midst of what initially seemed as a hopeless and devastating situation. In this, I see what Jesus meant when he taught us to not sweat the small stuff, but to seek first the Kingdom of God and trust that God will provide the rest . The proof is in the pudding. The small stuff has been literally washed away, yet God is providing through the love, compassion and generosity of millions of people. This IS what the Kingdom of God looks like.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

The richest people in the world are those who have stock in relationships.

PRAYER

Lord, I thank you for being my provider. There is nothing I need that you haven’t supplied. Help me to fill the needs of others. Amen.

What’s Good About That News?

Read Matthew 23; Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 4:16-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble.'” (Luke 17:1-2, NRSV)

What's Good About This News?It’s Tuesday night, October 30, and my family and I were huddled around our kerosene lamp playing Yahtzee, as we still have no power (I am typing this on my iPhone, which has limited and sketchy connectivity) or heat. As we were getting ready to play Yahtzee, our phone rang. My youngest jumped up to answer it, in hopes it was her grandmother calling to wish her a happy birthday. But when she answered the phone, it was a pre-recorded evangelical message from some Christian group.

“Has God given up on America?” It asked. “Come and worship and tell us about your beliefs…”, to which my wife then took the phone and hung it up.

I couldn’t believe it. It was a message targeting people who had just gotten hit with the storm of the century in order to evangelize them, promote their church, and “bring the good news.” But let me ask this, what kind of good news is that?” To people who are dealing with their lives being washed away by a super-storm, how is worshipping at a church going to help them out?

It’s this kind of theological positioning that Jesus himself stood against when the Pharisees were accusing him of working on the Sabbath. It is this kind of stuff that Jesus railed against in his stated woes against the religious leaders of his day and age. There is nothing good about the kind of news that takes advantage of people’s vulnerabilities and fears in order to manipulate and generate a “conversion” response.

Jesus taught us in Matthew 25 and in Luke 4 that his mission was to bring real good news to people. For instance, food is good news for the hungry, water for the thirsty, clothes for the naked, etc. Jesus didn’t hand the blind a scroll with his name and some scripture written on it; rather, he gave them sight. When the woman who committed adultery came to him, he didn’t hand her the Torah, the local synagogue address, while asking her what she believed and whether God had given up on her and Israel; rather, he offered her hope and forgiveness, even despite the fact that she never technically repented.

We, as Christians, have to be careful not to misrepresent the “Good News” and, therefore, misrepresent Christ. Imagine if all the money spent on that phone-calling campaign were given to agencies that are helping families devastated by the hurricane, just imagine what difference that could’ve made. Perhaps that would’ve spread the “good news” as opposed to spreading the erroneous fear of God “giving up” on everyone. Again, what’s good about that news? Remember, Jesus is calling us to be agents of God’s hope, healing and wholeness…not false prophets of the world’s doom.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
If there is one thing we learn through scripture, even in the tumultuous events of Revelation, God never gives up on people.

PRAYER
Lord, guide me as I seek to represent you, and make me a witness of the hope, healing and wholeness that comes through you. Allow my love-filled actions to bear your good news for those in need. Amen.

Frankenstorm

Read Exodus 14; Mark 4:35-41

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the LORD your God who goes with you; he will not fail you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6, NRSV).

Well, for those of us who live along the Northeastern Seaboard of the United States, We can say that Hurricane Sandy arrived with a vengeance. And what a monster of a Storm. It’s around 10 PM on Monday, October 29, and I am writing this in the dark on my iPhone. There’s nothing quite like sitting a house with no power, faced with the sound of perilous wind howling like the hounds of hell outside and the uncertainty of what each moment might bring.

It is understandable how each and everyone of us can get caught in fear of the storms that interfere with our lives and threaten us. It is in moments like this, that I can relate with the disciples who feared for their lives as they were caught in a terrible storm while on the Sea of Galilee. It was not the storm that scared them as much as the thought of being in the storm alone.

The same is true for the Israelites during the exodus from Egypt. It is understandable how fearful they must have been when they were facing the depths of the sea, caught between a watery grave and Pharaoh’s legion fast approaching them. It is understandable how fearful people are when storms, literal or metaphorical, come crashing in with little to know warning.

Yet, Jesus tells us, just as he told the winds and the waves, “Peace! Be Still!” Jesus assures us that no matter how afraid we might be, we are not alone. God is with us and will never forsake us. Even when our lives are threatened, even when we pass from this life to eternity, God is always with us!

And that is reassuring. As I sit here in the dark, I can certainly imagine how much more terrifying it would be if I were here alone. I can hear the voices of my children playing and laughing as if Frankenstorm weren’t out side at all. This is because they are assured, just as I am assured, they are not alone! As a result of that assurance, they have nothing to fear. And that is the common theme through out all of Scripture…”Fear not, for I am with you! I will never leave you, nor forsake you. Peace! Be still, my child,” says the LORD, “for I AM with you always, even until the end of the age!”

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
No one is an island. When God created people, God created community.”

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for always being with me and for creatig me to be present in the lives of others. Amen.

What Did Jesus Do?

What Did Jesus Do?

Read Matthew 5 (through chapter 7 if you have time); 25:31-46; Luke 4:16-21; 6:17-49

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:37-38)

What Did Jesus Do?Who is Jesus Christ? Is he a prophet who lived in Palestine over 2,000 years ago? Is he the messiah as promised throughout the Torah and the prophets in the Hebrew scriptures?  Is he the true King of Israel, in the line of David? Is he the Son of God, born of a virgin? Is he the Word of God made flesh, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords? Is Jesus God?  These questions and more are answered in various ways by various different Christians, and depending on where you find yourself in your faith, you may or may not find yourself shouting “heresy” at the answers that different Christians might put forth.

What’s more, not only are there questions regarding Jesus’ divine identity; however, there are questions regarding Jesus’ personality and his mission as well. There are those who would claim Jesus to be a peace-loving guy, while others would claim that Jesus was a no-nonsense guy who flung tables around in order to “cleanse” the temple of corruption.  There are those who would show that Jesus was compassionate and all-accepting, and others who would show that Jesus had little to no tolerance for those who he saw as opposing God.  So, who is this Jesus Christ?

The fact of the matter is that Jesus cannot be easily pinned down. While doctrine states that Jesus was truly divine, it also says that he was truly human as well.  And the range of emotions and actions that come from Jesus in the four Gospels alone is enough to be a thorn in the side to anyone who wants Jesus to completely fit their mold.  We, as Christians, run into problems when we get caught up in debates about who Jesus is all the while ignoring the mission of Christ that was clearly outlined in the Gospels.

But, perhaps we are asking the wrong questions. Rather than trying to get the edge on who Jesus is, perhaps we should focus our search for answers around the question of what Jesus did. We should be asking ourselves, what did Jesus do?  Jesus did teach people, he did heal people, he did accept those who had been rejected. Jesus did stand against religious dogma, he did show compassion to those who were on the fringes of society, and he did preach the imminent arrival of God’s Kingdom, which he saw as being ushered in by God through himself and those who followed him. For Jesus, ushering in the Kingdom of God (through bringing hope, healing, and wholeness) was HIS mission. Nothing shows this more than Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, Jesus’ mission statement in Luke, and Jesus’ stark illustration given to his disciples (in Matthew 25) of king who separates the sheep from the goats.

When we ask the question of what Jesus did, it gives us a clearer understanding of what we should be doing. If we are to be imitators of Christ, and/or allow Christ to live through us, then we should be engaging and investing in the same mission that Jesus is engaged and invested in. We should be working to usher in the Kingdom of God, bringing hope, healing and wholeness to those of whom God has put all around us. If we invest ourselves in Christ’s mission, then I believe we will find that the answers we have come to through our intellect will fade away and be transcended by the answers that will have risen up out of our faith.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.” – John Wesley

PRAYER

Lord, help me to keep my focus on your mission and use me to usher in your Kingdom to my community. Amen.

The Masks We Wear

Read Psalm 139

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10

The Masks We WearAh, I can smell Halloween in the air! I love this time of year, the leaves are falling like heavy feathers from the trees. The crisp cool breeze rustling the leaves on the streets; the hollow rattling sound the trees make as they brace themselves for another wintry slumber. The smell of burning wood beginning to emanate from rooftops wafts to the noses of little ghouls and goblins as they dress up in their costumes and masks, getting ready for a night of being on the prowl for the world’s cheapest, and yet greatest, sugary delights. Yes, I love Halloween.

One of the things I always loved about Halloween was dressing up! I have been many things for the holiday over the years. I have been a hobo, Cousin It, Moses, Dracula, the wolf-man, Jack Skellington, a zombie and many, many other things. I always looked forward to being able to dress up and be whoever it was I had decided to be. Halloween was the one night, all year-long, where I didn’t have to be me…it was the one night, all year-long, that I could be whatever I wanted to be and not worry what others thought about it.

As a pastor, and previously a youth pastor, who has served in ministry over the past several years, I have come to recognize that the ritual of mask wearing extends far beyond the annual holiday of fun and goodies. Most people, if not all of them, put on masks every morning and don’t take them off until late at night as they are slumped over from another day in a year full of not being themselves. The kind of mask I am talking about is not one made of latex, or face paint, or any other kind of removable synthetic substance; rather, this mask is a metaphor that represents the reality that most hide who they really are and only display what they believe people want to see.

Perhaps you are wearing a mask. Perhaps every day you wake up and paint a smile on your face. Perhaps you dress your best and head off to work like you are at the top of the world, when deep in side you feel like a child who’s been lost in the darkness of the forest for hours. Perhaps you find yourself constantly seeking to please others, constantly trying to live up to the expectations that bosses, colleagues, friends and family members are placing on you. Perhaps, you are trying live up to the image that you think others have of you, and each day you wake up and put that mask on you feel further and further from who you really are.

If this is you, if you are a bearer of masks, if you wear a thousand fake faces in order to hide the real you, know that there is hope. There is a God who knows you. There is a God who loves you. There is a God who sees through your mask and accepts you for who you are regardless of what you have or have not done. There is a God who is calling you to remove your mask and enjoy the beauty of God’s handiwork. There is a God who has forgiven whatever it is you feel you might have done. There is a God who LOVES you unconditionally. There is a God who continues to give up everything just to be with you. And there is a community of God’s people that God is calling you to be a part of, a community of people that God is calling to be a part of you. Regardless of where you find yourself, know that God is calling you to be nothing more than who you are, and that you are already loved and accepted!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“It’s just better to be yourself than to try to be some version of what you think the other person wants.” – Matt Damon

PRAYER

Lord help me to see myself as you seem me. Remove my mask and help me to shine in the ways you created me to. Amen.

Mr. Merit, Tear Down That Wall!

Read Romans 3

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God–not the result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NRSV)

Many people in America, and even around the world, have been paying close attention to the U.S. presidential campaigns.  All one has to do is turn on the T.V. and you will see news coverage, campaign ads, and even political satire of the two campaigns. The other night, I was watching the second debate between President Obama and his opponent, Mitt Romney. Though the forum was set up as a town hall meeting, the two candidates were very aggressive toward each other. There were multiple moments where both candidates were in each other’s faces, pointing their fingers at each other, and accusing the other as not telling the truth.

In all of the debates so far, and this would be true for all election-year debates, the candidates try to point out each other’s records, and where they failed to live up to the American people’s expectations. Mitt Romney is trying to show how President Obama failed to live up to the promises he made in his 2008 campaign. Conversely, President Obama is trying to show that Mitt Romney’s record points to an overly rich guy who has a long-founded interest in helping the wealthy get wealthier at the cost of the middle-class and the poor. He is trying to show that Mitt Romney will not live up to the expectations of the American people.

Now, the point of this devotional is not to get political in any way; however, this current presidential campaign, and really all such campaigns, is saying something about us as an American culture. It is saying that merit means a lot to us as Americans.  If you are successful and worth your weight in salt, we will vote for you. If you are perceived as a failure, we will not.  And this is not true for just politics. It is true in our jobs, in our sports, and in just about every other aspect of our lives. We very much participate in what is called a meritocracy, and for politics, business, sports and other performance driven things, it is understandable why merit is valued.

What is sad, however, is that meritocracy has also become a part of the Christian church! Even in the church we look toward success and merit. We hold people “accountable” (even though Paul went through lengths to state that love takes no account), we keep record of people’s success and failures, and we judge people based off of their performance in ministry and other aspects of the church.  Now that is not to say that we should not correct people when they are wrong, or walk along side of people with the hope of guiding them toward successful ministry; however, there is a fine line between that and becoming an institution of merit.

What should be clear to us, as evidenced in Scripture, is that in the Kingdom of Heaven there is no meritocracy. If God were to demand of us to show our merit, according to God’s standard, we would all fail that test.  None of us are going to be seeking to “show God our merit” on that final day; rather, we are going to be asking God to show us his grace and mercy. If that is the case, then shouldn’t we be ditching a system of meritocracy for one of mercy and grace? Shouldn’t we be accepting all people, not on the basis of merit, but on the basis of God’s love them? God’s challenging us to tear down the walls of merit that the world has instilled in us from birth, and allow God to lay down the foundation of mercy, grace, and unconditional love for all people. This is God’s message for us today.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
God is not merit; God is unconditional love.

PRAYER
Lord, help me to tear down the walls of merit in my life and replace them with your foundation of love and grace. Amen.

All the Time in the World

Read Ephesians 5:15-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” (Psalms 90:10, NRSV)

All the Time in the WorldHave you ever watched the old TV show called the Twilight Zone? There was one episode starring Burgess Meredith about a man named Henry Bemis who loved nothing more than a good book, or a compelling news story, or a tabloid magazine. Henry loved to read and it didn’t matter if it was poetry, a classic novel, a newspaper article or even the button on someone’s shirt, Henry loved reading. The only problem was that he just didn’t have enough time in a day to do all the reading he wanted to do. He had to work and could only find a little time to read on his lunch break. When he was at home, his wife demanded that he spend time with her, which included going over her friends houses.  There just wasn’t enough time.

One day, while on lunch break, Henry went into the bank vault at work to read.  He closed the door behind him and sat down to read a book.  Somewhere during his time in that vault, an atom bomb was dropped and the world as Henry knew it was literally blasted away. When Henry emerged from the vault, there was nothing left but rubble. Everyone he knew, everyone in general, was dead.  It took him a while to come to terms with the fact that he was all alone, but when he stumbled upon a ruined library, and plethora of books, he realized he had all the time in the world to read. He was elated about this until he accidentally knocked his glasses off of his head and broke them. Staring through blurry eyes he cried out, “That’s not fair…that’s not fair at all. There was time now, there was all the time I needed. It’s not fair…It’s not fair.”

Many people, myself included, go about their days and get lost in the business of their lives. In fact, is it not true that the very source of our income, the very source of our “end’s meat” is business (aka BUSY-NESS)? And then, when we are home, we busy ourselves with other things as well.  Whether it is driving our kids around from place to place, fixing stuff up around the house, scheduling ourselves around our favorite reality shows, or whatever else it is that we do, it is no wonder that at the end of the day we simply say that there is not enough time!

But is that true? Do we truly not have enough time? Has God truly dealt us an existence that lacks in time? Or is it that we find ourselves wasting the time that we have? Are we good stewards of the time that we have been given?  While there is not doubt that it is important to spend time with family, and it is important to work, and it is important to have some leisure time as well, it is also important to manage the time we have and to make the most of it. We are called to be good stewards of our time as much as we are called to be good stewards of anything else.

What God is calling us to do is to live out our time here on earth with purpose.  To waste time is to waste the purpose God is calling us to live out. The fact is, as Henry Bemis discovered, there is a difference between all the time we want versus all the time that we need.  God has given us all the time we need and is asking us to use it wisely.  We never know when our time is up and there isn’t a moment to lose in seeking and living out the purpose God has given us.  We don’t want to end up like Henry Bemis staring down at a broken clock and lamenting over the time we could’ve had, even as he was facing all the time in the world he could ever want. The time to live with purpose is now.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it.” – Charles Buxton

PRAYER

Lord, help me to become a better steward of my time by guiding me toward the purpose with which you would like me to spend it. Amen.

 

It’s Good to Be Rich, Isn’t It?

Read Mark 10:17-27

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)

It's Good to Be Rich, Isn't It?What does it mean to be rich? Does it mean having all of the possessions in the world? Does it mean having all of the success in the world? Is being rich in conflict with being a Christian? Did Jesus have something against the wealthy? There are people who interpret the words of Jesus as being an indictment of the rich. But is that truly the case, or is that missing the point as much as the rich man in the story missed the point? I believe the latter to be true.

The problem with the rich man in the reading for today was not that he was rich. The problem was that he was solely dependant on himself for everything. After all, HE was the one who had followed the Torah since he was a boy. HE was the one who earned his way to his wealth. HE was the one who followed Jesus to this point, and HE was the one who was going to find the SECRET to eternal life. It wasn’t enough that he was rich; rather, he knew there was more to life than money. Otherwise, he would not have sought Jesus out in the first place. With that said, he, was certainly missing the point on what eternal life really is and that, unlike his wealth, it is not attainable by “earning” it.

Jesus tells the man that in order for him to inherit eternal life, he must sell everything he has, give the money to the poor and follow him.  The man, unfortunately, turns away thinking that he can never inherit the kingdom of God (to be understood as synonymous with eternal life). Selling everything is too great a cost for him to pay, even for eternal life.

But to Jesus, the Kingdom of God was not something that was to be attained later, nor was it something that was “pie in the sky” and/or out there for one to “earn”. Rather, Jesus always spoke of the Kingdom of God as being near and, in fact, at hand. The trick was to realize that in order to “inherit” the Kingdom of God, you only had to be willing to let God usher it in through you. But you cannot do that so long as you love anything more than you love God. If you put God first, and deem everything else as rubbish in comparison (to quote Paul), then God will usher it in through you, and you WILL inherit the Kingdom of God.

What is this Kingdom of God that Jesus is referring to? It is the willingness to give all of yourself for the sake of others. It is the act of loving your neighbors (including your enemies) as yourself. It is becoming the servant of all and caring for the “least of these”.  And by doing all of those things, one is loving God with all of one’s soul, heart and strength. But if this is true, who in the world can be saved? Jesus gave his disciples this answer, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God,” (Mark 10:27, NLT).

So, there it is. If we are to “inherit” the Kingdom of God, then we are to open ourselves to the change that God brings in us, through us and, certainly, in spite of us. That change will lead us to live out the two greatest commandments (AKA the Kingdom of God) in our lives, meaning that we will be living out the Kingdom of God in the lives of others!  It is then that you will be truly rich!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can” – John Wesley

PRAYER

Lord, help me to realize that the Kingdom of God is near and that, in fact, it is already at hand. Guide me to give all of myself for the sake of the Kingdom! Amen.

By the Grace of God

Read Ephesians 1

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” (Galatians 2:21, NRSV)

By the Grace of GodIt is hard to keep up with who’s who when it comes to Christianity. There are so many denominations, each one claiming that their understanding of Scripture is the correct understanding. There are fundamentalist Christians who believe in a literal seven-day Creation, who argue against evolution, who believe women should have their heads covered and remain silent in church, who believe that women shouldn’t be allowed to be ordained, who look at tattoos and piercings as sinful, who believe that anything that isn’t Christian (or their understanding of Christian) is Satanic, and so on and so forth.

Then on the flip side, there are super liberal Christians who believe that all roads lead to God, that all speech should be inclusive (unless it goes against what they consider to be “inclusive”…which means that they don’t really believe in inclusive speech), who believe that Paul was a misogynist, who believe that the word Christian means social activist, and who believe that we are a world defined by its “isms” (i.e. racism, classism, abelism, sexism, heterosexism, misogynism, etc.).

And of course, most Christians fall somewhere between the two extremes. Most people attempt to understand, respect and follow the traditions of their faith, but recognize that we’ve come far, by the grace of God, in our understanding of how the world works, in scientific discovery, in social justice, in regard to inclusiveness and other such things. Most people would not find themselves in either extreme, but somewhere in the middle agreeing with some stuff on the one side, and agreeing with some stuff on the other side.

But what do we make of all of this? Is one side more right than the other? Are some groups more Christian than the other? Do some groups have a better understanding of Christ than the others do? The answer to these questions is no. Both sides share in the fate of humanity, which is the inability to have the full picture. I believe that both sides of the extreme would both claim to KNOW that Grace plays a central part in Christianity; however, both sides would also fall under the category of HUMAN when it comes to their understanding and application of that Grace.

But the truth be told that both sides cherry pick their way through the Bible to come to the “truths” that match up to what they believe. And the truth also be told that it is nearly impossible not to. The Bible is a complex, living tradition, that was written over a thousand years ago or more. It encompasses tons of generations, tons of different understandings of God, and tons of understandings of the human-divine relationship. The beauty of the Hebrew Bible is that those who compiled it chose NOT to cherry pick what to put in and what to leave out. Rather they included everything into it, leaving its reader with a rich and diverse and, perhaps, a fuller understanding of who God is.

In the Bible we see a God who is angry and a God who is peaceful. In the Bible we see a God who is chaotic and a God who brings out order and assurance in the midst of chaos. We see a God who is holier than thou and a God who is not afraid to get down and dirty with his Creation. We see all of these conflicting images of God harmonized together in the compilation we call the Bible. We even find, in what we call the New Testament, early Christian commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures and how they divinely relate to the one we know as the Son of God, the Messiah, the Word made flesh.

Let all of this be a challenge to you that wherever you find yourself as a Christian, to be open to the fact that there are others who do not find themselves where you are in your faith but are equally committed to God and Christ in theirs. There is room for all under the cross. God’s grace, if it is to be anything worthwhile and salvific, must be more encompassing than our own understanding of it. If God’s grace is sufficient, then it must be bigger than our limited minds allow for it to be. While we may not be able to help cherry picking around laws that don’t make sense to us, let us not cherry pick who we extend the Grace of God to. Surely, God would wish us to extend God’s grace to all, not just some. Let us be agents of Grace and let God take care of the rest.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

When we stand before God will we be calling for justice or for correct application of the law, or will we be clinging to Grace?

PRAYER

Lord, I recognize that no one is perfect and that none of us can perfectly hold righteousness in our hands, but by the Grace you have given us through Christ our savior. Please guide me to extend to others the grace that you have given to me. Amen.

The Maestro’s Masterpiece

Read Romans 12

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

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

PRAYER

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

A biweekly devotional