Every Step of the Way

Read Ecclesiastes 4:1-6; Mark 14:26-42

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, NRSV)

Every Step of the WayHave you watched the news lately? It seems like every time I watch the news I see politicians metaphorically throwing each other the bus, buildings around the world that are burning, families that are destroyed due to horrifying violence and other such atrocities. These stories are bombarding us every day, often bombarding us multiple times a day.

It’s to the point where I often find myself questioning what the meaning of all of this really is. Does God really exist out there and, if so, what does that say about God that the world is the way it is? Is life meaningless? Is there any point to all the chaos that people suffer day in and day out? These and so many more questions run through my head and I am sure that I am not alone in that?

As a pastor and a spiritual leader, some people might find it shocking to hear me confess moments of confusion, deep questioning and doubt. Some would say that it must mean that my faith isn’t strong, or that my doubts put into question my calling as a pastor. Many have this notion that in faith there can be no doubt; however, the Bible clearly shows that to be false.

For instance, have you read Ecclesiastes lately? If not, I must suggest that you do read it and that you read all of the twelve chapters that make up the book. It is a fascinating read. The author seriously questions the meaning of life, the point of existing in a world that is so needlessly cruel. What is the point in living out our seemingly trivial lives just to die in the end? To the author of Ecclesiastes, life seems utterly meaningless.

We can also turn to Jesus to find moments of doubt and intense spiritual questioning. The obvious place to look is in the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus questions God’s will. He asks for God to remove his cup of suffering. While the Gospels make this account short and sweet, they do say he was in the garden for hours, praying to God…and the specific prayer that they point out is the one where he asks God to not have him go through with dying.

The fact of the matter is that it is perfectly human to have doubts, because as human beings we do not, in fact we cannot know everything. What is unknown to us gives us reason to doubt, but doubt is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it is false to assume that “in faith there can be no doubt.” Rather, it is quite the opposite. It is from the depths of doubt that arises faith. Faith is, in fact, made stronger as a result of, and certainly in spite of, our doubts.

The next time you have doubts, do not chase them away or harbor any kind of unnecessary guilt. Instead, embrace them and wrestle through them like the author of Ecclesiastes did and like Jesus in the garden did. Know that having doubts necessary to building faith and that many saints have had their share of doubts. From Paul to Thomas, from Joan of Arc to Mother Theresa, from Martin Luther to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., many Christians have faced their doubts only to find themselves riding the waves of faith that were produced by the surge of the storm of doubt. You are not alone in your doubts, and your faith will show you that you are not alone in surmounting them. God is with you every step of the way!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson

PRAYER

Lord, I believe! Help me with my unbelief. Out of my doubt, build up a foundation of faith. Amen.

The Christian Manifesto

Read Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:14-30

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Thus says the Lord GOD: Enough, O princes of Israel! Put away violence and oppression, and do what is just and right. Cease your evictions of my people, says the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 45:9)

The Christian ManifestoOkay, I’ll be the first to admit that the over-commercialization of Christmas can be sickening. I mean, there we were walking down the aisle of our local department store looking for costumes and goodies for Halloween and I saw workers ’round the corner setting up their Christmas displays…and this was the beginning of October!!! What is up with that!?!? Pretty soon it will be Christmas in July!

With that said, now that Halloween has passed I have started to feel those warm and fuzzy feelings that tend to come as the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s) are approaching. Just this afternoon I was listening to my iPod while driving and I happened to see that I had David Phelps on it, so I went to his album and chose to listen to his rendition of my favorite Christmas song ever: “O Holy Night”.

If you have never heard David sing O Holy Night, let me tell you that you need to stop reading this now and listen to it. For those who are reading this devotional online, I have included a link to the video of David performing it live (go to about 1:14 in the video to skip the intro…and never mind the televangelist-esque feel to the video…his voice is totally worth it). As I was listening to this man belt out the song with heart and emotion and one of the best voices I have ever heard sing the song, I began to have a revelation of the true meaning of this song. While “O Holy Night” is certainly a Christmas song, there is no doubt that its message is one that should be sung in our hearts all year-long.

The third verse captures what I believe to be the heart of Christianity: “Truly He taught us to love one another; his law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; and in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, let all within us praise His holy name.” If we learned nothing else of Christianity, let it not be said that we did not learn this–that Christ’s law is love and his Gospel is peace. Let it not be said that we failed to  learn, as Christians, that in Christ’s name all oppression should cease!

In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus made it very clear that he was anointed by God “to bring good news to the poor…to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, [and] to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” If this was Jesus’ mission, and if we are his resurrected body carrying on his work and mission in the world, then doesn’t it go without saying that Luke 4:18-19 should be our manifesto, our mission, as well?

Christians have argued whether or not Jesus was focused on social or spiritual matters; however, I believe that Jesus was focused on both and that the two cannot be so easily disconnected. How can we be sound spiritually if we are not sound socially? How can we be sound socially if we are not sound spiritually. Too often the West has tried to compartmentalize the human being, and it has come at great peril. Rather than deny one for the other, let us embrace the fact that Christ has called us to live each moment of our lives with the same passion for God’s mission as David Phelps has in singing O Holy Night. Let us live our lives in a way that reflects the hope, the healing and the wholeness of God! Remember, Christ’s law is LOVE and his Gospel is peace…in Christ’s name all oppression (Spiritual, emotional, physical, social, and psychological) shall cease!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“It is impossible to enslave, mentally or socially, a bible-reading people. The principles of the bible are the groundwork of human freedom.” – Horace Greeley

PRAYER

Lord, you have called me to bear Christ’s name. His mission is my mission; help me to have the courage to stand up against all forms of oppression, regardless of the cost. Amen.

I Have Seen the Light!!!

Read Matthew 6:1-24; John 1:1-7

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)

I Have Seen the Light!!!Finally, electricity came back to our parsonage and church.  It had been ten long days since the power flickered and shut off. Ten days of living from sunrise to sunset. Ten days of showering in fire departments and state parks. Ten days of traveling for miles to wait in long lines to get gas.  Ten days of sleeping WAY under the covers to keep semi-warm throughout the night. It took ten long days for us to see the light.

And here I am now, sitting in my office, reveling in the fact that I now have electricity and, with it, cable and wi-fi internet! Yet, there are many people who will go 11 or 15 or 30 more days without electricity.  What’s more, there are many people who are now without their homes! I had only a small taste, if even that, of what many people throughout the Tri-State area are facing.  I become saddened to think that many people will not get the relief that I received tonight with the restoration of electricity to my home.

And, in the midst of this, I see politicians on the news congratulating each other for jobs well done.  Each politician, from all over the political spectrum, are busy looking good all the while people are still seeing little to no results in their neighborhoods. The reality is that there is not enough people to quickly do ALL of the work that needs to be done.  And perhaps these politicians are doing the best job they can do; however, their celebration and horn blowing comes in the midst of real people really suffering.

Many people confuse serving God with serving themselves. It is very easy to cross that line, especially when serving God by serving others makes us feel good about ourselves.  It is easy for us to want others to see what we are doing, and we often justify our showboating by saying that we are trying to set the example for others to follow.  Celebrities are perfect examples of people who do things for the public to see “in order to be a good role model.” In reality, many of them are just as interested in selling their brand as they are being good role models.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a judgment against celebrities, politicians or anyone else who are in the public eye; rather, this is a challenge for each of us to question what it is that we are doing, and why we are doing it. We should always be asking ourselves those questions in order to evaluate whether we are truly serving God or if we are truly serving ourselves.

Jesus taught his disciples to avoid putting things on for show in order for people to see.  While the context is a bit different as Jesus was talking about prayer, the principle is the same.  What are you here to do? Are you here to make yourself look good or are you here to bring hope, healing and wholeness to those in need? Are you out to impress people with your prayers, your charities, your fine dress, and your success? Or are you here to serve God to the best of your God-given abilities?

God calls each of us to live as Christ lived, to make ourselves a living sacrifice to God. What does that mean? That means that we will offer ourselves up to God, sacrificing our self-interest and exchanging it for our God-interest.  We will drop our concern for our self-image, and we will start living out our God-image. We will drop all of our pretenses and start concerning ourselves with bringing true hope, true healing, and true wholeness into the lives of those in need.  We won’t need to showboat what WE are doing to people because we will know that it is GOD who is doing the work in us, through us, and certainly in spite of us.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

What more approval do we need apart from God’s?

PRAYER

Lord, you are a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Guide me to where it is you would like me to be and let me be a living sacrifice for you. Amen.

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.

 

A biweekly devotional