Ageless

Read Psalm 100

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. (Revelation 1:8, NRSV)

Earth viewMost, if not all, of us can sift through the years gone by and remember a time when we were children. Though it may be a while ago, and though certain memories might be fuzzy, we can with a little effort remember what it was like to be a child. What it was like to look at the world through innocent eyes, what it was like to rely on our parents, what it was like to have a mind like a sponge, soaking in all of our surroundings and feeding off of that knowledge with youthful energy and passion.

Of course, I am sure if we can remember those things, I am also pretty certain we can remember the not so positive things as well. I am sure that, with a little effort, we can remember being told that “children are to be seen and not heard.” I am sure we can remember being scolded for doing this or doing that, without fully understanding why we were getting scolded for behaving no differently than the adults do. I am sure we can remember people talking down to us as if we were too young to understand, or dismissing our thoughts and ideas as if they didn’t count because of our age.

On the flip side, I have seen the opposite occur too. I have seen people who are considered “older” passed off as being irrelevant. I have seen people’s ideas invalidated simply because “they don’t meet up with the times.” I have seen traditions scoffed at because they are “old” or “archaic”.  We all can think to a time when we, or people we know, have made judgments against people because of their age.

Why is it that we are so focused on age? Why is it that a child is passed off as too naive to know what God is calling him or her to do? Why is it that an elderly person is invalidated because they are considered too old to know what is relevant for today’s generations? Does God discriminate based on age? Does God refuse to speak to and through people based on their age or their experience?

In Genesis, Noah was somewhere between 500 and 600 years old when God told him to build an Ark…he was 600 years old when the floods came (Genesis 7:6). God called Abraham to be the ancestor of many nations at the ripe age of 99 (Genesis 17:1).  In Jeremiah, God called the prophet to speak despite Jeremiah judging himself to be too young (Jeremiah 1:6). The author of the first letter to Timothy, instructs the young minister to not let anyone think less of him because he is young, but to “be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity” (1 Timothy 4:12, NLT).

In reality, we serve an ageless God who is not limited by the limitations we place on ourselves and on others. God is neither young nor old; rather, God IS. With that said, God IS calling us, whether young or old, to live in a way that values others. God IS calling us, whether young or old, to live in a way that is humble. God IS calling us to recognize that there are no limitations in God, that all things are possible. God IS calling all of us to knock down our walls of segregation and discrimination and to open ourselves to God’s spirit working in, through and in spite of all of us. Today’s challenge is to answer that call to see God working in and through all people…including yourself.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“God is not limited by the limitations we place on ourselves and others.”

PRAYER

Lord, I know that you are not a God of limitations, but of eternal possibility. Remove my biases against myself and others. Use me in a way that promotes growth and brings hope, healing and wholeness to those in need of it. Amen.

 

Never at a Loss

Read Psalm 18:2-6

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Walk about Zion, go all around it, count its towers, consider well its ramparts; go through its citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will be our guide forever.” (Psalm 48:12-14)

Letting_Go_by_TheMadScientistI just recently watched a movie called “The Dead Matter” and, as you can probably guess by the title, it was a horror film about vampires trying to use some magical relic to raise the dead in order to use them as an army to…I can only guess…take over the world. Okay, so the plot wasn’t anything earth shattering but there was something about the film that struck me as being all too familiar to the human experience.

Gretchen, who is the main human character in the movie, accidentally stumbles upon the relic. She also happens to be a grieving sister who had recently lost her brother in a car accident. She wanted nothing more than to see her brother again. She missed him terribly and just could not let him go. As mentioned earlier, this relic has the power to bring the dead to life and, upon discovering that power, Gretchen seeks to bring back her brother.

Of course, that plan does not work out the way that Gretchen had hoped it would. Rather than bringing her brother back, everyone and their mother starts to come back to life. You can only imagine what kind of nightmare that would be. And even if she did bring her brother back from the dead, would he really still be her brother? I think we all can agree that whatever came back to bite her (pun completely intended), it would not be her brother.

While Gretchen was dealing with the loss of her brother, the fact of the matter is that, regardless of what kind we are dealing with, we often have a hard time dealing with loss. Whether it be our relationships, our careers, our sense of control, our comfort, or our way of doing things, there can be little doubt that we spend a great deal of our time trying to avoid letting go. Some people will resist any kind of change for fear of the loss that will come as a result of it. Indeed, it is hard for us to deal with loss.

Jesus was no stranger to loss. He lost his identity as a carpenter. He lost the comfort of his own home. He lost the trust of his family (who all thought he was crazy). He lost the chance of leading a “normal” life. He lost many of his followers when they realized their lives were on the line; and, in the end, Jesus lost his own life. Yet, Jesus let all of that go because he realized that regardless of the loss, he would never lose the hope of God’s presence.

Remember that you, too, are being called to let go of the things that are holding you back from living the life God has called you to live. Let go of your anxiety, let go of your fear, let go of your resistance to change, let go of your need for control, let go of your grudges, let go of it all. The more you let go, the more you realize that God never lets you go. Today’s challenge is for you to let go and let God’s presence fill you with hope, healing and wholeness.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Abundance is a process of letting go; that which is empty can receive.

PRAYER

Lord, teach me to let go and to put my trust completely in you. Amen.

 

What’s Religion Got to Do with It?

Read Micah 6:1-8

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Then [Jesus] turned to His critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer Him.” (Mark 3:4, NLT)

I-praise-you-oh-God-christianity-30793563-1658-1387If I were to ask what Christianity is, I would no doubt get a variety of answers starting with, Christianity is a major world religion. That answer would be followed by a host of other answers such as Christianity is a religion that is based around Jesus the Christ. Some might respond that Christianity is a religion that teaches about God’s unconditional love, about God’s forgiveness and about Grace. One might say that Christianity is a religion centered around Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and a religion that celebrates a new life through Christ’s resurrection from the tomb.

Regardless of what answers one might come up with in order to address what Christianity is, they would all most certainly be centered around “religion.” Yet, did Jesus come to establish a new religion. There is no doubt that Jesus was a Jewish teacher who lived and breathed his Jewish faith; however, was it religion that Jesus was focused on?

Let us look at what Jesus did and taught. Jesus taught about loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus taught about recognizing and valuing the image of God in all humanity. Jesus not only taught those things, but lived them out and modeled them for the people he taught, often times at the expense of getting in trouble because he was going against what his “religion” told him he should do. In reality, Jesus was much less about religion and more about relationships.

For Jesus, it was important that people were living in right relationship with God and with each other. If religion helped guide people in that direction then it was doing its purpose; however, often times, religion gets caught up on the rules and regulations, on the structure and hierarchy. Often times, religion becomes more about pleasing the system than it does about pleasing God. What’s worse, pleasing the system is sold to people as being “pleasing to God.”

But Jesus, and the prophets who came before him, knew that what was pleasing to God had little to do with religion and EVERYTHING to do with relationships. So, why go to church then? Why should we be involved in a religious institution, one might ask? The reason is because God calls us to be in relationship with one another, to be in a Christian community that will encourage us…and to be in a Christian community that we can be an encouraging presence in. God wishes for us to build each other up, support each other, celebrate our triumphs together and support each other in our weaknesses.

It is in the Christian community where we find spiritual growth and nourishment. It is in the Christian community where we find opportunities to be a part of the work of Christ in the world. It is in the Christian community where we find accountability as well as the grace to learn from our mistakes and grow into the person God is calling us to be. It is within the Christian community, not within the Christian “religion”, that we find that the presence of God is truly with us…it is within that community where we find that we are NOT alone! Remember that while God does wish for us to get hung up on dogma and religious rules and regulations, God very much does want us to be present in a community working toward seeking justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with our God. The challenge today is to find your place in the Christian community. God is calling you!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Personal relationships are the fertile soil from which all advancement, all success, all achievement in real life grows.” – Ben Stein

PRAYER

Lord, work in me and through me to strengthen the relationships I do have as well as to begin to build new ones.  Place me in the midst of your community. Amen.

By Our Love

Read Jeremiah 2:12-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act–they will be blessed in their doing.” (James 1:23-25)

CrackedLandAs a child growing up in the Christian church, I was always taught that Christianity was about love.  One of the first hymns a child learns in the church is “Jesus Loves Me,” and there other hymns that children learn that promote that image of a loving God and a loving Church. Hymns like “Jesus Loves the Little Children” making lasting impressions on the young child about God’s character, as well as the character of the God-loving church.

And,honestly, that image doesn’t get lost among adult hymns either. One such hymn that comes to mind is the hymn, “They Will Know We Are Christian by Our Love.” In that hymn, Carol Arends writes, “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord and we pray that all unity will one day be restored. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. They will know we are Christians by our love.”

The hymn goes on to speak about Christians working side-by-side and walking with each other hand-in-hand. These are the images of Christians that we put forward to our children, to each other, and to the world at large. Yet, is that how we, as Christians, truly live? Do we treat each other with dignity and lay down our pride? Do we see the value in each person we come across and hold them in the same regard as we hold ourselves? Do we accept each other with the love of God in our hearts, or do we judge others without giving God a chance to shine through?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. If we are claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ and yet behave in a way that is contrary to the character of Christ, we do far more than just push people away from us; rather, we end up pushing people further away from Christ. People looking in at the church often find themselves saying, “I don’t want any part of that.” In the end, instead of being vessels for God’s hope, healing and wholeness, we end up being like cracked cisterns who have abandoned the fountain of Living Water.

Throughout Scripture, God has invited people into a deeper relationship with God through living in a right relationship with each other. The latter part is essential to the former. We cannot be in right relationship with God, we cannot be drinking from the fountain of Living Water, if we are not loving others as God has first loved us. That is why Jesus said that loving thy neighbor (including your enemies) as oneself is likened to loving God with all of our beings.

Today’s challenge is to look openly and honestly at yourself. Are you living in a way that is pleasing to God or in a way that pushes others further from God. Are you bearing the Christian spirit that you claim to possess? Of course, none of us are perfect and none of us will perfectly live into the image of Christ. We all, myself included, have room to grow; however, until we are honest with ourselves and open to the transformative work of the Holy Spirit, we will always stop short of growing. God wishes for you, for me and for all of humanity to continue to grow into reflectors of God’s love. No doubt, by the grace of God, we will be brought from where we are to where God wants us to be! Remember, they will know we are Christian by our love!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Actions speak louder than words.

PRAYER

Lord, continue to work in me, continue to mold me, and continue to bring me from where I am to where you want me to be. Amen.

 

Walking on Water

Read Matthew 14:22-33; 2 Corinthians 5:7

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all.” (Isaiah 7:9b)

Jesus_Walking_on_WaterOne of my favorite contemporary Christian worship songs is a song called “Walk by Faith”. It was written by Jeremy Camp while on his honeymoon with his wife Melissa. He had known that she had cancer when he decided to marry her, but he was hoping that perhaps a miracle would happen and the cancer would go away. After all, she had gone through chemotherapy and seemed to be getting better. Her hair was growing back and all seemed to be going well.

Yet, on their honeymoon, Melissa started to have stomach problems and ended up being rushed to the hospital.  While in the hospital, Jeremy and Melissa found out that the prognosis wasn’t good. The cancer had spread rapidly and there was nothing that the doctors could do to stop it. Melissa had mere months to live.

The song, “Walk by Faith”, was written prior to Melissa passing away and another great song by Jeremy, “I Still Believe” was written directly after she passed away. The story has always given me goosebumps thinking about it, especially in light of these words, “Well I will walk by faith, even when I cannot see, well because this broken road prepares your will for me.” How can someone have such faith in the midst of such tough circumstances? How can someone endure through all that life throws one’s way without losing his or her faith?

While faith does not explain why “bad” things happen, nor does it give easy answers to tough questions, it certainly does allow for one to see God in the midst of one’s trials and to rise out of the ashes of tough times in order to see what God has done in the midst of them. For instance, prior to her dying, Melissa expressed to Jeremy that she wanted to be a witness to people of God’s presence and unconditional love. Though she passed away, her legacy lives on in Jeremy Camp and, through his testimony of her life, many have truly witnessed God’s presence in the midst of a terrible situation.

So often people, and even churches, get caught up in their fears. They feel like the world is collapsing around them. Whether it be due to their finances, their status, their health, their relationships, or anything else, people can very quickly lose faith. It is very easy for us to let our fears get the best of us. It is very easy for us to forget that on our good days we claim that God equips us with everything we need. It is very easy, in the midst of challenges, to forget that WE ARE NOT ALONE.

All we need is FAITH.

Like Peter, we may find ourselves out in rough waters. Like Peter, we may find ourselves sinking further and further down. Like Peter, it may seem like we are suspended over 70,000 fathoms of water with no chance of possibly surviving. Yet, hush. Listen. Listen to the voice of Jesus calling out to you, just as he did to Peter, saying, “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?” Look with the eyes of your heart and see that you are NOT alone. See that there truly is NOTHING to fear and that Christ is there to help you rise above your fears to a place of faith. For nothing, truly nothing, is impossible through Christ who gives you strength.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER

Lord, I step out in faith and trust that I am not alone. Through you, everything is possible and I have nothing to fear. Amen.

 

A biweekly devotional