Patience is a Virtue

Read Psalm 130

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices.” (Psalms 37:7)

PatienceJust recently I finished another three-week juice fast. I had gotten to the point where I knew that my body was needing to be cleansed of all of the convenience foods I had been feeding it. In fact, in the course of a three month period, I had gained about 24 lbs. Can you imagine it? As my clothes got tighter and tighter, I started to realize that I was counteracting all of the hard work I had done over the course of the last year and a half and decided to reboot my body.

The first time I ever juiced, I got very excited as I saw the weight drop; however, there were some days when my body didn’t lose any weight and I was left there to wonder why in the world I wasn’t losing pounds when I wasn’t eating ANYTHING! How could I stagnate in weight loss, when all I was feeding my body was liquid nutrition? What’s more, there were days where I was a pound or two heavier. FOR REAL!?!?!

To say I got frustrated would be an understatement. Of course, after a few days I would lose three or so more pounds and be back to the excitement of losing the weight. This cycle went on for the duration of my entire 60 day juice fast which, in the end, I totaled a weight loss of 66 pounds.

But this time around, I wasn’t having any difficulty or frustration. Sure, there were days where I lost weight and days where I didn’t lose any, but I knew that ultimately what I was doing for my body was healthy and that my body would respond accordingly. This time around I had the patience to endure the ups and the downs, recognizing the larger picture of the health I was promoting in my body.

How often does our impatience frustrate us and stand in the way of our faith in God. Often time we wish for things to happen right here and right now, and when the results don’t meet up to our expectations we throw our hands up in the air, shake our fists, and wonder what’s the point of it all. In the end, looking back on our lives, we can easily see the larger picture that got played out; however, in the moment, we are frustrated.

In fact, I can say that it was my impatience that caused me to gain the 24 pounds to begin with. I didn’t want to have to spend two hours a night making food. I’m a busy guy with lots to do; surely, it would be quicker and easier for me to eat processed packaged food that can be made in a matter of minutes in a microwave. Well, it is plain to see where impatience led me.

Rather than being impatient, we are called as Christians to wait patiently on the LORD. While we, in this day and age, live in a culture of instant gratification, it is extremely important for us to discover the virtue of waiting…the virtue of patience. Christ calls us to have faith, to wait upon the LORD, and to trust that our life of service is WORTH IT, even if we don’t see immediate results. God sees the bigger picture. Trust in that.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord.” – Brenton Brown and Ken Riley (from their song, “Everlasting God”)

PRAYER

Lord. You have instilled patience into all of us. I pray now that I may take the time that is required to do things your way. Amen.

 

The Ordinances of God

Read Psalm 119

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.” (1 Peter 4:7)

OrdinancesFor anyone who doesn’t already know this, I am a huge movie fan. What’s more, I am an avid collector of Biblically inspired films.  The most recent film added to my collection, The Bible miniseries, is perhaps the most epic Biblical film to-date. The series in its whole, runs ten hours long. Unfortunately, while ten hours seems like it would make a long film, it is not enough to accurately represent the entirety of the Holy Bible.

With that said, the series was a huge commercial success. In fact, it seems that anytime something related to the Bible is produced, people by the millions stop what they are doing to watch it. The first installment of the series drew in 13.1 million viewers, beating out American Idol and other shows.  Those are ratings that nobody can scoff at.  Yet, when looking at how many people read the Bible on a weekly basis, polls have shown that only about 37-40% of Americans read the Bible at least once a week (and I think that poll is probably more than generous). If we move beyond that to attending worship, or other spiritual disciplines, we will see even lower numbers.

John Wesley, in the third component of his General Rules, stated that it is vital for Christians to attend “upon all the ordinances of God.” An ordinance is a requirement set forth by an authority; therefore, an ordinance of God would be a requirement set forth by God.  Wesley believed that regular prayer, regularly studying scripture, partaking in the Lord’s Supper, fasting, and being a part of a Christian community in fellowship with other Christians, all helped to not only bolster the Christian’s faith, but helped them to grow in it as well.

In fact, without those things, we often find ourselves dry, empty and lost. The fact is that, just like any other relationship we have, our relationship with God takes effort and discipline. We cannot grow in our relationships with people if we never see, spend time with, or talk with them. How can we, as Christians, expect to grow in our relationship with God if we don’t attend to all the ordinances of God.

Here is a challenge for us all: attend to all the ordinances of God.  Search the scriptures regularly, pray regularly, partake in communion regularly, regularly fast (this doesn’t have to mean abstaining from food) and be a part of the Christian community…not for the sake of “going to church,” but for the sake of growing in your relationship with God.  Find a community that is actively seeking to live its faith out in the community and join in the work of bringing hope, healing and wholeness to those around you.  It may seem like work at first, as any discipline does (e.g., exercise, education, etc.), but I promise that through it your eyes will open wide to the grace of God that surrounds you.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

How can we expect to grow as Christians, how can we expect to grow closer to God, if we spend our days avoiding the spiritual discipline it takes to experience such growth?

PRAYER

Lord, give me the motivation to spiritually discipline myself to attend to your Holy Ordinances! Amen.

Doing Good

Read James 2

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (Ephesians 2:10)

9090-42_AL_Elite_Red_lThere is this comedian by the name of Emo Phillips that a pastor I served under used to quote all the time.  Emo is a really tall, lanky, and odd looking guy who, at least on appearance, seems to be quite eccentric to say the least.  Just looking at him you get the immediate sense that this guy is going to be funny.

Emo bases his stand up routines on a lot of different subjects. From politics to history to religion, Emo touched on them all.  I always found his religious jokes to be quite funny, not just because they way in which he presents them, but also because there is a level of truth to what he is saying. Often he’ll start off with something commonly held by Christians, and then go somewhere in left field with it.

One of his stand up routines went something like this. “When I was a kid,” Emo would reminisce, “I used to pray every night for a new bicycle.” After making a praying gesture and looking up to the sky, Emo looks back at the audience and concludes, “Then I realised that the Lord doesn’t work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.”

While this is funny, it also points to a misconception about Christianity, one that was pointed out in the letter of James.  This very misconception was also something that John Wesley, in his day and age, had to deal with.  In the Protestant Church, most Christians, Wesley himself included, came to the conclusion that we were saved by our faith in Christ…and by that faith alone…that we could not work or earn our way into salvation; however, despite how liberating that revelation of Martin Luther’s is, it also led some to believe that there was no need for good works.

While John Wesley, and Wesleyan Christians since him, affirmed that we are saved by faith alone, it is also safe to say that such a faith would be bear the fruit of good works.  Wesley believed a Christian evidenced “their desire of salvation” by, “in part, doing good of every possible sort” (Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2012, 52). In other words, a person of faith will not sit by the wayside doing nothing to bring the hope, healing and wholeness of God into the world around them.  A faith that does not produce fruit is no faith at all. As James puts it, “a faith without works is dead” (James 4:??).

Have you experienced hope, healing and wholeness in God, through Jesus the Christ? Have you experienced the eternal, unconditional love of God? Have you come to faith in that love? Have you come to faith in Jesus Christ? If so, then you are a transformed person, one who lives by faith…one who serves because of your faith. You are called to life of service, you are called to be the hands and feet of Christ. I pray that, if you haven’t already, you answer that call.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” – John Wesley

PRAYER

Lord, use me as your agent of hope, healing and wholeness and lead me, through my faith in you, to do all the good that I can. Amen.

 

Resisting Evil

Read Ephesians 6:10-18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.” (James 4:7-8, NLT)

tdy-121017-the-omen-1One of my favorite horror movies is the Omen, which stars Gregory Peck who plays an American Ambassador to Great Britain. Peck and his wife, played by Lee Remick, have a child; however, Peck’s character learns that the child died during labor and is offered a chance, by a priest, the child of a mother who died in labor in place of the couple’s dead child. “No one need know,” the priest assures, “You need a child, and that child needs parents.” Peck is convinced and brings in the baby, never telling his wife what happened.

Needless to say, that action was a HUGE mistake and, as the child grows, more and more weird and crazy things start happening. At the child’s 6th birthday party, the nanny hang’s herself after yelling, “It’s all for you, Damien! It’s all for you!” Eventually, after his wife has been seriously injured by their maniacal child, Peck’s character learns that the child he was given was actually the son of Satan; in other words, his child was the unholy incarnation of evil.

While many of us flock to the movies to watch “evil” play out in various ways, and while many of us acknowledge the existence of evil when we see it splashed across the new channels, most of us live our lives as if evil doesn’t exist. We wake up and carry out our days activities as if we aren’t affected by evil in the slightest. Worse yet, many of us think of evil as something alien to us…after all, we could never do any evil, right?

The truth is that we can do evil and are most definitely affected by the evil we do and the evil that is surrounding us.  John Wesley said that a life of faith is one that seeks to do no harm, “by avoiding evil of every kind” (United Methodist Book of Discipline 2012, 52).  As people of faith, we should be seeking to do no harm. How? By avoiding every kind of evil.

If you see someone in need and don’t help them. That is evil. In this case, you avoid evil by helping those in need. If you judge others, even the Hitlers and Stalins of the world, that is evil; rather, pray for such people and work to change yourself in a way that brings hope, healing and wholeness into this world. If you see injustice of any kind taking place, it is evil to do nothing about it. Be a person who stands up for what is right and seeks to do justice on this earth.

Evil takes many shapes and forms. It is not just murder and the grotesque things found in Hollywood horror movies; rather, it can be ever so sublte. Evil is anything that keeps you from living the way that God has called you to live. From murder to holding a grudge, we are called to do no harm by avoiding evil of every kind. And the only way to avoid evil, is to resist it, to counter act it, to take a stand with Christ and oppose evil with God’s love. May God strengthen you as you seek to live this out.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“The power of choosing good and evil is within the reach of all.” – Origen

PRAYER

Lord, I seek to not only avoid evil, but to resist evil. It is from you that I gain my strength and through you everything is possible. Amen.

 

What is Your Priority?

Read 1 Corinthians 9:22-27

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:7, NLT)

discipline-of-prayer-theOne of the things that profoundly attracts me to Wesleyan Christian theology is the focus on spiritual discipline interwoven into it.  John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, strongly believed in the importance of maintaining a life of spiritual discipline. It was not just enough, for Wesley, to pray the “sinners prayer”, ask Jesus in your heart, and be done with it.

While Wesley did believe that we are saved by faith, and faith ALONE, he believed that such faith would manifest itself in good works. In other words, good works are the fruit that grow on the tree of faith. And the way to grow as a tree of faith is to practice spiritual disciplines such as observing a sacred time of rest (aka Sabbath), daily reading of the Scriptures, attending regular worship service and/or being active in the life of the Church, living out one’s faith through acts of compassion and mercy, studying, and other such things.

Today, in our fast paced world, it seems that we barely have time to brush our teeth and tie our shoes.  Just this past week, I took my daughters to a couple softball games, softball practices, and a school Spring concert.  And that stuff was just for my children. How can I or anyone find time to incorporate spiritual discipline? Yet, in reality, we do have time.  We have all the time in the world for the things we prioritize.

The truth is that, if we are to be honest, most of us don’t prioritize practicing spiritual discipline in our lives. It’s not that we don’t have time to read the Bible, to pray, to observe a time of sacred rest, to be an active part of a community of worship, or to be a presence of love, mercy and compassion to those around us who need it; rather, it’s that we have not prioritized doing those things. Sure, we may do them here or there, but if the truth be told, we don’t find them to be THAT important in our lives.

Neglecting to nourish our soul, it’s no wonder many of us find ourselves so burned out and depressed.  It’s not wonder some of us feel so overwhelmed by the challenges that seem to burden us day in and day out. If we are to maintain a healthy balance in our lives, if we are going to be whole and well beings, then we must maintain our spiritual health as much as we do our physical, emotional, and psychological health.  Just like it does your body good to consume fresh vegetable and fruit produce and to feed your body whole and wholesome foods, it does your soul good for you to feed it the “food” it needs.  Remember, you are not just a body or a mind, you are also a soul and if you are going to truly care for yourself—the way God wants you to—then you will make sure to prioritize spiritual discipline in your life.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.” – John Wesley

PRAYER

Lord, help me to prioritize spiritual discipline in my life, that I may draw ever closer in my relationship with you. Amen.

Tourniquet

Read Psalm 22

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me. Your rod and Your staff protect and comfort me.” (Psalms 23:4, NLT)

amy-Lee-amy-lee-17285119-1600-1200While riding down to the Farm Market to get myself some fresh produce, I was listening to the album, “Fallen”, but Evanescence. For those who don’t know, Evanesence is a hard rock band that was formed in 1995 but had their big break in 2003, when “Fallen” was released. The band is headed up by the hauntingly beautiful and beautifully talented Amy Lee. She is not just beautiful in terms of her physical appearance, but her voice is amazing and there is a depth to it that allows one to peer into her soul.

One of my favorite songs on the album, which also happens to be a cover of song written by a Christian band, is the song Tourniquet.  In it, Amy Lee agonizingly sings the following lyrics: “I tried to kill my pain but only brought more so much more. I lay dying and I’m pouring crimson regret and betrayal. I’m dying, praying, bleeding and screaming am I too lost to be saved? Am I too lost? My God my tourniquet return to me salvation! My God my tourniquet return to me salvation!”

The lyrics are dark and the music is haunting and driven with urgency. When one listens to this song, they cannot help but feel the despair of the person who wrote them.  can you imagine what it must be like to be at the end of your rope, trying to hold on to life and yet feeling like your about to lose everything? Can you imagine the pain of lingering on depressed and desperate with nothing but the agonizing feeling of being all alone? Perhaps you can.

I have often said that the one fear that ties us altogether is the fear of being alone. Human beings are social creatures who are designed to be in relationship with other humans. We need relationships to survive and this is a need that we have from the moment we are born. A baby born into a world that fails to provide it with human interaction cannot survive. It will die. And so it makes sense, and the Bible certainly picks up on it, that we humans desire to be in the presence of others and will do anything to keep from being truly alone.

With all of that said, there is also profound hope in the song. “My God, my tourniquet, return to me salvation!” This simple and yet profoundly deep sentence almost sounds like it comes straight out of the Psalms.  This sentence reminds us that, no matter how lost we feel, no how matter how dark it gets, no matter how desperate we become, we are NEVER ALONE. God is always with us and we are always in God’s presence. Just like the Psalmist who goes from “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me” (Psalm 22:1, NLT) to “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid,  for you are close beside me” (Psalm 23:4, NLT), so to the writer of this song goes from the agonizing over being alone to crying out to a God who is very much with him/her.

And so it is true in our lives as well. When you think you are alone, when you think that God has abandoned you, when you think there is nowhere left for you to turn, when you think that life is not worth living, and/ or your think that there is no hope left for you, remember this song, remember the worlds, “My God, my tourniquet, return to me salvation.” Remember the God who is with you, who HAS saved you from trials and tribulations in the past, and WILL pull you out of the midst of your despair when ever you call out for help! YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Security is not the absence of danger, but the presence of God, no matter what the danger.” – Anonymous

PRAYER

Lord, I acknowledge your presence with me and hand all that is burdening me over to you. I trust that  you will take care of me. Amen.

Welcome Mats

Read John 13:3-5

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23)

welcome-matThere are all types of welcome mats with various images, shapes, sizes, designs, and with various sayings on them. Despite the clear differences between any given welcome mat, they all have one thing in common: all welcome mats are meant to appear to be “welcoming” someone to the home, business or institution, all the while suggesting that the person should “wipe their feet” before entering. What a crazy double message that is, isn’t it? You are welcome, but not as you are…dirty.

According to the author of John, Jesus was holding a special pre-Passover meal with his disciples before he was to be arrested, tried and executed for treason. The scene can be easily imagined. They had traveled all day long on dusty/dirty streets in the hot sun. They more than likely smelled to high heaven of sweat and body odor. Dirt covered them from head to toe, clumped and caked on via the sweat. And then there were their feet, the part of their body that took the majority of the abuse. Can you imagine how dirty, how absolutely nasty, those feet must’ve been? Yet Christ, welcomed them and then took the role of a servant by washing those nasty feet.

Truth be told, Christ never intended us to be clean, but wants us to get dirty helping others get clean. How completely antithetical welcome mats are to who Jesus is and who Jesus calls us to be! But what are these “welcome mats” in our churches, one might ask? They are the clothes we wear, the language we use, the theology we preach, the leadership styles we worship, the politics we play, the buildings we inhabit, the idols we claim to be God (such as dogmas, traditions, theologies, and anything in our churches that replace God), the arrogance we bear, and the pride we display.

It seems clear that the reason any church or church leader or congregant has these is because they are missing perhaps the most important piece of wisdom that any Christian must have. This piece of wisdom is found in verse 3 of the passage quoted at the outset of this writing. In that verse it says the following words, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God…”

Jesus show tremendous humility in his earthly ministry. The author of John writes that Jesus knew that all things had been given to him by God, that he was from God, and God he was returning. The church, however, seems to forget this fact about itself. It forgets that God has given it all that it has, it forgets that from God it came, and to God it shall return.

Like Jesus, we are to be the welcome mats, rather than placing other objects down as the welcome mats in order to give ourselves a false sense of “clean.” Like Jesus, we too should remember that everything we have is from God! This includes everything in heaven and on earth, our very lives, the lives of those who surround us, the lives of those we love, and the lives of those we hate; everything in creation is from God. Thus, dirty or not, dressed right or not, theologically sound or not, great leader or not, etc., these people are given to us by God, just as we are given to those people by God. Let us not place obstacles in the way of anyone, but rather, let us serve others in love and truly welcome them in as brothers and sisters.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“He does not believe who does not live according to his belief.”  – Thomas Fuller

PRAYER

Lord, use me in a way that is truly welcoming to all of those people you have placed in my life. Amen.

Defying Gravity

Read Acts 1:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Defying_Gravity_Wallpaper_by_englishfreckleMy family and I just took a trip to see the Broadway play, “Wicked”, which is a musical about the Wicked Witch of the West (of Wizard of Oz fame).  But this play, which is based off of the parallel novel by Gregory Maguire, takes a significant twist from L. Frank Baum’s novel. In this version, the Wicked Witch is not wicked at all, in fact, she is a well-intentioned animal-activist who becomes labeled “Wicked” because, in part, her appearance and because she refused to play by the rules. Well, there is a lot more to it than that, but I wouldn’t want to spoil it for those who have yet to see and/or read it.

Before the first act closes, Elphaba (aka the Wicked Witch) is preparing to stand up against what she believes is injustice.  Glinda, who is her friend, tries to talk her out of it; however, Elphaba will not be dissuaded; rather, she casts a spell on a common broom, and with it, begins to levitate up into the air. As she does her cape expands (or the lighting makes it seem that way) and is flapping through the air. During this whole scene she is singing the song, “Defying Gravity.” It is quite the spectacle.

I was moved, a lot, by the lyrics of the song: “Something has changed within me, something is not the same. I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game. Too late for second-guessing, too late to go back to sleep. It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes, and leap! It’s time to try defying gravity! I think I’ll try defying gravity, and you can’t pull me down!

The words caused me to pause and reflect on the life of Jesus. He too lived a life in defiance of the status quo. He refused to follow the rules just for the sake of following them. He took the risk to defy the forces that be in order to bring hope, healing and wholeness into a very broken world. As a result, he was labeled “wicked” by those who opposed him. He was betrayed by those closest to him and executed for crimes he never committed; however, he dared to defy gravity and truly no one could pull him down.

In the first chapter in Acts, we see Jesus literally defying gravity as he ascends to heaven after having been resurrected from the dead only forty-days earlier. In another ten days, the holy spirit would come and fill his disciples and they, too, would begin to defy gravity in order to continue the work of the Christ, which is to bear hope, healing and wholeness to broken people in a broken, dark, downtrodden world.

Rather than letting gravity pull you down, rather than let the weight of the world crush you, perhaps its time to place your faith in God and watch how you levitate to heights you never dreamed possible. Perhaps it is time for you to start defying gravity, perhaps it is time for you to rise up out of the rules you find yourself bound to. Perhaps it is time for you to clothe yourself with the cloak of God’s presence so that you, like the apostles and the saints before you, can bear hope, healing, and wholeness to a world that desperately needs it.  If that makes you a little “wicked” in the world’s eyes…so be it! Be all that God is calling you to be!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.” – Robert H. Schuller

PRAYER

Lord, lift me up so that I may rise above what the world says I am and be transformed into all that you want me to be. Amen.

Grace Period

Read Matthew 18:21-22

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.” (2 Corinthians 4:15)

images_softball_fieldThis year, both my daughters signed up to be on the recreational softball league for the first time.  This has been a good experience for them so far and they are really surprising me at how quickly they can pick up the rules of the sport and learn to play the game.  While it has been trying on my wife and I as we try to get the girls to their practices and games (which sometimes conflict with each other), it has also been rewarding for us as we get into the games and root for our girls and their teammates.

My daughters both have learned very quickly that you cannot swing vicariously when a ball is pitched to you.  They have also learned that you can’t just stand there, poised and ready, without attempting to swing at some of the pitches either.  After all, it only takes three strikes and your out!

Of course, we all know that. “Three strikes and your out.” We can all hear the umpire screaming: “Yeeee-ooo-uuu–rrrrr Ooo-uuu-ttt!!!” Those are the rules of the game and, we all know those rules carry on off the field to. We have all heard irritated parents tell their children, “Three strikes and your out.” I know I have been guilty of saying that to my children and I know I am not alone. “That’s strike one! Two more and you’re grounded!”

What we have been taught and, in turn, what we have taught our children, is that there is a limit to our grace. We even call that limited length of time a “grace period.” There is only so much room for error, there is only so much room for grace, before someone has gone beyond the point of no return. While this works in the context of a game, is this how God wants us to operate in our everyday lives?

Peter once approached Jesus of Nazareth to ask that very same question. Is there a limit to grace, is there a grace period followed by the point of no return. “Lord, how many times should I forgive someone? Seven times,” asked Peter?  Jesus responded by saying, “Not seven times, but seventy times seven.” Seventy times seven? If we do the math that equals four hundred ninety times! There’s no way any one of us could forgive that many times without losing count!

And that is the point that Jesus is trying to make. In God’s eyes, there is no such thing as a “grace period.” In God’s eyes, there is no such thing as “three strikes and your out!”  God is not asking us to show grace until the point of no return is reached…for grace can only be found far beyond the point of no return.  Once you experience God’s grace, there’s no turning back for God’s grace transforms us and compels us to bear that grace toward others.

While God is not asking that we be pin cushions, or that we needlessly take abuse from people, God is asking that we always show the same grace to others that we ourselves have received.  We can remove ourselves from bad situation without removing grace from ourselves. If we do that, if we would just take the time to treat others the way God has treated us, then we would realize that there is no grace period for grace is eternal and timeless. Let the grace of God work in you so that you may bear that grace to others.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Give grace the same way you received it: with joy and thanksgiving.

PRAYER

Lord, I thank you for the grace you have poured out on me. I open myself to that grace so that I may show it to others. Amen.

A Modern Parable

Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.’ (Matthew 18:21-22)

say_hello_2_heavenHave you ever pondered about heaven and hell? Often times they both seem so distant, they both seem so very far away. We all hang on to life, thinking that the longer we live the longer we can put off having to find out what lies beyond the great divide. Yet are heaven and hell that far away?

One day, while pondering on the nature of heaven and hell, I pictured hearing what Jesus would say about the two if he were living on earth today. What sort of parable would he tell, what kind of illustration would he use to describe the reality of heaven and hell? We all know the imagery he used in the New Testament; however, if Jesus were living on earth today, what example would he provide us? And then I thought of an event that had happened a while back and decided to put the exercise on paper. It went like this:

One day a man came up to Jesus and questioned him, “Rabbi, teach us of hell.”

Jesus looked deeply into the man’s eyes and began to answer in parables.  “Hell is like a schoolhouse of Amish children.  One day a man entered into the schoolhouse, lined up all the girls along the wall, and bound their ankles and hands together.  He called his wife to say goodbye and then started shooting the girls in the back of the head, one by one.  Finally, the man took his own life, leaving several Amish parents without their children, leaving his own children without their father, leaving his wife without a husband, and leaving his parents without a son.

In reaction to the incident, people around the nation began judging the man and his family.  His face was shown all over the television with the words, ‘The Face of Evil‘ written underneath.  People judged him as an evil person and before long such judgments would justify their harassing the killer’s wife and children.”

The man looked back at Jesus in utter astonishment.  “What then of heaven, Rabbi,” he asked.

Jesus answered,  “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the Amish parents who, after their children were mercilessly and brutally murdered by a gun man, met with the family of the murderer.  They brought food, tears, and prayers to the killer’s wife’s door, sat with the wife and kids, ate with them and prayed with them.  They said to the wife, ‘In our hearts we have already forgiven him.’  They also begged the wife, ‘Do not leave this area. Stay in your home here. We forgive this man.’”

While these words are obviously not the actual words of Jesus, I do believe that they are true insomuch as they shed light on the nature of heaven and hell.  The fact of the matter is that hell, often times, surrounds us; however, as followers of Christ, we are called to be ambassadors of heaven. The Amish in the parable above, pulled from a real life event, acted as heavenly ambassadors would. Though they were the grieving victims of a heinous, evil crime, they chose to act out of love and forgiveness, rather than out of vengeance and hate. It may be a tall order but, as the Amish proved, it is not an impossible one. May the love of Christ permeate you so that you can show it even to your enemies.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Love seeketh not itself to please, nor for itself hath any care, but for another gives its ease, and builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.” – William Blake

PRAYER

Lord, teach me to love, regardless of the cost. Just as I am forgiven, give me the humility and the strength to forgive. Amen.

A biweekly devotional