It appears that a mysteriously mischievous unicorn has kept me from uploading the next devotion. While this technical difficulty could be frustrating, I have seen the rainbow lining and am just happy the majestic, mythical creature showed up to say hi. What are the odds?!? As I work to get the next devotion up by the next publishing time, please click here to read a blast from the past. I hope you find it as relevant now as it was then.
Read Micah 6:1-15
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.” (Amos 5:15)
The end justifies the means. That is a cliché that I think is predominant in our society and/or culture. The end justifies the means. All we need to do is turn on television and watch any of a plethora of television shows, all we need to do is to go to the theater and watch any given movie and we will see a whole lot of that cliché being played out. We see heroes compromising their values in order to bring about some supposedly better end…and using any means necessary to make that happen.
Beyond television shows and movies, politicians will often use any means necessary to bring about what they believe to be a better end. Politicians who cut people down and use political action committees to destroy the reputation of their opponents, simply because they believe they’d make the best leader. Businesses who look at the bottom dollar as the end goal and use whatever means necessary in order to make the bottom dollar work out in favor of the company. Often times, the means to attain that end involves coldly getting rid of people and treating employees as expendable numbers, rather than being compassionate and not treating people as if they are expendable.
We also see this cliché play out in our communities. We see our government take people’s homes and property away, declaring it as eminent domain, in order to better commercialize and bring more money into a town and/or region. We see people who will cut people off on the road to ensure they’re not going to be late getting to work, or to a play, or to the nearest roadside coffee shop. I have even witnessed people cutting around funeral processions in order to avoid getting stuck in those situations.
The point here is this, in order to live by the cliché of “the end justifying the means,” we have to ultimately compromise our character and our moral code. The cliché certainly, and explicitly, announces that. The end justifies the means. That is really a nice way of saying the following: while normally taking this action would be deemed bad and/or immoral, it is okay to do so here because, in the end, things will work out for the better. The end justifies the means. Whatever means it takes to reach the end is justified by virtue of the end that is trying to be reached.
The end justifies the means…or does it? When we look to Scripture we see a ton of examples as to how the end never, ever justifies the means. David is, perhaps the most compelling and obvious of people to look at in this regard. David would do just about anything to be king, and once he became king he did just about anything to keep himself and his family in power. He slept with Bathsheba and to avoid scandal had her husband killed. He offed his political rivals with shrewd and shady expediency, looking as if he had nothing to do with it. He knew he was God’s chosen king and that God was going to establish his kingdom forever, and he let that go to his head. As a result his kingdom, his reputation, his power, and his entire family came crashing down.
Not only does the end never justify the means, the reality is that often times the means changes and/or destroys the end. What’s more, the means changes and/or destroys us in the process. Let us not be a people who justify any and every means to reach an end. Let us not be a people who justify evil by the end we are trying to reach. Remember that our call, first and foremost, is to live justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, regardless of the end. In fact, there should be no other end but that, and that end will dictate the means. Live justly, love mercy, walk humbly. It’s simple, it’s honest, and it’s the narrow way that leads to God’s Kingdom.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” – Jesus, the Christ (Matthew 7:12-14)
Lord, I want to follow you in all that I do. Lovingly hold me accountable to your way and steer me clear of sin and evil. Amen.
Read Genesis 1:26-31; Psalm 23; Matthew 25:31-46
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” (1 Corinthians 4:2 NRSV)
In the church and in the corporate world, the word “stewardship” often floats around congregations in the form of campaigns to raise “funds” for the mission and ministries of the church. As such, many people hear the word “stewardship” as just a church-speak for, “cough up some dough for us.” This particular perception has risen up as a result of the way stewardship has been discussed and handled in the church and corporate settings.
Yet, the word steward is used in other ways that point to the fact that, deep down, we know stewardship to be more than just monetary support. Back in the day, flight attendants were known as Stewards and/or Stewardesses. The steward, in the airline industry, is the person who cares for the needs of the customers boarded on the plane. They fetch pillows, bring food and drink, listen to and address issues specific travelers may be having, and they instruct people of safety procedures in case of an emergency. What’s more, in the event of an emergency, the steward risks their own safety in order to save lives and get people off of the plane (if it has been grounded). The role of a steward is the same on trains and ships as well.
There are other examples of stewardship as well. Rather, than belabor the reader with a million examples of stewardship, it is more important to point to the definition of what a steward is, in order to better grasp the concept of stewardship. A steward is a person how cares for the needs of other people, organizations, events, and/or places. Thus, stewardship is the ethos that embodies the responsibility of caring for those needs, which absolutely includes the management and planning of resources. With that said, let us not simply limit resources to money. Google defines a resource as, “a stock or supply of money, materials, staff, and other assets that can be drawn on by a person or organization in order to function effectively.”
In other words, stewardship is the embodiment of managing and planning resources, whether those resources are monetary, material, human, natural, or any other resource. Being a good steward is about managing those resources well; however, this sounds more corporate and less spiritually worded. In terms of being Christian and living out our Christian faith, being a good steward means taking good care of all that God has given us and making proper use of the resources God has given us. If we don’t share our resources with others, we are not being good stewards, and the same is true if we neglect, abuse, misuse, or mismanage the resources shared with us.
Thus, to be a good steward, spiritually speaking, we must recognize that ALL THINGS are FROM GOD. Our money, our natural resources, our real estate and property, our congregation members (in the case of churches), our staff members (in the case of corporations and/or organizations), and all other resources are from God. If we do not recognize the divine value within each of the non-living resources, and the divine presence and/or image in all living resources (especially in humans), then we are not embodying the ethos of good Stewardship. We cannot abuse/neglect the environment, be misers, and/or see our congregation members, our staff, our friends and family as expendable means to an end, and still call ourselves good stewards, let alone stewards in any sense of the word.
This latter part is often overlooked in stewardship talks and campaigns and, yet, is the most important part of stewardship. PEOPLE MATTER and are to be valued. LIVING BEINGS are ends unto themselves and never should be seen as a means to an end (to summarize Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative). So, today I challenge you to start evaluating your stewardship and start working toward being the best stewards you can be. That is what it means to be disciples of Christ, that is what it takes to truly follow Christ and uphold Christian values. STEWARDSHIP IS VITAL. Be good stewards and work to user in God’s Kingdom on Earth.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Live your life as though your every act were to become a universal law.” – Immanuel Kant
Lord, forgive me for when I’ve used people as a means to an end. Help me to treat people as divine persons and not tools. Amen.
Click here to view today’s devotion.
Read 2 Samuel 7:1-13
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
God said to Moses, “I [WILL BE] WHO I [WILL BE].” (Exodus 3:14)
Limited. If there is one word I can come up with when thinking about human beings, it is “limited.” We are limited in our perceptions, limited in our abilities, limited in our vision, and limited in just about every other aspect of our being. This is not a negative judgment, but rather an observation. In our minds, we love to imagine ourselves as being limitless. We watch TV shows and movies about superheroes who seem to be unlimited in their abilities, heroes who can literally fly to the moon and back in a single bound.
Yet, our reality is far different from the ideal we hold in our heads. The truth is that, as much as we would love to not have limits or bounds, we are totally limited. We are limited in our physical abilities, our psychological abilities, and we are limited emotionally as well. While all of this seems pretty pessimistic, and I am sure you are wondering what kind of point I could possibly be leading up to in this dour opening to a reflection, the truth is that this is not pessimistic. In fact, it is neither pessimistic or optimistic; rather, this is realistic.
What’s more, not only are we naturally limited in our capabilities but we limit ourselves in ways we should not be limited. While this is the case in a wide range of things, and across a wide range of people, I want to focus on Christians. While we are called to be a people of faith, we limit ourselves by our fear. We allow our fears to take over in our lives and we make them our lord rather than following our true Lord and Savior. We limit our understanding and conception of God as well. We build up church institutions, create polity to govern and control them, raise up church buildings, and fill those buildings with people. Over time, the people get so caught up in the institution, the polity, the buildings and their own little cloistered community that they end up limiting God to their own time, place and context.
In other words, they try and box God in. That’s not to say that God is actually boxed in or that God is actually limited; rather, it is people’s perceptions of God that are limited. This is nothing new, David wanted to box God in when he wanted to build God a house. God’s response to David was this: “Do I need you to build me a house? Am I not the God who created the world and all that is in it? Am I not the God who wandered with my people through the wilderness without any temple or house to live in? Do I really need a home? No, David! You will not build me a house.”
God WILL NOT be boxed in. Up on Sinai, when Moses asked who he should tell had sent him to free the Hebrews, God responded by saying “I AM WHO I AM. Tell them that I AM has sent you to them.” That phrase, “I AM WHO I AM”, can in Hebrew also be translated as “I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE.” God’s message to Moses, and to us as well, is that GOD IS. That God is with us, that God is always present with us. I AM WHO I AM. On top of that God is also reminding us, perhaps even warning us, I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE.
We cannot box God in. We cannot contain God and we can not have control over who God is or how God will manifest in the lives of others. Are you boxing God in? If so, in what ways? I challenge you to ask yourself those questions. Wrestle with them, for God wants you to trade in your perceptions for the reality and the universality of God’s presence and God’s love. GOD WILL NOT BE BOXED IN. The only house God wants to reside in is our hearts. I pray that, if you haven’t already, you open your hearts to the GOD. I pray that you are filled with the great I AM WHO I AM and that you are opened to the limitless possibilities of a God who WILL BE WHO GOD WILL BE.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Boxes are square or rectangular, have a beginning, an end, and are not infinite or eternal. God is not a box; rather, God is a circle of which has no beginning, no end and is both infinite and eternal.
Lord, help me not to limit who you are in my life or in my world. You are the great I AM, as well as the great I WILL BE. Amen.
Read Exodus 3:1-14
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I assure you,” Jesus replied, “before Abraham was, I Am.” (John 8:58 CEB)
One of the most powerful stories in all of the Bible, for me, is the story of Moses and the burning bush. While the concept of a bush that is on fire but not consumed is pretty cool in and of itself, but that miracle is not what draws me to the story. It is also pretty awesome that a voice is coming from this burning bush, but that is not what draws me in. I mean sure, that would be pretty powerful to witness, at least in the moment. It might even be powerful and remain cool the next couple of days; however, overtime it would end up getting stored on the back shelves of cool things in my mind, right along with sightings of ghosts, my first kiss, and other such things.
As we know, Moses was tending sheep at the base of Mount Horeb (aka Mount Sinai) when he looked up on the mountain and saw an odd flickering light. It looked to him like a fire and, like most people would, Moses went up on the mountain to check it out. Upon reaching the flickering light, he noticed that it was a bush that was totally caught up in flames, but wasn’t actually burning. In fact, it is kind of ironic that this bush became known as the “burning bush” because it wasn’t burning at all. Naturally, and probably cautiously, Moses began to step closer and closer to the bush. As he approached it, a voice cried out from the flames, “Moses, remove your sandals for you are standing on holy ground.” Now, I don’t know about you, but if I heard that I would have thrown myself off the mountain in fear. Moses was far braver than I and he did as the voice instructed him.
To make a long story short, and so as to not completely repeat the story you already just read in your Bible or e-Bible, Moses ended up having a complete conversation with this disembodied voice emanating from the not-so-burning bush. This voice told Moses that he was the voice of God and that it wanted Moses to carry out a very important task: to go back to Egypt and meet with Pharoah, telling him to let God’s people go. Moses tried to turn down God’s call, but to no avail. Finally, after Moses realized that God had convinced him to go, he asked, “Who should I tell my people sent me when they ask?” God’s answer is what, for me makes this one of the most powerful stories. God replied, “I AM WHO I AM. Tell them I AM sent you.”
Now, on the one hand, that must have thrown Moses for a loop. How could Moses even consider that an acceptable answer? Would people really get what he meant when he said “I AM” has sent me to you, let alone believe him? Yet, Moses carries that message to the Hebrew slaves, “I AM” has sent me to you. What is powerful about that is that it fundamentally shows us who our GOD is. Our God is our I AM. God is always with us, present with us in all of our struggles and trials. Our God is always with us, celebrating with us in our joys and triumphs. Our God is the great I AM. There could never be any greater hope than the hope of God’s presence with us.
From this account of God’s eternal presence comes a powerful message for us. If our God is the great I AM, and if we are the children of God, then it follows that WE ARE. Each and every one of us ARE. We have been created to celebrate the I AM within us. We have been created to live and to live abundantly. We have been created to BE, and celebrate our BEING. Do you do this? Do you celebrate who you are? Do you celebrate the divine I AM that resides in you? Do you see yourself as a child of the great I AM? Today’s challenge, and really everyday’s challenge, is this: look at yourself in the mirror. Stare into your own eyes. Stare deeply, get lost in the iris sea and peer into your soul. When the moment feels right, I want you to say the following words out loud to yourself: “I AM.” Seriously, look yourself in the mirror, get to know yourself and tell yourself, “I AM.” Then, go out into your day, everyday, and see the divine I AM in others. In that I AM will set you and others free.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I am what I am. I love me! And I don’t mean that egotistically – I love that God has allowed me to take whatever it was that I had and to make something out of it.” – Stevie Wonder
Lord, I am because YOU ARE. Thank you for making me who I am and help me to fully realize who I am. Amen.
Read Luke 20:9-19
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“He replied, ‘My mother and brothers are those who listen to God’s word and do it.’” (Matthew Luke 20:9-19 CEB)
If I were to walk into any given church, or up to any random person, and ask them what the heart of the Gospel message is, I would more than like receive something like the following: “The Gospel message is that God sent his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world so that he could be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Because Jesus was perfect and without sin, he became the spotless lamb led to the slaughter in order that he may die the death we deserve in order that those who believe in him might be atoned to God and saved.” This is the, in essence, the modern, popular Christian understanding of the heart of the Christian Gospel. Jesus came to die so that we might live.
Yet, when you read the Gospels themselves, we find that Jesus dying as a sacrifice for our sins is just a part of the Gospel story. It is not the whole of it. Yes, Jesus’ death and resurrection are vitally important to Christian theology, Christology, and the Gospel message; however, only so when it is told in the context of the other components that we find in the Gospel. When those components are missing, what we end up is with a skewed, inaccurate portrait of the purpose of Jesus of Nazareth, as well as a skewed and inaccurate portrait of God’s purpose for sending Jesus, the Christ.
While it is certainly true that Jesus’ death and resurrection has brought about salvific and transformative atonement from our sins, to only tell that part of the story does an injustice to the life and the teachings of the Christ. In fact, it not only does a disservice, but it completely ignores Jesus’ life and teachings altogether, as if they are simply secondary and/or non-important. Yet, was Jesus’ life and teachings trivial? Was his life and teachings secondary, just a necessary back-story to his ultimate death and resurrection? If that is the case, if Jesus’ teachings are trivial and secondary to the work of salvation in the world, then why go down the route of teaching and preaching at all. The Gospel writers could have simply just had Jesus proclaim that his the messiah and the son of God, have people reject that, have him crucified, died, buried, resurrected and be done with it.
But that is not what the Gospel writers did. Rather, they included the whole of Jesus’ life and they dedicated most of their time on Jesus’ teachings. For them, the person of Jesus of Nazareth and his teachings were both as integral to God’s salvation plan as his death and resurrection were. Jesus came, not to die, but to bring TRUE LIFE into the world. To show them what God means by LOVING GOD and NEIGHBOR. Jesus came to set the example and to personally deliver the beginnings of God’s reign in the world. But, like Jesus’ own parable of the wicked tenants suggests, some of those in the world to whom the father sent the son (e.g. the Romans, the politicians, some of the religious leaders, etc.), rejected his identity, as well as his authority, and tried to eliminate him.
That plot, though, ultimately failed; rather, what happened was that God made the greatest good EVER come out of both the life and the death of Jesus. Instead of remaining dead, Jesus resurrected and now sits in power and authority in a complete union with God. Those who believe in him have found the power of redemption, as well as the transformative presence of the Holy Spirit and the perfecting grace of God in their lives. They are not saved, but are transformed and are living out their FAITH in real and tangible ways.
The challenge for us is this, don’t be misled by a lopsided and misguided Gospel. Jesus wasn’t born merely to die. What kind of God would scheme up that kind of plan? Rather, Jesus was born so the he might LIVE in the world and that through him we might attain TRUE LIFE. Even in the face of evil, and even when finding himself in the valley of the shadow of death, Jesus perservered and triumphed over death because in him was a presence greater than death…the very presence of GOD. Through our belief in Christ, through our following his example as detailed in the Gospel, and through his death and resurrection, we have found REDEMPTION and have been placed on the narrow path that leads to life. Let’s start walking it.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“We cannot have the fruits of the gospel without its roots.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin
Lord, I open my heart to the truth of your Gospel. Perfect me in it and set me a part a witness to its power. Amen.
Read Luke 9:49-55
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17, NLT)
One of my all time favorite novels, as I have expressed in the past, is Bram Stoker’s Dracula. As a fan of the novel, one who has read it several times over the years, I am also a fan of Dracula films. Not one of the films ever does the novel justice, in my humble opinion, but I love them all the same. One of my favorites, is Francis Ford Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, which tried to remain true to the novel, but also explored the sensual side of the story as well. In fact, my main beef with the film is that it went overkill on making it erotic, taking away the beauty of the subtle eroticism that is inherent in the novel. As a result, it felt more like a romance than it did a horror.
In this film Dracula becomes a sort of tragic antihero. The film opens with the historical Dracula who is defending Romania, and Christendom, against the Turkish Muslims who are invading his land. One of the Turks attached a note to an arrow and shot it through a window in Dracula’s Castle; the letter was subsequently read by Dracula’s wife. The note stated that Prince Vlad Dracula had been killed in battle. Bereaved and beside herself, the princess committed suicide by jumping out of the castle window and fell to her death into the river below. When Dracula returned home, he found his dead wife laid out on the chapel floor. Before he could begin to even process what had happened, the priests told him that his wife’s soul had been damned to hell for committing suicide.
This graceless and condemning pronouncement of his true love sent Dracula into a rage. He grabbed his sword and stabbed it into a stone cross, which immediately began to gush with blood. Dracula then grabbed the Eucharistic chalice and, after he filled it with the blood, drank from it. It is in this moment that man died and the monster was born. Honestly, though, Dracula became a monster as a result of another monster in the room: GRACELESS THEOLOGY. It was the theology of the priests, who are supposedly Christ’s representatives, that killed Dracula the man and created Dracula the monster. Dracula’s response to the priests is best summed up by the lyrics of the song “Dracula” by Iced Earth: “I am the Dragon of blood, the relentless prince of pain. Renouncing God off His throne, my blood is forever stained. For true love I shall avenge. I defy the creed that damned her.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am certainly not justifying with Dracula’s reaction, nor am I suggesting that Dracula was right to “defy God.” What I am saying is that there is no greater monster than graceless, bad theology. Some Christians have placed themselves as judge and jury against what they feel is sinful or immoral. Yet, has Christ called Christians to be judge or jury? Or has Christ called us to be representatives of and witnesses to the love and the grace of God? I think the answer is clear. And I think it becomes clear who the real villains were in this particular telling of Dracula. Monstrous theology makes monsters of those who believe in it, and it also ends up either destroying and/or damning its victims, sometimes creating monsters out them as well.
In the spirit of Halloween, let us become the “Monster Squad.” Let us hunt down and eradicate the demons, the ghouls and the monsters that lurk in our theology. Let us be thoughtful and prayerful about what we believe and how express that. Let us be humble in our faith and recognize that ONLY GOD IS THE JUDGE and that we are not called to take the place of God. Let us remember that Christ has called us to be representatives of the Kingdom of God, to be witnesses of God’s grace, to to be bearers of God’s profoundly unconditional, limitless, and enduring love. Let our theology be the kind that points to the sacred worth in all people; and let us lay to rest any theology that sets out to destroy.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“One of the main tasks of theology is to find words that do not divide but unite, that do not create conflict but unity, that do not hurt but heal.” – Henri Nouwen
Lord, help me to be humble and to be faithful in representing your grace and love to all people. Amen.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:13-21
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16, NLT)
Back in March of 2014, a Christian film went mainstream and was shown in theaters across the country. The film was called “God’s Not Dead” and chronicled the struggle of a student in college whose philosophy professor asks him and his classmates to write, “God is Dead” on a piece of paper and sign it. Doing so, according to the professor, would get the kids out of having to dredge through the boring nonsense that is the philosophical “proofs” of God and get into the more interesting schools of philosophical thought. Of course, this professor is an antitheist and is a little more than just biased against any and all religious beliefs. An antitheist, for those who don’t know, are atheists who believe that religion is the cause of the world’s problems, who despise religion, and who seek to “edcuate” people that religion is faulty, prehistoric superstition that needs to be eradicated!
Honestly, I was not all that enthralled with the movie, though as a philosopher I dug the academic debate the film centered on. Still, in a world where Christians are being put to death for being Christian, in a world where millions of Christians are displaced refugees because of radical governments and religious zealots, in a world where such Christian persecution exists, a student’s struggle against an extreme professor seemed a little contrived and, well, superficial. For fans of the movie, hold off on the dislike button, because I’m not done yet.
Just recently a student I know was in a science class learning about the theory of evolution. During that class, the teacher made a comment that religious people don’t believe in evolution because they choose to believe in a God that created everything as it is. Feeling that the comment was a denigration to her both as a Christian and as an intelligent student, she raised her hand and spoke up, stating that the teacher’s comment was untrue. “I’m a Christian, I believe in God, I believe that God created the world, and I have no problem with the theory of evolution. Can’t God create a world that evolves on its own without needing a puppet master pulling the strings?” She also let that teacher know that what he was doing was stereotyping her and other religious people, which in her words, “was not cool.”
This student did not lose composure, but remained respectful yet firm in her convictions and that teacher, realizing she was right, acknowledged her point and moved on with the lesson. Despite my gut reaction to “God’s Not Dead” and the theological issues I believe are inherent in that film, there is a truth that Christians are living in an increasingly polarized society that often doesn’t look kindly on religion or faith. In fact, Christians aren’t the only ones who face this, but people of all religions do.
What is important for me to stress here is that this is not a “battlecry” for Christians to rise up and take back what is “rightfully theirs.” If we read the Gospels, and the New Testament as a whole, we quickly realize that the world has NEVER been “rightfully ours.” We live in this world, but we are not of it; rather, we are ambassadors who represent Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven, and we are not called to battle the world in a match of wits, or in senseless debates over who has the truth and who follows the fiction. With that said, we are called to represent the realm and the reign of God and to shine Christ’s light into this world of darkness. That is the heart of what the college student in “God’s Not Dead” was doing, and that is the heart of what the student I know was doing. She was not trying to put him down, or enter into a battle of the wits in order to disgrace him; rather, she was was shining a light on the truth of her faith and, perhaps, encouraging other people of faith in the room along the way. As Christians, Christ has called us all to lovingly stand up for the truth and be witnesses of the hope of God’s presence with us, regardless of what the world does or does not think of it. Remember that we live in this world, but we are not of it. May Christ give us all strength.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.” – John F. Kennedy
Lord, help me to have the courage to represent Christ and to do so in a way that is honest, bold, loving, and tolerant. Amen.
Read Matthew 11:25-30
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.“ (John 10:10 CEB)
As I have stated on multiple occasions, one of my all-time favorite shows is “The Walking Dead” on AMC. I was just watching the most recent episode entitled, “J.S.S..” I run a pretty tight ship in the “no spoiler zone”, so I will not be making any major spoils to the episode; however, I will be letting you know what the initials “J.S.S.” stand for. So if you are a fan of the show, haven’t seen this episode and don’t want to know what they mean, let this be your warning. Just put this devotion aside and read it after you watch the episode.
In the latest episode, a girl is seen wandering the empty streets. She is the last in her family to survive and she is wandering by day and hiding in empty cars by night. She eats whatever she can get her hands on to survive and looks like a bloody mess from all of the animals, and zombies, she’s had to kill. There doesn’t seem to be much left of her. She looks exhausted, confused, lost, empty, and hollowed out like an embalmed cranium. She is a shadow of her former self and she is just barely surviving. Everywhere she goes, she writes the initials, “J.S.S.”.
Without giving anymore of the storyline away, we finally find out what “J.S.S.” stands for: “Just Survive Somehow.” Indeed, that is what she had been doing, wandering from place to place, eating whatever disgusting and unpalatable animal that came her way. That is what she had been doing night after night, clearing the rotting dead from the cars parked on the road so that she could have a “safe” shelter to sleep in. That is what she had been doing…just surviving somehow.
As I see it, that is what a lot of us do. We just survive somehow. Day after day, night after night, week after week, and year after year. We just survive somehow. We wander through our lives like the aforementioned girl wandering the zombie infested streets. Every day we wake up, get out of bed, put on our shallow, fake smiles and our “happy face” masks and set out to just survive another long and painful day. In fact, we’ve gotten so accustomed to surviving that it has really, for all intents and purposes, become our sole purpose in life: just survive somehow.
We think to ourselves, “maybe tomorrow will be better,” and when tomorrow comes and goes we think, “Maybe next week will be better.” Of course, next week, next year, next decade, things don’t seem to ever get better and we feel trapped in perpetual survival mode. So we tell ourselves again to “just survive somehow.” Surviving becomes such a terrible and lonely fight and some of us, too many of us, simply don’t win out in the end. Surviving becomes too much for us and we find that it’s better to succumb.
How sad it is that so many people have spent their lives “surviving.” Sadder still is the truth that many people don’t survive at all, but rather become victims of their loneliness and hopelessness. These unfortunate ones never got to see their true worth, they never had a chance to see that there is beauty in this life, and they never had the chance to see that God wants them to thrive, not just survive.
If this is you, if you are just surviving somehow, if you are merely hanging on in your life, then I bring you good news. You are not alone in your struggles. God created you, you are a daughter or a son of God, and God wants you to move beyond surviving to thriving in life. This doesn’t mean that you’ll become rich and permanently happy; rather, this means that you will rise up out of the ashes of survival and into the hope that comes through the sacred community of the Triune God. You will be surrounded by a community of thriving survivors who have experienced God’s hope, healing and wholeness and want to freely share that with you. If this is you, I pray that you enter God’s community and experience love.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.” – Aristotle
Lord, I’ve been in survival mode for far too long. Awake in me the desire to thrive in my faith and in my life. Amen.