Tag Archives: Christ

A LOOK BACK: God’s People, part 145: Simeon

Read Luke 2:25-35

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.”  (Joel 2:28, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Simeon

Part 145: Simeon. In the Gospel of Luke we get a little more of Jesus’ back story than we do in the other three Gospels. In Luke and John, we really get no back story at all. In Matthew, we learn that Jesus and his family flee to Egypt to avoid being slaughtered by Herod. After some time, no one really knows how long, Jesus’ family take him back to Israel and settle in the town of Nazareth, which a backwater town that was inconspicuous and far enough away from King Herod’s sons reach.

In Luke, however, Joseph and Mary were originally from Nazareth, traveled to Bethlehem to participate in Caesar Augustus’ census, and gave birth to Jesus in a stable. Eight days later, as per Jewish Law, Jospeh and Mary brought their son to the Temple to be circumcised. Following that they return to Nazareth and raise their son there. From there we are told that Jesus’ family went to the temple annually to partake in Passover and, when Jesus’ was twelve years old, he gives his parents a heart attack when he decides to stay behind as they were traveling home in order to school the religious leaders in the Temple.

But that is getting ahead a bit. After Jesus was circumcised, his parents and him ran into an old man named Simeon. Like most observant and devout Jews, Simeon had spent his life wondering when the God would deliver God’s people from the oppression of foreign occupation. In fact, Simeon not only wondered but, at least as an old man, was lying in lament and wait for this event to happen.

We are told that Simeon was a righteous man, meaning that he lived in right relationship with God and with neighbor and that he was a just man. The Holy Spirit was upon him and revealed to him that he would see the Lord’s Messiah before he died. We are also told that on the day Jesus was circumcised, the Holy Spirit led him to the Temple.

Friends, this is an amazing account because it shows the powerful workings of the Holy Spirit. God’s guidance is given to those who seek God out and open themselves up to what God is doing. That is exactly what happened here to Simeon. As such, not only did Simeon get to see the Christ, but he also was the beginning of the fulfillment of what was prophesied in Joel: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.” Joel was not yet fulfilled, that would happen later at Pentecost, but this was a sign of what was to come.

Upon seeing Jesus, Simeon took him into his arms and blessed him and praised God for fulfilling God’s promise to him. He then, again a sign of what was to be fulfilled on Pentecost, prophesied: “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” (Luke 2:34-35, NLT)

Sisters and brothers, the Holy Spirit IS REAL and works through those who seek out the LORD. The challenge for us is to open ourselves, as Simeon did, to the presence and the working of the Holy Spirit. The time for complacency is over. Christ came, Christ lived, Christ died, Christ rose again and ascended into heaven, and Christ will come again in final glory. We are here in advent of that coming and there is much more work to be done to prepare the way of the coming Lord. Let us be the ones who do not oppose him, but proclaim the Christ’s holy name. Amen.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Yea, amen! let all adore thee, high on thine eternal throne; Savior, take the power and glory, claim the kingdom as thine own: O come quickly! O come quickly! O come quickly! Thou shalt reign, and thou alone.” – Rev. Charles Wesley

PRAYER
Lord, spark your passionate fire within my soul and use me to prepare Your way in this broken world. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Two Probing Questions

Read Mark 8:27-30; Matthew 16:13-20; Luke 9:18-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

who_am_iAnyone who has ever had me as their teacher in confirmation class can attest to the fact that I take confirmation very seriously. I have developed a curriculum that goes beyond teaching the meaning of membership to a curriculum that instructs the students to engage in Christian History from Jesus to our current day and age. The curriculum has the students actively engage theology and doctrine (and the history behind the formation of the doctrines) as well as learn about the meaning of membership in the church.

One of the exercises I have the students do as a requirement for the class is to write a 3 page paper, or longer if they desire, answering two very simple, and very Biblical questions. In Mark 8:27-30, in Matthew 16:13-20, and in Luke 9:18-21, Jesus asks his disciples who people say that he is and, following their various answers, he asks them who they say that he is. So, likewise, I have the students answer those two questions.

It is amazing how challenging such an exercise is. Most of us can easily and quickly come up with a long list of the things that people say Jesus is; however, when it comes to who we say Jesus is, if we are going to take the exercise seriously, it becomes much more difficult to articulate. But each of my students have been through the exercise and each have come away saying that the experience of it was rewarding, leaving them with a richer sense of who Jesus is to them.

When God created humanity, God did not create robots. It was not God’s intention to have an android creation that just mindlessly, and robotically, did whatever God wanted them to do. Rather, God created a free-willed, free-spirited, and free-thinking people who had the ability to not only choose to be in a relationship with God and, in that relationship, seek to come to an understanding of God and of self in the context of that relationship. As human beings, we do not only define ourselves by our own thoughts of who we are, but rather we define ourselves by the relationships we have with ourselves and with others. Who am I without my mom, my sister, my friends, my wife, my children, and myself?

Thus, if we are Christians who claim to be in a relationship with God and with Jesus the Christ, then doesn’t it make sense that we would seek out who Jesus is? Doesn’t it make sense that we would not just settle for who people say Jesus is, but that we would find out who Christ is to us? Doesn’t it makes sense that we would want to get to “know” the person we claim to love and to follow?

Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt for you to write down Jesus’ two probing questions: “Who do people say that I am?” Who do you say that I am?” God is calling you to probe deep into your faith. It is never okay to just accept things at face value. God is calling you to move beyond what you’ve been taught into the realm of personal, experiential knowledge. Who is Christ for you? How have you experienced the power and the love of Christ in your life? How has Christ healed you, been present with you, changed you, and/or challenged you? Where does your story and the Gospel story intersect? God is calling you to truly discover who Jesus is and to deepen your faith in him. Such an invitation leads to transformation and conviction. Get to know your Lord and be convicted to bear his hope, healing and wholeness to world.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“The steady discipline of intimate friendship with Jesus results in [people] becoming like Him.” – Harry Emerson Fosdick

PRAYER

Lord, take me deeper in my faith that I may more intimately know you and grow more and more like you. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: The Trust Game

Read Genesis 16

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.” (Psalms 37:5)

Picture_12_xxxlargeWhen I was in High School, I remember that we used to have to do all sorts of different “team building” activities in gym. The idea was to teach the students how to work as a team, how to rely on each other as teammates and, most importantly, to learn to trust one another. If a team does not act as a single unit, it will fall apart into a fragmented mess.

One of the activities that our gym teachers would have us do involved a great deal of trust. They would blindfold some of the students and have them stand with their backs facing other students. In turn, the students were told to lean back and let themselves fall back into the arms of the people standing behind them.

I remember when it was my turn to be blindfolded. I remember how paralyzed I was for fear that the other person wouldn’t catch me. The last thing I wanted to do was to fall flat down on the ground, making a fool of myself in front of all my peers. It was hard, extremely hard, letting myself go in order to fall back into the arms of the person behind me. Eventually, I did let go, was caught in mid-air, and was relieved when my turn was over. With that said, I cannot say that I felt any more trust, nor was I looking forward to do that again.

We, as human beings, have a particularly hard time putting our trust in other people. And this is never any more evident than it is in the church. Too many times we find infighting, bickering, dissention, and all sorts of conflict rise over the issue of trust. But the trust issue doesn’t stop there. Though we attend church, we sing hymns, we praise God, and we pray to God, we ultimately find ourselves lacking in trust when it comes to God.

Though we say that we put our faith and trust in God, we often find ourselves acting in a way that would state otherwise. Though we say that we trust God to guide us through our situations, we find ourselves trying to do things our way, just like when Abraham figured he would have to sleep with his servant in order for God’s promise to come true. Instead of fully placing our trust in God, we pull back our trust in order to “take control” of things.

It is in those moments that we find ourselves in situations we could have otherwise avoided had we only placed our trust in God to guide us through. As the church, as Christians, we are called to be a people of faith and of trust. We are called to trust in God and we are called to trust in each other. If we do not stand together, and place our trust in one another, then what good news are we really displaying to the rest of the community? If we are lost in our own brokenness how can we ever witness to the hope, healing and wholeness that Christ has to offer?

The challenge today is for us, as Christians, to begin to reestablish our trust in God. It is time to let go and fall back into God’s arms. We need to trust that God will not let us fall and, so long as we love God and are called according to God’s purpose (Romans 8:28), God will do mighty things in us, through us and even in spite of us. But how can we place our trust in God if we cannot even put our trust in those who are trying to serve God alongside of us? God desires all of us to be a people of trust. Place your trust in God and let God lead you from where you are to where God is calling you to be.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Let the love of God lighten your life, let his kindness mold you into his presence, let him be your guide as you travel the road of life.” – Unknown

PRAYER

Lord, today I place my trust in you. Lead me in a way that deepens my trust in you and in your people. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Power-Up With Love <3

Read 1 Corinthians 13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (Matthew 19:30, NRSV).

Power-Up With Love <3Have you ever played the game Super Mario Brothers, or any of the subsequent Super Mario Brothers games?  I sat down with my daughters tonight for a little R&R, along with some Super Mario gaming.  We were playing New Super Mario Brothers on the Wii, and as soon as the game started any chance of “R&R” when right out of  the window.

If you have never played the game, let me explain what it is like playing it with three people.  If you remember the original Super Mario Brothers on the NES system, you could only play that with two people and only one player could play at a time.  My brother-in-law aptly said that Super Mario Brothers came from a time when people were accustomed to “taking turns”.

In the New Super Mario Brothers game, taking turns no longer exists!  Three people all fighting for the same prizes, trying to jump at the same time, and warring with each other to get to be the first to reach the flag adds a new stress-inducing dynamic to the already stressful game. As, we went further and further…rather, as we repeated the same round over and over again, the more the laughs turned to frustration. The girls started yelling at each other, I could feel my heart rate rising and, before I knew it, I was calling it quits for their benefit and for my sanity.

As I let the blood pressure drop and the heart rate slowed down, I began to think about how much stress we put ourselves through by trying to be the first, the best, the one who has the most stuff, and other types of things.  In a society that promotes “healthy competition”, we find ourselves more and more succumbing to the hazards that come along with such competition.  People are stressed out, burned out and on the verge of snapping all because they are seeking to be the best.

In a world that urges its inhabitants to fight for their “right” to be number one, in a world that teaches us that only the strong survive, in a world that teaches us to accept the “dog-eat-dog” mentality, Jesus calls us to see things in a whole new light.  Rather than the first being the winner, Jesus insists that the last are the ones who are truly first. Instead of survival of the fittest, Jesus insists that the fittest are the ones who realize how unfit they are.

Keeping this in mind, Paul also addressed the people within the church of Corinth.  To paraphrase, Paul told them that its not about how much you have, or how loud you talk or any other sort of thing. It comes down to if you have LOVE or not.  Without love, and the ability to love (which comes to us from God), we are only shadows of what we were meant to be.  We are noisy gongs and clanging cymbals without love, nothing more.

Instead of competing with each other over who is the best, the quickest, the cutest, or whatever other things we compete over, Christ is calling us to LOVE.  Rather than filling the void in our lives with the stress that this world offers us, Christ is calling us to have peace through LOVE.  You may be thinking that this sounds nice, but what does that mean? That means that if you live as Christ lived, and love as Christ loved, you are bound to be filled with the love and peace of God…you are bound to be filled with, and to fill others with God’s hope, healing and wholeness.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

What’s love got to do with it? EVERYTHING.

PRAYER

Lord, teach me to lay down my desire to be first and to pick up the desire to be love in the lives of those who cross my path. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: It’s the End of the World As We Know It

Read Mark 13; Revelation 22

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ (Matthew 10:7, NRSV)

It's the End of the World As We Know ItHave you ever heard the song by R.E.M., “The End of the World As We Know It”? I was just listening to that song today and reflecting on the message of it. In the song, Michael Stipe goes through a complete list of cliché things that people say are going to happen when the world comes to an end. Intermingled with that list is also some social commentary of how the world, typically thinks of itself. Stipe sings, “Save yourself, serve yourself. World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed.”

Then when the list has been had, Stipe sings that “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.” Come again? You feel fine that the world is coming to an end? Some Christians make it their living to “warn” people of the impending doom that will befall the earth in the last days. Many people spend their lives speculating what the end will be like, when it will happen and the devastation that will be wrought. And now that we are in the year 2012, many people are worried that the Mayans might well have predicted the end.

Yet, Michael Stipe is singing that he feels fine about this? Now, I am not going to put words into Michael’s mouth; however, I was reflecting on the lyrics of this song and what they mean to me. When we watch television, or read the news online, we often see apocalyptic images spreading around the world like wild fire. Tensions are high, people are afraid, and soothsayers are ever active in predicting the end. Yet, as Christians, we ought to know that God does not wish destruction upon the earth.

Yes, an entire book of the Bible is devoted to talking about the end times and yes, Jesus talked about such times too; however the point was not to scare people as much as it was to give people hope. While the language is that of GOd reigning justice down, Revelation and other texts like it are more pointing to the destruction the earth has wrought on itself and the consequences of such destruction. Just look at the war riddled world and you can easily see images of Revelation.

So what is hopeful about this? The hope is that redemption is not only on its way; however, it is here. As we approach Advent, we often reenact the “coming” of Jesus and, in Revelation, we look forward to the “second coming” of Jesus. But, what we fail to realize, is that Jesus has already come again…in us! All four Gospels tell of Jesus talking about the gift of the Holy Spirit, given to those who believe. The Holy Spirit that dwells in us is ever working in changing the world around us. But, in case you didn’t get the memo directly, we are to be ACTIVE players in that.

Rather than pretending to be awaiting for the first coming and rather than anxiously awaiting the second coming, perhaps we Christians should be actively living the coming of Christ in us! If more Christians lived out their Christianity in ways that made a difference to those around them, and less worried about event that are completely out of our control, then perhaps we would usher in the end of the world as we know it. Perhaps, instead of a world of suffering, pain and chaos, we could usher in a world of hope, healing and wholeness. Perhaps instead of a broken world, we could help usher in a world of togetherness, of community, and of LOVE. And if that is what it means to usher in the end, how can we not feel fine about it? This is what it means to be Christian: to usher in the end of the world as we know it. It’s time to get to it!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

To be made in the image of God means that we are made in the image of love.

PRAYER

Lord, I am your servant. Help me to usher in the end of the world as we know it through your love. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: God’s People, part 1: Eve

Read Genesis 2:4-25; 3:1-24

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then the man—Adam—named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live.” (Genesis 3:20 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly are like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

AdamAndEve01

Part 1: Eve. When we think of Eve, we tend to think in negative and sexual terms. That last one may make you uncomfortable to read, but it is true. Eve is commonly known as the mother of us all, but only because she chose to disobey God and lured Adam to do the same. Her sin, as it is commonly understood, led women into having labor pains and to the establishment of patriarchy (aka women being under the dominion of men). Sadly, our common way of understanding things does an injustice to Eve herself, and it has been damning for women throughout the millennia.

I also think that our tradition, in this regard, does an injustice to the Scriptures themselv es, as I think we tend to lay more blame on Eve than we do on Adam. My reading and interpretation of Scriptures leads me to a different place. By focusing on the sin of Eve, we also miss the beauty of her inherent goodness that is a reflection of the divine image of God. While the story has Eve coming from man, it is only because God realized that man was incomplete without woman. The story is kind of comical in how it is structred because God sets out to create a partner for Adam and has to give it a couple of attempts before getting it right.

The first time round God gave Adam animals, but ended up finding out that humans and animals don’t make a good match. Then God tries again and this time puts Adam asleep and forms woman from Adam’s rib. In other words, Eve was not a sheep or a donkey or a horse or any other animal. Eve was another human being like Adam, made from the same flesh and blood. The important thing to note is that Eve completed Adam.

Yes, Eve did sin, but it is important to realize that it was Adam who God told not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That was a direct command from God to Adam before Eve was even created. Presumably, as the story never specifies, Adam told Eve; however, it’s no wonder that Eve was the vulnerable target for the shrewd and crafty serpent. She had less of an understanding  as to why they could not eat from that tree, and so the serpent lured her in. Despite that, Adam is still culpable because he was the one who truly knew better.

Yet, that still misses the ultimate point being made here. Eve did not let her sin weigh her down. She became the mother of all despite many painful and tragic circumstances. Also, while sin may have entered the world through the first people, so did true LOVE. Why, you might ask? Because, through Adam and Eve’s choice came God’s plan of redemption through Jesus Christ, who is the ultimate embodiment of God’s faithful, unconditional love. Christ is the clear choice God has given us in regard to away out of our sin and back into a relationship with our Creator.

We all make choices and those choices all bear consequences. But that does not make us any less God’s people. The story of Eve drives that point home. Eve did not let sin have the final word and, as such, she became a part of God’s redemption plan as God would choose to become one of her descendents and redeem the world. God does not want you mired by your choices or their consequences, but wants you to move forward from them, like Eve did, and allow God to guide you toward being who you were created to be.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Grace is a much more accurate word to use when dealing with the state of human existence. God gives us unmerited favor through Jesus Christ, and since Adam and Eve, our lives have depended on it.” – Monica Johnson

PRAYER
Lord, I acknowledge that I am a sinner. Still, despite my sin, give me the perseverance of Eve who moved beyond her sin, was fruitful and multiplied. Because of Eve’s faithful perseverance, your Son Jesus Christ came into the world and conquered sin and death. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: A Time to Zip

Read John 17

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.” (Psalms 52:8)

zip-liningWhile I was not a huge fan of high school while I was in it, there are some things that stand out in my mind that I look back on and cherish as valuable learning experiences. One of the things I remember was that our high school had this outdoors obstacle course that had all sorts of stuff set up in it, including an awesome and adrenaline pumping zip line. This was one of those things that people either loved or hated.

One of the teachers would climb up to the zip line first, and then invite students, one at a time, to climb up to where he was. Before climbing, a teacher at the bottom would place the student in a harness that had a cable attached to it. The one end of the cable was attached to the student, it then traveled up to a pulley and back down to the teacher on the ground who would act as the counter weight. This was to ensure that if the student fell she or he would dangle and slowly be lowered down to safety.

Both teachers would ensure the students that it was perfectly safe so long as they obeyed the safety rules. All the student had to do was trust the teacher, climb the pole. Once he/she got up to the platform, they would be harnessed into the zip line and off he or she could go. All that was required, both to climb up the pole and to zip down the line, was a little trust. one had to trust that the teacher was harnessing them up right and they had to trust that, should one slip and begin to fall, the teacher to whom one is harnessed would be able to counter the weight and lower the student safely back to the ground.

There were some students that didn’t blink an eye before putting their trust in the teachers. They were the ones who climbed up to the top and had the thrill of zipping down that line.  Others, myself included, were a little more cynical about the teacher’s ability to “save” me. Many of us never even made it up the pole at all; rather, we sat there looking up…only imagining who awesome that zip line might be. I, and others like me, simply could not get ourselves to trust.

This is a great metaphor for the church. Christ has called us to place our trust in him. What’s more, Christ has also asked us to place trust in each other. On the surface, that sounds easy enough, right? In reality, this is not an easy thing for most people. Most of us Christians find ourselves way too cynical to place our trust in each other. We can talk all day long about trusting Jesus, but we cannot bring ourselves to trust others in our church and/or fellowship.

In one sense, it is understandable that we have such a hard time in trusting each other. There is great risk associated. We may see our vision of the fading into the shape of someone else’s vision. We may place our trust in the wrong people, only to find out that we’ve been used and taken advantage of. There are lots of things that can go wrong with placing our trust in each other.

Yet, Jesus took that risk in his own life and calls us to do the same. We are to place our trust in God, to place our trust in God’s church (in and through whom the Holy Spirit works), and to be trustworthy to those who are trusting us.  Not one of us is perfect and sometimes our trust will be broken and/or we will break others trust; however, if we are ever to move forward, if we are ever to take the leap of faith and zip down the line, if we are ever to move beyond the paralysis of our cynicism and our fears, we will have to place our trust in God and in each other. Even when people fail us, God never will. So, what do you have to lose?

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Who trusts in God’s unchanging love, builds on the rock that naught can move.” – Georg Neumark

PRAYER

Lord, guide me to be more trusting of you and of your church. You have not just called me but have called others. Help me to work with them and to trust them so that your work may be done here in my community. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Go with the Flow

Read Philippians 4:4-9

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

Imacon Color ScannerMy family and I just recently went on a vacation down to South Carolina. The first four days of our vacation were spent at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort. One of the things my wife, daughters and I did was go on a two hour kayaking tour of the bay. We all have been kayaking before and we thought that it would be a relaxing way to spend the last morning of our stay at Hilton Head. As we got into our double kayaks, paired up with our children, we quickly realized that the kayaking tour was not going to be a “relaxing”, lazy river experience. The winds had kicked up and the current became rather strong.

At one point, my youngest daughter and I started to get pulled in the opposite direction from the way that the group was going.  I started to paddle harder and harder, but it was to no avail. The current was simply to strong. My arms got tired and I became panicked and concerned that we were in a hopeless situation. No matter how hard my daughter and I rowed, we just could not get our kayak to turn around and head in the right direction.

Finally, a light went off in my head. I realized that the whole time we were trying to row against the current. We were trying to rely on our own strength to turn ourselves around and row upstream.  Yet, the forces of nature were simply too powerful for my arms and the arms of a 9 year old to row against.  But what if I began to row with the current, what if I let go my desire to go against the current, what if I stopped fighting so hard to do what was ultimately impossible?

“Row right, row right,” I called out to my youngest daughter! The second she heard me she caught on to what I was trying to do and began to row with the current in synch with me.  As we began to pick up speed, I plunged my paddle into the water on the left side of the kayak and began to feel the vessel turn around. “Shallow ro, shallow row,” I called out! With those words, my daughter began to row quickly on both sides using the double paddle. As she rowed the kayak picked up momentum, turned and before we knew it, we were paddling quickly upstream. With in a moment or two, we caught up to the group and, shortly after, were able to see a pod of dolphins swim gracefully by us only a few feet away.

What this experience taught both my daughter and I is that, often times, we find ourselves caught in a current. Rather, than letting go of our fears and going with the flow, we often find ourselves fighting the current. At best, we find ourselves paddling in place and never going anywhere. At worst, we find ourselves exhausted, lost and hopeless.

If you find yourself in such a situation, if you find yourself rowing against the stream, if you find yourself fighting the current, today’s challenge for you is to let go. Allow yourself to go with the flow and to gain momentum. Remember, you do not have the strength alone to fight the tide. But if you let go of your fears and go with the flow, through the grace of God, you can build moment enough to turn yourself around and paddle to where God is calling you to be. With God, there is no such thing as hopeless. Remember that, let go, and let God take you to those rewarding, refreshing waters.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Don’t stand about on the edge of life afraid to venture in. go with the flow of circumstances. Follow the voice within.” – Unknown

PRAYER

Lord, help me to realize that I have little control over the circumstances in my life; however, I do have the choice to hand my desire for control over to you. Guide my life in the direction you see fit and lead me to where it is you are calling me. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: An Indisputable Truth

Read Mark 3:20-35

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24a).

thCA5AG0OROn June 16, 1858, then Republican senatorial candidate Abraham Lincoln gave a speech that would shake the foundations of the Illinois statehouse and, eventually, would test the moral fiber and endurance of a nation. Lincoln was advised by his law partner, William H. Herndon, not to read it; however, Lincoln insisted on reading it stating that “the proposition is indisputably true … and I will deliver it as written. I want to use some universally known figure, expressed in simple language as universally known, that it may strike home to the minds of men in order to rouse them to the peril of the times.”

Following the speech, many people called it inappropriate. They felt that it was not politically correct and felt it to be too bold a speech for someone who’s looking to be elected. In the end, Lincoln ended up losing the election to his opponent, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. Leonard Swett, another lawyer, believed that it was the speech that caused Lincoln to lose the race.

So, what did Lincoln say that was so controversial? He quoted Jesus’ words, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” While Jesus was responding to his opponents accusation that he was in league with Satan, Lincoln was referring to the damning effects of slavery. He was saying that this nation could not carry on being half-free and half-slave; it would either have to become all of one or all of the other. Lincoln knew which end he wanted to see…the end of slavery!

When we look at the modern church, we can see a slavery of a different kind. In the church we become a slave to our own ways of doing things. We see our own theology as being the right theology. We see our own ideas as being the right ideas. We see our own cliques as being the best people in the church. Often times we become slaves to our own egos, forgetting that it is God, not us, that we are called to be serving.

But, as Jesus proclaimed we cannot carry on serving God and serving ourselves. While Jesus was speaking of money, the truth carries over to anything we place before God. We cannot serve two gods, because one will always take precedence over the other. The church, the house and body of God, often stands divided against itself because of the lack of focus on Christ who is our center. And as Christ and Abraham Lincoln both said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

The truth of the matter is, we are either serving God or we are not serving God. There is no in-between when it comes to whom we serve. In order to serve God, we must be striving to live in the image of an imageless God. We must be living examples of God’s love and God’s light. We must be bearers of God’s grace and forgiveness. We must learn to love one another, for only then will we have any business loving the world. If we strive to live into the image of God, we will no longer be divided; rather, we will be united in the eternal love that saved us from ourselves.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Rather than standing divided amongst ourselves, let us stand united in Christ and his mission.

PRAYER

Lord, help me to see the bigger picture and to do my part in standing united in harmony with the rest of your body. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Bewitched

Read Galatians 3:1-5

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” (Romans 6:14, NLT)

TheWitch01

The lights darkened, the room silenced, and the discordant sound of stringed instruments filled the air in an unsettling and disturbing manner. The sounds of violin and cello cut through me like serrated steel as the theater screen faded in from black to the image of a teenager’s stone pale and frightened face. It was clear from the way that she was dressed that she was living in seventeenth century New England and that she was among a group of people known as the Puritans.

As it turns out, her father is standing trial for not adhereing to the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, at the time a British colony, because he believes those laws to stand against the teachings of the Gospels. As such he and his family are banished and end up moving out of the village they were in and settling in the wilderness of New England on the edge of a think and dark wood (aka forest). While I will not give away anything, as I run a tight “no-spoiler” ship, this is where the 2016 film, “The Witch”, opens up and where the horror begins.

This film, as I see it, is a work of fine art and there is much for us Christians to pull from it. On the surface, the horror is centering on a potential witch that lives in the woods and is preying upon a New England family that is doing everything they can to remain godly and to stay together as a family. But as misfortune after misfortune happens, and as the family becomes more and more certain they are “witched”, the more and more it is that the real horror is revealed.

Right from the opening scene onward, we are made aware that this family is hypersensitive to their sin, to the sin of others, and to the soveriegnty of God. It is not wrong to be sensitive to those things in a healthy kind of way, but this family is overly sensitive, to the point that every conversation is filled with talk about their sinfulness, the wickedness of the world and the uncertainty of their own, let alone anyone else’s, salvation.

At every turn, the family is reminded that they are wicked and sinful and they start to have the feeling that they are “witched” because God is punishing them and handing them over to the devil as a result of their wickedness. Nowhere, and I mean nowhere, is God’s grace really at play here in this film and in the psyche of the family. Even when God’s mercy is mentioned, it is with the understanding that they are in need of mercy because of their wickedness, and their pleading for it betrays their theology that they worship a God who just might not show mercy to them.

It becomes clear to me, without giving anything away from the actual story line of “The Witch” itself, that the family is bewitched by their own stringent, and horrific, theology. While it is true that God is  sovereign and it is true that we fall short of God’s glorious standard, it is NOT true that God is out to get us for our fallenness. Their theology is so damning that they could never, ever experience the grace and mercy that was already there waiting for them. They were so busy worrying about the prowling devil in the woods that they could not see that they had all they needed to thrive in the wilderness: their family and their faith.

Today’s challenge is this: don’t let yourself get bewitched by a negative and graceless theology. Rather, at every turn, steer clear of the devil by choosing to see the grace of God throughout your life, in your family, and in your community. Community is not perfect, but God is working to perfect it through your presence as well as others. Remember, God saved you from slavery to sin and death, so why negate that by making those things the foundation of your faith? Jesus Christ is the grace of God. That, and that alone, should be your faith’s foundation.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
The devil’s work is division and separation from others.  God is the great uniter.

PRAYER
Lord, keep me from bewitching myself with bad theology. Remind me daily of your grace. Amen.