Tag Archives: Christ

<3 Yourself

Read Matthew 14:22-23; Mark 6:45-46; John 6:14-15

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“To get wisdom is to love oneself; to keep understanding is to prosper.” (Proverbs 19:8)

HeartHave you ever stopped to notice how busy you are? Or have you ever stopped to notice how busy everyone around you is? This world is non-stop business, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and three hundred sixty-five days a year.  The world keeps on turning, spinning on its invisible axis, and there isn’t anything we can do about it.

Before we know it, years have gone by, our kids have grown up and we are wondering where the time went and not sure where we were when all of life blew past us like a jet plane.  We hear plenty of catch phrases like, “Don’t let the world pass you by”, or “Don’t take life for granted”; yet, we often do take life for granted because we simply are too busy to do otherwise.

As a pastor of a church, a district youth director, a chaplain, a husband, and a father, I certainly know too well what being busy is all about. Each one of those titles bears with it a whole host of different duties that give me plenty of places to be and plenty of things to do. In the midst of all of the stuff that I have to do on any given day, it seems so easy to forget the one title has always defined who I am. The title of being ME.

How easy it is to forget that, in the midst of all the stuff each one of us has to do, it is important that we not forget to care for ourselves in the process.  After all, God created us, not to be eternally busy, but to enjoy God’s creation. If we are a part of God’s creation, then it certainly follows that God created us to enjoy ourselves. But how many of us truly spend time on ourselves?  How many of us truly take time away from our jobs, our chores and our families to spend quality time with ourselves? My guess is not too many of us.

But God is calling us to spend time with ourselves. God wants us to get to know who we are, to intimately spend time building a relationship with innermost selves. Jesus certainly knew this. If anyone was busy, Jesus was. Between preaching and teaching and healing and traveling and all of the other amazing things, Jesus was just about as busy as anyone could get; however, he also had no qualms about going up to the mountaintop to be alone and to pray.

God is calling us to do the same. There is nothing wrong with being busy, and there is certainly a lot of work for all of us to do; however, there is something wrong with not taking care of ourselves. And if we do not take care of ourselves, we really have no business trying to take care of others.

That is why, since January of 2012, I have made a point of taking care of myself. I run, I compose music, I write poetry, I sketch using charcoal, I hike and do a lot of different activities that get me in touch with myself.  I have made it a part of my spiritual discipline to be alone and to care for me.

The question is not if you can do it…but will you do it? God wants you to get to know yourself, to spend alone time praying and meditating on Scripture. God wants us to not only be in relationship with God and with others, but to also be in relationship with ourselves.  It is only then that we will be able to find the strength to do all of the other things God is calling us to do.  Think about it. God is calling you to relax a little and enjoy being you! After all, you are a part of God’s good creation! So praise God and enjoy yourself!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” – Lucille Ball

PRAYER

Lord teach me to love myself just as much as you love me. Then send me out with that love so I can share it with others. Amen.

Billboards and Bumper Stickers

Read Jeremiah 31:31-34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

Read-the-InstructionsEvery once and  a while I will pass a billboard sign or see a bumper sticker that will just irk me a little bit. It is usually a pretentious saying word, “Co-Exist”, that is made up of all different religous symbols. I mean, on the one hand, I get that the bumper sticker is telling people to get along, hold hands, and skip along the yellow brick road with one another while practicing different religions. In essence, it is calling for acceptance of religious pluralism, the notion that all paths lead to God (a problematic notion to say the least). On the other hand, the problem in the world is that we ARE CO-EXISTING!!!  We often don’t co-exist peacefully, but we are definitely co-existing. Co-existence does not equal peace.

With that said, the other day I was driving down the road and I happened to see a billboard sign that read, “When all else fails, read the instructions.” Underneath those words was a large picture of the the Holy Bible. On the surface, those words seem to make sense. I am a Christian who actively reads the Bible and try to live by what I believe to be the core teachings within it. But the words on that billboard are overly simplistic, they imply that the Bible is a last resort, and they do not accurately depict what the Bible actually is.

If the Bible is a divine manual given to us so that we can follow its “instructions”, which instructions should we follow first? Perhaps, we should stone our children when they’ve dishonored us (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). Perhaps we men should remain unmarried and make ourselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom (Matthew 19:12). If we are going to follow the “instructions” then shouldn’t we get rid of our personal property and share it in common with the church (Acts 4:32-35) and shouldn’t women cover their heads (1 Corinthians 11:6) and remain submissively silent (1 Timothy 2:11-12)?

The fact of the matter is that what we have in the Bible is much more than a set of “instructions” for us to follow. While there are laws, rules and regulations, the Bible is also a collection of writings that reflect each author’s understanding of the human-divine relationship, as well as their commentary on the socio-economic and political situations of where they lived. The Bible is very much a living testament to the faith journeys of the ancient people who wrote and compiled it. The Bible is also a foundational text that we relate to and from which we spiritually grow.

While the Bible is certainly an important part of our Christian journey, and while I certainly encourage people to read and study it, I do believe that we Christians tend to get confused on what the Living Word of God really is. Is God’s Word a mere book, a mere set of rules and regulations on how to not upset the big daddy in the sky? Is the Word of God a book that has both a beginning and an end, a book that is finite and limited to words on a page? Is the Word of God bound in a book that can be used and misused?

If we are going to have a traditional Christian theological understanding of what the Living Word of God is, we might want to take a hint from the first chapter of the Gospel of John. The Living Word of God is not a bound collection of ancient books written by people who were inspired by God; rather, the Living WORD of God is the risen Jesus Christ.  That WORD cannot be bound nor contained. It knows no limits and it reaches different people in different ways. The WORD of God is not stagnant and typeset on flimsy paper, it is living and breathing through Christ who not only lives in us, but also through us.  When all else fails, know that the Word of God, which is living within you, does not!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Every creature is a word of God” – Meister Eckhart

PRAYER

Lord, I thank you for the Bible and for the inspired words within it. But my greatest praise is for your WORD, Christ Jesus. Amen.

Rising from the Ash

Read Genesis 3:1-19; John 1:1-5, 14; 3:1-17; Mark 1:1-15

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Rising from the AshSurely most, if not all, of us have the image etched into our head. There in a quaint little cemetery, stand a group of people dressed in black, all gathered around a rectangular hole in the ground. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” echo the priest’s voice through the thickened, damp mist that blankets the sky in a dismal, dark gray.  As the words fade out into the foggy veil, the rain begins to fall, each drop turning the dusty ground into muddy spittle.

This is an image that reminds us all of our own mortality. It is often an image that we reserve for depressing dramas, eerie horror movies or other stories that are meant to haunt us in the night.  When all is said and done, most of us try to bury the notion of our mortality until the moment in which we must come face to face with it.  We all know that we are mortal, that our time here is limited; however, most of us live our lives in a way that seeming denies what we know to be true.

Such images often come to mind on Ash Wednesday, where we are reminded of our mortality; however, it is also a day in which we are supposed to be reminded of our imperfection. The reminder of our mortality does, in fact, humble us to recognize our need for something bigger than we are.  In ancient Israel, and the surrounding regions, people who sough God’s forgiveness would wear sackcloth and roll around in ash, as seen in Jeremiah 6:26. The ash served as a reminder of the penitent person’s mortality, humbling the person into repentance. This also went along with fasting and continual prayer.

But the ultimate point of Ash Wednesday goes far beyond the grave, far beyond human mortality, and far beyond human culpability.  After all, we were not created to live in a permanent state of guilt. Unfortunately, many Christians get stuck in the mea culpa mentality, believing that they are sinners in the hands of an angry God. I remember being stuck in that state, praying for forgiveness every second of every moment I prayed. My prayers would consist of, “Lord, forgive me of this” and, “Lord, forgive me of that.”  I would sometimes repeat the words “forgive me” without really knowing what I was seeking forgiveness for.

As Christians, the ashes being imposed on Ash Wednesday should not only remind us of our immortality and/or our culpability; however, it should also be a reminder that we are constantly being sought out by a God who loves us; that God loved us so much that God chose to take on our form and live life as a mortal. A God who chose to become dust with us, and return to dust for us.  But the story doesn’t stop there, because out of the dust God rose up and conquered death, showing us that nothing is impossible for those who believe that true LOVE never dies.

While many people focus on the mortality and culpability aspects of Ash Wednesday, and those aspects have their place, I see this day of observance to be one of celebrating life in God. It is a day in which we are reminded of the mighty works God has done in and through Christ Jesus…and the mighty works God is doing in and through each and every one of us!  So, wherever you are today, when you are getting the ashes imposed, close your eyes and see the God who rose from the dust and turned the ashes into lilies. Then open your eyes and remember that this is exactly what God has done in you! Breathe in the life God has given you and go share that life with others.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“”The cross, with which the ashes are traced upon us, is the sign of Christ’s victory over death.” – Thomas Merton

PRAYER

Lord, help me to move forward from guilt to the new life you have waiting for me. Help me also to share that life in relevant ways with those around me who are in need of it. Amen.

 

The God of Jean Valjean

Read 1 John 4; 1 Corinthians 13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).

The God of Jean ValjeanI just got done watching, for the second time, Les Misérables in the movie theater. For those who have not seen it, in any of the various versions of it, it is a story about a man by the name of Jean Valjean who is imprisoned for nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread in order to save his sister’s son who was starving to death.

After nineteen long years he is released from imprisonment and hard labor only to be rejected by the world. You see, he has no legal papers as they were taken away from him when he was imprisoned, and that tells society that he is an ex-convict. He’s forever branded a low-life thief by everyone except a priest who gives him shelter and food.

But desperate times call for desperate measures and Valjean finds himself stealing precious silver items like plates and silverware from the very church that showed him hospitality. When he is caught and returned to the priest, rather than accusing Valjean and demanding justice, the priest says he gave Valjean the items, hands him a couple more items and tells him to utilize the silver to make himself honest again. He also tells Valjean that he has saved his soul for God.

Needless to say, Valjean goes on to heed the priest’s advice and he also heeds the call placed on him by God. His life was forever changed and he learns to love, even those who seek to destroy him. He is a changed man, changed by one person’s loving actions, who is now changing the lives of those around him. Les Misérables is the Gospel told in a way that brings to life the teachings and message of Christ.

We too are called to live a life of love, a life that touches the lives of others in away that shows them the love of God. The God of Valjean is the same God that is calling us. The God of Valjean is the same God that visits the imprisoned, heals the sick, accepts the rejected, and never gives up hope on the “hopeless”. The God of Valjean is the God of unconditional love.

As you move forward into this new year, make 2013 the year in which you experience God like Valjean did. Make it the year for irrevocable change that brings about hope, healing and wholeness. Just as the line goes in the musical, it is true for us as well: “To love another person is to see the face of God.” If you want to see God in your life this year, then love someone unconditionally! Make that your resolution.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“My soul belongs to God, I know I made that bargain long ago. He gave me hope when hope was gone, he gave me strength to journey on. Who am I? Who am I? I am Jean Valjean!”  — Jean Valjean, in Les Misérables

PRAYER

Lord, you are my God and I am your child! Help me to love the way you loved and to live the way you lived. Amen.

 

No More Mr. Mean Guy

Read Micah 6:1-8; Matthew 21:33-43

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

No More Mr. Mean GuyOn this past Sunday Night, my family and I watched the Nativity Story, which is a movie that details the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus.  There is one scene in the film that shows King Herod in the Temple in Jerusalem.  He walks up to the the place where the sacrifices are being made and lays his hands on the horns of a bull, pressing his head up against the head of the bull.  There a prayer is offered by the high priest, a prayer that supposedly transfers the guilt and sin of the King on to the bull.  The bull has become the beast of burden. In other words, the bull takes on the burden of the Kings sins, which if you know anything about King Herod, those sins are many!  The bull then faces certain death and has its throat slit, spilling its blood all over the place.

This act of sacrifice, of transferring sin from the sinner to an innocent subject in order to appease an angry, wrathful God seems to be far from us. Or is it? Why is it that we say Jesus HAD to die for our sins? Why is it that Jesus is called the LAMB of God?  What is it that we say Jesus did for us…that he took our sins and paid the price we deserve to pay…doesn’t that sound an awful lot like the same thing the bull did, only this time Jesus is the bull?

Religions the millenia over have sought to find ways to appease God, or the gods (depending on the religion), hoping to repay God for the sins that they have committed.  Does God really demand blood? Does God really demand our death for retribution? Or is this an image of ourselves that we project on God?  Does God demand blood, or is it us who demand blood? And what does this have to do with Jesus birth? After all, we aren’t in the season of Lent yet, are we?

While there are different scriptures throughout the Bible that will certainly justify the idea that God demands sacrifice to appease God’s anger at our wickedness, there are also scriptures that point us to an entirely different image of God.  Today’s reading is such a passage.  Rather than appeasing God with blood, God is asking us to appease him with a change of hearts.  Rather than seeking the easy way out of our sins only to commit them over and over again, God is asking us to change…to truly change…and to walk humbly with God in the process.

While we often see Jesus as the easy way out of our sins, as a way for us to transfer what we’ve done in order that we might be “saved”, Jesus seems to have had a different understanding of his purpose. According to his parable of the wicked tenants, Jesus came, with the authority of God, to show people what God truly wanted; however, rather than listen to what Jesus said, people rejected him and crucified him. It was sin that put Jesus on the cross indeed, yet the story does not end there. Jesus resurrects and gives us the opportunity to die to our sins and join him. How do we do that? But doing justice,loving mercy and walking humbly with our God.

The birth of the Christ-child, the birth of Immanuel, the revelation of God being with us shows us that God is not seeking retribution but rather union with us. God is not seeking to punish us, but to commend us to his love and mercy. All we need to do is to “fear not” and see that God has come to us. We don’t have to search any further for God than our own hearts. Listen to what the words of the spirit are telling you, “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me” (Revelation 3:20). Amen! Come Lord Jesus!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Jesus died because of our sins, and yet Jesus lives despite our sins. In Christ Jesus, sin and death have been conquered. Welcome to life as God truly intended it, all you have to do is claim it, live it, and share it!

PRAYER

Lord, lead me to your eternal life and, through me, lead others. Amen.

No Doze

Read Mark 13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:12)

No DozeDo you remember the story of Rip Van Winkle? It’s the story of a man who is well loved by the people in his village.  He lived during the time prior to the Revolutionary War.  Van Winkle’s major character flaw was that he was lazy and that he loathed any kind of “profitable labor”.  His wife, Dame Van Winkle, is on his case about his laziness and he does anything to escape her nagging him.

One day, while escaping his exasperated wife, Rip goes hiking in the mountains.  While hiking he runs into a group of men who offer him some liquor to drink.  Taking the drink Rip gets very sleepy and falls asleep.  When he wakes up he notices that his gun is rotted and rusty, his beard is a foot long, and his dog is nowhere to be found.  Heading back to town Rip makes the mistake of saying that he is a loyal subject of King George III.  What Rip doesn’t realize is that he has been asleep for twenty year and that the American Revolution has taken place and the American colonies have won their independence from Great Britain.

In today’s reading, Jesus is talking about when he will return at the end times and he warns his disciples that they need to be ready and to be always watching. He uses the metaphor of a servant who is caught asleep on the job by the master of the house who has just returned home.  Not a good spot to be in if you are the servant.  Jesus is warning his disciples that there is much work to do and there isn’t any time to be wasting.

Many people spend their time, when reading verses like this, discussing and trying to predict the meaning in terms of Jesus’ second coming; however, I also see another profoundly powerful way of looking at what Jesus is teaching his disciples.  In every question Jesus is given regarding the end of the world, he always points his disciples back to his mission and the urgency to carry it out.

Another way to look at what Jesus was talking about is through the story of Mother Teresa.  There were many times she felt like giving up, many times when she was tired, worn out, doubtful and on the verge of giving up; however, she never ceased to serve the marginalized and outcast people of Calcutta, India.  She said that every time she looked into the eyes of the people she was serving, she saw Jesus.  It is this persistent vision of Jesus in the faces of those she served that helped her to endure in the mission of Christ.

This is what Jesus called his disciples toward.  Rather, than sitting around and waiting for the master to return, rather than sitting around and waiting for the advent of the messiah, Jesus wants his disciples to live as if he has already arrived.  Christ’s disciples are to see Jesus in everything they do, in everyone they meet and in every place they travel to.  Christ is to consume us at every moment and, when that happens, we can be assured that we will not be caught unaware at the presence of Christ.

Jesus doesn’t want a bunch of disciples falling asleep, like Rip Van Winkle, only to wake up and realize that Christ has come and gone.  He doesn’t want his disciples to sit idly by while the marginalized and the needy continue to linger on without hope, healing, and wholeness. Disciples of Christ need to be alert to the presence of Christ in the world, and they need to never quit doing the work of Christ in the world. In fact, it is by doing the work of Christ in the world that we, as disciples, will truly see the presence of Christ! Let us be like Mother Teresa who, no matter the circumstances, never fail to see Christ in the people all around us!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

When we put on this new mind, the mind of Jesus, then his kingdom is coming in our world. Then Jesus is King of our world. – Mother Teresa

PRAYER

Lord Jesus, help me to see you in everything I see. Help me to be your hands and feet for everyone I see. Amen.

 

Washed by the Water

Read Mark 1:1-12; Mark 3

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” (Romans 8:14)

Washed by the WaterWhat I love about the Gospels is that each one of them has a unique understanding of who Jesus is.  Each Gospel uses the same key phrases to identify Jesus; however, each Gospel author has a subtly different understanding of what those key phrases mean. What is awesome about this is that by the time we are done reading the four Gospels we have a rich and diverse understanding of what it meant for Jesus to be the Christ, to be the Son of God, to be Son of Man and to be in the line of David.

For this devotional, let us look at the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus shows up at the Jordan river looking to be baptized. Mark doesn’t bother telling us a birth story or anything prior to Jesus’ baptism; rather, he points to Jesus’ baptism as being the ADVENT of the Christ.  Prior to that experience in the Jordan, Jesus was just a peasant Jew from Nazareth. He was the son of Joseph and Mary, he was a laborer by trade and he had certainly known what it meant to work with his hands.

But when Jesus comes out of the water, upon being baptized, he sees a vision of the sky opening up and light descending upon him like a dove.  If we read Mark carefully, we will notice that Jesus is the one seeing this.  In Matthew, everyone sees and witnesses this, but in Mark (if we are not reading anything in between the lines) it is only Jesus who sees this happen.  And then Jesus hear’s the voice of God telling him, “You are my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  It is at that moment that Jesus’ former identity that he had been born and raised to believe about himself falls away. It is at that moment that Jesus understands his TRUE identity, and it is at that moment that the Holy Spirit drives him into the wilderness to be prepared for the work God is calling him to do.

For me, this is significant! We can relate with this Jesus because we too grow up not really knowing who we are. At first we identify ourselves by who are parents are. Then we grow up believing that we are what our society tells us we are.  But at some point, if we open our hearts and allow the Holy Spirit of God to speak to us, we begin to understand that our identity does not rest on what the world thinks we are and it does not rest on who our parents are; rather, our identity rests on who God says we are!

And when we find our identity in God, there is nothing that is going to stop the transformation that will occur.  Some will not like that change. Some will fear that we’ve lost our marbles. In Mark, Jesus’ own family (including Mary) think Jesus has gone completely insane and they try to take him back home.  They don’t like this NEW identity that Jesus has taken on! Yet Jesus persists in his ministry and in serving God and identifies those who do the same as being a part of his TRUE family.

What is encouraging about Mark’s take Jesus is that it mirrors our very own experience as human beings (after all Jesus was not only truly divine, but also truly human). We often find ourselves soul-searching; we often find ourselves seeking our identity and looking for a deeper meaning and purpose in our lives. If we would only wash our self-identification away and emerge from the waters with an open heart, we too would hear God calling out to us, “You are my child, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” This is the identity Jesus called people toward, this is the Good News that Jesus preached throughout Galilee and Jerusalem. This is the Good News that Jesus calls us to bring to those who need to hear it, not only in our words, but by our actions.  Let us bear that Good News in all that we do!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Who are we?  We are children of God. Our potential is unlimited.  Our inheritance is sacred.” – Russell M. Nelson

PRAYER

Lord, thank you for reminding me that I, too, am your child. Let me, in my actions, be a reminder to all with whom I cross paths. Amen.

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.

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.

I Have Seen the Light!!!

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

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

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

PRAYER

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