Tag Archives: God

Culture of Convenience

Read Mark 8:31-38

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?” (Luke 14:27-28)

Lettuce SaladAs a plant-strong person who has consciously made the choice to abstain from eating any and all animal-derived foods, I must say that my health has swung back in full force. My type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and depression have all gone away. With that said, there are a few consequences to being a vegan.

For one, the food I buy is more expensive, especially since I try to buy local and organic. But that doesn’t bother me too much because the cost is offset by my not buying expensive meats and not having to visit my doctor nearly as much as I used to. The truth be told, most of the “consequences” aren’t really consequences in the end because who can put a “price” on our health? But one issue that has certainly been the most challenging has been the issue of eating out.

My family and I have always enjoyed going out as a family and eating; however, as a vegan in NJ, there are very few places that I can go to eat and have options to choose from. Sure, almost everywhere has a salad that I can have tweaked into a vegan salad (most salads around here seem to have meat, dairy and egg thrown on it); yet, to find a place that has an actual menu with vegan options on it near impossible.

While I have learned to accept that and have adjusted to eating out less and/or being okay with having the same basic garden salad everywhere I go, many people would see this hurdle as being to large to surmount. Add that on top of the fact that every meal I eat requires me to cook things from scratch to make sure I know what is going in my food and you have a real stumbling block to selling the vegan lifestyle to most people.

This is, in part, because most people (and I certainly am one of them) are seeking convenience. We want to lose weight, look great and feel healthy so long as it doesn’t inconvenience us or come a too high a cost. This culture is not just bred in the world of dining; rather, the culture of convenience has crept into every aspect of our lives, especially in our spirituality. We want God to love us, forgive us, and bless us so long as it doesn’t cost us too much and so long as our lives and lifestyles aren’t inconvenienced and/or changed.

Therein lies the problem. Jesus did not come to nurture a culture of convenience. Every ounce of his message was one that people would find terribly inconvenient. It is not convenient for us to devote ourselves to God. It is not convenient to love unconditionally, forgive incessantly, and serve others limitlessly. It is not convenient for us to love our enemies and to honor those who disagree with us.

But Christ never promised us convenience. In reality, the things that are convenient for us are often not healthy. Rather than convenience, we should be seeking out what is right. If we are to follow Christ, if we are to live into the image of God, the very image we were all created in, then we are to forsake the culture of convenience do what we know we ought to do, regardless of the cost. Let us drop convenience and pick up the spirit of Christ…the spirit of God’s hope, healing and wholeness. Then we will not only be blessed, but we will also be a blessing.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

There is no profit in selling out to convenience.

PRAYER

Lord, teach me to value the narrow path over the wide and easy one, for it is on the narrow path that I come face to face with you. Amen.

The Easy Button

Read Matthew 7:13-14

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

IMG_4773“That was easy!” I cringe every time I hear those words coming through the television set. At first the advertisements were somewhat amusing. Someone presses a big red button, some task gets miraculously done and out come the words, “That was easy!” Of course, the advertisements were for Staples who were claiming how their services make one’s life so much easier.

Then, following the advertisements came the actual buttons that came out in the store. The second my children saw the buttons displayed with the words ” TRY ME!!!” splashed across the box, my hope for a nice, peaceful home were ruined. Before I knew it, the easy button had complicated my world with the incessant noise pollution being emitted from it. “That was easy! That was easy! That was easy! That was easy! Hahaha daddy, this is funny…That was easy!”

It’s rather ironic, as I sit and think about it, how difficult that blasted “easy button” made my life, especially as a full time seminary student trying to study. It is also ironic that through the difficulty of studying produced by the “Easy Button” I grew into a student who could study despite distractions. As a result of the “easy button”, and other noise makers, I learned to tune out noise and get my work done. Regardless, suffice it to say that the “easy button” did not make my life easy as it had been advertised.

Often times we, as human beings, look for the miraculous, red, and shiny easy button to solve our problems. If only life were easy, if only there weren’t challenges, if only we didn’t have to work so darn hard for everything! We imagine a world in which there are no challenges, no sweat, no blood spilled, and no turmoil. We imagine a paradise without pain, without bumps in the road, without disagreements and without fighting. We imagine a world where everyone got along, a world in which everyone held hands and skipped merrily down the yellow brick road together.

Yet, would that kind of reality really make life easy? Would a world without challenges, would a world without trials and tribulations, would a world without setbacks and pitfalls really be an “easier” world? Would such a world lead us to be better human beings? Would such a world lead us to an appreciation for what it means to work hard for something? Would there be any kind of growth in a world where everything was easy? What reward would there be in such a world?

The fact of the matter is that without the difficulties and challenges, I would not be who I am today. I would not know what it means to lose a hundred pounds, to go through college while working and raising two children. I would not know what it means to have a meaningful relationship with my daughters, with my wife, with my friends, with my family, or with God. Rather than getting caught up in the flashy world of instant gratification, let us take the time to pause and thank God for the blessing our challenges have been to us. While God does not wish, nor cause, bad things to happen to us, God has certainly worked good in, through and in spite of those things in order to shape us into who we are today. Take a deep breath and thank God that it wasn’t THAT easy!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Welcome to wherever you are, this is your life, you’ve made it this far!” – Bon Jovi

PRAYER

Lord, help me to see that all things are possible in you. Remind me that it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains. Amen.

 

Extreme Makeover

Read Matthew 7:1-6

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” (Psalm 139:14).

dreamstime_l_20636837Have you ever seen the show Extreme Makeover? It was a show on TV that centered around taking people who were considered to be in need of a “new look”, bringing them to Hollywood, and giving them a makeover.  These makeovers weren’t just a day out to posh clothing stores and applying top of the line makeup; rather, these makeovers included plastic surgery such as face-lifts, breast augmentation, liposuction, and other appearance-altering surgeries.

In the American culture, more focus is given to how we look than to any other thing. Everywhere we go we are inundated with images that tell us we are not as perfect as someone else thinks we should be.  I hear my own daughters saying, “I wish I looked like that,” every time they stare at these unrealistic images of women who, outside of Photoshop, don’t really exist. 

We are all in a race to look the best that we possibly can so that people don’t judge us. God forbid if we look unkempt or frumpy when we go out to the supermarket. God forbid if someone sees us in our PJs or if we aren’t wearing enough make up to mask our “imperfections.” The fact is, many of us spend a great deal of time trying focusing on how we look and for good reason. We all have learned that we get judged by our appearance. I am sure that you are nodding your head in agreement as I write this. Our culture focuses too much on appearance.

What is sadder than what I have already written about above, is the fact that the church is no different than the rest of the world and, in some cases, it can be far worse in its judgment. If people don’t look the right way, if they don’t smell the right way, if they don’t say the right things, if they don’t believe things the way we do, and if they don’t fit in with our way of doing things then they are clearly NOT ONE OF US!

That is the mentality that fills the hearts and minds of many people in the church and it is a sad one considering that Jesus, himself, wouldn’t have fell in line with any of our categories. We are so busy judging others that we often forget the true reason we are the church to begin with: namely, that we were loved by God and given undeserved grace despite our not doing things the “right” way. Who has more of a right to build up walls of distinction more than God? Can anyone of us claim that right?

The question for us is this, if God chose not to judge us, what makes us think we have the right to judge others? If God chose to accept us how we are, what gives us the right to demand that others undergo an extreme makeover? If God is cool with difference and diversity, why are we so fearful of it?  The challenge for us is to embrace the uniqueness of others and celebrate them for being who GOD MADE THEM TO BE. Remember that God made you who you are. Just the same, God made others who they are and we are called to celebrate in that fact. Let us makeover our hearts and warmly welcome people, as they are, in God’s love and God’s grace.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.” – Wayne Dyer

PRAYER

Lord, makeover my heart and help me to be an extension of your love and grace so that others may know, through me, that you love them. Amen!

Living in Sin

Read Matthew 23

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:22-23, NLT)

Bon-JoviAnyone who knows me knows that my favorite rock band is Bon Jovi. From a young boy through the present day, I always found Bon Jovi’s music to be relatable. Their songs are often about life for the average person. If you’ve ever had to work hard and struggle to make end’s meat then you can certainly relate to Bon Jovi’s music. If you’ve ever been jaded in love, or fallen head over heels for someone, then you will certainly find a home in Bon Jovi’s lyrics. Over the course of nearly thirty years, Bon Jovi has written and recorded an extensive musical catalog that speaks to almost every aspect of life.

One of my favorite songs off of their album, New Jersey, is a song called “Living In Sin.” The song actually tells the story of two lovers who are wanting to be with each other and are meeting resistance by the girl’s parents. In the song Jon sings: Is it right for both our parents Who fight it out most nights, then pray for God’s forgiveness when they both turn out the lights. Or wear that ring of diamonds when your heart is made of stone. You can talk but still say nothing…stay together but alone.”

Here, Jon is questioning the “moral” restrictions that people put on being in love. If you cross the boundaries without being married, then you are living in sin; yet, in our culture, the same people upholding those restrictions are also failing in their relationships. Jon, in the character of this girl’s boyfriend, points out the hypocrisy that is often found among people who claim the moral high ground all the while failing to reach the moral high ground themselves.

This song, while it certainly does not excuse bad behavior and while it certainly does not eliminate the need to strive to live a moral life, causes the listener to ponder the nature of hypocrisy. How often have we, as an individual, failed to live up to the standards that we put forth for others to follow? How often have we preached one thing and failed to follow what we preach?

While the Bon Jovi song, “Living in Sin”, is about love and marriage, the song should cause us to reflect on the bigger picture. Are we so quick to judge another person’s behavior without carefully examining our own? Are we living examples of what it means to be holy or are we besmirching Christ with a holier-than-thou persona teeming with hypocrisy. Does our attitude represent Christ or repel people away from Christ?

When people see us preach one thing and do another, it causes them to look at the message itself as flawed, judgmental and hypocritical. Jesus warned against being the type of person that does not practice what he or she preaches. Jesus grew angry with people who taught one way and lived another. According to Jesus, if you are going to claim the moral high ground, you had better live up to that claim. The question is, which one of us can truly claim the moral high ground?

We are not called to be kings and queens of the moral mountain; rather, we are called to be ambassadors to the kingdom of compassionate mercy and unceasing grace.  Rather than trying raise the bar up to a level we have yet to live up to, we should embrace humility and extend to others the grace and love that God has extended to us. Once we do that we will no longer be living in sin; rather, we will be living in the love that conquered all sin on the cross.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” – Jesus of Nazareth, Luke 6:41-42

PRAYER

Lord help me to live out your love so that I may adequately be a reflection of your hope, your healing and your wholeness. Amen.

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.

Extreme Faith

Read Genesis 22:1-19

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” (Matthew 17:20)

indyOne of my favorite movies growing up was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Though I love all of the Indy movies, this one has always had a profound impact on me, especially on my understanding of faith. The story follows Indy on an adventure to save his dad; however, little does he know that this rescue mission will not only be about rescuing his father, but also rescuing his faith; he’s journey, over time, become a soul-searching quest.

In one scene, Indy finds himself standing at the edge of an abyss. He is facing a test unlike any other he had ever been challenged with. He quickly realized that the only way across was to take the proverbial leap of faith. The only problem was that the leap was about the length of a football field, if not longer. How is that humanly possible? How can anyone hope to get across such a huge abyss? Surely it is absurd to believe he could actually do it.

Yet, Indy must take that leap as his father’s life is bleeding out onto the cavern floor. He has to reach the Holy Grail, with the hope that the fabled treasure will restore his father’s life. Slowly, Indy places his hand over his chest as if to try and calm his heartbeat.  Could he really go through with this. All reason points to him plummeting to his death. Yet, he raises his right leg and lets his weight fall forward. As he falls forward, his foot lands on an invisible walkway. Indy has passed the test.

As Christians, we often take our faith for granted. We say we believe in God, we say we believe in miracles, and we even say that we KNOW that God exists and that miracles happen; however, if we truly KNEW such things, would we really need faith? If Indy knew that the walkway existed, would he have had to calm his heartbeat? All that Indy thought he knew was that he was bound to plummet to his death.

Christ calls us to be a people of faith. Like Abraham, who did not know God was going to stop him from sacrificing Isaac, like the prophets who didn’t know if they would survive proclaiming God’s judgment to the kings of Israel, just like Jesus who faced the gulf of the unknown in the olive garden, just like the disciples who did not know what fate awaited them in foreign lands, we too are called to live a life of extreme faith.

Søren Kierkegaard, once said that the faithful are like those who are suspended over 70,000 fathoms of water and yet they still have faith and are joyful. Why? Because, though it might be absurd to have faith in the midst of such uncertainty, they trust that God will come through. It may be absurd to the rest of the world, but the person of faith holds onto that absurdity in faith. I challenge you to be a people who have such trust in God. I challenge you to be living examples of extreme faith, to be tiny mustard seeds that move the mountains and shake the foundations of the earth.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe.” – Søren Kierkegaard

PRAYER

Lord, help me to grow in my faith so that I may be equipped with your grace, enough to move the mountains with your hope, healing and wholeness. Amen.

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.

 

Patience is a Virtue

Read Psalm 130

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

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

PRAYER

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

 

The Ordinances of God

Read Psalm 119

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

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

PRAYER

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

Doing Good

Read James 2

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

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

PRAYER

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