Tag Archives: God

By Our Love

Read Jeremiah 2:12-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act–they will be blessed in their doing.” (James 1:23-25)

CrackedLandAs a child growing up in the Christian church, I was always taught that Christianity was about love.  One of the first hymns a child learns in the church is “Jesus Loves Me,” and there other hymns that children learn that promote that image of a loving God and a loving Church. Hymns like “Jesus Loves the Little Children” making lasting impressions on the young child about God’s character, as well as the character of the God-loving church.

And,honestly, that image doesn’t get lost among adult hymns either. One such hymn that comes to mind is the hymn, “They Will Know We Are Christian by Our Love.” In that hymn, Carol Arends writes, “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord and we pray that all unity will one day be restored. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. They will know we are Christians by our love.”

The hymn goes on to speak about Christians working side-by-side and walking with each other hand-in-hand. These are the images of Christians that we put forward to our children, to each other, and to the world at large. Yet, is that how we, as Christians, truly live? Do we treat each other with dignity and lay down our pride? Do we see the value in each person we come across and hold them in the same regard as we hold ourselves? Do we accept each other with the love of God in our hearts, or do we judge others without giving God a chance to shine through?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. If we are claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ and yet behave in a way that is contrary to the character of Christ, we do far more than just push people away from us; rather, we end up pushing people further away from Christ. People looking in at the church often find themselves saying, “I don’t want any part of that.” In the end, instead of being vessels for God’s hope, healing and wholeness, we end up being like cracked cisterns who have abandoned the fountain of Living Water.

Throughout Scripture, God has invited people into a deeper relationship with God through living in a right relationship with each other. The latter part is essential to the former. We cannot be in right relationship with God, we cannot be drinking from the fountain of Living Water, if we are not loving others as God has first loved us. That is why Jesus said that loving thy neighbor (including your enemies) as oneself is likened to loving God with all of our beings.

Today’s challenge is to look openly and honestly at yourself. Are you living in a way that is pleasing to God or in a way that pushes others further from God. Are you bearing the Christian spirit that you claim to possess? Of course, none of us are perfect and none of us will perfectly live into the image of Christ. We all, myself included, have room to grow; however, until we are honest with ourselves and open to the transformative work of the Holy Spirit, we will always stop short of growing. God wishes for you, for me and for all of humanity to continue to grow into reflectors of God’s love. No doubt, by the grace of God, we will be brought from where we are to where God wants us to be! Remember, they will know we are Christian by our love!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Actions speak louder than words.

PRAYER

Lord, continue to work in me, continue to mold me, and continue to bring me from where I am to where you want me to be. Amen.

 

Walking on Water

Read Matthew 14:22-33; 2 Corinthians 5:7

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all.” (Isaiah 7:9b)

Jesus_Walking_on_WaterOne of my favorite contemporary Christian worship songs is a song called “Walk by Faith”. It was written by Jeremy Camp while on his honeymoon with his wife Melissa. He had known that she had cancer when he decided to marry her, but he was hoping that perhaps a miracle would happen and the cancer would go away. After all, she had gone through chemotherapy and seemed to be getting better. Her hair was growing back and all seemed to be going well.

Yet, on their honeymoon, Melissa started to have stomach problems and ended up being rushed to the hospital.  While in the hospital, Jeremy and Melissa found out that the prognosis wasn’t good. The cancer had spread rapidly and there was nothing that the doctors could do to stop it. Melissa had mere months to live.

The song, “Walk by Faith”, was written prior to Melissa passing away and another great song by Jeremy, “I Still Believe” was written directly after she passed away. The story has always given me goosebumps thinking about it, especially in light of these words, “Well I will walk by faith, even when I cannot see, well because this broken road prepares your will for me.” How can someone have such faith in the midst of such tough circumstances? How can someone endure through all that life throws one’s way without losing his or her faith?

While faith does not explain why “bad” things happen, nor does it give easy answers to tough questions, it certainly does allow for one to see God in the midst of one’s trials and to rise out of the ashes of tough times in order to see what God has done in the midst of them. For instance, prior to her dying, Melissa expressed to Jeremy that she wanted to be a witness to people of God’s presence and unconditional love. Though she passed away, her legacy lives on in Jeremy Camp and, through his testimony of her life, many have truly witnessed God’s presence in the midst of a terrible situation.

So often people, and even churches, get caught up in their fears. They feel like the world is collapsing around them. Whether it be due to their finances, their status, their health, their relationships, or anything else, people can very quickly lose faith. It is very easy for us to let our fears get the best of us. It is very easy for us to forget that on our good days we claim that God equips us with everything we need. It is very easy, in the midst of challenges, to forget that WE ARE NOT ALONE.

All we need is FAITH.

Like Peter, we may find ourselves out in rough waters. Like Peter, we may find ourselves sinking further and further down. Like Peter, it may seem like we are suspended over 70,000 fathoms of water with no chance of possibly surviving. Yet, hush. Listen. Listen to the voice of Jesus calling out to you, just as he did to Peter, saying, “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?” Look with the eyes of your heart and see that you are NOT alone. See that there truly is NOTHING to fear and that Christ is there to help you rise above your fears to a place of faith. For nothing, truly nothing, is impossible through Christ who gives you strength.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER

Lord, I step out in faith and trust that I am not alone. Through you, everything is possible and I have nothing to fear. Amen.

 

Shake What Will Be Shaken

Read Luke 6:27-37

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” (Matthew 6:12)

65376-bigthumbnailIn his book, “The Great Divorce”, C.S. Lewis wrote, “Hell is a state of mind – ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind – is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.”

If the above quote is taken as an absolute truth, I certainly take issue with it because I have seen, as I am sure most of us have, plenty of examples where hell is more than just a “state of mind.” The holocaust, apartheid, abject poverty, starvation and many other examples surely show that hell can be a very physical reality. But I am not so sure that C.S. Lewis, who was a rather brilliant person, was proposing that hell was merely a state of mind.

What Lewis seems to be getting at is that the person who gets locked up in themselves, a person that cannot move past their own reality to understand the reality that others are experiencing, the person who put themselves over and above others is a person who finds themselves locked in hell. After all, God created us to live in community with other. God wishes for us to view others, even the ones we don’t like so much, as children of God. We are, as it is written in Scripture, to love our neighbors as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39).

But there are many people who go through life ignoring that commandment. I have seen people hold on to grudges with an iron grip, not letting them go even up to the point of their deaths.  I have seen families split and destroyed, friendships ruined, relationships obliterated, and enemy lines drawn all as a result of the unwillingness to forgive. I have also seen that kind of hatred breed in the next of kin and their next of kin, fulfilling the word’s of Exodus 20:5 that state that the sins of the parents affect the entire family, even to the third and fourth generations.

I have also seen people simultaneously struggle with themselves in the midst of their hatred. I have seen them watch their families, friends, and even enemies slip away as they seethe in anger. I have seen such people end up completely alone, questioning if God still loves them. And what has been gained from all of that hate? It seems that, indeed, such people are stuck in the “dungeons” of their own mind. It seems to me that such people are really locked inside their own personal hell.

As children of God, we are supposed to look upon all of the people of the world as being our kin. We are all kin of God’s and we are all equally loved by our divine creator. It is that love that forgives us when we have done wrong, and it is that love that requires us to forgive others when we feel we’ve been wronged. To hold on to bitterness, hatred, and an unforgiving attitude is to throw ourselves in our own personal hell.

Rather than doing that, rather than trapping ourselves in a hell that is locked from the inside, why don’t we let go of our hurts and pains. Why don’t we try to reconcile ourselves with others. Whether or not we succeed in such reconciliation, if we have a forgiving attitude and pray for those who refuse to live into God’s love, we can move on into other meaningful relationships without getting caught in the hell of anger, resentment and hatred. God wants us to shake what can be shaken, to get rid of all of the things that separate us from God, until only the unshakeable remains.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“I willingly believe…that the doors of hell are locked on the inside.” – C.S. Lewis

PRAYER

Lord, free me from my own prison and fill my heart with your love and forgiveness, in order that I might give it to others. Amen.

Rise and Shine

Read John 11:1-44

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

rise-and-shine-wendy-keelyThere are times in our life when we all have to struggle through loss and grief. Just recently, my Great Uncle Bill passed away unexpectedly. I had visited with him a couple weeks before and knew he had some health struggles, but did not think that two weeks later he would no longer be alive. How quickly things can happen; in the blink of an eye, life can take sudden and drastic turns. So, this devotion is dedicated to the memory of my Great Uncle Bill.

Who was my Uncle Bill? First and foremost, he wasn’t perfect. After all, what human being really is? He certainly made his share of mistakes and, like the rest of us, had to find peace with himself and others in the midst of those mistakes. But his life was not an easy one. As a young boy, he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and went paralyzed and completely blind. Over time, his M.S. went into remission and he regained his ability to walk and regained sight in one of his eyes.

Despite his disabilities, he was a person of faith. Though he was blind in one eye, he read the Bible from front to back several times and always displayed his love for God. Like most of us, he wrestled with his faith and with his God (Genesis 32:28), and like all of us he had his strengths and his weaknesses; however, his faith carried him throughout his life.

My great Uncle was a person who loved others…even if he wasn’t always able to express it. He loved his wife, he loved his sister, he loved his nieces and nephews and even extended his love to a dear friend of my family, considering her as family too. He always told me he was proud of me, and I know that he supported me with his prayers over the years. It is hard for me to think that he is gone now, and I am so thankful that I was able to see him a couple weeks ago. I know that my presence with him meant the world to him and I know he had the peace of God in him.

I would imagine that Jesus felt the same way about his dear friend Lazarus as I do about my great Uncle. I am sure that he felt the sting of loss as sharply as I am feeling it, as sharply as any of us feel it when we lose someone we’ve grown to love and respect. Experiencing loss is never easy and whether we lose someone due to them passing away, or to them moving on to a different chapter in their lives, the loss we feel can be overwhelming.

Yet the story did not end with Lazarus in the grave; rather, Jesus called him forth out of the grave and into a new life. That is the power that God has in all of our lives…the power to resurrect us out of the graves of grief and loss we find ourselves in. There is always the hope of new life and new beginnings, the hope that God is always with us and with the ones we love. That is the hope and faith that my Uncle Bill was filled with, and it is a reality he now experiencing in its fullest.

Like Jesus, and like my great Uncle Bill, we should never lose sight of the hope we have in God. Though we find ourselves locked away in the tombs of our circumstances and in the tombs of loss and grief, we should never forget the power of the resurrection that lies within us. Like Lazarus, Christ is calling us to rise out of our tombs and experience the new life that God has in store for us. Welcome to resurrection day! Morning has broken and the loving presence of God is upon you. Rise and shine and give God the glory by living into the legacy of hope and faith.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” – Martin Luther

PRAYER
Lord, Guide me by your grace to be a beacon of your hope, healing and wholeness. Amen.

 

The Gift of a Thistle

Read Luke 7:11-16

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Thistle_20050725_001My favorite film of all times is “Braveheart,” which is a film about William Wallace who was a Scottish freedom fighter who lived in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. In the beginning of the film, William Wallace’s father and brother go off to fight the British, who had just killed a group of Scots who were trying to negotiate with them. William, who was just a young lad, was not allowed to come with them, even though he desperately wanted to go. After days alone at home by himself, William’s father and brother were brought home…dead. The little boy was devastated as he stared at the limp, cold, bloodied bodies of the only family he ever knew.

At the funeral, William watched as the earth was being heaped onto his father’s and brother’s bodies simultaneously with the reverent sound of Latin coming from the priest officiating over the committal. Locked in that moment, the little boy tried to come to terms with the fact that this was the last time he’d ever see his father and brother again. What would life be like for him now? Who would take care of him? How would he survive in a world that devoured even strong men like his father and brother?

Lost in his grief, the boy stared on, not even noticing that someone even smaller and younger than himself, approached him. A young girl, half William’s age, reached out to him. Noticing the movement, the ten year old boy noticed the five year old girl standing before him. She looked at him with compassion and a depth of understanding that only God could provide. There in her extended hand was a thistle, which is a prickly, yet stunningly beautiful, flower that was also a national symbol of Scotland, perhaps foreshadowing the fate that awaited this young boy who would one day rise up to be the guardian of his people. At the sight of the thistle, William began to cry and an eternal bond beyond words formed between him and the little girl who cared to give him the gift of a thistle.

We often look at generosity as being the act of giving money; however, as the girl in the story of Braveheart showed, generosity goes far deeper than what one is being generous with. Generosity is not an act, but a state of being. It is not about giving some of what you have, but about being someone who gives whatever it takes to fill others’ needs. Some people need money, some people need food, some people need compassion, some people need forgiveness, some people need healing, some people need hope; however, everyone needs presence. We all need to know that we are loved and cared about. We all need to know that we are worth something, and that we are not alone.

Jesus modeled generosity, and what it means to be generous, for us. It wasn’t that he was rich, or had great possessions, or had status, or had anything other kind of materialistic commodity to give. Jesus was a poor peasant preacher from Nazareth, and as Nathaniel pointed out in John 1:46, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Yet, Jesus was generous as he gave whatever it took to fill the needs of the people he came across. He gave them presence and the assurance that they were not alone, the assurance that God was truly with them. From that presence came hope, healing and wholeness.

Today’s challenge for us is to be a people of generosity. Let us rise up to the challenge to be present in the lives of those who are in need. Be a friend to someone who is outside your group. Be there for those who seem outcast and alone. Be someone who gives whatever it takes to fill the needs of others. God, through Christ, did no less for us and we, as Christians, have accepted that gladly. It’s time we lived up to that example and became a people of generosity too! Be generous and give as freely as you have received.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Too many have dispensed with generosity in order to practice charity.” – Albert Camus

PRAYER

Lord let me heart be overflowing with love so that my being becomes a fountain of generosity. Amen.

Let Harmony Ring

Read Psalm 133

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.” (Galatians 5:13-15)

elements_of_harmony_circle__vector__by_akili_amethyst-d5fxotcEvery person who has ever walked the earth has run into somebody at some point that they just don’t like. Perhaps the person seems snooty, or they just rub you the wrong way; we have all had the experience of being around people who seem to clash with our personalities and sensibilities. It is an unavoidable consequence to living in a community.

I have often heard some even state that they “hate” people out of frustration because of the way someone else treated them. To be completely honest, I have found myself uttering those words…especially when I used to commute long distances in heavy traffic. I have no doubt that I am not alone when I say that there are times I wish I were alone with no one else around to cut me off, give me attitude, or say something hurtful to me.

Yet, when we stop to think about it, the alternative is far, far worse. Just take a moment and try and imagine a world in which you truly were alone. Try and imagine a world where there was, literally, no one around to “bother” you. What kind of world would that be? How would you truly manage without the presence of others? How would you survive even a day without others to socially interact with?

There are many movies that try and picture what such an apocalyptic world would look like, where a person wakes up to find him or herself isolated in a world where no other human life exists. These films usually throw in zombies or other human survivors and never really explore what life alone would truly be like. Perhaps that is because life alone is something we really cannot fathom…it’s something that goes against our very nature and experience as human beings.

As children of God, we were designed to be in relationship with one another. We were called to live in harmony with other people. Some people get the idea that harmony means that we all hold hands and agree to skip down the yellow brick road together; however, that is not true harmony at all. Harmony is not someone always agreeing with me and what I believe to be correct; rather, harmony happens when people simultaneously put aside their differences to find common ground to stand on.

Harmony takes work. It does not come easy; however, we were created to live harmoniously with each other. God does not wish for us to gossip, slander, hold grudges, or be hateful toward others; rather, God wants us to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good and faithful toward one another. We should be striving to bring harmony into our communities, not discord.

Today’s challenge for us is to be agents of harmony. There are plenty of people who will rub us the wrong way, there are plenty of people who we will not particularly like, and there are certainly plenty of people who are different than us. Today we are being challenged to look past that and to see the commonality that we all share together…the commonality of being children of God, made in God’s image. Look past the differences, allow for people to be who they are, and love them as God loves them. Let the harmonizing begin!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” – The Apostle Paul in Romans 12:16

PRAYER

Lord, I pray that I may become an agent of harmony within the communities I am a part of. Amen.

 

Easy A for Antithetical

Read Colossians 3:1-10

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

easy_a_TRUE

At first she liked the attention. She even tried to help one of her bullied friends, letting him tell people that he had a tryst with her too. This led to other bullied kids asking her, and even offering to pay her, to let them claim to have had a tryst with her. At first, Olive agrees to all of this, thinking that she is in control of the situation; yet, as they often do, the rumors spun way out of control.

I won’t give anymore of the film away so as to not spoil it for those who haven’t watched it; however, I mention it because it is worth noting how easily people can get caught up in rumors. People just love gossip. All it takes is for one person to catch wind of something and, before long, the story has grown by leaps and bounds and has spread around an entire community and beyond.  What’s more, rumors are seldom, if ever, based on truth.

As Olive found out, rumors are nothing to play around with. While most people don’t start rumors about themselves, people often participate in them about others. They catch wind of something about someone they don’t know well, or perhaps of someone they don’t like, and they begin to talk about it with others, who then continue to spread the gossip. At first, gossip often seems very innocent and harmless; however, gossip is anything of the sort. At best, gossip emotionally and psychologically hurts and scars those who are subjected to it. At worst, it can be spiritually and physically damaging, causing the subjects of such gossip to devalue themselves and even, in some cases, harm themselves.

The Apostle Paul certainly dealt with division and rumors in his churches. In fact, he did not hesitate to clearly state that gossip, slander and other abusive behaviors were sinful. There is nothing good or Godly that can come from the spreading of gossip. Paul went so far as to even say that anyone who participates in any sort of wrongdoing such as gossip, will not inherit the Kingdom of God. After all, if God is love, and God is at the center of the Kingdom of God, then it logically follows that Love is at the center of the Kingdom of God. Gossip is certainly not an expression of love. It has no place in love. Gossip seeks to separate not to support. It seeks to discriminate not to accept. It seek so to destroy not to build up. When one really thinks about it, gossip is antithetical to love; therefore, those who actively seek to participate in gossip are choosing to not participate in (aka inherit) the kingdom of God.

This, perhaps, is not an easy message for many of us. Most of us have been caught up in one form of gossip or another; however, it is a message we need to hear all the same. God does not want us to participate in gossip, no matter what reason we feel we have for doing so. In God’s eyes, there is NO REASON to gossip. Rather, let us seek to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). Let us seek to truly get to know someone, rather than scorning them based off of hearsay. Let us live into, and inherit, the Kingdom of God rather than sowing the seeds of envy, gossip and hate. That is what LOVE calls us to do!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it hardly behooves any of us, to talk about the rest of us.” – Edward Wallis Hoch

PRAYER

Lord, steer me clear of gossip, no matter how innocent it may seem. Let my words reflect your love for all people, and plant that love in my heart. Amen.

Mountain Mover

Read Matthew 1:1-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

MountainMoverBoth of my children have always been smart and studious, always striving to do well in their studies at school. They have each done very well in their grades and my oldest has even won the Presidential Award for Academic Achievement.  At the end of this last school year, my oldest daughter was told that her teachers were recommending her for honors classes for the next school year.

 One of the honors classes she is going to be taking this year is Literature. She has always been an avid reader, and reads countless books. One of the requirements for eighth grade honors Literature is for them to read three books during the summer, two of which are classics: “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens and “Call of the Wild” by Jack London. For those who have read those books, they know that is a pretty high bar for an eighth grader.

 Just the other night, my daughter was stressing out. She had read up through chapter 20 in the book, and she felt that she just wasn’t understanding this book.  “I am not sure it is really making sense Dad,” she confided in me. “I have to read this book and be able to answer questions about it, and I just don’t think I am going to be able to.” Clearly, she was distressed about the work that lay before her.

 We’ve all been there, we’ve all had moments that we felt we just weren’t up to the challenge. We’ve all been overwhelmed by the circumstances and challenges that faced us and have felt at a loss for just how we were going to survive. Perhaps even some of us have had negative attitudes toward those challenges. Perhaps we have told ourselves that we couldn’t possibly rise up to them, let alone above them; of course, such an attitude almost always becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 All we need to do is recognize and embrace our faith. Jesus taught his disciples that if we had faith the size of the tiniest of seeds we could move mountains. There is nothing that God cannot get us through. There isn’t any fear, doubt, obstacle, or task that is too large for God to handle. All we need to is to have faith that God would not allow us to be crushed by this world or it’s circumstances. All we need is a little faith in God’s ability to work through our circumstances.

 This is not to say that God CAUSES our circumstances. Life happens as it does, and we are constantly being affected by our own choices as well as the choices of others around us.  That’s the reality of living in a community, of living in a world with other people. Yet, God never ceases to be with us, regardless of the challenges before us. God is constantly working for the good of those who love God and are called according to God’s purpose (Romans 8:28).

 So, have a little faith! Pick your chin up and know that you are not alone in your circumstances. Know that you are God’s and that God would never forsake you or fail you. Have faith in God, but also have faith in the abilities God has given you. God is constantly preparing us and equipping us with the abilities and tools to handle the challenges before us.  Have a little faith and be a mountain mover! Know that you are empowered by God’s Holy Spirit to rise up to any challenge that comes your way, no matter how great or small. Remember, all things are possible through Christ who gives us strength!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” – Helen Keller

PRAYER

Lord, open the eyes of my heart so that I may see that through me, you can move the mountains. Amen.

Our Father’s House

Read Luke 6:37-49

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)

still-of-hayden-christensen-in-life-as-a-house-large-pictureThere’s a movie that came out several years ago called, “Life as a House,” which was about a man who finds out he has terminal cancer. This man was a guy who fell short in many of his relationships, none more so than the relationship with his son.  After telling his ex-wife about the diagnosis and prognosis, she agrees to send their son to spend the summer with him. The son didn’t really want to spend the summer with his father; however, he has no choice in the matter and begrudgingly went.

The father had decided that he was going to build his dream house, the house that he always talked about building but never got around to it. It was the house he had promised his son’s mother that he would build when they were still married; it was the house that he failed to build. The father also decided that his son was going to help him build this house and, as with going to stay with his father in the first place, the son had little choice in the matter and begrudgingly agreed to help his dad build the house.

The father wanted the building of the house to be the rebuilding of his relationship with his son. He wanted to bond with his son so that, after the cancer finally killed him, his son would know that he loved him and would have the house as a reminder of his father’s love for him. But the son wanted none of that. He thought the entire project was stupid. He couldn’t understand the point of it all. The boy’s pride was keeping him from seeing the bigger picture.

To make a long story short, the boy does end up bonding with the father, but just as he starts to bond, the father tells his son that he doesn’t have long to live. He grows angry with his dad and can’t understand why his dad didn’t tell him to begin with that he had cancer. Again, the boy’s pride kicks in and he refuses to talk to his dad any more and refuses to work any more on the house…until his father falls ill. Once his dad was dying the boy was faced with the choice of forgiving his father or holding a grudge…of building the house or letting his father’s dreams die with him. Thankfully the son chose to complete the house and in the end the father willed the house to his son and his ex-wife.

Many people, just like the son, let their pride hold them like prisoners. They hold grudges and refuse to forgive only to watch their relationships disintegrate before their very eyes. What a tragedy that in this short life, people would choose to waste it by locking themselves in the prison of pride. What a tragedy that anyone would selfishly refuse to forgive others, especially since each of us have been on the receiving end of forgiveness.

Jesus taught of the importance of being humble and forgiving.  If we think we are better than others, if we think that others are less deserving of grace and forgiveness than we are, then we truly are prisoners of our pride, locked away in our own unrelenting personal hell. Is any grudge worth the price we pay in the end? Is any wrong committed against us worth the hell we put ourselves through by hatefully holding grudges? Today’s challenge for us is to let go of our grudges, and let God begin to sow the seeds of forgiveness in our hearts. If we do that we will truly inherit the house our heavenly father is building for us: the house of Hope, Healing and Wholeness.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Lewis B. Smedes

PRAYER

Lord, give me the strength it takes to be humble and to forgive, as I recognize that I, too, have been forgiven. Amen.

A New Kind of Normal

Read Mark 1:1-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“When we were at Mount Sinai, the LORD our God said to us, ‘You have stayed at this mountain long enough.” (Deuteronomy 1:6)

leaving-normal-signNo matter how many times people talk about change, we never really seem to ever get to a place where we feel comfortable about it.  I have heard so many different sermons on the topic of change, and I have attended seminars on change, and have even preached on and taught the merit of change myself; however, change always seems to get us anxious and uneasy. We just don’t want things to change, do we?

I am certainly know stranger to change. When I first entered into community college, I was determined to get into web development. I focused on all of the things I needed to in order to attain an associates degree. Yet, before I could finish, my wife and I  ran into financial issues, as we were both in school, and I ended up having to leave school and pick up a full-time job, working as an Iron Worker with my father-in-law, in order to support our young family.  Boy was that change! Going from college to being an iron worker was a tough change to deal with, yet over time it all worked out.

When my wife finished nursing school and was able to pick up a full-time job as a nurse in a hospital, I left iron working to go back to school. I went to a technology Institute and earned a degree in business programming, was placed in a job and things all seemed to be going as planned; however, less than a year later, the company I worked for owed me $5,000, went bankrupt and left me home without a job. I tried desperately to get a job, but every company wanted at least five years experience before they even looked at your resume, and most of the IT jobs had been outsourced.

Boy, that was a tough change to go through as well. I had gone from a working man to being at home watching my children. I had to constantly endure questions of whether or not I was looking for a job, and if any progress had been made in that search. I had to come to terms with the fact that I could not get a job and I had to go through a period of soul searching before being able to see that staying home with my children was actually a blessing.  It was during that period that I also came to terms with the calling God had placed on me as a young boy…and then the CHANGE really began!

Jesus was no stranger to change either.  The Gospel of Mark purposefully starts of with Jesus down by the river Jordan. Many people were getting baptized by the prophet John, and Jesus went to be baptized just like the rest of them. Yet, as he was coming out of the water, he had a divine vision of not only his calling, but of his true identity as God’s beloved Son. There is no doubt that the theophany (or appearance of God) at the Jordan River profoundly changed the course of Jesus’ life, as well as the course of human history.

What gets us through change is the realization that things are always changing and there is nothing can do to stop it. In fact, when I look back at those times of change in my life, I wouldn’t “change” a single a moment! I would keep everything exactly as it is because it is each and every one of those moments that has helped to shape me into who I am. I’d imagine that if you take the time to look back on the moments of significant change in your life, you will see the value those moments have had. God has worked through those moments in our lives to promote growth and cultivate faith. So thank God for change, and when change comes embrace it as a new kind of normal!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou

PRAYER

Lord, I have changed in order to become who I am today. Help me to embrace the change that is shaping me into who you want me to be. Amen.