Tag Archives: God

Woken Up in a Dream

Read Matthew 1:18-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

Woken Up in a DreamI would like to tell you as story of a teenage girl who lived in a very tight-knit community.  She was, like the rest of her peers, expected to attend to the daily chores that were given to her each day. She was expected to carry herself in a way that brought dignity and honor to her family.  Like all families, her family expected that she was always on her best behavior and that she didn’t do anything to hurt her family’s name or image.

Her father was blue-collar, working class man. The girl’s family was pretty impoverished and what little they had came at the cost of much blood, sweat and tears.  The family never knew what tomorrow might bring and they could not afford to take anything for granted.  In fact, an offer had come to the teenage girl’s parents, one that her family could not afford to pass up.  A man had asked the girl’s father for her hand in marriage and, with such an offer, a dowry was sure to follow.  The girl was expected to comply with her parents and to marry the man they had arranged for her to marry.

But then one day, in the midst of their engagement, the girl is seen to be with child.  The groom-to-be is astonished. He swears to the parents that he has never known her the way a husband knows his wife; he swears that the child growing in her belly cannot be his. The parents, horrified, could not believe what their daughter had done; the community she lived in shunned her as a sinner, everyone looked down at her with contempt.

This is the story of Mary, a young teenager from Nazareth, who was suddenly found to be with child even though she had not yet been married.  Can you imagine the panic and terror that must have filled her when she first realized she was pregnant. Though, the author of Matthew tells us that Mary was with child “by the Holy Spirit,” one has to wonder whether she knew it or not. The author of Matthew doesn’t exactly say.  What he does point out is Joseph’s initial reaction to the situation.  He could not believe she was pregnant and he knew the child was not his; one thing was for sure, he was not going to marry her.

When we read this story, we often pass Joseph’s reaction off because we know how the story ends. We know that Jesus is the Son of God and, therefore, Joseph just seems like a guy who has little faith, until God wakes him up in a dream.  Yet, in reality, we all need to be woken up in such a dream.  After all, how many times have we passed judgment on the actions of others without truly seeing what God has in store for them? How many times have we seen a pregnant teen, an unruly child, or some other person who doesn’t fit our understanding of pure and wholesome? How many times have we passed judgment on those people?

Often times, we are much more like Joseph, quick to let our thoughts and our judgments run wild before really pausing to listen to what God is saying to us.  We often need to be woken up in a dream that shows us that the very things we are laying judgment on are filled with God’s potential if we just show love, acceptance and support rather than scorn, contempt and judgment.

Thankfully, Joseph woke up from that dream with a changed heart and chose to embrace Mary and the Christ child she was bearing! Thankfully, Joseph laid his judgments down and, as a result, unto us a hope, healing and wholeness was born into the world. The question is, will we be woken up in a dream like Joseph? This Christmas, may the advent of that awakening be within you; indeed, may it be within us all!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa

PRAYER

Lord, help me to avoid falling into the trap of judgment. Instruct me in your ways of unconditional love, O Lord. 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.

A Thanksgiving That Counts

Read Luke 12:1-48; James 2

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me; to those who go the right way I will show the salvation of God.”
(Psalms 50:23)

A Thanksgiving That CountsAs we approach Thanksgiving Day, it is easy for us to get warm and fuzzy about the festivities that are about to occur. The smell of turkey roasting in the oven, stuffed to its brim with stuffing. Mashed wax turnips, candied yams, and other sides being cooked on the stove.  All of these scents filling the air and blending with the wafting scent of warm apple and pumpkin pie sitting on the cooling racks.

Well, it is no secret to most people that I am vegan. This will be the first year I have not eaten turkey and stuffing and all of the stuff that I mentioned above; however, I am still getting excited about Thanksgiving as well. I just bought a vegan Thanksgiving feast that is complete with all sorts of goodies, plus I am getting excited to make Rosemary-Roasted Winter Vegetables as well.  While my diet has changed dramatically since last Thanksgiving, I am certainly still going to be having a feast to be reckoned with.

But as we sit down for dinner on Thanksgiving and prepare ourselves for the feast of all feasts, as we sit down and say our prayers of thanksgiving to God for the abundance we have, let us not forget that a good many people in this world do not have the abundance, or excess (depending on how you look at it), that we have.  A majority of people in the world are lacking the very necessities that they need to survive.

God gives each and every one of us what we need, but we often end up taking more than what we need in order to supply ourselves with what we want.  In the process, billions of other people are lacking what they need. Is this because God has failed to give them what they need? No. This is because what God has given to all people has been horded by some. The majority of the world suffers as a result of the excessive abundance of a minority.

This is not being brought up to guilt anyone over the disparities of others; rather, it is being brought up as a reminder that praying our prayers of thanksgiving is not enough. God is calling us to something more than empty prayers, God is calling us to act out of our thanksgiving for what God has given us.  Instead of praying and eating our fill, God wants us to take our fill and share it with those in need.

In James 2:16, the author is warning his readers of just that.  It is not enough to tell someone in need that you are “praying” for them without actively seeking to help fill their needs.  That is not to say that prayer is useless, but that empty prayer is no prayer at all…just like empty faith, without deeds, is dead.  We are not a people of a dead faith, nor should we be people who pray dead prayers.

So, with all of that said, enjoy your Thanksgiving festivities tomorrow!  Enjoy your time spent with family and all of the good food and fun that God has given you.  As you pray your prayers of thanksgiving, also pray for God to guide you to fill a need of someone who is in need, just as God has filled you.  If you do, God will surely not let you down!  Remember that to whom much as been given, much is required .  Go and bear the hope, healing and wholeness that God wants you to bring to those who need it! God bless and Happy Thanksgiving! May your Thanksgiving be a thanksgiving that counts!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

A truly thankful person gives out of what there is to be thankful for.

PRAYER

Lord, thank you for all you have given me. Guide me to fill the needs of those around me who are in need. Amen.

Every Step of the Way

Read Ecclesiastes 4:1-6; Mark 14:26-42

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, NRSV)

Every Step of the WayHave you watched the news lately? It seems like every time I watch the news I see politicians metaphorically throwing each other the bus, buildings around the world that are burning, families that are destroyed due to horrifying violence and other such atrocities. These stories are bombarding us every day, often bombarding us multiple times a day.

It’s to the point where I often find myself questioning what the meaning of all of this really is. Does God really exist out there and, if so, what does that say about God that the world is the way it is? Is life meaningless? Is there any point to all the chaos that people suffer day in and day out? These and so many more questions run through my head and I am sure that I am not alone in that?

As a pastor and a spiritual leader, some people might find it shocking to hear me confess moments of confusion, deep questioning and doubt. Some would say that it must mean that my faith isn’t strong, or that my doubts put into question my calling as a pastor. Many have this notion that in faith there can be no doubt; however, the Bible clearly shows that to be false.

For instance, have you read Ecclesiastes lately? If not, I must suggest that you do read it and that you read all of the twelve chapters that make up the book. It is a fascinating read. The author seriously questions the meaning of life, the point of existing in a world that is so needlessly cruel. What is the point in living out our seemingly trivial lives just to die in the end? To the author of Ecclesiastes, life seems utterly meaningless.

We can also turn to Jesus to find moments of doubt and intense spiritual questioning. The obvious place to look is in the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus questions God’s will. He asks for God to remove his cup of suffering. While the Gospels make this account short and sweet, they do say he was in the garden for hours, praying to God…and the specific prayer that they point out is the one where he asks God to not have him go through with dying.

The fact of the matter is that it is perfectly human to have doubts, because as human beings we do not, in fact we cannot know everything. What is unknown to us gives us reason to doubt, but doubt is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it is false to assume that “in faith there can be no doubt.” Rather, it is quite the opposite. It is from the depths of doubt that arises faith. Faith is, in fact, made stronger as a result of, and certainly in spite of, our doubts.

The next time you have doubts, do not chase them away or harbor any kind of unnecessary guilt. Instead, embrace them and wrestle through them like the author of Ecclesiastes did and like Jesus in the garden did. Know that having doubts necessary to building faith and that many saints have had their share of doubts. From Paul to Thomas, from Joan of Arc to Mother Theresa, from Martin Luther to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., many Christians have faced their doubts only to find themselves riding the waves of faith that were produced by the surge of the storm of doubt. You are not alone in your doubts, and your faith will show you that you are not alone in surmounting them. God is with you every step of the way!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson

PRAYER

Lord, I believe! Help me with my unbelief. Out of my doubt, build up a foundation of faith. 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.

More than Wind Chasers

Read Ecclesiastes 1-2; Matthew 6:19-34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

More than Wind ChasersThe past eight days have been some of the most awakening days of my life. Last Monday, October 29, Hurricane Sandy slammed into Southern New Jersey, and wreaked havoc for much of the Northeastern part of the United States. Since then, many have been without power. My church, parsonage and my entire town, for the most part, is still without power as we speak. In fact, I am sitting in a public library typing this devotional and trying to get at least some work done.

For those of my readers who do not live in the Northeastern region of the U.S., this time of year is typically not the warmest of times. Winter is fast approaching and, as of today, there is a possible nor’easter storm on the way. These storms can pack a wicked punch in terms of winds and precipitation (which usually is in the form of snow). Add that to no electricity and the people in my area, especially the ones who don’t have any generators and/or fireplaces, are facing a potentially dangerous situation. And my area of the state is mostly dealing with no electricity, unlike the Southern portion and the shoreline which has been utterly wiped out.

Over the past eight days, I have had quite a bit of time to reflect on how much we come to depend on technologies such as electricity, phones, cell phones, smart phones, electronic devices, computers, cars, and other such things that we normally take for granted. It is amazing to me how much stock I, and billions of other people, put into artificial and human-made technologies. When said technologies fail, we are left feeling completely alone, isolated, confused, lost, and utterly hopeless. Like the author of Ecclesiastes, we are left feeling like we have spent our time chasing after the wind. Indeed, we are left feeling like everything is meaningless.

Yet, thankfully,the story doesn’t end there. In this time of reflection, I have seen a power that far surpasses the artificial power provided by electricity. I have seen people reaching out to those in need. I have seen people invite neighbors, friends, family and even strangers into their homes in order to provide them with shelter. I have seen people from across the country and even from Canada, coming down to help with the relief efforts. I have seen people who have electricity sharing it with those who need to charge their phones. I have seen volunteer fire departments opening their buildings as places of shelter, providing food, entertainment, hot showers and places to sleep for people who are in need.

Thankfully, the story doesn’t end with the grim assessment of Ecclesiastes. We are more than wind chasers. What I see, instead, is a grander story of hope, healing and wholeness unfolding in the midst of what initially seemed as a hopeless and devastating situation. In this, I see what Jesus meant when he taught us to not sweat the small stuff, but to seek first the Kingdom of God and trust that God will provide the rest . The proof is in the pudding. The small stuff has been literally washed away, yet God is providing through the love, compassion and generosity of millions of people. This IS what the Kingdom of God looks like.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

The richest people in the world are those who have stock in relationships.

PRAYER

Lord, I thank you for being my provider. There is nothing I need that you haven’t supplied. Help me to fill the needs of others. Amen.

What’s Good About That News?

Read Matthew 23; Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 4:16-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble.'” (Luke 17:1-2, NRSV)

What's Good About This News?It’s Tuesday night, October 30, and my family and I were huddled around our kerosene lamp playing Yahtzee, as we still have no power (I am typing this on my iPhone, which has limited and sketchy connectivity) or heat. As we were getting ready to play Yahtzee, our phone rang. My youngest jumped up to answer it, in hopes it was her grandmother calling to wish her a happy birthday. But when she answered the phone, it was a pre-recorded evangelical message from some Christian group.

“Has God given up on America?” It asked. “Come and worship and tell us about your beliefs…”, to which my wife then took the phone and hung it up.

I couldn’t believe it. It was a message targeting people who had just gotten hit with the storm of the century in order to evangelize them, promote their church, and “bring the good news.” But let me ask this, what kind of good news is that?” To people who are dealing with their lives being washed away by a super-storm, how is worshipping at a church going to help them out?

It’s this kind of theological positioning that Jesus himself stood against when the Pharisees were accusing him of working on the Sabbath. It is this kind of stuff that Jesus railed against in his stated woes against the religious leaders of his day and age. There is nothing good about the kind of news that takes advantage of people’s vulnerabilities and fears in order to manipulate and generate a “conversion” response.

Jesus taught us in Matthew 25 and in Luke 4 that his mission was to bring real good news to people. For instance, food is good news for the hungry, water for the thirsty, clothes for the naked, etc. Jesus didn’t hand the blind a scroll with his name and some scripture written on it; rather, he gave them sight. When the woman who committed adultery came to him, he didn’t hand her the Torah, the local synagogue address, while asking her what she believed and whether God had given up on her and Israel; rather, he offered her hope and forgiveness, even despite the fact that she never technically repented.

We, as Christians, have to be careful not to misrepresent the “Good News” and, therefore, misrepresent Christ. Imagine if all the money spent on that phone-calling campaign were given to agencies that are helping families devastated by the hurricane, just imagine what difference that could’ve made. Perhaps that would’ve spread the “good news” as opposed to spreading the erroneous fear of God “giving up” on everyone. Again, what’s good about that news? Remember, Jesus is calling us to be agents of God’s hope, healing and wholeness…not false prophets of the world’s doom.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
If there is one thing we learn through scripture, even in the tumultuous events of Revelation, God never gives up on people.

PRAYER
Lord, guide me as I seek to represent you, and make me a witness of the hope, healing and wholeness that comes through you. Allow my love-filled actions to bear your good news for those in need. Amen.