Tag Archives: God

Keep CHRIST in Christmas

Read Matthew 10:37-40

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Keep_Christ_in_ChristmasHere we are mid-Advent, fast approaching Christmas. Can you believe how quick Christmas has come this year? It feels like just yesterday I was sitting down at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort enjoying a nice summer vacation (and what summer vacation beats a Disney Vacation?). Yet, here we are nearing mid-December with the countdown to Christmas fast underway.

Speaking of Christmas, have you ever seen the bumper sticker or the little magnet that reads, “Keep CHRIST in Christmas.” That is a phrase that gets passed around quite a bit during this season. But what does keeping CHRIST in Christmas mean? Does it mean keeping the not-so-Christian tradition of Christmas trees and yule logs? Does it mean keeping the tradition of Santa Claus, Elves and his nine (counting Rudolph) reindeer? Does it mean, racing out to the store to funnel our money into big business in order to acquire an excess amount of gifts and Christmas-time deals? Most Christians would probably say no to all of these things.

So let me narrow the question even more. Does keeping CHRIST in Christmas mean watching movies about the Nativity story? Does it mean going to church once out of the year on Christmas Eve? Does it mean singing carols about the Jesus’ birth? Does it mean Christmas pageants and concerts? Does keeping CHRIST in Christmas mean spending time with family and giving gifts to our already abundantly blessed children?

The truth is that I do AGREE that we should be keeping CHRIST in Christmas; however, to do that we have to be open to the change that God wants to spark in us. If we are to truly anticipate the coming of Christ, and if we are to truly welcome Christ into our lives, we must first realize that ADVENT and CHRISTMAS are not a once-a-year type event; rather, every day we live is an opportunity to experience ADVENT.

Christ would much rather us keep him in our lives than in a holiday set aside for observance once a year! But in order to do that we must live into the life that Christ led. We must be willing to give everything up, to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24; Luke 14:27-35). We must be willing to serve the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the disabled, the outcasts, the marginalized and all of those who our society looks down upon (Matthew 25:31-46). In fact, we are to become, according to Jesus, the SERVANTS of ALL (Mark 9:35)!

So, according to the standards set by Jesus himself, how do we keep CHRIST in Christmas? Clearly, buying presents, singing carols, drinking wassail, roasting chestnuts, buying presents and erecting Christmas trees is not what Jesus had in mind. While those things are nice, the reality is they are not at the heart of who CHRIST is or what CHRIST has called us toward. According to the standards set by Jesus, we keep CHRIST in CHRISTMAS by following in his footsteps…not once a year…but every day of our lives for the rest of our lives, until we go on to glory in Christ Jesus our Lord! Amen!

So, starting this Christmas season, and everyday from this point forward, begin to work toward keeping CHRIST in Christmas. Don’t just say the words, as if they are just another meaningless cliché; rather, live into those words by being all that GOD is calling you to be. Love God, by loving your neighbors. Invest yourself in the lives of others. Be present for those in need. Bring God’s gift of hope, healing and wholeness to this broken world and desperate world. Then, and only then, will you be truly keeping CHRIST in Christmas!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” – Charles Dickens

Lord, guide me toward keeping YOU, not only in Christmas, but in my heart. Transform me into your vessel of hope, healing and wholeness. Amen.

Name It, Claim It, Live It!

Read Matthew 2; Luke 2

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.” (John 10:22-23)

MenorahIt’s no big secret to most people that I am not a huge fan of winter. I mean sure, I get the necessity of having the different seasons and I can certainly appreciate the symbolism the cycle of life, but I am not a fan of the bitter cold, the snow, the ice, the howling winds and commuting in those elements. The shortened days and distant sun can be make one feel hollow and depressed.

But with that said one of my favorite times of year happens to lead up to and directly follow the Winter Solstice. Of course I am referring to the season Advent and Christmas. Ironically, though this season commemorates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, it is almost universally accepted that Jesus was not born during the cold winter month of December but at some other time during the year where the weather would be more conducive to shepherds tending their flocks in the field.

Regardless, I believe this time of year is the perfect time to celebrate the coming of the Christ-child. Theologically speaking, the coming of Christ represents the coming of HOPE into the world. What better time for hope than when we are in the midst of the death. Winter has always represented death and dormancy, where the green of life gives way to the cold, hollow grip of death. Yet, it is in winter where we see the hope of Spring and the return, or resurrection, of life.

Aside from the symbolic nature of the Season itself, it is also around this time that those who are Jewish celebrate Hanukkah. That holiday commemorates the Jews being liberated from Greek-Syrian oppression and the rededication of the Jewish Temple to God. This was a festival that Jesus, who was himself Jewish, observed (John 10:22-23). Following a bloody war against their oppressors, the Jews took back Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple to God. Even though there was only enough oil to keep the candles burning for only one day, those candles kept burning bright for all eight days of the festival. Thus, Hanukkah (also known as the festival of lights) is forever a celebration of the arrival of Hope and the reminder that God is always present with God’s people.

‘Tis the season for HOPE. Whether we look to the natural cycle of the season, or to the celebration of Hanukkah or to the humble birth of a small, vulnerable baby in a cruel and murderous world, this time of year will forever point people to the fact that HOPE never dies! Like the menorah burning on the last drops of oil, HOPE can never be extinguished. Like the birth of JEsus reminds us, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem, HOPE does conquer all HOPELESSNESS!

The challenge today is for you to be a person of HOPE! Instead of getting caught up in the fears and the cynicism that the world produces, never give up HOPE. God is challenging us to place our faith in God, and to be filled with the HOPE that such a faith provides. There is HOPE for a brighter tomorrow, but more importantly, there is HOPE for a brighter NOW! Name it, claim it, and live it! Have the HOPE and allow that HOPE to transform you into an agent who bears HOPE for others!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.” – Dalai Lama

PRAYER

Lord, fill me and transform me with your hope so that I may be a beacon of that hope for others. Amen.

 

God’s Concert

Read 1 Corinthians 12:14-27

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)

ChristmasConcertThis week I am working on putting the final touches on a Christmas Concert that will be happening at my church this coming Saturday evening. As a person who loves the arts and loves singing, I can think of nothing better than planning and hosting a Christmas Concert. Last year’s concert was amazing, for lack of a better word. We had people performing who had performed on stages throughout the world, including places like The Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

In last year’s show, we had talent ranging in age and experience. As I mentioned above, some of the performers were professionals and had performed on world-class stages. Another person who came is a folk musician and did a rendition of the “Little Drummer Boy” that has since become my favorite version of the song. Still yet, we had a people playing music on the flute and guitar, and even my daughter participated and sang “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.” It was a truly wonderful concert filled with a little of everything.

If you were to ask different people what they thought was the best part of the concert, I guarantee each of them would have a different response as to which part moved them the most. Perhaps, for some it would be the operatic performances of “O Holy Night,” “Panis Angelicus,” “Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” or “Gesu Bambino.” For others, perhaps it was the acoustic rock performances of “Do You Hear What I Hear,” or “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” The fact of the matter was that the concert offered a little bit for every kind of taste.

The reason that was possible is because everyone who was a part of the concert, in one way or the other, came together to make it all happen. My Church hosted it, my good friend and vocal coach Chip helped me recruit many of the performers, my good friends Eugene, Andrew, Becky, Martha and Will came out to deliver solid performances. Another good friend of mine, Adam Glibert, provided the accompaniment for the show. My daughter committed herself to learning her song and sung it with great energy. In reality, the concert itself would have not been what it was if it weren’t for all of the people who dedicated themselves to it.

The same is true for us as people of faith. There are many people who come together to be the witnesses of Hope, Healing and Wholeness that God is calling us to be. By ourselves, we are not the concert that God is calling us to be. Solo acts are great in tandem with other surrounding acts; however, even solo acts are supported by other players. There is truly nothing that we absolutely do alone, which is why Paul focused the Corinthians on recognizing the importance of the other “parts” of the body of Christ.

Not one part is greater than the others. Each part serves its purpose and plays a vital role in the community of faith. Christ is challenging us to lay aside our desire to be solo acts at the cost of everyone else. Instead, be a part of the whole, working together with others to make the kind of music that God is calling you to make. Sometimes that will involve singing a solo, other times it will involve providing the harmony as a back up. Regardless, it will always involve others supporting you and you supporting them for the betterment of the whole. It is then that people will look at us and say, “Wow! Now that moves me! I want to be a part of that!”

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“United we stand, divided we fall.” – Unknown

PRAYER

Lord, teach me to work together with others for the good of the whole. I want to be a part of your body, working with the other parts to witness to your hope, healing and wholeness. Amen.

 

On the Road to the Bleak Mid-Winter

Read Genesis 19:15-26

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing” (Isaiah 43:18-19a).

Winter-ReceptionSo, we’re one day away from Thanksgiving and are now approaching the season of Advent and Christmas.  This is also a time when we begin to enter into the brutal cold and frozen winter months that remind us of our ultimate vulnerability. Life, warmth and energy are fleeting. They come and then, at a moment’s notice, those seasons are gone. Just like this past year, we are often facing into the winter months of our lives wondering where all of the seasons went.

It is easy for us to get caught up in the challenges that winter bring, both literally and metaphorically speaking. On the metaphorical front, it is easy for us to look back at how things were “back then” and get caught up in the nostalgia that often creeps into us when we remember times gone by. Each one of our lives is filled with “back then” moments, where we often cherish the past and lament the present and future times we are in.

Yet, the season of Advent should serve to us a reminder that God does not live in the past, God very much lives in the present and is walking with us as we head into the future. Winter is not without hope; in fact, winter is perhaps the season that bears the most hope! After all, it is in the winter where we see the shortest days of the year turn the corner and head toward the longest days of the year.  It is in the bleak mid-winter, that we see the hope of light, warmth and renewed life,

The birth of Christ, though it probably did not historically happen in the month of December, is a perfect example of the profound hope that is to be found in winter. Jesus was born into a world that was cruel and cold. He was born into a country that was being crushed under the weight of an oppressive empire and those who collaborated with them. He was born in a time where all people had left were their memories of who they were in the past.

But that little, vulnerable, insignificant child would grow up to be someone who challenged his people to look to the present and move toward the future. He would grow up to see the light that lay beyond winter season that had fallen upon his people and would point them to the warmth of God’s love and the hope of God’s presence. In fact, this child would grow up to be embodiment of that hope…the hope of Emanuel…the hope of “God with us.”

As we approach the coming of winter and the advent of the Christ-child’s birth, let us remember that even holidays can cause us to be locked in nostalgia, looking back at the past. The true spirit of Christmas is in the present, and it point us to be a people who live in the present, and who move toward the future. God is calling us to be filled with hope, to move beyond the past and begin to live life anew in the present. It is there where we will meet God and discover God’s purpose for us. It is in the present that God dwells, and God is presently calling us to join in with his risen son to restore hope, healing and wholeness to the land.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” – Henry David Thoreau

PRAYER

Lord, help me to live to the fullest in the present, ever ready to move forward into the future. Amen.

 

From Fear to Faith

Read Matthew 14:23-33

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13)

20090908_walking_on_water_lake_erie1When I was growing up, I knew from a very young age that I was called into ministry. At three years old, I used to use my mom and dad’s 8-track (yes…I said 8-track) cassette tower case as a make-shift pulpit. From that “pulpit” I would preach to my parents, “God tells you to lub one anudder!” From that point on, I kept growing in my faith and in my knowledge of the Bible. By the age of ten, the pastor of my church was retiring and he pulled me and my mom aside and gave my mom his entire set of commentary to hold on to for when I got older. “That boy is going to be a pastor and, since I don’t need these anymore, I would like him to have them.”

Yet, as bold as I was in my faith when I was young, things were about to change. Without getting into all of the details, which could fill up a book I am sure, I began to become a person who was filled with fear. For one, I had several close family members pass away and that caused me to fear what happens beyond this life. I never quite fit in at school and I feared not being accepted by my classmates. I never seemed to quite do as well as I wanted to in school and I began to fear the possibility of failure. There were many different varieties of fear that crept into me as I grew from boy to teenager to man. In the end, those fears put me on a decade long detour that took me far away from answering my call before I found my way back to it.

In the story of Jesus walking on the water, we see a bold Peter step out on to the water to meet his Lord. How boldly he put his feet out on that water, how boldly he took his first few steps of faith. Yet, as he began to look at the environment around him, things started to change. The wind was fierce, the waves were tall and crashing down around him, the lightning was flashing, and Peter’s bold faith began to melt away into fear. The more he feared, the more and more he began to sink down into the water.

How many of us live our daily lives in fear? How many of us go day to day fearing this or fearing that…holding back from doing things that we know we should be doing. How many of us, in the end, feel as if our entire purpose in life is sinking beneath the treacherous waves of our fear? We often mask our fears by justifying them in away that makes us feel better; however, the reality is that we find ourselves in paralysis, we find our lives have stagnated, because we simply have not let go of our fears.

Like he did with me and with Peter, Christ is reaching down to you right now. He is reaching out his hand waiting for you to clasp it. He is waiting to pull you up out of your fears and into the boldness of your faith. It was a leap of faith for me to finally say “yes” to God’s call and enter into a life of ministry, uncertain of where God will lead me. It was a leap fo faith for Peter to move beyond his fears to clasp Christ’s hand and be pulled back up to the surface of the waters.

God is calling you, the reader, as well! What is it that God is calling you to do? What purpose has God given you? And, most importantly, what is stopping you from doing it? God is calling you to move from fear to faith, from hopelessness to a world of hope and wonder! All you need to do is put your trust in God and take that first step forward. God has revealed, and will continue to reveal to you what your purpose is; however, you have to have move forward in faith before you will ever begin to live into it. Move from fear to faith and begin to TRULY LIVE.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“If I wish to preserve myself in faith I must constantly be intent upon holding fast the objective uncertainty, so as to remain out upon the deep, over seventy thousand fathoms of water, still preserving my faith” – Søren Kierkegaard

PRAYER

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Help me to move from fear to faith so that I may fulfill your purpose for me. Amen.

Breath of God

Read Genesis 1

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1, 14)

15542680The Bible tells us that in the beginning, the earth was a formless void. All that existed was darkness which covered the face of the deep. Then something miraculous happened. God’s breath (Hebrew: rûach, pronounced roo-akh’; Greek: pneuma, pronounced pnyoo’-mah) wisped like a wind over the waters, which in the ancient world were seen as chaos, and God spoke: “Let there be light.” From that moment on nothing remained the same. From the chaos came order, from the darkness came light, from the void came wholeness, and from the formless came form. All of this from series of simple, yet powerful WORDS.

The creation story was written by priestly Jewish scribes during the Babylonian exile (ca 587 – 538 BCE) in a time when the people of Judah had nearly lost their entire identity. There land and titles were stripped from them, they were yanked from their homeland and forced to live in Babylon as subjects of King Nebuchadnezzar II, their temple was utterly destroyed and their identity as a people chosen by God nearly crushed! Yet, these scribes sat down and penned the creation story in order to impart this message of hope: “The same God who created order out of chaos, the same God that formed the formless, the same God that breathed life into the lifeless can certainly bring order to the chaos of our captivity.”

In the Gospel of John, written about 638 years after the end of the Babylonian exile, we see God’s Word bringing new hope and new creativity into the world. John tells us that this same Word of God that created the  universe and all that is in it, this same Word of God that brought order to the chaos, this same Word of God became flesh and walked among us in a man called Jesus of Nazareth. The living breath of God had come alive in another person and this particular person would bring the hope of God’s presence, as well as order, into a world plagued with chaos.

As can be seen in the Bible, Words are extremely powerful. Just like water which is shown to be a force of chaos and destruction as much as it is shown to be a force of life, Words can be both destructive as well as creative. How often, we as human beings use words in careless ways and with reckless abandon. How often we take our words for granted without giving them even a second thought. How often we have been hurt by words as well as uplifted by them. How often we have hurt others with our words as well as brought healing with them.

In creation, God chose those creative words carefully. God poured all of Godself into those words and as a result, we are filled with the living breath or spirit of God. In life, Jesus of Nazareth also chose his words carefully, using them to bring hope, healing and wholeness to those who need. He used words that destructively worked against systems of oppression, corruption, greed, and injustice.

As children of God, as followers of Jesus, we are being challenged to use our words wisely. We are being challenged to be a people who treat our words, and the breath that forms them, exactly as they are: SACRED. Our breath and our words (spoken, written or even thought) are gifts from God, not to be taken lightly or to be used thoughtlessly and/or with reckless abandon. We should be using our words to breathe life into people. We should be using our words, like Jesus, to bring God’s hope, healing and wholeness in the world. When need be we should use our words as a way to counteract systems of oppression and injustice. In the name of God, by the power of Christ, speak your words to those who need to hear them!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Every time we breathe we are breathing in God’s breath of life.

PRAYER

Lord, put on my lips your words so that I may speak hope, healing and wholeness to all in need. Amen.

 

Ready, Get Set, Engage!

Read Matthew 7:7-8

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.” (Proverbs 8:17)

KillingJesusThis year seems to be the year of the historical Jesus. In September, Bill O’Reilly’s book, “Killing Jesus,” was released. The book isn’t about Jesus the Christ, as found in the Gospel accounts; however, it is about Jesus of Nazareth, the historical person who lived and was brutally killed two thousand years ago. Whether one likes O’Reilly or not, the book is undoubtedly sparking an interest in the historical life and times of this peasant Jewish prophet from Galilee.

Another book, released around the same time, is Reza Aslan’s book, “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.” This book is a much more scholarly book than O’Reilly’s, though it is certainly accessible enough for the average reader. In his book, Reza also attempts to paint a picture of who the historical Jesus of Nazareth was, showing him to be a person who was filled with Zeal for his God and his people. This Jesus was another person, in a long line of people, who claimed to be the messiah that would deliver God’s people from the oppressive Roman empire and the corrupt Temple and religious authorities of the day.

As an academic, I love reading and engaging in such quests to find the historical Jesus; however, I would imagine that many might find such quests to be rather frustrating as well. After all, why would anyone question the Gospel accounts of Jesus? Do we need to look any further than the Bible to find evidence of who Jesus was as a person? Won’t books like this lead people further from who the Bible says Jesus is?

Many Christians tend to view such books as a threat against their faith, rather than seeing them as opportunities to actively engage people in dialogue about our faith. What if Christians actually read the books, with open minds and willing spirits, that are intriguing the people around us? What if we took the time to engage people in ways that are relevant and interesting to them? What if Christians moved from fear to faith and put their “faith” in God rather that placing their faith in their “understanding” of God?

The fact of the matter is that books such as the ones mentioned above are good news for us, as they show that this person from Galilee, this prophet from Nazareth, this miracle worker from Judea is still someone who is drawing people to him this very day. People are longing to find out who the real Jesus is? People are longing to investigate the life of the one we claim to follow!

Rather than resisting the interests of people searching for truth, we should be displaying the truth of Jesus in our lives. We should be embracing people who are seeking to find who the real Jesus is, all the while leading people to see the real, resurrected Jesus lived out in and through us. If we are truly Christian, if we truly have faith in Christ, than that faith will lead us to be active participants in bringing hope, healing and wholeness into the world.

Today’s challenge is to join in on the conversation of who Jesus Christ is. Be open to learning new things and be open to the people who desire to go on such a quest of learning. Recognize the opportunity to help guide people from searching to finding. This can only be done if you are open enough to understand what they are searching for and if you are willing to join them in the quest. We are called to walk with others in their journey in the same way that God has walked with us in ours. Ready, get set, engage!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Jesus is as narrow as himself and as wide as the universe.” – Rob Bell

PRAYER

Lord, help me to be open and engaging rather than closed and disengaged. Use me to reflect the reality of your presence. Amen.

 

Rise to the Challenge

Read Proverbs 2:6-8

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“The righteous walk in integrity—happy are the children who follow them!” (Proverbs 20:7)

selena-gomezAnyone who knows my family knows that we are HUGE Disney fans. Every year we go to Walt Disney World, or one of the many Disney Vacation Club resorts. We love Disney movies and frequent the Disney stores, both in the malls and online. We LOVE DISNEY!!! One of my kids favorite channels is the Disney Channel and, as a parent, I couldn’t be happier because I at least know that the Disney channel shows age appropriate content.

Both of my daughters used to love the TV series “Hannah Montana.” They loved how Hannah could be a “rock star” and maintain a normal life. Miley Cyrus played the larger-than-life character in a way that made young girls the world over aspire to be just like her, to be a little wild and yet maintain the integrity of who they are as simple, everyday people. What an awesome thing to be able to, as the phrase goes, “have their cake and eat it to.”

But anyone who has been following the news lately knows that Miley Cyrus hasn’t quite the handle on that balance in real life. The wilder she gets, the more and more she seems to be losing the integrity that her on-screen alter-ego was able to keep. The reality is, no doubt, that she is being advised by people to “shake off” that “good girl” image so that she can move into the realm of being accepted by adults. Whoa! Pause and think about that? What does that say about us adults in terms of what we expect out of our entertainers?

Yet, not all young stars are taking that advice. Another Disney star, Selena Gomez, has been very firm in remaining true to who she is. It isn’t about being a “good girl” but about maintaining her own integrity. In a recent concert, she told her fans that the only way to be cool is to have class. AMEN!!! And she recently told Teen Vogue that she will “always be the girl you want to take home to your parents, not for the night.”

Thank God for young people like Selena who are showing our young ones that there is more to life than celebrity, popularity, sexuality and money. There’s a little word called, “integrity” that should trump all other things. But this isn’t just about young boys and girls. Everyone should come to embrace “integrity.” In this world, it seems that it is a word that is abandoned by many people. We are living and participating in a world of instant gratification, a world centered around “me”, and many of us get sucked up into it.

So the challenge for us today is for us to probe deep into our lives and see where we have integrity and where we don’t. Where are we seeking instant gratification at the cost of our integrity? Where we are centering life around ourselves rather than around God and God’s purpose of us? God is challenging each of us to remain true to who God has created us to be. God is challenging us to maintain integrity and to live a life that bears witness to hope as opposed to despair, healing as opposed to destruction, and wholeness as opposed to being incomplete. Will you rise to this challenge?

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“A life lived with integrity—even if it lacks the trappings of fame and fortune—is a shining star in whose light others may follow in the years to come.” – Denis Waitley

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for making me a person of integrity. Guide me in my life so that I may bear witness to your hope, healing and wholeness. Amen.

 

Two Probing Questions

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

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

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

PRAYER

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

 

The Trust Game

Read Genesis 16

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

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

PRAYER

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