Tag Archives: Gospel

A LOOK BACK: Afraid of the Dark

Read John 1:1-18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

The night was dense, thickened by the looming darkness that fell swiftly over the land. A fog had rolled in off of the sea that night, a mist of death that shrouded the land like a linen that covers a grayish dead corpse from passers by.  The air was cut thin by an uneasy feeling, a horrid sense of despair that crept in one’s bosom and suffocated away the life.

There in the distance, I could make out a shape through the fog. I squinted as if to focus in and, the more focused I became, I began to realize that the shape was the body of my friend Lucy. Her figure was lying still on top of a marble bench in the cemetery outside of the abbey. A called out to her in hopes that she would hear me; however, she lay there motionless as if she were made of marble herself.

At the sound of my voice I noticed movement. Directly behind Lucy’s motionless body loomed a shadowy figure. It was hunched over her like a vulture that has come to eat the flesh of its prey. What looked like its head raised up and I could see, cutting through the thickened veil of mist, two beady, red orbs illuminating a path straight toward me. Terror overwhelmed me as I realized that its eyes, its terrible red eyes were fixed on me. It was at that moment that I felt the blood within me grow icy cold with the fear of death.

The scene above is one that is forever etched into my mind. It is my representation of a scene that I read in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, where Mina follows a sleepwalking Lucy out to the chapel at Whitby and sees, for the first time, the shadowy monster we all have come to know as Count Dracula. There are lots of memorable moments in that book, and the truth be told that it is my favorite novel; however, there is no other scene in the book that stands so horrifying in my mind that that very scene.

What is it that makes us so afraid of the dark and of darkness? Is it that our sight and our senses are limited? Is it that what lies beyond our sight is unknown to us and, as we all know, we fear what is unknown? The fact of the matter is that, whether it be day or night, there is much to fear in this world. Evil exists, and its monstrous presence in this world can be experienced even in the seemingly safest of places. In fact, don’t let the light and your senses decieve you. You are no more guaranteed safety in the light of day than you are in the dark of night.  We live in a world where cruelty, depravity and hopelessness seem to rule.

Yet, we are not without hope for we know that evil does not rule. We know that God sent true light into the world, the light of life, and that life resides in each and everyone of us. We can give into our fears and close out the light of God, or we can open our hearts to that light and let it transform us into beacons of hope, healing and wholeness for the rest of the world. In Jesus of Nazareth we see such a light, in Jesus Christ we see the hope of God carried out in humanity and we see the frailty of evil.

Do not let your fears conquer you. Trust that the true light of God is within you and shine it out for the world to see. Live as Christ did in this world. Love God by unconditionally loving others. Remove your fear and your cynicism and be a sanctuary of hope, healing an wholeness for the people around you who desperately need it. Shine that light no matter how the world reacts. Know that not even death can stop that light from shining within you for it is the light of Christ who conquered death.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

PRAYER
Lord, help me to conquer my fear. Fill me with your light and through me, bring hope, healing and wholeness to those who need it. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Let Freedom Ring

Well, it’s summertime again and my family and I are on vacation. While we are away, I will not be writing any new devotionals; however, this is a great opportunity to look back at a couple of devotions that were written over the course of the past years.  I hope that though this was written in the past, that in it you may find a relevant message that God is speaking to you. So without further adieu, click here to read today’s devotion.

A LOOK BACK: Unanswered Prayers

Well, it’s summertime again and my family and I are on vacation. While we are away, I will not be writing any new devotionals; however, this is a great opportunity to look back at a couple of devotions that were written over the course of the past years.  I hope that though this was written in the past, that in it you may find a relevant message that God is speaking to you. So without further adieu, click here to read today’s devotion.

God’s People, part 251: Rhonda

Read Acts 12:6-19

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” (Zephaniah 3:17, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 251: Rhonda. I am willing to bet that most people did not realize there was a Rhonda in the Bible. Everytime that I hear that name, I cannot help but think of the Beach Boys song, “Help Me, Rhonda”, which would not be completely inappropriate for this particular passage in Acts. Granted, the story of Rhonda in Acts is not centered on her helping getting a broken relationship out of another guy’s heart; however, the phrase “Help Me, Rhonda” itself speaks to what happens in the account.

To summarize, Peter had been imprisoned and awaiting a public trial by King Herod Agrippa I. If you recall, Agrippa had just had James, son of Zebedee, put to death. This, evidently, went over well with public opinion and so Agrippa had Peter arrested so that he might stand trial and be put to death as well. While, in prison, the Angel of the Lord broke Peter out of jail and set him free. Following that, he went straight to John Mark’s house and knocked on the door.

This is where Rhonda comes in. She was a servant of John Mark’s household and was the one who first answered the door. Before even opening the door, Rhonda recognized Peter’s voice and was so overjoyed that she forgot to even open the door. Instead, she ran back into the household and began to proclaim the good news that Peter was no longer in jail. Peter, confused, continued to knock until he was eventually let in.

Of course, what was good news for Peter, Rhonda, and company was not good news universally. Back at the jail the guards had to deal with a very miffed and hostile King Agrippa I. After searching the cells, he ordered the execution of the soldiers who were keeping watch. Agrippa, clearly, was not a man of patience or mercy. If he would not have Peter’s blood, he would have the blood of the ones responsible for keeping watch.

For us, as Christians, we could use the excitement that Rhonda has for serving God. Of course, she was overwhelmed to find out that Peter had not been harmed and that he had escaped from prison; however, her excitement went beyond that. Instead, she took it upon herself to let everyone in the household know that the Lord rescued Peter and he was standing at her door. The others thought she had lost it; however, she persisted and, when they opened the door, they were amazed to discover that Peter had, indeed, been resuced.

As Christian, we can so easily fall into the trap of not truly believing in the unbelievable. Sure, we know that Christ was resurrected, sure we know that God has the power to make miracles happen; however, we simply don’t have the faith to believe that such miracles can be worked out in front of us, much less through us.

By miracles, I do not mean God somehow working out our greatest desires list; rather, I mean the kind of happenings and events that show the power of God and bring glory to God’s name. We somehow believe that such things are the things of the past, of the Bible; however, God is working miracles out in our lives and the lives of others everyday. Even in situations that seem less than miraculous, I have seen God’s ability to transform hearts and lives. As Christians, we need to trust as Rhonda did. We need to know that, no matter what, Christ is always a knock away and be willing to share the good news with others. Let us grow to be such Christians.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Every day we have to share the Good News is a miraculous day.

PRAYER
Lord, strengthen me to become a great and powerful witness to your presence among us. Amen.

God’s People, part 250: Agrippa I

Read Acts 12:1-5

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”  (Philippians 2:3-5, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 250: Agrippa I. King Herod Agrippa’s rise to power and reign is one of the most fascinating out of all of the kings in the Bible. His story is one of politics, deception, backstabbing, and vying for power. Born Marcus Julius Agrippa, he was the son of Aristobulus IV, and was grandson of King Herod the Great. Aristobulus the IV was one of two sons that King Herod had strangled to death on charges of treason; however, King Herod showed favor to Marcus and his other grandchildren despite this. In fact, Herod the Great had Marcus sent to Rome where he became beloved of future Emperor Tiberius, and received an education alongside the future emperor’s son.

While his early adulthood years were nearly squandered, he was able to pull through because of Tiberius’ love for him. Despite being accused of accepting a bribe by his own brother, and being exiled by King Herod Antipas, Agrippa was well-received back in Rome by Emperor Tiberius. It was there where he formed a close relationship with future Emperor Caligula. Having been overheard wishing for Tiberius to die so that Caligula could ascend as emperor, he was thrown into prison; however, that was short lived because, once Caligula became emperor, he released Agrippa and appointed him king of the regions of Auranitis, Batanaea, Gaulanitis, and Trachonitis, all of which his uncle Philip the Tetrarch had held. Eventually, Agrippa brought about the banishment of his uncle, King Herod Antipas, and ascended to rule over Galilee and Peraea.

Eventually, through supporting Claudius as Emperor following Caligula’s assassination, Agrippa was given dominion over all of Judaea and Samaria, and was king over a domain that equaled that of his grandfather, Herod the Great. As can be seen by this abbreviated historical biography, Agrippa was politically savvy, shrewd, and willing to do whatever it took to increase in power and authority. Nothing was off limits, and no one was going to stand in his way.

This is the same King Agrippa, simply named King Herod in Acts 12, who became a persecutor of the early Christian Church in Jerusalem. It was this Agrippa, who had James, son of Zebedee (one of the earliest of Jesus’ disciples), violently executed and Peter imprisoned in order to send a message to anyone trying to disrupt the religious and political status quo. In fact, the crowd loved seeing the death of James so much that, for good sport and public approval, Agrippa was going to have Peter put on public trial as well.

How does someone allow power and status to corrup them so? How does someone go from being the son of a murdered parent, to a murderous ruler willing to do anything to maintain control? This should be a warning to all of us. Power is intoxicating and corruptive and it can cause the greatest of us to fall. While this devotion might be centered on a King with nearly absolute power, granted to him by Rome, it still speaks to us as well because we in the church can be seduced by power too.

The church has long forgotten that the roles and heirarchy are meant to SERVE the body of Christ as opposed to making the body of Christ SERVE the people in those roles. We as the church, while we must respect the need for heirarchy and we must respect the offices of the Church, we also must never forget that the ONLY one we worship is Christ Jesus our Lord. Yes, I was called to be a pastor. Yes, others are called to be bishops, or church leaders. Yes, those positions are important in the life of the church; however, they are not more valuable than any other role in the church, no matter how big or small. Let us, as the Church, remember that all are one in Christ Jesus our Lord.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
We are each other’s keepers, bound in love to all who are in Christ.

PRAYER
Lord, remind me that no matter my role or status, I am yours and am in service to all who are my family in Christ. Amen.

God’s People, part 249: Agabus

Read Acts 11:27-30

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”  (John 13:34, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 249: Agabus. There’s not much to be said about Agabus, as there are only several verses in the entire New Testament, all with in Acts, that are in reference to him. In today’s Scripture, we learn that prophets from Jerusalem were coming to the city of Antioch in Syria and prophesying to the people there. Before we talk about Agabus himself, we must first understand a little bit about Antioch.

Though there were other cities named Antioch in the ancient world, the one described in Acts 11 is the city was located in what is now the modern city of Antakya, Turkey. Syrian Antioch, as it is known by historians and scholars, was the seat of the governor of the Roman Province of Syria. This city was a major center of early Chrisitanity and it was traditionally first evangelized by Peter and, later, by Barnabas and Paul. It was a beneficial to be located because it existed along the silk road, the spice trade, and the Royal Road, making it a major travel hub.

Christianity utilized such routes and major hubs to spread from city to city throughout the Roman empire; thus, it is not shocking that the first major center of Christianity outside of Jerusalem would be Syrian Antioch. It also makes sense why Jewish prophets from Jerusalem would travel to Antioch, which was the region’s example of Hellenistic culture and Roman rule. Again, we don’t know much about these prophets, but every indication is that they were Jewish Christians.

Agabus was one of these prophets and he came to the city of Syrian Antioch in order to warn the citizens there that a great famine would be falling upon the entire Roman Empire. While, I am sure that many in Antioch laughed at Agabus and his prophecy, and Luke shares that it wasn’t fulfilled until sometime during the reign of Claudius (41-54 AD), the Christians in Antioch from taking him and his prophecy seriously.

The early Christians had plenty in Antioch and, out of concern for their mother church, they sent supplies to Jerusalem to ensure that they had enough to survive the famine. What an amazing act of faith and self-sacrifice. They didn’t horde what they had in order to make sure they were safe and sound; rather, they shared their resources with those they knew were less fortunate than them.

First, what a blessing that Agabus answered his call to warn people of the coming famine. Second, how amazing is it that the earliest Christians heeded that warning, even if others didn’t, and shared their resources with their sisters and brothers in Jerusalem. We should be challenged by this. We who are the church, we who are followers of Christ, should be willing to share what we have with other Christians who are in need. If we are to take care of those who do not currently belong to our divine family, we must first be willing to take care of fellow family members.

What a witness to the world we would be if we, as Christians, made such hospitality and mutual love a part of our identity. Such a church would attract people like a magnet, just like the church in Antioch attracted many to it. Imagine a world where we care for each other and, together, we care for the least of these regardless of who they are or what creed they do or don’t follow. Such a church would certainly begin to usher in the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. Let us be such Christians who make up such a church.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
LOVE is the order of the day, every day, for all days.

PRAYER
Lord, humble me and create in me a loving, generous and hospitable heart. Amen.