Tag Archives: healing

Nothing to Prove

Read Luke 7:31-35

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:10a NRSV)

nothing-to-proveAs a person who has a sense of humor, there are certain comedies that I consider to be an important part of my life experience. One of those comedies is Mel Brooks’ History of the World, Part 1. A part of the joke, of course, is that there actually is no “Part 2”. But what I most love about this film, is that it covers some serious events in history with levity. It is a satire on human history as we know it.

At the very beginning of the film, we come across cavemen who have learned how to build fire, who have invented the wheel, and even learned how to sing and harmonize. At one point, the narrator says that humans learned the value of fine art. As the narrator is guiding us, we see one of the cavemen painting an animal on the way. “But with the birth of the artist,” the narrator continues, “comes the afterbirth of the critic.” The camera pans up to reveal a man urinating on the painting that the caveman just took the time to create. Too much information…I know.

One of the many things I have learned in my life is that that you just simply cannot please everyone and, truth be told, that there will always be naysayers. When I weighed 306 lbs, there is no doubt that people used to judge me based on my weight and appearance. People’s perception of me was that I ate too much, that I was lazy and inactive, and I am sure there were other perceptions as well. The truth be told, I have never been a lazy or inactive person, even when I weighed that much. But still people based their opinions of me off of their perception of me. I used to get told all the time to watch what I eat and to control the portions of that I consumed every day.

When I began juicing I am sure that there were many people betting on how long I would last. I am sure that many people did not think that I would last through the fast or, if I did, that I would not keep the weight off. Since I lost all that weight and now follow a vegan lifestyle, people question whether I am getting the proper vitamins and nutrients. They question where I get my protein from. People also now percieve me to be “iron-willed” and I always hear people say that they couldn’t be vegan like me because they “love food too much.” Of course, that implies that I don’t love food very much at all, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

The point of this really isn’t about me, but about the fact that there will ALWAYS be critics and naysayers. People will think what they will think no matter how hard you try to get them to see things differently. And to be honest, we’ve all played the part of the naysayer and critic ourselves. Each one of us have been critical as much as we have been criticized.

The truth is that you don’t have anything to prove but to God…and God already knows your abilities, your capabilities, and your heart. Don’t waste your time fretting about what others think of you. Take constructive critique, use it to your benefit, and ignore nonconstructive criticism. God knows who you are, and it is important for you not to forget whose you are. Also, be mindful of when you are playing the part of the critic. Be supportive of the people around you. Give prayerful and constructive critique, but don’t give nonconstructive criticism. Trust in God. Know that you have nothing to prove and that no one has to prove anything to you either. May you ever grow in that understanding.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“You don’t have to prove anything to anyone but to yourself and to God.” – Katherine Ann Lattig

PRAYER

Lord, help me to stop seeking human approval and to learn that your approval and your grace is sufficient for me. Also, help me to be less judgmental toward others so that I may be in line with your golden rule. Amen.

The Virtuous Life

Read Galatians 5:19-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.” (Proverbs 10:9 NLT)

The Walking Dead (Season 2)One of my favorite shows on television, as I have mentioned in the past, is the show “The Walking Dead”. Recently, I have been rewatching the series with my wife, as she has never seen it before. This is actually a great way to get more of “The Walking Dead” as I eagerly find myself in the advent of Season 5, which premiers on TMC in October. For those of you who have not watched the show, but might consider watching it, no worries…I will not put any SPOILERS in this, or at least not any that truly matter.

I have found that, on my second time through the series, I am beginning to pick up on things that I totally missed in my first time through. There’s all of the same elements such as zombies (obviously), character development, drama, suspense, humor (though depending on the season, it can be sparing), and action. But, I have noticed more within those elements that didn’t necessarily dawn on me originally. That is the beauty of a well-thought out, well-written script…there is lots of depth.

One of the things I have noticed is how the characters react to circumstances off of their core values. For Rick Grimes, who’s the lead character, his core values follow a more moral and ethical code. In his career, he  was a deputy sheriff who took his job seriously and was a typically honest guy. He’s a guy who values human life, who believes in risking all to help others and believes in honesty.

As Rick and his group go through the trials and tribulations that come with living during the zombie apocalypse, his core values get put to the test. We often like to go through life thinking that there is a right and a wrong, a black and a white, an up and a down; however, in reality, there is often times much more gray and abstract areas, where the discernment process is muddled by the circumstances surrounding us. As Rick’s character develop, we see him go through periods where he is almost at war with himself because the circumstances seem to be calling him to do one thing, but his values are screaming at him to do something completely opposite to that.

In the end, because he is a values driven person, he ends up making decisions that are in line with his core values…even if his first instincts and decisions were against those values. There is a whole host of truths and parallels between this and our lives as Christians. If we are Christian our core values, by necessity, have to be in line with Christ’s virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Let’s also not forget the virtues of forgiveness, mercy, and compassion. And if our core values are in line with the fruit of the Spirit, we will live our lives accordingly.

So often we allow the world to define what our core values are and that is when we find ourselves compromising on things that go against what we claim to believe. Our challenge, as the church today, is to develop the spiritual discipline to mold our values around the virtues of Christ, around the fruit of the Spirit. If we do that, we will find that those core values will, more often than not, guide us in all that we do. What are your core values and do they line up with the virtues of Christ? These are questions we, as Christians, should be measuring ourselves on a daily basis. I pray that you make this a part of your spiritual journey.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” – George Washington

PRAYER

Lord, teach me your ways so that I may build the things you count as virtue into my core values. Let me ever walk in the footsteps of Christ. Amen.

Cavity

Read Acts 17:26-31

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let Me.” (Matthew 23:37, NLT)

FluorideToothNobody likes going to the dentist. At least, not anybody I know. I just had to go to the dentist today in order to get a cavity refilled. About a week earlier I had felt something wiggling between my teeth and I just knew that wasn’t a good thing, especially since I had been on another juice fast and I hadn’t eaten anything to get caught between my teeth. Plus, the dentist had told me that this one filling was giving way and that we would have to keep an eye on it. Indeed, no eyes needed anymore, the filling is gone.

Why do we get cavities anyway? If God is all-knowing, wouldn’t God know better than to make things that rot or go bad? Now that question may make me sound like I am being facetious and, in some ways, I am. With that said, how many times have we stopped and questioned God over the things that happen in our lives? Whether it be over cavities, our luck, our lot in life or even in the midst of death, we are prone to question God. So, let me ask the original question again. why do we get cavities?

Well, the truth is that we get cavities as a result of poor diet, poor dental hygiene and, on occasion, because of genetic issues. The latter reason is way more rare than the former two reasons, and the majority of us get cavities as a result of the first or the second or even both of those reasons. Believe it or not, diet is a leading cause for cavities. Do you like processed foods? If you eat pre-made foods, cold cuts, junk food and/or spend the majority of your shopping trips in the center aisles of the supermarket, then the answer is that you eat a ton of processed foods. And those types of foods notoriously cause deterioration of our teeth, which is also a sign of deteriorating health.

It is also a known fact that if you don’t brush and floss regularly you will also be prone to cavities and other dental diseases such as gingivitis. The net result of all of this is that our lifestyles and our neglect cause cavities…not God. The same is true spiritually. When in a spiritual rut, we often turn to God and question, “Why?!?!? Why is this happening to me?” We often question God’s presence in our lives and wonder if God has been with us in our time of need, but we fail to stop and question ourselves, and we fail to see ourselves as the culprit of God’s absence.

In fact, it is theologically wrong to say that God was ever absent. The fact is, God is always with us; however, when we’ve spent our time building a wall in the way of our view of God, it is hard to notice that. We spend way too much time prioritizing other things first and foremost and, as a result, a cavity starts to form within our very souls. We begin to ache and throb for help and, only when the pain gets too much to bear, we cry out for God to tear down the wall we’ve been so persistently working on building.

Rather than waiting until moments of pain and despair to cry out to God, let us work diligently on having an ongoing and vibrant relationship with God. Read the Scriptures, pray, read books that focus on the spiritual life, become a part of God’s community of worship with other believers who can be a part of your spiritual journey and you a part of theirs. Serve others for the sake of serving them and become missional in your life. If you do these things, you will begin to promote a healthy spirit and the kind of spiritual cavities that form in a decaying soul. Does it take effort? absolutely! But your health and your relationship with something bigger than you is worth that effort.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“The closer we move toward God, the closer we move toward each other.” – Unknown

PRAYER

Lord, help me to continue building my relationship with you, which will ultimately strengthen my relationships with others. Let me not forget that my relationship with you IS my top priority. Amen.

Worth the Investment

Read 1 John 3:1-3

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

img_cheerleadingLast summer my oldest daughter began showing interest in cheerleading and started to convey to us (her mom and I) that she wanted to take gymnastics in order to get prepared for cheerleading. At first we were both hesitant because we were afraid that this was going to be just some new “phase” that she would grow bored with over time. After all, she had come to us on numerous occasions and told us she wanted to do this or that, only to find out later that, after investing money in what she wanted to do, that she no longer wanted to do it.

There came a point where I got frustrated, mostly because of the money that these whimsical pursuits were costing us. I sat her down and tried to reason with her regarding her discovering what she truly wanted to do. I told her that it is easy to say “I want to be this,” or “I want to do that.” But no matter what we want to be or do, we have to invest our time and energy into it. Flitting about from thing to thing without any real commitment doesn’t do us any good.

And there is truth to that. We can easily become a “Jack of all trades” and just as easily remain a master of none. The fact is, if we are going to be successful in anything, we absolutely have to devote ourselves to whatever it is and go for it at full throttle. As a parent, I want my daughter to be a person of commitment, one who sees things through to the end.

With that said, in my frustration I also failed to recognize something. How can we ever discover who we are called to be, and/or what we are called to do, if we never start somewhere and keep trying. My daughter had done nothing more than what any kid does in an attempt to find something that they love to do…something that aids them in their quest to discover their potential as well as their very identity.

Hasn’t God done the same for us? Which one of us starts in this world with a clear picture of who they are called to be? If I we are to be honest, none of us can claim that. Our identity and our purpose both take time to develop. And, even when we do come to an realization of who we are called to be and what we are called to do, there is often a world of other things that complicate our discernment process and diminish our clarity.

Yet God, had given us the room to live, to learn and to discover. Each breath we take is another opportunity that we’ve been give to discover just who it is we are being called to be, and what it is we are being called to do. Not everyone is called to be a pastor, not everyone is called to be a nurse, not everyone is called to be a cheerleader, but each of us are called to serve God and represent God’s loving presence in all that we do.

Eventually, my wife and I chose to invest more money in our daughter toward gymnastics who, in one year’s time, has gone from someone who has never been a cheerleader to someone who made the JV cheerleading team. All because, my wife and I decided to invest in her and give her the room to live, to learn and to grow. God does the same for us. God loves us, invests in us, and gives us the room to discover who we are, and what we are called to do. To God, everyone is worth the investment and, truth be told, we are being called to invest in others just as God invests in us. Everyone is worth the investment no matter what we are being called to invest in the lives of theirs.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born. And how you become most truly alive.” – Oprah Winfrey

PRAYER

Lord, thank you for giving me room to live, learn and grow. Continually guide me to my purpose and give me the patience to make such room for others as I help in guiding them to theirs. Amen.

Born to Follow

Read John 21:15-22

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)

circlehq5It is no big secret that my favorite band in the world is Bon Jovi and that I have been listening to them faithfully for almost as long as I can remember. As a boy, I heard their songs on the radio and loved it every time they came on. My parents, who wouldn’t just buy me anything I wanted, allowed me to listen to them (and even bought me some of their albums) because, for the most part, their lyrics were clean and often inspirational…especially to a young boy from Jersey.

This band, which is also from New Jersey, have written and recorded 12 studio albums, have sold more than 100 million records worldwide, and have performed more than 2,700 concerts in over 50 countries for more than 34 million fans. Over the years, their music has spoken to me in many ways. With all of the ups and downs that comes with life, there is literally a Bon Jovi song for each of them. That is powerful stuff, and that is why they have been so successful. People can relate!

With that said, in 2009 Bon Jovi released the single, “We Weren’t Born to Follow” from their album “The Circle.” The song itself delivers everything a Bon Jovi fan has come to expect from the band. The lyrics are calling for people to become leaders, for people to pick themselves up off the ground and live life to it’s fullest no matter what comes their way. The chorus of the song is as follows: “We weren’t born to follow, come on and get up off your knees. When life is a bitter pill to swallow, you gotta hold on to what you believe. Believe that the sun will shine tomorrow and that your saints and sinners bleed. We weren’t born to follow, you gotta stand up for what you believe.”

At first glance, one might be questioning what is wrong with those lyrics. They seem to have a positive message and seem to be pushing people to be independent and to persevere; however, it is in that message that lies the problem. The lyrics are very heavily self-reliant. “We weren’t born to follow” implies that being a “follower” is bad and being a “leader” is good. Yet, I find these lyrics to be inherently backwards.

WE ARE BORN TO FOLLOW. God created us in God’s image and has been calling us to follow God’s way of living…of loving. It is is when we think we are INDEPENDENT…it is when we think that we can DO IT ON OUR OWN, that we run into trouble. It is our thinking that WE are the answer to our problems and self-reliance is the key to surviving life that leads us down a road that not only hurts others, but also brings us to the brink of self-destruction.

God has called us to lead in being followers. With God as OUR leader, we are called to lead others in following God…in following LOVE. That is the key to not just surviving life…but living it abundantly. So long as we are following the ultimate source of LOVE we will never be led astray and that LOVE will pick us up and carry us when we fall. God is not calling us to a life of INDEPENDENCE, but rather to a life DEPENDENT on GOD.

Like any parent, God wants us to live abundant and fruitful lives and wants us to recognize the source of our lives. If we fail to do that we will never see the great hope that lies within us, nor will we see the great hope that lies within others. Today’s challenge is to recognize that God is with you, that you are dependent on God, and that God is calling you to follow in order that you might lead others, by example, to a life of following!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“One cannot lead without first having followed.” – Rev. Todd R. Lattig

PRAYER

Lord, I submit myself to you and follow your lead. Lead me toward following your example and leading others to do the same. Amen.

Sent to Siloam

Read John 9:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then Jesus told him, ‘I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.’” (John 9:39)

siloamAt church I have been leading a summer Bible Study for those in our church that teach Children’s Sunday School during the year, so that they have time to be enriched as well as being an enrichment for others. The Study we have been doing is one called “Unusual Gospel” by Rev. Adam Thomas. In he covers the unusual Gospel of John and the unusual healings, the unusual people, and the unusual questions found throughout it. It is a very engaging and refreshing study.

One of the unusual healings is that of the man who was born blind. You may be wondering what is so unusual about that healing. Jesus healed many people, and he’s known to have healed the blind. The story of the man born blind is a very familiar one and is certainly one that many of us have heard if not have memorized. So what exactly is unusual about it?

In the story, Jesus approaches the man born blind, spits on the ground, makes mud and rubs it on the man’s eyes. Yuck! Then he tells the man to go and wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam. The man, who now has Jesus saliva and dirt mixture smeared on his face, goes to the pool and washes his eyes. As he does so, he finds that he is healed. When he returned from the pool the people around him were astonished. In fact, they were more than astonished…they were confused. Something looked familiar about this man…but they just couldn’t place him.

“Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg,” his neighbors and other witnesses asked each other? Some replied, “Nah…this isn’t that man, he just looks like him.” The beggar kept assuring “I am the same one…I am the same one!” No one seemed to listen or recognize him…and when they did recognize him, they were more concerned with who healed him than the fact that he had been healed. The irony is that this man at one point could not physically see; however, his healing had revealed who was truly blind.

The people were blind to the blind man. They never really saw him for who he was. They only ever saw his limitation. When they looked at the blind man, they only ever saw blindness. And notice what I, the writers of the Bible, Jesus’ disciples, and the Bible translators often do…we all tend to label this man as “The Blind Man” or “The Man Born Blind”, despite that he was healed and HIS BLINDNESS wasn’t who he really was!

Jesus revealed that to him and to the disciples. Through the healing, Jesus also revealed the blindness of the man’s neighbors. They didn’t know anything about this man, but that he was blind. That is how they identified him…as blind. And Jesus revealed their own blindness to them. Through this unusual healing, Jesus reveals our blindness to us as well. How often do we identify people by their limitations. How often do we name them after their limitations. The Blind Person, The Drunk Person, That Suicidal Person, those Old People, that Young person. How often do we only see the label, the supposed “limitation”, but are blind to the actual person…the actual child of God that is before us.

Like he did in this unusual healing, Jesus is showing us our blindness and he is offering us healing from that blindness. If we humbly recognize that we have mud of our own on our eyes, if we obediently wash that mud off, if we open our eyes to the people that we’ve been blind to, we will be healed from that blindness. God wants us to see people as they really are, not for what we’ve deemed them to be. God is sending you to Siloam. Be healed and transformed!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Hate and mistrust are the children of [spiritual] blindness.” – William Watson

PRAYER
Lord, open the eyes of my heart for I want to see you in the people around me. Break me free from the chains of my blindness and give me the ability to see through your eyes. Amen.

The Task at Hand

Read Acts 20:20-24

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:12)

1600x1200-11587-nosferatu-wallpaper-hdI have been a life-long fan of the classic horror films. Lon Chaney, Sr.’s “The Phantom of the Opera,” F.W. Murnau’s “Faust”, Lon Chaney, Jr.’s “The Wolfman”, Henry Hull’s “The Werewolf of London”, Bela Legosi’s “Dracula”, Boris Karloff’s “Frankenstein” and “The Mummy”. My all-time favorite horror film from the Silent Film era, is F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu: eine Symphonie des Grauens” (translated as “Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror). The film is a German Expressionist film about a vampire coming to Germany to prey on its citizens and it was loosely based on Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”.

What makes me love this film is its use of lighting and shadow to pull off eerie special effects, the makeup work that was done to Max Schreck who plays the infamous “Count Orlok”, as well as Schreck’s amazing character acting. When watching the film, it is impossible to see Schreck’s Orlok as a “human being.” His rat-like features, pointy ears, sunken eyes, long tallon-like fingers, gaunt and lanky stature, and pale skin really make this character appear to be the monster that he is. Looking at him would make anyone’s skin crawl. Murnau created a film that is timeless and never feels dated, even though it is in black & white and has no audio aside from the music that has been added to it.

Back in 2011, I embarked on a project to rescore “Nosferatu.” There have been many attempts to rescore it, each trying to “update” the music in a way that makes it feel fresh and new; however, I have found every attempt (for the most part) to fall short of the film. None of the soundtracks seemed, in my opinion, to do justice to this film. So I figured I would rescore it, not trying to “update” the score with bells and whistles but, rather, trying to keep it simple and foreboding. I wanted a score that would give one the sense that evil was coming, and the urgency to rid the world of it.

As with all “great” ideas, it sounded much easier than it turned out to be. It is now July of 2014, and I have yet to finish the score. Life came in the way and I became preoccupied in other things. Inevitably, I let the rescoring of “Nosferatu” take a back seat to the “busy-ness” of life. Just recently, I decided to pick the project back up and to work on it whenever I have to the chance too. The more I work on it, the closer I get to completing it, the more and more fulfilled I feel. To be honest, whenever I start something without completing it, I feel incomplete.

While I have been using a “hobby” of mine as an illustration, how much more true is it that we feel incomplete when we don’t finish what Christ has called us, the church, to do. We are all called to be agents of God’s Kingdom of Heaven, of God’s hope, healing and wholeness, and we are all called to do different tasks in order to continue to usher in that Kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven. Yet, often times we get “burned out”, or the “busy-ness” of life gets in our way and we begin to fall away from the task that we’ve all been called to.

In the process, we find ourselves feeling incomplete. We often find ourselves lost, literally, in things that fill our time, but not our souls. Christ is calling us to reprioritize and to recommit our lives to the purpose that God has laid out for us. Let us not be a people that only starts projects, but never sees them through to completion; rather, let us be a people that completes that task at hand. Let us keep fighting the good fight and continuing on in the race. Let us remove the distractions of purposeless “busy-ness” and remember what it is that we’ve been called to do. Once we are realigned with our purpose, we shall feel fulfilled!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” – John F. Kennedy

PRAYER

Lord, remind me of my purpose and spark a passion in me to see it through to completion. Amen.