Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

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.

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.

 

Guilt-Free Zone

Read Psalm 22:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

griefAs a pastor and a spiritual counselor, I often deal with people who are going through rough times in their lives. Perhaps they have just lost a loved one and are beginning to go through the grieving process. Perhaps they are struggling in their relationships with others or with God. Perhaps they have been separated (for whatever reason) from their loved one(s). Perhaps they are struggling with alcoholism and/or addiction, or perhaps they know and love someone who is. Perhaps they are going through rough times financially or physically and they do not know how to begin to cope with the problems that are piling on top of them.

Whatever the case may be, each of us struggles in life one way or another. There is not a single person in this world who breezes through life without a host of “somethings” weighing them down. Each of us have our own set of struggles that we go through. I personally have suffered from teenage depression, the loss of loved ones, sudden and unexpected unemployment, financial difficulties, relationship struggles, and a whole host of other issues. And there were times I felt so burdened down by the weight of everything that I wondered if I could even carry on.

It is human to question ourselves, our surroundings, our situations and even God when things seem to be pressing down on us and crushing the life out of us. It is natural and human to be angry at God, to cry out from the depths of our soul in despair, to question where God has been in our lives. It is natural and healthy for us to be able to engage God with those questions; however, often times we feel guilty for doing so.

When we get angry at God, when we question why God is allowing stuff to happen to us, and when we begin to wonder if God is even there at all, we often will feel guilty because we feel that such anger, such questioning, and such “doubt” is a sign that our faith is weakening, or that it is a sign we don’t have faith, and that God will somehow hold that against us. We often pressure ourselves into repressing our emotions and shutting ourselves off from asking the questions that we so desperately need to ask.

What I would like to impart to you today is that you DO NOT need to add guilt to your grief. First, I would like to challenge you to rethink the question, “why is God allowing this to happen to me?” Is God “ALLOWING” something to happen or does life happen, with all of its ups and downs, despite what God does or doesn’t want? Second, God is love. God is grace. God is present. Repeat those words to yourself, make them your mantra and trust that God is with you, that God wants NOTHING MORE than for you to have hope, for you to rise up out of the situation you’re in, for you to heal, and for you to experience wholeness.

With that said, you do not need to add guilt to your grief. God doesn’t do guilt; guilt is not from God! It is not only okay for you to express your anger and doubt to God, but God WANTS YOU TO. It is a part of the grieving process, when we are grieving any type of loss or circumstance, and it is necessary to our health. Anger, doubt, and asking God the tough questions does not show a dying faith or a lack of faith; rather, quite the contrary…it shows a STRONG FAITH and a STRONG RELATIONSHIP with GOD.

So fear not, God is with you! Be liberated in the fact that you are not alone in your struggles. That in spirit, and in the lives of those supporting you, GOD IS WITH YOU. Do not add guilt to your grief, for your grief is enough to bear on its own. God is calling out to you through the words of Jesus, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, for I will give you rest.”

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“I am with you. I will not fail you or forsake you.” – God (Joshua 1:5)

PRAYER

Lord, thank you for your undying presence in my life and thank you for your listening to me in my times of need. Help me to see when I cannot and to have the peace of your presence when the storms rage on and I feel alone. Amen.

Dying for Both Sides

Read Galatians 2

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Pray that I will be rescued from those in Judea who refuse to obey God. Pray also that the believers there will be willing to accept the donation I am taking to Jerusalem.” (Romans 15:31)

saint-paul-the-apostle-07In the Bible, there is a man named Saul who was born in the city of Tarsus in the Roman province of Cilicia. He was well educated and rose up to be a scholar of the Torah, a Pharisee, and a zealous defender of the Jewish faith. When a new sect of Judaism broke out claiming that a Nazarene rabbi by the name of Yeshua bar Joseph was the messiah and that Gentiles should be included in the Jewish covenant, he lashed out against the group, having many of them arrested. According to Acts, one was even killed.

With that said, this Saul encountered the risen Yeshua, you may know him by his Greek name Jesus, somewhere in or around Damascus, which is a city in Syria. This experience transformed Saul into a follower of Jesus. Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians that, following the encounter with Christ, he went into Arabia for a while and then came back to Damascus. After three years he went to Jerusalem and met with Jesus’ brother James, and his disciples Peter and John.

To make a long story short, Jesus’ brother James and Paul didn’t really get along…at all. Peter and John weren’t too crazy about Paul either. James believed that in order for Gentiles (non-Jews) to become a follower of Christ they had to first become Jewish, since Jesus was a Jew. Paul thought this was ludicrous, seeing Jesus’ death and resurrection as the opening up of the covenant to Gentiles. If they had faith in Jesus who was likened to a Gentile on the cross (being under God’s curse as the Torah claims of anyone hung on a tree), then they would be brought into the Jewish covenant despite not being circumcised or being bound to any one of the Jewish laws.

Though they struck a deal and Paul left thinking he had their blessing to go and preach the Gospel as he felt Jesus had called him to do, James, Peter and John never really accepted Paul’s vision. We find out from Paul in his letter to the Galatians, and in Acts, that James and his followers were counteracting Paul’s Gospel message and causing people to question this “self-proclaimed apostle” who had never been an eye-witness of Jesus. This angered Paul, as anyone would imagine, but it did not stop him from trying.

Paul had been gathering up a collection for the church in Jerusalem and he was going to bring that collection to them, hoping to reconcile their differences if it cost him his very life. Paul was afraid it would. His last written words, written to the church in Rome (a community he had never met), ask for prayers that the non-believing Jews won’t attack him (as he was a heretic in their eyes having abandoned his Pharisaic Judaism for this new messianic Judaism) and that the church in Jerusalem would accept his offering. Unfortunately, his prayers were not answered.

Paul was arrested, and eventually died, trying to get both sides (his and James’) to be unified, even if different, in the cause of Christ. Today, like then, the church is split on many fronts and we seem to get stuck on one side or the other. We fail to see Christ in the midst of our differences. Like Paul, we are called to see Christ in those who believe differently than us. We are called to find the balance of reconciliation, even while remaining true to what we firmly believe. There are many contentious issues dividing the church, yet there is still ONE Lord! Rather than deeming each other heretics, let us have the grace and the humility to see that Christ is indeed working in, through, and in spite of us all! Remember, he Gospel calls us to be a people who are unified in LOVE, even if divided by difference.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“You don’t get unity by ignoring the questions that have to be faced.” – Jay Weatherill

PRAYER

Lord, help me to see you even in those who think and believe differently than me. Humble me, I pray. Amen.

The Walking Dead

Read Acts 2:1-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.” (Matthew 23:27)

WalkingDeadOne of my favorite TV shows as of late is called “The Walking Dead.” I’m kind of a late comer to this show, as I am to all shows, and have been catching up on the three seasons that are available on Netflix. At some point, the fourth season will be out and I will catch up on that too, hopefully in time to catch the fifth season as it airs on TV. Needless to say, I am hooked on the show and for good reason.

The Walking Dead is a series that is about the zombie apocalypse. For those of you who are not already aware, zombies are en vogue in today’s society. It used to be that when we talked about the apocalypse, we discussed seven headed beasts, “the antichrist”, or even nuclear warfare. We may have even thought of machines we originally designed to kill our enemies turning against humanity in general and altering their mission to “terminate” all of human kind. Nowadays, when the word apocalypse is talked of people think of the living dead wandering the earth in search of human flesh to feast on. Mmmmm. I apologize if you are reading this while eating.

In the series, a group of survivors make their way place to place trying to avoid contact with the walking dead in order to not get bitten and turned into the walking dead themselves. As it turns out, the walking dead are in the state they are because of a virus that reanimated them into walking corpses. The kicker is that living humans are actually carrying this virus and, when they die, they too will become walking corpses. Pleasant, right?

What I love about the show is that, though on the surface it is dealing with zombies, it really is a metaphor for our world and society today. When we turn on the news we can see lots of instances of “the walking dead.” From our government, to crazed individuals, there are lots of people and institutions that just seem to have lost their way. They were created and/or designed for a specific purpose…but that purpose is dead to them and they are just wandering mindlessly preying and feasting upon others. What’s more disturbing is that, most people, are not fighting against such a state of being as much as they are fighting to maintain their status quo…only to become “the walking dead” themselves.

In this season of Pentecost, we think of the Holy Spirit filling the disciples with new life and a sense of purpose. We hear of the fire that was kindled within them that raged out of control and spread to 3,000 people on that day, which then turned to tens of thousands, millions and eventually billions of people. The church was God’s antidote to the virus that creates the “walking dead.” Yet, from time to time the virus seems to creep into the life of the church as well. Every so often, the Holy Spirit raises up a leader such as Paul, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Mother Theresa, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., etc. to go against the status quo and act as an antidote to the virus that is consuming us.

The Holy Spirit is calling you to be an antidote to the Walking Dead virus in the church. The Holy Spirit is calling you to stand up against the injustices, oppression and bonds that the world, including the Church, put upon people. Are you going to be among the countless zombies lurking around in the shadows looking for people to mindlessly feast on, or are you going to be filled with the TRUE LIFE of the spirit and become an agent of God’s Hope, Healing, and Wholeness. Christ is calling us to be in a deeper relationship with him so that, instead of reanimation, we find RESURRECTION and LIFE! Rise up with Jesus, be filled by the Holy Spirit and become an ANTIDOTE that brings life and resurrection to the LOST and NEGLECTED!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“What is my task? First of all, my task is to be pleasing to Christ. To be empty of self and be filled with Himself. To be filled with the Holy Spirit; to be led by the Holy Spirit.” – Aimee Semple McPherson

PRAYER
Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit so that I may be guided into serving others and bringing them your Hope, Healing and Wholeness. Amen.

Jesus Is For Real

Read Matthew 13:23-58

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
But [Jesus] said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” (Luke 4:43)

heaven-is-for-realThis past Thursday, my wife, children and I went to the theater to see yet another faith-based film. It seems that 2014 is the year of faith-based films and, so long as they keep making them, my family and I will keep supporting them. The one we just saw was a film entitled, “Heaven Is For Real”, which is based on the bestselling book of the same name. The film chronicles a Wesleyan pastor, Rev. Todd Burpo, and his family through a tumultuous time.

According to the story, Todd’s son Colton ended up getting sick on a family trip to Denver. After bringing him home, his condition did not improve but got worse. It turned out that his appendix had ruptured and, close to death, Colton needed emergency surgery. During that surgery, he left his body and was able to see both his parents who were in separate places: his mom on the phone with family and his dad, who was in the chapel angrily praying and yelling at God.

Beyond that experience, Colton also experienced going to heaven where he met angels who sang to him and Jesus who came to him on a horse of many colors. Everyone in heaven, according to Colton, were young. While there he met his great-grandfather who he had never met in life, and he also met his unborn, older sister. At four years old, his son had never known his mom had a miscarriage and, to his mother’s surprise, he was suddenly aware that he had another “sister” who lived in heaven.

While the story is very moving, it is easy for us to get skeptical of such books and such accounts. Theologically speaking, when Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven was he really referring to another place where he would be riding a rainbow colored horse? Was he referring to a place where we all look like we did when we were in our early twenties? Some have criticized the book for presenting an “extra-Biblical” picture of what heaven is. From a scientific perspective, how do we know that Colton wasn’t just imagining Jesus out of things he had seen and/or heard at home or at church. His father, after all, is the pastor of a Wesleyan Church. Secular critics have criticized the book for it’s lack of “reason.”

I must confess that I have never read the book, but when watching the film the details of the boy’s personal experiences of heaven became secondary to the overall point of the film. Pastor Burpo, in one scene, stands before his congregation asks, “If we truly believed that heaven is for real, how differently would be be living our lives?” That is a profoundly good and important question to ask. If we truly believe in heaven, if we truly see that heaven is FOR REAL, if we truly understood that heaven can be brought here on earth and that we are called to be a part of ushering it in, we will be living our lives differently.

I believe that the personal and, by nature, subjective experiences of a four year old boy cannot be proven or disproven. To be skeptical and critical of the fine details of his experience is to miss the bigger point that not only is heaven for real, but THE RISEN JESUS IS FOR REAL and he is calling to us in different ways. For some it is in a near death experience, for others it is in a Scripture verse we accidentally stumble upon. Still others witness the risen Christ in a person they are helping or in someone who is helping them. There are some who have visions and dreams that lead them to the RISEN CHRIST who is calling them into a deeper commitment. No matter how Christ is experienced…the fact remains that HE IS EXPERIENCED and he is calling us to be agents of his kingdom…the very real Kingdom of Heaven…so that the world may come to be as God first intended it to be: A WORLD OF TRUE LIFE AND LASTING PEACE. Experience that Jesus is for real, that heaven is for real, and that your call, no matter what it is or where it leads you, is for real.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 18:3, NRSV).

PRAYER
Lord, open my eyes that I may see and experience you. Change my heart that I may eagerly follow you. Amen.

Reading the Signs

Read Matthew 16:1-4

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” (Luke 17:20-21)

bobcats-12Well, we are certainly in the midst of a cold and snowy winter. The temperatures have been in the single digits and, in some cases, the temperatures has been subzero. Certainly that was the case the other day, with wind chill making matters worse. Just a minute or two outdoors and my ears and nose were ready to fall right off!

As much as I do not enjoy extreme temperatures, and as much as I semi-jokingly carry on about my dislike for the winter months, I cannot say I was not prepared for this harsh winter. In fact, I pretty much knew in advance that this winter was going to be a rough one, not because I am a soothsayer or some kind of super psychic, but because I saw the signs that were right in front of me.

Well, at least the signs were right in front of me on my youngest daughter’s class trip to Lakota Wolf Preserve in Blairstown, NJ. It was at this preserve that I met a couple of elegant and graceful bobcats! Aside from them being absolutely adorable, they also had weather prediction built naturally into their fur.

As it turns out, when ever a cold and harsh winter is approaching, their fur turns from brown to silvery white. And when ever a mild winter is approaching, their fur doesn’t change colors at all! Well, when I met these furry rascals their fur was already turning silver. Once that was pointed out to me by the tour guide, my heart sunk. Nature is ALWAYS right. I knew we were going to have a rough winter ahead of us!

Jesus calls his disciples to be observant of the signs surrounding us. He told his disciples to observe the signs of the times in order to be prepared for the things that are to come. He didn’t tell his disciples when and where these things would happen, but that the signs would be there for us to observe. With that said, Jesus also said to not get too caught up in the signs or in looking for them.

Many Christians have not heeded Jesus’ instruction to be observant of the signs and, as a result, they have missed out on the very presence of Christ, and the opportunities to bear that presence, in those moments. On the other hand, other Christians are overly observant, finding signs, and the end of the world, in everything they see. Jesus warns us against both scenarios.

Today’s challenge is for us to be observant, to be present, and to keep it real. Let us not be among the complacent who are caught unaware by the presence of God. Let us not be complacent and miss the presence of the Lord in the faces of those we ignore and pass by.  Let us also not be overzealous in seeking out signs at every turn. No one needs another blowhard predicting the unpredictable. Remember that the signs will show themselves to us and, when they do, we will be prepared for what God is doing in the world!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“My choices, including those related to the day-to-day aspects of life, like the use of a modest car, are related to a spiritual discernment that responds to a need that arises from looking at things, at people and from reading the signs of the times. Discernment in the Lord guides me in my way of governing.” – Pope Francis I

PRAYER

Lord, open my eyes to the signs of the times and fill me with the urgency to act upon them. Amen.

By Our Love

Read Jeremiah 2:12-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Actions speak louder than words.

PRAYER

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

 

Heart-Healthy

Read Matthew 15:1-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.” (Matthew 12:35)

Heart Healthy logoSince starting the 60 day juice fast a year and almost nine months ago, and since becoming vegan, I have learned a lot about nutrition. At three hundred six pounds with type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, I was certainly heading on a one way ticket to a life cut short by my lifestyle. It was hard for me to see it prior to making the change; however, once that change was made, there could be no doubt that my old lifestyle was literally killing me.

Any doctor, nurse or medical worker will tell you that the number one killer in America is heart disease. More people die from heart attacks, strokes and other heart related diseases than anything else. Why is this? Many people will try and say that their genes are to blame. For some people, that may be the case; however, with the obesity and heart disease rates we have in this country, there can be no doubt that genetics cannot be culprit as much as what we eat is.

With diets high on cholesterol, saturated oils, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats), and other heart-stopping stuff, it’s no wonder people’s hearts are seizing. And who can live without their heart? People are literally eating themselves to death and, even though most people are aware of this, they continue to keep their heart-killing lifestyles.

While I am talking about our physical hearts, the same is true with our spiritual hearts. People know that fear, bitterness, anger, hatred, dissension, gossip, jealousy, and other such things are bad for one’s soul. There can be no question that such things lead people down a dark and destructive path. There can be no doubt that such things eventually seize one’s “heart” and cause a spiritual death to occur.

Yet, despite most people knowing that living a life of hatred, bitterness and anger leads to spiritual disease, many people still choose to not change their spiritual lifestyles. Many choose to harbor grudges, live in anger, spend their days gossiping and become bitter to their core. The more that people continue to sow those seeds of sin, the more their spiritual arteries get clogged and begin to deteriorate.

This is why Jesus warned his disciples to watch what came from one’s “heart.” A healthy heart will not hold onto anger nor will it spew hatred, bitterness, dissension, gossip, jealousy or any other negative thing. A healthy heart will only produce love, kindness, gentleness, compassion, generosity, patience, and self-control. An unhealthy heart will get clogged with evil things to the point of bursting; a healthy heart will remain free and love will flow through it with ease.

The challenge for us today is to change our lifestyle and choose to live in a heart-healthy manner. Don’t let your heart be consumed with spiritual disease; rather, let you heart be a vessel that pumps the warmth of love throughout your soul. If you change your lifestyle and start allowing yourself to be fed by the Holy Spirit, you will find that you will become a new person. You will be healthy, joyful and willing to share you joy with others. Be heart-healthy and shine with God’s love!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” – Denis Waitley

PRAYER

Lord, you have given me the strength and the direction to change from who I am to who you want me to be. I thank you for your continued guidance. Amen.