Tag Archives: Jesu

Journey with Jesus: Good Friday

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18:28 – 19:42

Good_FridayAN EYE WITNESS ACCOUNT

I cannot believe that this has happened! Where is my friend, O Lord, that I may once again laugh with him? Where is my teacher, O Lord, that may one again learn from him? Where is my, King, O Lord, that I may lay down my palm branches in praise before him again? Hope eternal seems to have finally died.

Early this morning, the chief priests sent Jesus to Pilate who tried Jesus as a traitor. He put on a dog and pony show, a mock trial, feeding off of the crowd.  He patronized them and got them to give him the verdict that he would’ve come to anyway. Jesus was to be flogged, beaten, mocked, spit upon, and crucified. They made his broken body carry the cross beam up to Golgotha. What a terrible, terrible day.

He looked so disfigured, so bruised and bloodied. His flesh was torn and there was blood everywhere. They even put a crown of thorns on his head, calling out in mockery, “Hail to the King of the Jews!” When they got him here to Golgotha, they laid his body down and drove nails into his hands and his feet and rose him up on the cross. I will never be able to erase the shrieking sounds of horrid pain and agony that came out of his mouth.

Wait a second…I believe he is trying to speak. Yes, he’s having a hard time, but he is trying to speak. “Forgive them…Father…f-f-for they know n-n-not what th-th-they do.” Even now, he is still forgiving. How can he forgive them for what they’ve done? Even in the face of senseless evil, he is showing the grace he always talked about. “My G-G-God, my God, wh-why have you f-f-forsaken m-m-me! It…is…f-f-finished. In…to your…h-h-hands…I c-c-commit m-my s-s-spirit.”

O dear God. I think he has died. His head just dropped to his chest and his body is slouched and lifeless. O, my Lord, could you have abandoned your servant in his hour of need? Couldn’t you have done something, anything, to bring life back to your Son? Why are you so silent in his hour of need. Why are you hidden behind the dark veil of clouds that ominously loom above us? “You have seen, O LORD; do not be silent! O Lord, do not be far from me!” (Psalm 35:22)

REFLECTION

Can you imagine the pain and the suffering that Jesus felt in his last hours on earth? Can you imagine the feeling of abandonment, hopelessness and loss? Can you put yourself in the shoes of Mary Magdalene who stood at the foot of the cross and watched her teacher, who numbered her equally as among his disciples, slowly suffocate to death and succumb to the brutality that was mercilessly inflicted upon him? Can you put yourself in the shoes of his mother who was left to do the one thing that every parent hopes will never pass…to bury her son?

We all have moments where this world seems to deal blows that are far too much for us to handle. We have all had our share of darkness, doubts, and despair. We have all tasted the bitter flavor of Sheol, in one way or another. We have all found ourselves staring down into the pit, wondering if there is any hope of escape.

Let not your heart be troubled, for there is hope.  The story does not end with Sheol, the story does not end in death. Just as Jesus was resurrected from the dead, so too are we resurrected him.  And the beauty of it is that you do not have to wait to die to share in that resurrection. You can experience the new life God has awaiting for you right here and right now. You can inherit the Kingdom of God in this life as well as in the next.

All you have to do is surrender all of yourself to God and breathe in the hope, the healing and the wholeness that comes in knowing that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  Die to the despair and hopelessness that this world has to offer. Die to the inner trappings of the minutia we find ourselves caught up in and take a long, deep breath.  Breathe in through your nose and exhale out of your mouth. Breathe in the life that God is offering you and carry that life, and the good news of it, to those in need around you.

PRAYER

Take this moment to meditate and pray.

 

Journey with Jesus: Holy Thursday

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 26:17-75; Mark 14:12-72; Luke 22:7-71; John 13 – 18:27

Christ-in-the-garden-of-gethsemaneAN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT

Turn, O LORD! How long? Have compassion on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil.* O woe this night! Jesus had us prepare for our passover feast together, and so we found this room and had it set aside for us to be together and to celebrate the night the angel of death passed over Egypt. Little did I know that death would be passing over us.

At the table, Jesus began to act very cryptically. He took his robe off and tied it around his waist like a common servant. Then he proceeded to wash everyone’s feet. I tried to protest it, but he wouldn’t let me. He told me that if I didn’t allow him to I would have no share with him in the Kingdom of Heaven! Can you imagine it. So I relented and allowed him to wash me.

Finally, he took the unleavened bread and the wine, blessed them both, and said that they were his body and his blood, broken and poured out for the a new covenant. He said that he was going to die and that we could not follow him, that one of us would betray him and that I would deny him three times! I just couldn’t believe it.

Following the meal we went to the garden of Gethsemane and Jesus asked us to stay up with him and pray. But we were so exhausted that we fell asleep. Jesus woke us up a couple of times but we could not stay awake. But then we heard the soldiers marching toward us and the night was lit up by their torches! They came and arrested Jesus, binding him up like a common criminal! I tried to stop them, but Jesus told me to put away my sword. He said that “Those who live by the sword, shall die by the sword.” And with that they took him!

I am so confused, so lost, so fearful for what lies ahead. I am going to the house of the high priest now. I am afraid that people might arrest me, but I just have to go and to find out what happens to our teacher, to my Lord. I just have to know. God help me in this hour of bitter darkness!

*Psalms 90:13-15

REFLECTION

This night, nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus was betrayed by one of his disciples, and arrested like a common criminal. He was taken away in the dark of night, and brought to the house of the high priest. Jesus of Nazareth was to be abandoned by all of his disciples, condemned a blasphemer and was to be handed over to the Romans to be tried for committing treason against the empire.

Even Peter, the rock on which the church would be built, was afraid he would be arrested and denied knowing Jesus. Like Peter, we all have done our share of denying Jesus. Like Judas, we all have had our share of betraying Jesus. In fact, when we live in a way counter to how Jesus calls us to live, we are betraying and denying the very same Christ who lives within us.

But this reflection is not being written to guilt you; rather, it is written to bring you great hope. There is hope in knowing that Jesus shared last supper with the very ones who would betray, deny and abandon him. Even in those painful hours, Jesus extended Grace, Love and Compassion to those who would not extend it back to him. Jesus NEVER stops extending his hope, healing, and wholeness to us. And that is truly Good News.

So, spend this moment now to pause and reflect on the ways that you have betrayed, denied and abandoned Christ and his mission. Take this moment to peer into your soul and search for those moments of fear, confusion and shame. Then shift your focus to the countless blessings, the endless grace God has given you despite those moments. Think of all the times God was present in your life, even in the moments of denial and betrayal. Feel God’s presence with you now and meditate of the endless love God has for you.

PRAYER

Take this time to pray a prayer from your heart.

 

Journey with Jesus: Holy Wednesday

SCRIPTURE:

Matthew 26:6-16

30 Pieces of SilverAN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT

Today I did something that I am not sure I should have done. I have been following Jesus for three long years, waiting for the time when he would step up and become the Messiah we are so longing for! With all of the miracles and signs, I just knew that this man must be the one God is sending to liberate our people from the foreign oppressors.

But I fear that these past three years have been in vain. On Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem and there was such a crowd! He could have easily inspired that crowd to rise up against the Romans! And who would stop this man who can control the winds and the seas? Who would be able to stop this man who can raise the dead to life and cause the paralyzed to walk again! Surely, Jesus has the power to crush Rome at the snap of his fingers, but instead he does nothing by causes division among our leaders and teaches about his coming death.

I fear that I have been mistaken these past few years. Today I went to the chief priests and spoke with them. They told me that this Jesus was dangerous and that he needed to be dealt with before Rome crushed us all. They said that all Jesus would offer me is Roman punishment and death; however, they said that if I brought them to Jesus, they would give me thirty pieces of silver. Though I am still uncertain as to whether I should or not, I agreed to lead them to Jesus tomorrow night. At least they are offering me something tangible.

REFLECTION

How long have you traveled with Jesus? How long have you listened to him and learned from his teachings? Are you sure you know him as well as you think you do? Are you sure that you understand all that he has been teaching you?

It is easy for us to look at Judas as being different than we are. It is easy to see him as the scapegoat, as the ONE who betrayed Jesus. Yet, are we free from that betrayal? Do we sacrifice our loyalty when Jesus doesn’t fit into our worldview? The truth is that Judas is not alone in the department of betrayal. When we preach the Good News, but don’t live it…are we not betraying Jesus? When we ignore the poor, avoid the sick, judge the “sinner”, and put our own theologies before the LOVE of God, are we not betraying Jesus

Hear the Good News: in whatever ways you have betrayed Jesus, he as forgiven you! Now, move on from the past and allow God to transform you. Embrace Jesus mission of hope, healing and wholeness (Luke 4:18-19) and go forth into the world bearing it!

PRAYER

Lord, Create in me a clean heart and renew a righteous spirit within me. Use me in a way that bears hope, healing and wholeness to those around me who need it. Amen.

Journey with Jesus: Holy Tuesday

SCRIPTURE:

Matthew 21:23 – 24:51; Mark 11:27-13:37; Luke 20:1-21:36

Matthew 231322AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT

Wow, and I thought yesterday was tense! I was shaking from head to toe when Jesus started to overturn those tables and was shouting like a madman! Part of me was scared that the Romans, perched in towers overlooking the Temple complex, would descend on us and crush us right then and right there. The other part of me was excited because Jesus was finally showing the zeal that we have been taught that the Messiah would have. I began to wonder if, perhaps Jesus was this Messiah…cleansing the House of God before purging Israel of her enemies.

But today Jesus started teaching really strange things! He spoke in parables that were set up to make the Pharisees look bad. He compared the Pharisees to a group of murderous farm tenants who refused to give the farm owner his due and killed anyone the farm owner sent them…including his own son! Jesus went on to flat-out curse the Pharisees and the scribes shouting, “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.”

You could just feel the tension in the air. The religious leaders looked beyond mad. If looks could kill…well you know how the phrase goes. Then, Jesus questioned their knowledge of the very scriptures they are well versed in. He asked them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’?” I got the real sense that he was referring to himself! Was he saying that he was going to be rejected and die? How could he be the Messiah and die? How was that even possible if the Messiah was supposed to free Israel from oppression? Why would this “Messiah” curse our religious leaders? Wouldn’t the Messiah focus his energy on Rome?

REFLECTION

What are your expectations of Jesus? Who is Jesus to you? Do you find that your “Jesus” falls in line with what you think he should be? When you hear or read Jesus’ words of chastisement, who do you envision Jesus talking to? Is he talking about “them”, or is he talking about “us”? Is he talking about “you” or is he talking about “me”?

On this Holy Tuesday, let us remember Jesus’ warnings to the religious leaders of the day. Will we continue to cross land and sea to create converts to OUR way? Will we look like we are righteous on the outside, when in reality we are dead on the inside? Will we be the ones who reject the stone only to be crushed by it? Or will we lay down OUR way and make GOD’s way the cornerstone of our faith? What is God’s way, “No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

PRAYER

Lord, humble me and become the cornerstone of my faith. Let me drop my religion and pick up your love, compassion and mercy in its stead. Amen.

Journey with Jesus: Holy Monday

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-48

AN EYE WITNESS ACCOUNT:

Second_TempleTalk about taking a turn for the worse! It was just yesterday that we were celebrating Jesus’ triumphal entry! The palms were scattered around the road, and being waved ecstatically in our hands! “Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!” We shouted even louder, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna!”

Yet, it is only a day later and this same “messiah” does something beyond what any of us could have predicted. He enters into our sacred Temple and starts ranting and raving. He screams, “You have heard it said that, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” Can he really mean it?!? He is supposed to protect us against our enemies! He is supposed to overthrow the ones who are threatening us! He isn’t supposed to come into our very Temple and attack us! How dare he!

Then this Jesus starts violently overturning the tables of the bankers in the Temple market. Money is flying everywhere and he opens up the animal pens and lets them loose. It is utter chaos. This way man is going too far! Someone needs to stop him before he brings ruin upon us all. Doesn’t he know that there are certain rules that need to be followed? Doesn’t he realize that we do things a certain way here, that we are not the ones who need cleansing!

REFLECTION:

What in your life is sacred? What do you cherish the most? What is it that you cling to and refuse to let go of? What is your sacred Temple? Do these things stand in your way of God? Are these sacred things holy because you have deemed them so, or because God has called you to them?

Just as Jesus entered the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and cleansed it of the things that were distracting it from it’s true purpose, so too Jesus is entering into your life and driving out those things that distract you from serving your true purpose.  What is that purpose? To be a living Temple of the living God, to be the house of the living God, to be the bearer of the presence of the Living God to all of those who are around you.

This Holy Monday, recognize that God is calling you to cleanse your Temple so that it may be filled with the hope, the healing, and the wholeness that God is calling you to bring to others. Anything that gets in the way of that purpose has got to go.

PRAYER:

Lord, drive out the impurities that keep me from being your true, and living Temple. 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.

 

Extreme Faith

Read Genesis 22:1-19

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” (Matthew 17:20)

indyOne of my favorite movies growing up was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Though I love all of the Indy movies, this one has always had a profound impact on me, especially on my understanding of faith. The story follows Indy on an adventure to save his dad; however, little does he know that this rescue mission will not only be about rescuing his father, but also rescuing his faith; he’s journey, over time, become a soul-searching quest.

In one scene, Indy finds himself standing at the edge of an abyss. He is facing a test unlike any other he had ever been challenged with. He quickly realized that the only way across was to take the proverbial leap of faith. The only problem was that the leap was about the length of a football field, if not longer. How is that humanly possible? How can anyone hope to get across such a huge abyss? Surely it is absurd to believe he could actually do it.

Yet, Indy must take that leap as his father’s life is bleeding out onto the cavern floor. He has to reach the Holy Grail, with the hope that the fabled treasure will restore his father’s life. Slowly, Indy places his hand over his chest as if to try and calm his heartbeat.  Could he really go through with this. All reason points to him plummeting to his death. Yet, he raises his right leg and lets his weight fall forward. As he falls forward, his foot lands on an invisible walkway. Indy has passed the test.

As Christians, we often take our faith for granted. We say we believe in God, we say we believe in miracles, and we even say that we KNOW that God exists and that miracles happen; however, if we truly KNEW such things, would we really need faith? If Indy knew that the walkway existed, would he have had to calm his heartbeat? All that Indy thought he knew was that he was bound to plummet to his death.

Christ calls us to be a people of faith. Like Abraham, who did not know God was going to stop him from sacrificing Isaac, like the prophets who didn’t know if they would survive proclaiming God’s judgment to the kings of Israel, just like Jesus who faced the gulf of the unknown in the olive garden, just like the disciples who did not know what fate awaited them in foreign lands, we too are called to live a life of extreme faith.

Søren Kierkegaard, once said that the faithful are like those who are suspended over 70,000 fathoms of water and yet they still have faith and are joyful. Why? Because, though it might be absurd to have faith in the midst of such uncertainty, they trust that God will come through. It may be absurd to the rest of the world, but the person of faith holds onto that absurdity in faith. I challenge you to be a people who have such trust in God. I challenge you to be living examples of extreme faith, to be tiny mustard seeds that move the mountains and shake the foundations of the earth.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe.” – Søren Kierkegaard

PRAYER

Lord, help me to grow in my faith so that I may be equipped with your grace, enough to move the mountains with your hope, healing and wholeness. Amen.

Grace Period

Read Matthew 18:21-22

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.” (2 Corinthians 4:15)

images_softball_fieldThis year, both my daughters signed up to be on the recreational softball league for the first time.  This has been a good experience for them so far and they are really surprising me at how quickly they can pick up the rules of the sport and learn to play the game.  While it has been trying on my wife and I as we try to get the girls to their practices and games (which sometimes conflict with each other), it has also been rewarding for us as we get into the games and root for our girls and their teammates.

My daughters both have learned very quickly that you cannot swing vicariously when a ball is pitched to you.  They have also learned that you can’t just stand there, poised and ready, without attempting to swing at some of the pitches either.  After all, it only takes three strikes and your out!

Of course, we all know that. “Three strikes and your out.” We can all hear the umpire screaming: “Yeeee-ooo-uuu–rrrrr Ooo-uuu-ttt!!!” Those are the rules of the game and, we all know those rules carry on off the field to. We have all heard irritated parents tell their children, “Three strikes and your out.” I know I have been guilty of saying that to my children and I know I am not alone. “That’s strike one! Two more and you’re grounded!”

What we have been taught and, in turn, what we have taught our children, is that there is a limit to our grace. We even call that limited length of time a “grace period.” There is only so much room for error, there is only so much room for grace, before someone has gone beyond the point of no return. While this works in the context of a game, is this how God wants us to operate in our everyday lives?

Peter once approached Jesus of Nazareth to ask that very same question. Is there a limit to grace, is there a grace period followed by the point of no return. “Lord, how many times should I forgive someone? Seven times,” asked Peter?  Jesus responded by saying, “Not seven times, but seventy times seven.” Seventy times seven? If we do the math that equals four hundred ninety times! There’s no way any one of us could forgive that many times without losing count!

And that is the point that Jesus is trying to make. In God’s eyes, there is no such thing as a “grace period.” In God’s eyes, there is no such thing as “three strikes and your out!”  God is not asking us to show grace until the point of no return is reached…for grace can only be found far beyond the point of no return.  Once you experience God’s grace, there’s no turning back for God’s grace transforms us and compels us to bear that grace toward others.

While God is not asking that we be pin cushions, or that we needlessly take abuse from people, God is asking that we always show the same grace to others that we ourselves have received.  We can remove ourselves from bad situation without removing grace from ourselves. If we do that, if we would just take the time to treat others the way God has treated us, then we would realize that there is no grace period for grace is eternal and timeless. Let the grace of God work in you so that you may bear that grace to others.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Give grace the same way you received it: with joy and thanksgiving.

PRAYER

Lord, I thank you for the grace you have poured out on me. I open myself to that grace so that I may show it to others. Amen.

Freedom From Within

Read Romans 7:14-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13, NLT)

Freedom

One of my favorite film portrayals of Jesus is the one found in the 1961 film, “King of Kings”. While it is true that Jeffery Hunter perpetuates the Anglo-Saxon image of Jesus with his blonde hair and blue eyes, it is also true that Hunter delicately balances the human and divine aspects of the Christ. Too often, portrayals are either of an extremely divine Christ, or an overly earthly Jesus, but Hunter finds the balance and runs with it.

In one of my favorite moments in the film, Jesus comes to the prison to see his friend John the Baptist.  After being told by Lucius, a Roman Centurion, that John isn’t allowed to have any visitors, Jesus said, “I would see John.”  Curious, Lucius asked him why. “I have come to free John,” Jesus calmly proclaimed.

“And just how do you propose to break him free from his cell,” the Roman Centurion interrogated? Jesus responded, “I come to free him within his cell.”

Half curious, Lucius sarcastically and rhetorically asks, “Freedom from behind stone walls?”

“You are free to come and go as you please,” Jesus responded, calmly walking toward where Lucius was sitting, “and yet you are still a prisoner because you place no faith in anything but your sword.”

The power of those words resound throughout my mind.  How true it is that we all find ourselves to be prisoners of one thing or another.  Some people are prisoners of hatred, while others are prisoners of fear.  There are some who are prisoners to various addictions, others who are prisoners to their pride. Some people are prisoners to their ideologies and political affiliations, and others are prisoners to their religious beliefs.  Some people are prisoners to their social lives and status, others are prisoners to isolation and perpetual feelings of being alone.

The fact of the matter is that we often find ourselves placing our faith in tons of different things. The world is like a huge buffet with a plethora of different plates to choose from. There are so many different things for us to place our faith in that we find ourselves imprisoned by all of the things that are competing over us.

Yet, Christ is seeking to come into our lives and flip the prison image upside down.  Christ comes to free us from within our prisons by giving us hope, healing and wholeness. But notice, that Christ has not necessarily removed us from the prison. Life doesn’t just become peaches and cream because we have put our faith in Christ. What does happen though, is that our outlook on this life, and on our struggles within it, changes. Rather than seeing defeat in our failures, we see growth and victory. Rather, than seeing life as a series of dead ends, we will start to see that the ends lead to new beginnings.

Christ has come to make all things new again. So, no matter what prison you find yourself in. No matter what in life has caused you to trip and stumble. Take a moment to stop and breathe. Take a moment to see the foot prints behind you and realize that in your darkest moments God has been carrying you.  See the light that comes from Christ and embrace it. Place your faith in it and praise God that you have been freed from within! Experience the freedom that comes from God’s hope, healing and wholeness!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“All who call on God in true faith, earnestly from the heart, will certainly be heard, and will receive what they have asked and desired.” – Martin Luther

PRAYER

Lord, free me from the things that imprison me and use me in a way that bring your freedom to others. Amen.