Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Blessed With a Flat Tire

Read Acts 9:1-8, 17-18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

flat-tire“This is just going to be a great day!” I yelled out in my head. It was an hour before I was supposed to be at work. The last thing I needed was a flat tire, and it was one of the brand new tires too! Go figure. Now what was I going to do? I sat there staring helplessly at the tire. “What am I going to do?” After a moment or too of self-pity, I came to the following definitive answer: “You are going to change that tire and put on the spare. That’s what you are going to do.”

In changing that tire, my daughter got to see her daddy at work and said, “Dad, I didn’t know you knew how to do that.” I smiled and fondly remembered when I was a kid and I first saw my dad changing a tire. He was like superman to me and I felt safe around him, because he could fix anything. I smiled again, thinking that my daughter just shared in that same experience I had as a kid, and I while I certainly can’t fix everything, what a blessing to share in that experience with her. What a blessing!

Have you ever been in situations where things just don’t seem to be going as planned and you are at a loss as to what to do? Have you ever been so flabbergasted at the situation that you find yourself momentarily paralyzed it? Perhaps you’ve stood there, jaw agape, asking “What am I supposed to do now?” Or perhaps you asked, “Why is this happening to me?” We’ve all been there and have asked those questions.

Later that day, I happened to read an article about a teenage boy who went missing on New Year’s Day. A photographer for USA Today, was supposed to be at the White House, ended up with nothing to do as the President was still on vacation. With all of the unexpected extra time, she walked the streets trying capture pictures to express how cold it wass and took a shot of a man bundled up next to a sewer vent trying to keep warm. As it turns out, that man was the missing teen and when his parents saw the picture they notified the police who then found and reunited the teen with his family.

That story caused me, and it should cause all of us to pause, especially in our “why me moments.” The photojournalist could have complained about not being where she expected to be…she could have complained about all of the extra time; however, she accepted the change of plans and ended up saving a life in the process. Rather than be paralyzed by the relatively trivial circumstances, she chose to do something constructive with her time and, for the boy and his family, it paid off.

Today’s challenge is for you to rise up out of the midst of your circumstances and do something positive in the midst of the changes surrounding you. Like Paul on the road to Damascus, we never know when we will run into life altering obstacles that stand in our way, blocking us from reaching the destinations we have chosen for ourselves. We can look at the obstacle as a curse and a hindrance, but where will that lead us? Rather, God is calling us to see the potential blessing in our changed plans and in our circumstances. Sure, the circumstances themselves may not be welcome; however, God’s ability to work good through all things, and in spite of all circumstances, is a very welcome indeed! So smile and see the hidden blessing in your circumstances.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Turn your scars into stars” – Dr. Robert Schuller

PRAYER

Lord, open my eyes to the hidden blessing in all things. Make me a hidden blessing to others. Amen.

God’s Concert

Read 1 Corinthians 12:14-27

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

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

PRAYER

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

 

Two Probing Questions

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

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

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

PRAYER

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

 

No One Can Judge

Read Romans 7:14-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1, NLT)

Annex - Lugosi, Bela (Dracula)_05Every year, around this time, I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which is a tradition I have carried on since I was in high school. I absolutely love that tale, which is ultimately a tale about HOPE in the midst of darkness. There is one scene in the book that is absolutely striking to me. Mina Harker had recently been bitten by Count Dracula and, to make matters worse, had drank some of his blood. As we find out, this fuses Mina to him and begins to make her one of his. At one point, upon finding out that she drank Dracula’s blood (as she was in a trance when she did it), she cried out, “Unclean, unclean, God help me, I’m unclean!”

One can only imagine the absolute horror that Mina was going through. She had lived her life in a manner that was pure, always priding herself in her manners and behavior. She was a loyal person and loved her husband dearly, yet now she was tainted by this monster’s blood. She is absolutely revolted by the Count and horrified by what he as done to her; however, because she is spiritually bound to him, and as she begins to watch her humanity slowly fade away, she comes to a realization.

Looking up at her husband Jonathan, she asks that if she becomes like the count that he will put an end to her and put her soul at peace so that she may be with God. But her plea doesn’t end there. She also begs that he find the count and put an end to the monster so that the man trapped inside may find peace as well. Whoa! It is almost unfathomable for her husband Jonathan, but she makes him agree. He cannot understand how she could have even the remotest bit of sympathy for this savage beast, this wretched demon, this accursed vampire.

In Romans, Paul spent a good amount of time writing about the self-perpetuating cycle of sin. We know that certain things are good and often gravitate away from them. Conversely, we know that certain things are not good or healthy and yet we find ourselves doing those things anyway. No matter how hard we try, we often find ourselves stuck in the mire of our sins.

Paul knew, just as Mina came to realize, that there is a bit of monster in us all. We all let certain things get the better of us. We all are, to one extent or another, controlled by the negative things we allow into our lives. Perhaps some do more than others, but we all get caught up in things that God would otherwise wish to set us free from. Yet, we also tend to look at others as if they are worse than we are and, like Jonathan, we often get too caught up in our own self-righteousness to see that we are really in the same boat as the ones we judge.

Rather than being in the prison of our own judgements, we are called by God to be humble and to see the humanity in others, including ourselves. Even though we may not agree with the actions that people take, and even though we might even be forced to act against the evils that people perpetrate, we are still called to see the child of God beneath the sins that entrap them. We are all children of God, loved by God, and God wishes to free us all from our sins…in particular, the sin of judgment. All we have to do is be humble and let God guide us from the darkness of our judgments to the light of God’s unconditional love and grace.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“The least amount of judging we can do the better off we are.” – Michael J. Fox

PRAYER

Lord, humble me so that I might not judge others. Open my eyes and my heart to your mercy, your love, and your grace. 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.

 

What Did Jesus Do?

What Did Jesus Do?

Read Matthew 5 (through chapter 7 if you have time); 25:31-46; Luke 4:16-21; 6:17-49

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:37-38)

What Did Jesus Do?Who is Jesus Christ? Is he a prophet who lived in Palestine over 2,000 years ago? Is he the messiah as promised throughout the Torah and the prophets in the Hebrew scriptures?  Is he the true King of Israel, in the line of David? Is he the Son of God, born of a virgin? Is he the Word of God made flesh, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords? Is Jesus God?  These questions and more are answered in various ways by various different Christians, and depending on where you find yourself in your faith, you may or may not find yourself shouting “heresy” at the answers that different Christians might put forth.

What’s more, not only are there questions regarding Jesus’ divine identity; however, there are questions regarding Jesus’ personality and his mission as well. There are those who would claim Jesus to be a peace-loving guy, while others would claim that Jesus was a no-nonsense guy who flung tables around in order to “cleanse” the temple of corruption.  There are those who would show that Jesus was compassionate and all-accepting, and others who would show that Jesus had little to no tolerance for those who he saw as opposing God.  So, who is this Jesus Christ?

The fact of the matter is that Jesus cannot be easily pinned down. While doctrine states that Jesus was truly divine, it also says that he was truly human as well.  And the range of emotions and actions that come from Jesus in the four Gospels alone is enough to be a thorn in the side to anyone who wants Jesus to completely fit their mold.  We, as Christians, run into problems when we get caught up in debates about who Jesus is all the while ignoring the mission of Christ that was clearly outlined in the Gospels.

But, perhaps we are asking the wrong questions. Rather than trying to get the edge on who Jesus is, perhaps we should focus our search for answers around the question of what Jesus did. We should be asking ourselves, what did Jesus do?  Jesus did teach people, he did heal people, he did accept those who had been rejected. Jesus did stand against religious dogma, he did show compassion to those who were on the fringes of society, and he did preach the imminent arrival of God’s Kingdom, which he saw as being ushered in by God through himself and those who followed him. For Jesus, ushering in the Kingdom of God (through bringing hope, healing, and wholeness) was HIS mission. Nothing shows this more than Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, Jesus’ mission statement in Luke, and Jesus’ stark illustration given to his disciples (in Matthew 25) of king who separates the sheep from the goats.

When we ask the question of what Jesus did, it gives us a clearer understanding of what we should be doing. If we are to be imitators of Christ, and/or allow Christ to live through us, then we should be engaging and investing in the same mission that Jesus is engaged and invested in. We should be working to usher in the Kingdom of God, bringing hope, healing and wholeness to those of whom God has put all around us. If we invest ourselves in Christ’s mission, then I believe we will find that the answers we have come to through our intellect will fade away and be transcended by the answers that will have risen up out of our faith.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.” – John Wesley

PRAYER

Lord, help me to keep my focus on your mission and use me to usher in your Kingdom to my community. Amen.