Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

The Garden

Read Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6-9 NRSV)

lion_wolf_lamb3We all dream about what living in a utopia would be like do we not. We’ve all tried to imagine what it must have been like to be the first people living in the paradise called the Garden of Eden. We often wonder how different the world would be if the garden were a reality for us today as opposed to being an origin narrative bound in a book.

Can you imagine the first people living in paradise, living in a garden that sustains eternal life? Can you imagine having all of the delicious plants and fruits that you could ever eat? Could you imagine living in a world where people didn’t kill people for greed, jealously, revenge and/or power? Could you imagine a world where animals (including humans) didn’t kill other animals for food, a world where pain, suffering, famine, disease and loss were never, ever experienced?

That is the kind of world that Genesis says that God intended for us, but even in the paradisiacal Garden of Eden tragedy, pain, suffering and separation lurked around the corner. It seems as if even the earliest humans couldn’t attain true peace and/or true happiness. If that is the case, why do we continue to long for it and what makes us think we can ever attain it?

The truth of the matter is that we can attain true peace and true wholeness. We can once again enter the garden if we are willing to do what it takes to live in harmony with with ourselves, with other humans, with all of creation and, ultimately with God. But, as you can plainly see, paradise isn’t free. Everything comes at a cost.

The question is are you willing to do what it takes to work your way back to the garden? Are you willing to turn your body back into the sanctuary God built it to be? Are you willing to take proper care of yourself (i.e., through a healthy diet, exercise, self-forgiveness, humility, spiritual discipline, etc.)? Are you willing to start living in harmony with your neighbors (friends and enemies alike)? Are you willing to live in a harmonious relationship with all of God’s creation? If so, the your answer is yes to the question of whether you want to live in a harmonious relationship with God.

God is calling you to begin your journey back to the Garden…back to the perfect paradise. The truth is we have kicked ourselves out of it and we are the ones holding ourselves from returning to it! God is wanting us to be reunited the divine image we were created to reflect and God wants us to return home. The truth is that you have been equipped by God to stop dreaming and start journeying back to paradise. The path is set before you and the choice is yours. I hope to see you in paradise!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“God comes first. Paradise is not cheap.” – Hakeem Olajuwon

PRAYER

Lord, place the desire for paradise in my heart and guide me toward discovering it. Lead me back to your garden. Amen.

Nothing to Prove

Read Luke 7:31-35

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

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

PRAYER

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

Crying Wolf

Read Matthew 7:15-27

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. (Matthew 7:1)

wolf-howling-at-the-moon1In Christianity there seems to be a fear that one needs to be careful not to be deceived by the devil who will steer one away from the truth and the light of God. When I was growing up, I remember coming across all sorts of different things in Christian bookstores and in churches. I remember seeing tracts that would warn of the perils of the New Age movement, there were tracts warning against the danger of letting your children watch the TV show “He-Man: Masters of the Universe”, and that there were perils in allowing your children to participate in Role Playing Games (RPGs) such as “Dungeons and Dragons.” I have since seen similar tracts and brochures against books such as “Harry Potter” and the like.

What’s more is that fear often crosses into Christian territory as well. “Beware of false prophets who clothe themselves in words of light but are really agents of darkness.” I have seen devout Christians such as Rob Bell and others get thrown under the proverbial bus as being heretics and agents of Satan. And there seems to be some serious Biblical precedent for it, as Jesus warns, “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.” (Matthew 7:15).

But what does Jesus mean by that? Is Jesus trying to strike fear into the hearts of his followers? Or is Jesus doing something completely different? And what do we make of that when we pair it with Jesus’ other warning, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged”, which only comes 14 verses earlier and is what starts off this section of teachings?

The reality is that, while we ought to be worried about taking a wrong turn onto a destructive path, that worry often turns into a form of “holier than thou” judgmentalism that Christians have been warned against by the one we claim to follow. So, first things first. How do we spot false teachings without falling into a group of hypocrites who judge others and lack the humility to see ourselves as the wolves in sheep’s clothing?

First off, Jesus rightly said in today’s scripture passage that you will know a tree by its fruit. We, as Christians, know what God wants from us. God want our full devotion; we are called to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, all of our minds, all of our souls, and all of our strength (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). And, equally as important, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. ANYTHING or ANYONE who leads you to THAT is producing GOOD FRUIT. After all, this is the heart of the Gospel and, according to Jesus, sums up all the Law and the prophets.

Second, if we come across something that is counter to what we find above, we simply avoid it. There is no need to interject Satan, or throw around judgments on the beliefs or their adherents. After all, judgmentalism is BAD FRUIT. We simply need to avoid bad fruit and nourish ourselves on good fruit. But to be in line with Micah 6:8, we also need to have a smidge of humility. Many people say and think differently than us, but that doesn’t make their thoughts and words FALSE. We need to be open to different angles on things without compromising on the core values of LOVING GOD and NEIGHBOR.

In the end, Jesus is calling us about being vigilant in regard to not failing to see the image of God in ALL PEOPLE, even those who express things differently than us. Jesus’ words were not to inflict fear but to caution us to remain true to the Gospel and to spark a little bit of humility in us. Let us not point the scapegoating finger at people and “cry wolf” just because they are different. Rather, let us measure the teachings we hear by the RUBRIC OF LOVE and then determine whether that is something we should or shouldn’t pursue. And let us not forget to measure ourselves and our beliefs by that same rubric!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“LOVE, not fear, IS OF GOD.” – Rev. Todd R. Lattig

PRAYER
Lord, teach me to be open to difference without judgment, and allow me to discern, even among my beliefs, the GOOD FRUIT from the BAD FRUIT.

Born to Follow Revisited

Read Galatians 3:23-29

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

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

Bon_Jovi_TheCircleAlong with being a pastor and a chaplain, I am also the co-coordinator of the district youth team in the district that I am serving. As the District Youth Co-coordinator, I am act as a bridge between the youth in each of the local congregations within the district. This past weekend I co-led a district wide Open-Mic Night which turned out to be a wonderful evening of listening to all of the many talents that came out and shared their gifts. I also performed and, being that I just recently wrote about it, I chose to perform Bon Jovi’s “We Weren’t Born to Follow”, among others.  It really is an awesome song and it is a lot of fun to sing to. So, I gave that song my all and enjoyed rocking out to it.

Prior to singing the song, I explained to the people present that I had just written a devotion about the song, and how we ARE actually BORN TO FOLLOW. We are born to follow the ONE who created us. We are born to follow LOVE and to be LOVE wherever we may go. I basically succinctly summed up what I had written in that devotion, because I feel that it is important to take the stigma off of following. There is NOTHING wrong with being a follower…depending on who or what it is that one is following.

But I didn’t end it there, as I had in the last devotion. It is absolutely true that WE ARE BORN TO FOLLOW, that we were made in our Creator’s image, and were born to follow the example and the path that our Creator laid before us. That being said, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora weren’t talking about that when they both wrote the song; rather, they were talking about following what others tell us about ourselves…about following in line with who and what world tells us we are. I am not sure where Jon and Richie stand spiritually, especially regarding this song; however, there is definitely some wisdom to be found in their words.

This world often tells us that we ought define ourselves based off of what we do for a living, based off of our status in life, based off of what community we live in, based off of our income, and based off of other such things. The world tells us how thin to be, how pretty to be, what clothes to wear, what foods to eat, and how to continue to hollow ourselves out into shallow, empty shells with no purpose or meaning to fill our lives. If we turn to the world we learn about might makes right, strength (aka force/violence) equals peace, and that there is a pecking order that we need to submit ourselves to.

But WE ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY WERE NOT BORN TO FOLLOW THE WORLD!!!! We were born to follow God, in whom there is no longer Jew or Greek or French or Iraqi or Russian or American. We were born to to follow God, in whom there is no longer slave or free, male or female or transgendered or whatever other label the world wants to impose on each of us. That is not to say that we should ignore the unique value of each individual, or that we should pretend we don’t have differences, but that we should stop limiting our sights to the “labels” that we use to define each individual!

In the end, we are all CHILDREN OF GOD! That’s what matters! Each one of us was born a child of God, which makes each one of us related to each other in and by the Spirit of God. We weren’t born to follow the World’s labels or definitions. We weren’t born to follow the things of this world but, rather, were were born and are called to follow our Creator who had deemed us to be one, to be united as kin! Let us stop getting hung up on what the world tells us to think and/or to do, and let us preoccupy ourselves with following the ONE who created us with a purpose and a plan in mind: TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS GOD HAS LOVED US!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.” – Oscar Wilde

PRAYER

Lord, help me to tear down the walls of division in my heart. Heal me and teach me to love others as you love me. Amen.

Worth the Investment

Read 1 John 3:1-3

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

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

PRAYER

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

Born to Follow

Read John 21:15-22

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

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

PRAYER

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

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.