Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

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.

Risky Business

Read Matthew 8:1-4

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:17-18)

jesus-heals-the-leperAs I have mentioned before, one of my favorite TV shows as of late is the AMC series, “The Walking Dead.” Aside from it being about a world overrun by zombies, the show is filled with situational ethics, moral dilemmas, as well as metaphors for life.  Each character is tested to their limits with the things they have to deal with. They are literally living in a nightmare world and it is hard to imagine yourself having to live in a world like that.

Then again, take a look at the world around you. Our world may not be overrun by the walking dead; however, when you think about it, our world is filled with much worse. There are children being used as human shields, women being treated like property or worse, boys being forced to join armies and die for tyrants and murderous leaders. There are people starving because their economies are being undercut by rich, Western economies. There are people dying of common illnesses because corrupt governments won’t allow humanitarian aid into their countries.

We live in a broken, and often times ugly, world. Our reality may be different than the one found in “The Walking Dead”, however, if it is different, it is only so on the surface. In one episode of the series, the group is being threatened by a nasty illness that is highly contagious. In fact, there is an outbreak in the group and many of the people are isolated to keep the illness from spreading. The healthy people were separated from the sick. The sick, in essence, were left to choke on the blood they were coughing up…until they die.

One man, named Hershel, decided he wasn’t going to sit by and watch those people die. He went out and collected berries to make a tea that he knew was helpful for people who were sick with illnesses like the flu, and he was hoping that it would help buy others enough time to go and find medicine to bring back. But in order to give the people the tea, he had to go into the isolated area and risk being infected himself.

Though the others tried to talk him out of it, he couldn’t be persuaded. He went into the isolated area and began to treat one of the doctors who had fallen ill because he had been treating others. He cared for the man and even had blood coughed up on him in the process. Despite the personal risk to his own health, he chose to be present to someone in need of his help.

When I saw this, I instantly thought of Jesus. How many sick, disease-ridden people did Jesus surround himself with. How many of them touched him, breathed on him, coughed on him? He was laying his hands on people with contagious skin diseases such as leprosy. He was constantly putting himself at risk for others. Ministry, after all, is totally risky buisness…and God is calling us to it.

We have been given the opportunity to not value ourselves above others. We have been given the opportunity to take the next step in our faith and be present for people in need, no matter what the cost is. We have been called to be healers for those who are not well. We are called to risk it all for “the least of these”, just as Jesus did for us. Whether or not people are suffering from a physical illness, from oppression, from poverty, from starvation or anything else, Christ has called us into an active and living faith. Today’s challenge is for you, if you haven’t already, to begin to answer that call.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” – Hippocrates

PRAYER
Lord, use me to bring hope, healing and wholeness to those who need it. Use me also to bring others your peace. Show me what you would have me do today. Amen.

Time to Snuff the Flames

Read 1 John 4:7-17

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” (1 John 4:18)

Servetus-1Michael Servetus lived during an incredibly tumultuous time. The Protestant Reformation had been raging across Europe, dividing the Western Church into Catholics and Protestants, and dividing the protestants into splinter protestant groups. Servetus, a doctor and a Roman Catholic, began to question the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity and also the practice of infant baptism, as there was no precedent and/or command for it in the Bible, which only prescribes adult baptism.

As for the Trinity, Servetus rejected the classical formulation as being non-Biblical, arguing that it came from the teachings of Greek philosophers. He felt that the Trinitarian formula, as laid out in the Nicaean Creed, went far beyond what is found in the Gospels. He began writing letters to Calvin, sharing his ideas and theology on the Trinity. This was common practice among scholars and academics to exchange, debate and refute ideas and Servetus thought he had an academic colleague in Calvin. But Calvin was not friendly to Servetus or his ideas.

Instead, Servetus had unwittingly made an enemy out of Calvin. When Servetus escaped from prison in France three days after his arrest by the Roman Catholic Church for heresy, he fled to Geneva in hopes to find sanctuary there. He even attended one of Calvin’s sermons and it was there that he was arrested and tried for heresy. In the end, Michael Servetus was found guilty of heresy and sentenced to be burned at the stake. Calvin protested burning Servetus and petitioned the council to decapitate him as that was “less cruel.” The council rejected that request. Regardless of his protest of the method, Calvin believed that Servetus deserved to be killed and supported the council’s decision. On October 27, 1533, Servetus was burned to the stake with his book chained to his leg.

As a Christian, I am horrified and deeply disturbed by this story. For me, it is a reminder of how far off the beaten path we as Christians have often strayed. I have grown up professing the Trinitarian doctrine and have personally experienced the Triune nature of God in my life; however, I also recognize the limitation of theology. After all, theology is how we talk about and relate to God. It is a tool for humans to understand that which is far beyond their comprehension. Therefore, to kill someone over theology seems to not only be futile…but totally against the very teachings of Christ.

Do not mistake what I am saying. I am not implying that theology is useless, or that it shouldn’t be taken seriously. I am certainly not saying that “any theology goes” either. I am simply asking us to pause and question ourselves for a moment. In our defense of doctrine and theology, are we defending Christ or our image of Christ? Are we following the life and teachings of Jesus, or are we superimposing our life and teachings upon Jesus? When we put theology and doctrine in a place of prominence over and above the teachings and example of our Lord and Savior, we fail to follow the one we claim to be “following.”

Christ does not call us to a life of defending the Gospel, but to a life of LIVING the Gospel. There will always be people who get caught up in the details and lose the big picture. There will always be critics of our way of understanding things and I am not suggesting that we just go ahead and accept everything that is presented to us as truth. All I am suggesting is that instead of getting lost in the details we “get found” in the application of the Gospels. Let us be a people of the Gospel message. Let us be a people who love God by loving others, no matter how different from us they are. What do we have to fear? What do we have to lose by LOVING others? Our lives? So be it! If we embrace the Gospels we will certainly err on the side of grace and embrace a life of compassionate love.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.” – Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms, Germany, where he was being tried for heresy.

PRAYER
Lord, love does not breed fear. Help me to snuff the flames of fear and be filled with your love. Amen.

Beyond the ‘L’ Word

Read John 14:11-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

QuoteIn our culture, we often romanticize what love is, do we not? When we hear the word “love”, we often think of bouquets of flowers, long walks along the shoreline in the moonlight, and romantic gondola rides through Venice. We often think of warm candlelight, nights with a loved one by the fireplace, and all of the warm and fuzzies that make our hearts flutter at the sound of “love.”

How can we help having such an image? Our culture is constantly feeding us with this understanding of love. Our supermarkets and bookstores are lined with romance novels, magazines with tips on having a better love life, cards that tell your significant others how much you love them and many other things that paint this particular picture of love. We are inundated with love songs that fill the radio airwaves and our mp3 players. Just try and find a song on the radio that is NOT about romantic love. They exist, but they are definitely hard to find. Romance also shows up in movies where characters are “in love” with people as well as monsters such as vampires, werewolves and, if you can believe it, even zombies.

If you were a visitor from another planet and you were trying to understand our language, you would come to the conclusion the word “love” mostly means “romance. Yet does that sufficiently describe the word love? Is romance all there is to the word love, or does love extend far beyond that particular definition. I am sure most, if not all, people know the answers to those questions; however, when love plays out in different ways in our lives we often don’t recognize it for the love that it is.

When I was a teenager, my parents loved me by not allowing me to do EVERYTHING I ever wanted to do. The loved me by not always letting me have my way. The loved me by allowing me to make mistakes and suffer the consequences. They loved me by holding me accountable to the expectations the set of me. They also loved me by letting me go to experience the world on my own terms. That last one is, perhaps, the hardest love for a parent to exhibit. Letting go, holding people accountable, allowing people to make their choices and reap the consequences, and saying “no” to people, often does not sound or feel like love. Yet, depending on the circumstances, it can and often is a form of love!

When Jesus called Peter to love and feed his sheep, he was not calling him to romance; however, he was calling him love in a much more profound and powerful way. He was called to love people as a brother, as a friend, and as a parent; however, Peter was also called to love beyond those classifications as well. He was called to love as GOD LOVES. He was called to invite those who wished to be invited and let go those who wished to be let go. He was called to guide and to lead; however, he was also called to step down and be led. He was called to live a life that brought hope, healing and wholeness to others, even if the cost of that would be his very life.

Christ calls us to do the same, we are not merely called to love our significant others. We are not called to get overly attached to the warm and the fuzzies; rather, we are called to exhibit the very LOVE of God. We are called to invite and to let go. We are called to guide and to lead, as well as to step down and be led. We are called to love our neighbors, and even our enemies, as we love ourselves. There is nothing that falls outside the breadth of God’s unconditional and unquellable love. Know that you are loved and BE LOVE in the lives of others. If God is love, and you are in God, then you are LOVE too!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Where there is love, there is life.” – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

PRAYER

Lord, lead me ever deeper into a life of love. 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.

Legacy

Read Luke 10:25-37

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

Henry G. AppenzellerHave you ever heard the name Henry Appenzeller? My guess is that you more than likely have not heard of that name, unless you are a Korean Methodist and/or have happened to study at Drew Theological School in Madison, NJ. Henry Gerhard Appenzeller was born on February 6, 1858 a mother and father who were in the German Reformed Church. In 1879, at the age of 21, Appenzeller joined the Methodist Episcopal Church three years after having a profound conversion experience and quickly started serving as a Methodist minister. Being a  minister led him to Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, NJ and it was there that Appenzeller found the call to be an overseas missionary in Korea. At the time he arrived, Korea was in a political struggle and Christianity was not a welcomed religion. Missionaries could not set up churches, nor could they preach in public. Initially, Appenzeller’s ministry had to be done secretly.

In just two years, though, worship in public became possible and Appenzeller established a chapel for Christian services. In his time as a pastor in Seoul, Appenzeller founded a boys school, converted and trained people as disciples of Christ (in the Methodist tradition), and served on the board of Bible Translators who were working to translate the Bible into Korean. Today, Appenzeller is seen as the founder of the Korean Methodist Church which, as of 2001, comprised of 5,262 churches, 1,396,514 members, and 7,298 ministers. What’s more, six Methodist Universities have since been established, as well as the Methodist Theological Seminary in Seoul, six theological institutes, and fifty-four junior high and high schools.

While these are all some pretty outstanding achievements by a man who, for a majority of American Christians, has mostly gone unnoticed, Appenzeller’s character is best seen through the last thing he did before he died. On a boat that was taking him to a Bible Translation board meeting in the city of Mokpo, the boat capsized and ended up sinking. An advanced swimmer, Appenzeller swam to safety, but soon realized that not everyone had. As a result, he swam back out to help rescue those who had not gotten out.

Unfortunately, he drowned in an attempt to save a young Korean girl from drowning; however, Appenzeller’s legacy did not die with him. It lives on in countless devout Korean Methodists who not only serve Christ in Korea but throughout the world, including here in America. In fact, I was recently commissioned and one of the Bishops who laid hands on me was Bishop Kim of Seoul Annual Conference in South Korea.

In Matthew 16:25, Jesus says that whoever wishes to save their life will lose it, but those who lose it for the sake of God’s GOOD NEWS of hope, healing, and wholeness, will have eternal life. I cannot help but think of Henry Appenzeller and the countless others who have given their life up for the sake others. We are called to not prize our lives over the lives of others, but to see the divine image of God in all people, everywhere. Jesus calls us to be present for the lonely, to be love for the hated, to bear acceptance for the rejected, to be freedom for the enslaved, to bring food for the hungry and shelter for the homeless. We are to bring guidance and direction for those who feel lost. If we do that, if we live as Christ lived and be God’s Kingdom in the world, we too will build a legacy that far outreaches our earthly lives.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER

Lord, teach me to be like the Samaritan and continue to equip me to carry out your work of LOVE in the world around me, whatever the cost. Amen.

From Sand to Cement

Read Hebrews 10:24-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

For where two or three gather together as My followers, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20, NLT)

sandbagsLast weekend, while down at our Annual Conference down in Wildwood, NJ, I made sure that I got up at 6 am every morning to do one of my favorite things in the world. I would get up, get dressed, plug earphones into my music, and take a nice four mile jog on the beach. I just love going for a jog, no matter where I am; however, there is nothing quite like jogging along the shoreline, right by the water’s edge.

One of those mornings my oldest daughter came with me. We ran a good two or more miles South heading from Wildwood to Wildwood Crest. I was very proud of my daughter who jogged the first 2 miles with me. It’s amazing to see how much her endurance has grown over the past couple of years and it is a pleasure being able to share in a run with her, with both of us enjoying the time together and the time exercising.

On the way back, she asked me, “Dad, are we supposed to stay off the dunes?” I looked at her and smiled, while replying, “Yes, we should stay off the dunes.” She then asked me why that was. “Is it to protect the natural habitat of the animals,” she asked, rather wisely and inquisitively. “Yes,” I responded, “part of the reason is to protect the natural habitat; however, the dunes also play another important role. You see, they help to act as a natural barrier when storms cause the water to come this far up the beach. In a major hurricane they wouldn’t be large or strong enough, but they do act as a line of defense against storm surges.”

I then brought up the fact that whenever there is flooding, people will often build up walls of sand bags. My daughter was amazed at this. “How can sand really stop water from gushing out and flooding everything? Sand is so small and washes away so easily.” Her point was a valid one and, so, I responded, “Yes, loose sand is pretty small and insignificant. But when the sand is bound together in a bag, packed in tightly, it goes from being loose and wish-washy to being like a cement wall. One grain of sand is pretty insignificant; however, trillions upon trillions of grains of sand packed and working together is a force to be reckoned with!”

What an important lesson of us, as people of faith, to learn. We often think of doing BIG THINGS and CHANGING THE WORLD; however, when we head out there to do it we feel so small and insignificant. We often find ourselves wondering if we can really change anything. We become confused, discouraged, and we often end up feeling helpless and hopeless. What’s more tragic is that, in the end, we often give up on our call to be an agent of change.

But God has not called us to individual grains of sand. We are not called to be islands floating out in the middle of nowhere; rather, we have been called into community with one another. When Jesus was ministering to his people in ancient Israel (then known as the Roman Provence of Palestine), he did not do so alone. Instead, he gathered a group of twelve disciples and, actually, had many more disciples and followers than that.

Together, they were able to bring REAL change…REAL HOPE, HEALING, and WHOLENESS to the “least of these” in his community. That is what we are being called to do…not alone, but together as God’s children…as God’s community of faith. It is together, working as the hands and feet of Christ, that we really witness to the world the transforming POWER of God’s LOVE!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” – Rollo May

PRAYER

Lord, bring me ever deeper into your community of followers so that I may be a blessing to them and, likewise, them to me. Guide us forward so that we may bring your transformative love into the lives of others, one person at a time. Amen.

Strawberry in a Cup

Read 2 Kings 4:8-17

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)

strawberry-03This past Thursday through Saturday, my family and I went down to Wildwood, NJ in order to attend the Greater NJ Annual Conference in the United Methodist Church. This is an annual meeting of clergy and lay delegates from each of the churches in the conference get together in order to vote on church legislation, worship, join in the commissioning and ordaining of new ministers, and fellowship. So, every year, my family and I make the three and a half hour trek to Wildwood in order to take part in the conference.

As most know by now, I abstain from eating any meats, dairy and eggs. Eating out can be pretty rough no matter where I go, because most restaurants have not given much thought to alternative lifestyles. Often times, I will end up getting a salad and I usually have to tell them to hold about 3-5 ingredients in order to make the salad vegan.

As you can imagine, Wildwood is not the most vegan-friendly place. It is a shore town and that equates to all the foods I used to love but no longer eat. Things like seafood and board walk food is common place at Wildwood, but vegan fare is not. So it takes my family and I a while to find restaurants that we all can eat in…restaurants that offer options for us all.

On Thursday evening, we ended up going to a restaurant called Tavern on the Bay that advertised brick oven pizzas, two for $25 dinner specials, and other great sounding things. When we got there I ordered a grilled veggie pizza and some seltzer water and was content to be eating something other than a salad. It was delicious.

When it came time for dessert, I knew I was out of luck. There was just no way they were going to be able to accommodate me, because the desserts they offered were laden with cream, eggs, and other non-vegan ingredients. Actually, I was quite okay with that because I don’t tend to eat to many sweet things anyway. After all of the desserts were delivered, however, our waitress came out with one more…a plump and succulent strawberry in a tiny serving cup.

When I saw it, I was taken back. I couldn’t believe she did this on her own. I hadn’t asked for a dessert, nor even hinted at wanting one. With that said, this waitress had compassion on me. She saw that I was going without a dessert while everyone else was eating one, and she took it upon herself to get me a strawberry in a cup.

While that isn’t a whole lot and most people dismiss the though of ordering a single strawberry in a cup, that didn’t matter to me. I was so thankful for that single strawberry that my reaction to it was as if I had received a whole bushel of strawberries. The truth is that acts of hospitality, no matter how small, make a world of a difference in people’s lives. This woman, through the strawberry in a cup, showed me radical hospitality.

Jesus also calls us to be bearers of radical hospitality. We are called to show that hospitality to people, no matter how small of a showing it might be. Remember that the tiniest of seeds turns into the largest of trees. So it is with hospitality. Even the smallest of acts will blossom within the hearts of those who receive it. So, be hospitable. Be compassionate and find your strawberry in a cup, whatever it actually might be, and give it to someone in need of some love!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

The word ‘hospitality’ in the New Testament comes from two Greek words. The first word means ‘love’ and the second word means ‘strangers.’ It’s a word that means love of strangers.

PRAYER

Lord, present me with ample opportunities to show hospitality and continually remind me of my need to rise up to every occasion! Amen.