Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

By Our Love

Read John 13:34-35

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10)

love-winsOne of the great pleasures of being a pastor is the fact that I get to lead in worship week in and week out. I love worship because it brings people together with a common purpose, which is to refresh and renew our connection to our Lord and God. One of the most important elements in worship, for me, is music. I love singing hymns, singing and/listening to “Special Music”, centering myself on the prelude and greeting people during the postlude.

Many people don’t know the actual purpose for hymns. Most people sing hymns in church because it is an “age-old” tradition, never giving it a further thought beyond that. But hymns do play a very important part in the worship service in that they impart important Christian theology to the congregation as they sing them.

One popular hymn tells us that “they will know we are Christians by our love.” This hymn suggests to those singing it that Christians are distinguished from the rest of the world by our love for each other and our love for all of God’s creation. This is one of those hymns that informs us of Jesus’ words to his disciples and for his will for us as his followers; however, when we look at the history of Christianity, and even at Christians today, are we living up to the love for each other that the hymn speaks of? Are we graceful toward one another, are we accepting of difference, and patient with those who don’t see eye-to-eye with the way we believe and understand things?

I remember a couple of years ago, Rob Bell came out with a book titled “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person That Ever Lived.” Up until the writing of this book, Rob had garnered quite a following and was well-liked by most in the Christian world, including Evangelicals; however, once the title of this book was released in order to promote it, that acceptance quickly turned into anathema. People, including the likes of Rev. Franklin Graham, were calling Rob Bell a “heretic” and denouncing this book which, according to the critics, claimed that hell doesn’t exist.

The odd thing is that these criticisms of Rob’s book came out BEFORE the book was released for people to read. That means, in case you didn’t catch it, that people were claiming the book said something without ever having read the book. Their assessment was based off of the title of the book and a promotional video where Rob poses some provocative questions…again, not giving the answers to them but just posing them. After actually reading the book, which was provocative for sure, I did not discover “heresy.” I simply found Rob wrestling, in a relevant way, with a theology that many people wrestle with. Nor did I find him EVER claiming that hell does not exist. Quite the opposite, actually.

The point of this is not to endorse Rob Bell or his book, but rather to put a caution on something that should, by this point, seem obvious. Christ called us to love one another…that people will know we are his by our love of one another. Let us not be so quick to judge, to anathematized, and to demonize fellow Christians who might think differently than we do. If we cannot love our own family in Christ, how can we ever love our neighbors? What’s more, if we cannot love our own spiritual kin, how can we ever love our enemies? Christ has set the bar high for those wishing to follow him, and when we fall short of that bar, we do not reflect Christ. Remember, they will know we are Christian by our love.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

In Christ love ALWAYS wins.

PRAYER

Lord, teach me to be more loving of my fellow Christians, especially those who think and believe differently than me. Amen.

The Labyrinth

Read Mark 4:1-9

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.” (Matthew 13:16)

The LabyrinthToday was just one of those days. You know, it was a Sunday afternoon, the sun was out and shining, the breeze was gentle and refreshing, and the temperature was perfect. It was one of those days that, despite having a terrible sinus infection, I just could not be inside. So, I decided to take a contemplative stroll through the labyrinth in my backyard. Yes, you read that right, I have a labyrinth in my backyard and I love it!

As I was walking around, though, I started to notice that it had become quite unkempt as things were finally springing to life after a cold, long and harsh winter. So, I got inspired to start moving the rocks, pulling weeds, leveling the dirt and mulch, and placing the rocks back in place. It felt so refreshing, spiritual and serene doing that simple, yet physical work. I felt very attuned with God as I worked at caring for and tending to the labyrinth.

As I was pulling the rocks away, I noticed the some of the grass and weeds surrounding them were very easy to pull out. It took no effort at all. As it turned out, the roots were growing in only a an inch or two of dirt that had collected in between the rock. Once I removed the rocks, I could easily get rid of them.

As I was weeding my way around the labyrinth, a parable of Jesus’s came to mind. The parable where Jesus talks about the seed that get sowed in rocks, in weedy areas, in shallow soil and the seeds that are sown in the good soil. He was saying that if the seeds are sown right, the plants that grows will grow hardily and not easily be removed. This was a metaphor for faith that Jesus was using to instruct his disciples, and those listening, on the importance of being rooted deeply in one’s faith and not just having a surface faith rooted in shallow soil or, worse yet, having a dead faith that never rooted at all because the seeds were tossed on rock and/or hard soil and eaten by birds.

But sometimes, like the weeds in the labyrinth, our faith seems to be rooted deep; however, that depth is no more than an illusion. Sometimes we discover that our faith is actually shallow and only appears to be deeply rooted because those roots and shallow soil are being secured by the boulders around us. Once those boulders are removed, our faith gets tested and shown to be nothing more than weeds that are easily plucked and thrown into the wind.

But there is good news here…there is indeed hope. As painful it is for us to remove the boulders weighing us down, once they are removed and once those shallow rooted weeds are plucked, we begin to clear a path that twists around like a labyrinth that leads us to the good soil. It is there that we begin to realize where our seeds of faith need to be sown. It is there that we begin to cultivate a holy and sacred garden, at the heart of God’s temple!

Christ is calling you to remove the boulders in your life! Christ is calling you to pluck the weeds that are hindering your path. God is calling you to journey further in the labyrinth, plucking and pulling out the shallow rooted weeds until you get to the center, until you get to the place of deep, good soil. Christ is sowing the seeds of God’s love…of God’s hope, healing and wholeness…of God’s Kingdom in your heart. Allow God to nurture and cultivate that divine garden and let the love of God spring forth from you like the well spring of life! God is recreating Eden within you and calling you join him in the Garden! I’ll see you there!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.” – Henry David Thoreau

PRAYER

Lord, help me weed my way to the good soil, so that my faith may grow into a luscious, sacred and holy garden. Amen.

The Devil Is In the Details

Read Matthew 18:21-35

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

DevilI just recently saw the movie “Devil”, which was a film that was produced by and based off of a story written by M. Night Shyamalan. For those of you unfamiliar with his name, he is the one who wrote, directed and produced the widely successful supernatural thriller, “The Sixth Sense.” While many of his other films have not garnered the success that his first film did, I have always been prone to watching them and have found them meaningful and thought provoking. “Devil” certainly is both meaningful and thought provoking.

In this film, five people get on an elevator together. None of them know each other, yet when the elevator breaks down and they are stuck in it for hours, each of them gets to know one another perhaps a little more than they’d like to. Each character has a flaw, which I will not reveal here; however, one of the five characters has a little more than just a flaw as that character (again I will not reveal who) is the incarnation of Satan. Sounds like a real wholesome family film, right? Well, to use a perfectly good pun, the devil is in the details here.

Every so often, while on this elevator, the lights flicker and then go out, leaving the victims and the viewers in the dark. When the lights come on, one of the characters is dead in a weird and gruesome way. This continues to happen through out the film. Meanwhile, a detective, the police and firemen are all trying to get these people safely out of the elevator. They, too, watch in horror as the lights flicker, go out, come back on and they see yet another dead person.

While I will not spoil the whole of the movie, I will spoil it’s message a little as I believe it is so very relevant to us as people of faith. Each person in the movie is being killed by the devil, their souls taken, as a result of their unwillingness to see that they have sinned and are flawed individuals. The result of that is that these individuals never, ever seek forgiveness for what they’ve done, because they continually justify their own actions and, therefore, are blinded to their own sins and sinful nature.

Again, I will not even hint at how the film ends (you really do need to see it), but it is powerful in its message. We often talk of God as being merciful and loving, kind and compassionate, just and filled with unending grace. We often talk about God’s willingness to forgive us all, and we see Jesus Christ as the divine expression of that forgiveness; however, how can we be forgiven if we don’t see our need for forgiveness? How can we be forgiven if we are so blind to our own faults that we we fail to seek or accept forgiveness? What’s more, how can we receive forgiveness if we are unwilling to be forgiven and/or unwilling to give forgiveness to ourselves and to others?

Christ calls us to a life of forgiveness. We are called to a life of being forgiven and to a life of forgiving others. If we are unwilling to see our need for forgiveness and, therefore, are unwilling to be forgiven, then we cannot, and will not, experience the healing power of forgiveness; however, if we are open and transparent to God about our shortcomings, and we seek forgiveness, we will have it in abundance. With that said, we too have to be willing to forgive. For how can we seek forgiveness but not give it in return? How can we experience mercy and not be transformed by it? How can we receive grace but refuse to give it to others? Remember, the devil is in the details. Be transformed by God’s grace and be transformational by extending that grace to others.

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY
“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.” – Bruce Lee
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER
Lord, soften my heart so that I may admit my faults and seek forgiveness. Also, soften my heart so that I may extend forgiveness to others. Amen.

Sabbath Is Holy

Read Exodus 20:8-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” (Luke 5:16)

JCS.ht266Just recently I went to Moravian College to watch their production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. That is one of my favorite musicals and one of my favorite portrayals of Jesus. What I love about it, in particular, is how human and relatable Jesus is in that film. It makes no presuppositions of who Jesus is in terms of his divinity; rather, it leaves that open for the interpretation of each individual in the audience. While this may make some faithful Christians uncomfortable, I believe it is powerful because it presents Jesus much in the same way his disciples would’ve come to see him and know him…each with their own expectations of who he is and what they hoped he would accomplish.

And Jesus certainly feels the weight of those expectations. There’s one scene where he’s dreaming of people who are in need. First it is just one poor beggar. Then another person, this time crippled. Then another person shows up needing healing from leprosy. Jesus reaches out to help these people but, before he knows it, he is surrounded by a crowd of needy people. Each one of them want Jesus to touch them, to heal them, to make them well. Each one of them wants a piece of Jesus and, as more and more crowd him, Jesus realizes there’s just not enough of him to go around. “Heal yourselves,” Jesus cries out into the darkness as he awakens from what became a nightmare.

Jesus certainly feels the weight of those expectations. There’s another scene in the film where Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying out to God to spare him from the torture and humiliating death he’s about to face. In this heart-wrenching song, Jesus pleads with God and sings these words: “I only want to say, if there is a way, take this cup away from me for I don’t want to taste it’s poison and feel it burn me; I have changed, I am not as sure as when we started. Then I was inspired, now I am sad and tired. Listen, surely I’ve exceeded expectation, tried for three years…seems like thirty…could you ask as much from any other man?”

Every time I hear those words I begin to cry. The song forces me to reflect on Jesus’ ministry and all the things he tried to say and do, all the miracles and signs he performed, in order to usher in the Kingdom of God. I think of Jesus weeping on the hill overlooking Jerusalem, knowing that this city will reject him and condemn him to die. I also cannot help but reflect on my ministry and all of years that have led me to where I am now. While I am not, to my knowledge, going to be crucified any time soon (hopefully never), doing ministry can and is exhausting work. Caring for others is draining work. Anyone who has ever cared for their sick parent(s), for family or for friends knows just how draining that can be.

There’s no doubt Jesus got tired, even exhausted, throughout his three-year ministry. But Jesus also set the example that a part of doing ministry includes caring for yourself. Jesus would take time a part from his ministry, from the crowds and even from his disciples and he would go up on the hillside to pray. There are times when we just need to be alone, to have that precious down time where we can rest, reflect and even spend time in conversation with our God.

If you are feeling tired and exhausted, if you are feeling worn down, know that it is not only okay for you to rest, but it is absolutely healthy and important for you to. Jesus did it, I do it from time to time, and you should too. You cannot minister to others if you are unable to minister and take care of yourself. Today’s challenge is for you to set apart some down time for you and get recharged for the work God is calling you to do. Sabbath is HOLY.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel ‘burnout’ setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective.” Dalai Lama

PRAYER

Lord, guide me to withdraw the busy-ness of my life so that I may find refuge and renewal in you. Amen.

Context Is Everything

Read 2 Timothy 3:14-16

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalms 119:18)

Context Is EverythingWhat if I were to tell you that the Bible says that “there is no God”? What if I were to tell you that the Bible comes to the conclusion that “everything, including life, is meaningless, like chasing the wind”? What if I were to tell you that the Bible says that God wants people to endure slavery because God put the slave masters in authority over them? Or that God punishes generations of family members for the sins of their ancestors. Or that women are inferior to men and should be silent in churches as they are not fit to teach? Or that the Bible says that women are saved through childbearing?

On the one hand, the Bible does say such things. The words “there is no God” can be found in Psalm 14:1; the words “everything is meaningless” can be found in Ecclesiastes 1:2 and elsewhere in Ecclesiastes; God wishing people to remain slaves can be found in Ephesians 6:5, Colossians 3:22, Titus 2:9-10, and 1 Peter 2:18. That God punishes the descendants of sinful ancestors is found in Numbers 14:18, among other places. That women are inferior to men, are to be silent in churches, are not fit to teach and are saved through child-bearing can be found in 1 Timothy 2:11-15.

On the other hand, each one of these verses has something in common tying them together. That common thread is that they’ve all been taken out of context, perhaps in different ways, but they are definitely all out of context. In Psalm 14:1, the Psalmist is ACTUALLY saying that “the fool says in his or her heart that ‘there is no God.'” The words “there is no God was taken textually out of context. Ecclesiastes 1:2 is the opening to a philosophical treatise on how life, and all of its trappings, leads to emptiness and that, at the end of the day, people need to “fear God and keep his commandments” (12:13). While Ephesians and Colossians do state that slaves are to obey their masters, the historical context of this passage shows us a Christian community that is reacting to accusations that Christians are inciting slaves to riot against their masters (which was one of  many accusations that Romans were levying against Christians of the time period). That doesn’t justify the passage, but helps us understand it so that we don’t fall into the same trap.

It was a common tone in the ancient world that if you make God angry, God will punish you. Some of these texts were written in times of tribulation, such as the Babylonian Exile where people were wondering why they had been exiled to begin with. What had they done to deserve such an awful fate…or what had their parents or their parents’ parents done? This understanding is less “God’s word” as much as it is people grappling with their circumstances, though there certainly are many unintended and far reaching consequences to sin. And the bit on women is also a reaction to the fact that women, up until that point, had played prominent roles in the church (e.g., Romans 16:1-4, 7) and the Romans were levying that against Christians as yet another example of how Christians were vile and against Roman order.  Again, this historical context (plus Paul’s commendation of women leaders) helps us to discern and affirm that indeed God DOES call women into ministry and leadership, and that they are saved equally and in the same manner that all of human beings are: through faith (Romans 3:19-25; Galatians 3:28).

This is not an exhaustive discussion of those particular topics, but hopefully makes the point that CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING. The Bible is THE MOST IMPORTANT, and INSPIRED, source of our faith; however, it can be made to say anything when the context (textual, socio-economic, and/or historical) is missing. Don’t just read your Bible, but study it. Get into a good Bible Study that dives deep into the texts and gives you a good foundation not only on what the Bible says (keep in mind that we are not reading it in its original languages), but the context behind what it says. Buy books that delve into the Bible and provide the context behind it. Today’s challenge is for you to begin to not only read the Bible, but to build up a solid means of understanding it so that you can relevantly apply it to your life in a way that is true to the Spirit of the Word.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Context is worth 80 IQ points.” – Alan Kay

PRAYER
Lord, guide me in my studying of Scripture so that I may grow, not just in knowledge but also in understanding. Amen.

Jesus Is For Real

Read Matthew 13:23-58

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turning Your Scars Into Stars

Read John 19:20-29

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Look at My hands. Look at My feet. You can see that it’s really Me. Touch Me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” (Luke 24:39, NLT)

StarsA couple of weeks ago I was eating out at a restaurant with my wife and daughters. During the meal we were sharing in memories of the home we used to live in and we were laughing about how our cat, Sophie, was so cute and adorable when she was little. At one point, I looked up at my youngest daughter and I was reminded of a not so good incident that we had with the other cat we used to have, George. On my daughter’s right cheek is a huge scar and seeing that scar reminded me of the horrible memory of George, what he did to my daughter, and how we could not longer keep him.

My youngest, at the time she was around 7 years old, was playing in a big box as children often do. When she came out of the box, George attacked her clawing at her face. He severely scratched her on her right cheek and nearly got her left eye with the other claw (literally only a centimeter away). This wasn’t the first time he had done this. He had attacked her while she was hugging her mom, and had attacked her another time severely scratching up her legs. The first two times we passed off as being an accident. Perhaps our daughter was playing with him and he was playing rough. But the third time pushed us over the edge. We knew we couldn’t keep him, especially after he nearly took my daughter’s left eye.

The horror of that moment had flooded me and I started my shaking my head in disbelief. “What Dad,” asked my daughter? “I just can’t believe he did that to you,” I replied. “Perhaps we can get that cream the doctor had said helps to remove scars,” I said to her. My daughter put her hand over her face and shook her head no. “I don’t want to get rid of my scar,” my daughter protested. “I want to keep it because so I can remember George.”

George was her favorite cat. She loved him and it was very hard for her when we took George to the animal shelter, especially when we learned what they were going to put him to sleep because they could not give him to another family if he had a history of attacking people. It still hurts me to think of it and, clearly it still hurts my daughter as well. Even more that that, my daughter still loves him and wants to keep her scar because of her love for him. The more I reflected on that, the more I realized the truth behind it.

How often we go through life, picking up scars along the way. We get battered down by circumstances and, sometimes, we even get battered down by other people. Many of us try to hide those scars, to mask them, and to pretend they were never there to begin with; however, scars never truly go away, do they? There really isn’t some special cream we can rub on our hurts, our fears, our insecurities and all of the other scars we collect throughout life. There isn’t any magic elixir that will remove the scars we carry with us.

Even Jesus, in a post-Resurrection body, had scars to show his disciples when he appeared to them. The holes in his hands, feet and side were still there, still visible. In fact, those scars were very much a part of Jesus’ transformed identity, in the same way that my daughter’s scars are a part of hers. Rather that trying to erase the scars, rather than trying to bury them or hide them or pretend they never existed, we should acknowledge their existence. We should grieve the loss, the hurt, the circumstances that caused them and, just as importantly, we should also acknowledge the person we’ve grown to be as a result of them. While no amount of reflection will justify the suffering we’ve been through, it will help us to move beyond the suffering, remembering where we’ve come from, and resurrect into a person transformed by the grace of God in spite of the experiences that tried to keep us down. Allow God to, as Robert Schuller once coined, “turn your scars into stars.”

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Turn your scars into stars.” – Rev. Dr. Robert H. Schuller

PRAYER
Lord, help me to turn my scars into stars so that I can move beyond them, without forgetting them, into the life you’ve called me to. Amen.

Journey with Jesus: Holy Saturday

SCRIPTURE

John 19:38-42

tears_of_sadnessAN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT

What on earth can we do now? Just last week things looked so promising. Jesus had done amazing things. He had healed the sick and gave the blind their sight back. He cast out demons and turned water into wine. He fed thousands of people with only a little bit of food and even walked on water.

Even beyond that, Jesus raised a couple of people to life after they had passed! Who can stop such a person? What on earth could possibly get in the way of such power? And yet, Jesus never claimed to have power. He was always giving credit to God, whom he referred to as Abba…father. He always…

Oh…what difference does it make? He’s dead now. What looked like hope for Israel, became another crushing blow from the Romans. I feel cold and empty. I feel lost with nowhere to turn. Where is God in this dark hour? Has God abandoned us? I was so sure I was called to be a disciple of Jesus…I was so sure that God wanted me to follow in his footsteps; however, now it seems utterly useless. The light in my life has been snuffed and my purpose has been snatched from me.

REFLECTION

On this day, two thousand years ago, Jesus’ cold, dead body lay in a tomb that was carved out of stone. Outside of the tomb hid is disciples, who were uncertain as to what their next move should be. In fact, the room within which they hid became a dark tomb for them. They were paralyzed by the event of Good Friday. Though they were physically living, the passion that was once burning strongly within them was snuffed out.

As Christians, like the disciples, we too start full of passion and zeal. But somewhere along the way, we find ourselves drained, lost and alone. What is it in your life that has become a tomb? What is it that keeps you from living passionately for Jesus? What fears keep you in hiding…tucked away from the purpose Christ has given you?

On this Holy Saturday, take time to reflect on the tombs in your life. Take time to evaluate all of the things that keep you hidden away from your true self in Jesus Christ. Know that Christ is not dead in your life…in fact, Christ has never been more alive. Know that in Christ there is resurrection and that even the darkest of tombs cannot prevent the light of Christ’s resurrection from bursting forth in all of its radiancy. Know that on Easter, Jesus has you in mind. Are you ready to rise from your tomb(s)?

PRAYER
Lord, in this season of darkness, prepare me to see the light. Amen.

 

Loving the Unlovable

Read Matthew 5:42-48

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:13)

back1994512The past couple of weeks have been fraught with a number of scary and tragic scenarios. A Malaysian 777 airliner went missing for no apparent reason, but the there seems to be some connection with the pilot who seemingly and purposefully took the plane off course. There was the mass shooting at Fort Hood where one of the soldiers went into the Fort armed and shot at fellow soldiers who were unarmed, killing three and wounding at least sixteen others.

There was a man who accidentally hit a ten year old boy who might have been in a group playing chicken in the road. When the man stopped his truck, got out of it and went over to he boy to see if he was alright, a mob of people attacked him and beat him to near death. Finally, just on Wednesday, a sophomore at Franklin High School in Murraysville, PA, went into his school and stabbed and/or slashed 24 people with two kitchen knives. At least five of those twenty-four were critically injured and are currently fighting for their lives.

In moments such as these, it is impossible not to hold your hand to your mouth in shock. It is hard not to question, “what is going on with this world?” We sit in horror as we watch these news stories unfold before our very eyes. We can’t help picturing ourselves and/or our loved ones in those situations. I remember when the Newtown, CT massacre happened, I couldn’t help but cry as I thought about kissing my own children before sending them to school. I fully expected them to return home (and they did), just as I am sure those parents did.

On the same note, it is also hard for us to distance ourselves from the people who perpetrate such heinous and seemingly evil crimes. We often say, “What could possibly drive a person to do such things”; however, we often don’t really reflect on it as much as we just ask the question. Perhaps we the question is a part of our process to make sense of it all, but the reality is we cannot make sense of it. This often leads us to a place where we dehumanize the perpetrator and label him or her as evil.

But the reality is far more complex than that. It is true that such acts are evil, yet are the people themselves evil? Were they born differently that you or I? Are they just “bad seeds” who were evil from the very beginning? Or are they, themselves, victims? Are they people who were crying out for help but never received any? Are they people who slipped through the cracks, for one reason or another, and unfortunately ended up spreading their misery, pain and suffering to other people?

These reflective and probing questions are not being asked to make light of what they did. Nor are they being posed to take away from the real pain, suffering, and misery they’ve caused countless people. Rather, these questions are calling us to be quick to show compassion, resolute in seeking understanding, and slow to make judgment.

These questions are ultimately asked in order to get us to reflect on an often tough, but necessary, question: What more can we do? What steps can we take to spread hope, healing, and wholeness to those in need. That is not to say that we can always prevent such things from happening; however, it is a constructive way of working toward a solution as opposed to pointing the finger at someone and calling them the devil. Christ has called us to love all people, including those wishing to harm us, and to avoid judgment. Perhaps working toward helping people struggling with inner pain and turmoil is one way we can carry that call out.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” – Unknown

PRAYER

Lord, use me in a way that brings love to those I may otherwise deem as unlovable, as we are all your children. Amen.

Beyond Proof

Read Philippians 2:12-18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“The LORD looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.” (Psalms 14:2)

11175915_800This past weekend I took my girls to the theater to see the latest Christian film to hit the big screen. The film is called “God’s Not Dead” and it is about a freshman in college who enrolls in a philosophy class. At the beginning of the class the professor tells the students that he’d rather not waste time on discussing the age old question of whether or not God exists. He lists a ton of academics who have all determined that God does not exist and states that it would be better to move on to other things, rather than rehash the topic of God’s existence.

Being that the professor believes the debate to have been won by the atheistic academics, he asks the class to write “God is Dead” on a piece of paper and sign their name to it. If the whole class does, great…they can move on. There’s just one problem, the aforementioned freshman is a Christian and he is not willing to write “God is Dead” and sign the paper. Because of that the professor challenges the student to utilize three classes to prove the antithesis of that statement. In other words, the student needs to prove that God’s NOT Dead and he needs to convince the class who have all signed off on God being dead.

The student decides to do just that. He spends his time in the library looking up the debate on the existence of God. He reads atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, and others who put for the proposition that God is nothing more than a fairy tale. He also looks up theist authors who put forth the proposition that there is a God. He searches the internet for other debates and pieces together his arguments. Standing before the class, the student opens up by saying, “Professor Radisson will tell you that I cannot prove God exists, and he is right. I cannot. With that said, he cannot prove that God does not exist.”

Of course, following that last statement, the student continues throughout the course of the film trying to “prove” that God does exist. And, to be fair, there wouldn’t have been a film if he didn’t. Actually, to be doubly fair, the film is about more than just the student trying to prove God. Yet, the reality is that he should have left it with just that: “I cannot prove that God exists and you cannot prove that God does not exist.” Yet, he feels the necessity to try and prove.

I am not one to shy away from such debates. A good discussion on the existence of God tickles the fancy of philosophical minds, and I certainly have one of those. In fact, it is because I have engaged in such discussions that I have come to the realization that trying to prove “God” to people who are trying to disprove “God” to you is a fruitless endeavor.

Rather than trying to prove God exists, be living proof that God exists. In other words, don’t waste your time on fruitless words about God, as if God can be fully explained and proven by our words. If you believe in God, if you are a person of faith, then you will do as your faith dictates. If you believe in God you will live a life of love, a life of compassion, a life of justice and a life of mercy. You will live your life in a way that reflects your beliefs.

Today’s challenge is to stop trying to prove what you believe. To quote my mom, you don’t need to prove anything to anyone but God. If you believe in God, then live according to your beliefs. That will go a lot further than words do. When people see you living a life that reflects the reality of God, that will be a greater witness to God’s existence than anything you can say in a fruitless debate. Be at peace in your faith and live according to it.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” – Stuart Chase

PRAYER

Lord, I believe in you and know you have called me to live out my beliefs. Guide me in that direction and equip me for your work. Amen.