Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Ash Wednesday

Read Matthew 4:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

And [Jesus] said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19)

ash_wednesdayToday is Ash Wednesday. It is the beginning of the Lenten journey, a journey that starts today and ends at the foot of the cross. It is a journey that begs of us to reflect, to meditate on who we are and who God is calling us to be. It is a forty day period out in the wilderness. Just as Jesus spent forty days and forty nights in preparation of his ministry in and around Galilee, so too we are called into such a time of reflection and preparation.

What does Ash Wednesday mean to you? Is is a religious obligation? Is it something that you have always done and continue to do for tradition’s sake? Is it a ritual observance and nothing more? Is it something that makes little to no sense to you? Is it something that you don’t observe at all? How do you spend your time on Ash Wednesday or do you focus on it at all?

Throughout this past year, I have written a number of devotions on the importance of having Spiritual Discipline. The observance of a day such as Ash Wednesday is certainly an important part of the Christian’s life and is certainly a discipline we should all be practicing. But it is also important for us to understand the meaning of Ash Wednesday before we set off to observe it.

Many people observe Ash Wednesday and the forty day period of Lent that follows by “giving up” something for the entire forty days. Some Christians give up meat on Fridays, others give up chocolate. Some give television and others give up their favorite pastimes. Regardless of what your practice is, if you have one, why is it that you are doing it? Is it because you have always done it and you don’t give it much more thought than that? Is there some other reason that you have understood your fasting to mean?

One of the things that is vital in our growth as a people of faith is that we really evaluate the reasons why we do things. Doing something just for the sake of it doesn’t necessarily cause us to grow from who we are to God wants us to be. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that your spiritual practice is wrong or mistaken, nor am I saying that you should give that discipline up. Rather, whatever your Lenten discipline is, KNOW WHY you are doing it.

Use your discipline as a way to reflect on where you are at this given point in your life and faith journey. What ever your discipline is, use it as a vehicle to draw you closer to God. If you are abstaining from something during Lent, let that be an reminder of the excess that we have and also let it be a reminder of the fact that GOD is truly all we need.  Whatever your spiritual discipline is for observing Lent, allow GOD to transform you through it. Open yourself up to the transformative power of GOD!

Today is Ash Wednesday! Make today the day you truly begin reflect on your spiritual health and on your well being in general. Take an assessment of yourself. Understand why it is you do what you do. Seek the deeper meaning behind your rituals. Open yourself up to the transformation that God brings to each of us as we need it. Allow your spiritual disciplines, whatever they are, to shape you and guide you throughout the next forty days and forty nights. My prayer for you is that God shows you your true purpose and that you embrace that purpose with your whole being.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Lent is a time to renew wherever we are in that process that I call the divine therapy. It’s a time to look what our instinctual needs are, look at what the dynamics of our unconscious are.” – Thomas Keating

PRAYER

Lord, guide me during Lent so that I may better understand who I am as well as who’s I am! Amen.

Son of God

Read Matthew 28:16-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.’” (Mark 16:15)

Son_of_God_film_posterAs a person who is kind of a film buff, I have collected a good many of movies over the years. In particular, I have been and will continue to be a collector of “Jesus” movies. I remember enjoying the film, “King of Kings”, growing up as a child. I remember watching “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” “Jesus of Nazareth”, and other such films centered on the life, death and resurrection of the Christ. I now, as an adult, own these films and do watch the periodically. I like how each “Jesus” film brings a slightly different take on who the Christ was and how his message played out to the people. In fact, different films focus on different aspects of Jesus ministry.

There is a new film that has been released on screens throughout theaters country-wide today. It is called “Son of God” and it is about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. It is taken from the The Bible miniseries that aired on the History Channel during Lent last year. This film contains the footage, and then some, that was found in that miniseries, and it was produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.

In an interview, Burnett and Downey were questioned about how they went about making the film. “Clearly, there people all over the board when it comes to reading and interpreting the Bible,” the interviewer began. “Different denominations have different interpretations as to the person of Jesus, who he was and what his life, death and resurrection means for the world. Did you consider that in the making of this film? How did you go about making a film that would satisfy different people with different interpretations?”

According to Burnett and Downey, they met with religious leaders from different denominations, including but not limited to Roman Catholics, Baptists, Evangelicals, Assembly of God, and other denominations in order to get their opinion on the Script and the direction the film was taking in terms of its presentation of who the Christ was. Burnett even said they brought the film to the Anti-Defamation League to seek their advice and approval to make sure that the film didn’t unintentionally cross into the realm being anti-semitic.

What a novel idea. While Burnett and Downey certainly have their own understanding of who Jesus is, they were not afraid to have their understanding challenged in order to create a film that reached people where they are at. That is not to say that the film will satisfy every person’s burning belief of who Jesus was, but it does show a level of openness to accountability that we rarely see in Hollywood, let alone in the church.

While, having seen The Bible miniseries, I do not share all of the theological positions of the filmmakers regarding Jesus, I do know that I will be going to see this film today. I think it is important to support such films because they get the message of Hope, Healing and Wholeness out to the masses. They catch the attention of people who need to hear that God loves them so much and that God would never leave them alone. They stir a curiosity about the real CHRIST in a world that has all but forgotten the power and importance of his message. So today’s challenge to you is to go and support the film, “The Son of God.” Even if you do not agree with everything, or even if you agree with everything, this film is one that is worthy of our time and money. No doubt, if you open yourself up to the possibility, God will speak to you as you journey with Christ through this film. Let your Lenten journey begin here.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Christ who was in the world is also within you, and through you Christ remains in the world still! Live into Christ and his Good News.

PRAYER

Lord, use me in a way that reflects Christ’s presence within me. Amen.

Expanding the Horizon

Read Mark 1:21-28

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” (Matthew 14:23)

YogiJesusA little over four years ago, I embarked on a cross-cultural trip to India. During my time there, I had zig-zagged across the large country starting in Bangalore, traveling to Kerala on the Western Coast, back to Madurai in Central Southern India, over to Chennai (aka Madras) in Tamil Nadu on the Eastern Coast of Southern India, and then finally up to New Delhi and Agra in Northern India. All of that packed with different cultural experiences, culture shocks, and all that packed in three weeks time.

It was both an exhausting and a rewarding trip. One of the most rewarding parts of the trip was that I got to see Jesus in a whole new light. Growing up America, I knew the Jesus of my childhood well. I knew the reverent, light-skinned, golden flowing hair, blue-eyed Jesus that taught us to love one another and died for our sins. I knew the resurrected Christ who promised would come again. Of course, the Jesus I grew up understanding was coming from my reading of Scripture through the lenses of Western art, film, church and cultural experiences.

And there is nothing wrong with those experiences, for they are very much a part of the foundation of my faith. With that said, in India I came across the meditating, guru Jesus. On the one hand the image was exotic, distinctly Indian, and seemingly foreign to me; however, as I began to look at that Jesus, sitting in the cross-legged position in a circle with his disciples, I began to realize that this, too, was the Jesus of Scripture. After all, to use the Indian term, Jesus was a guru, which simply means teacher (or Rabbi as it is called in Hebrew). Also, Jesus was very spiritually in tune with God and with himself, and he no doubt meditated on God, on the Scriptures and certainly prayed continually as a part of his spiritual discipline.

Some people might be pausing here and saying, “Hey, that sounds awfully like Eastern philosophy/religion to me! That can’t be Biblical!” But, with careful evaluation and study, one cannot help but notice that Judaism (and Jesus was a Jew), is a Middle-EASTERN religion…not originally a Western religion. The Scriptures are loaded with Middle-Eastern symbology, with an emphasis on meditation and communion with God, and with plenty of wise sages roaming the countryside with bands of followers. All of this truly corroborates the Indian image of Jesus that I saw in my travels through India.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying to abandon the way you have come to know Jesus. That would not be true to your relationship with him, nor would it be true to your personal faith experiences. What I am saying is that we should be willing to meet Jesus everywhere and anywhere we go, and we should be open to meeting him in the ways that others have gotten to know him too! After all Christianity is not about EAST or WEST, NORTH or SOUTH, HERE or THERE; rather, Christianity is about CHRIST!

Today’s challenge is for you to open yourself to Christ in ways you never thought possible. Can we ever know CHRIST fully enough? Is Christ as small as the limits of our own minds and theologies? Or is Christ transcendent of those limitations? I choose to believe the latter and, in my experience, I have not been disappointed in how, when, where and with who I meet my LORD and Savior! I pray the same becomes true for you as well!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“I commune with my heart in the night; I meditate and search my spirit” – Asaph (Psalm 77:6)

PRAYER

Lord, open my heart and my mind to meet you everywhere, anywhere and anyway you reveal yourself to me. Amen.

Reading the Signs

Read Matthew 16:1-4

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” (Luke 17:20-21)

bobcats-12Well, we are certainly in the midst of a cold and snowy winter. The temperatures have been in the single digits and, in some cases, the temperatures has been subzero. Certainly that was the case the other day, with wind chill making matters worse. Just a minute or two outdoors and my ears and nose were ready to fall right off!

As much as I do not enjoy extreme temperatures, and as much as I semi-jokingly carry on about my dislike for the winter months, I cannot say I was not prepared for this harsh winter. In fact, I pretty much knew in advance that this winter was going to be a rough one, not because I am a soothsayer or some kind of super psychic, but because I saw the signs that were right in front of me.

Well, at least the signs were right in front of me on my youngest daughter’s class trip to Lakota Wolf Preserve in Blairstown, NJ. It was at this preserve that I met a couple of elegant and graceful bobcats! Aside from them being absolutely adorable, they also had weather prediction built naturally into their fur.

As it turns out, when ever a cold and harsh winter is approaching, their fur turns from brown to silvery white. And when ever a mild winter is approaching, their fur doesn’t change colors at all! Well, when I met these furry rascals their fur was already turning silver. Once that was pointed out to me by the tour guide, my heart sunk. Nature is ALWAYS right. I knew we were going to have a rough winter ahead of us!

Jesus calls his disciples to be observant of the signs surrounding us. He told his disciples to observe the signs of the times in order to be prepared for the things that are to come. He didn’t tell his disciples when and where these things would happen, but that the signs would be there for us to observe. With that said, Jesus also said to not get too caught up in the signs or in looking for them.

Many Christians have not heeded Jesus’ instruction to be observant of the signs and, as a result, they have missed out on the very presence of Christ, and the opportunities to bear that presence, in those moments. On the other hand, other Christians are overly observant, finding signs, and the end of the world, in everything they see. Jesus warns us against both scenarios.

Today’s challenge is for us to be observant, to be present, and to keep it real. Let us not be among the complacent who are caught unaware by the presence of God. Let us not be complacent and miss the presence of the Lord in the faces of those we ignore and pass by.  Let us also not be overzealous in seeking out signs at every turn. No one needs another blowhard predicting the unpredictable. Remember that the signs will show themselves to us and, when they do, we will be prepared for what God is doing in the world!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“My choices, including those related to the day-to-day aspects of life, like the use of a modest car, are related to a spiritual discernment that responds to a need that arises from looking at things, at people and from reading the signs of the times. Discernment in the Lord guides me in my way of governing.” – Pope Francis I

PRAYER

Lord, open my eyes to the signs of the times and fill me with the urgency to act upon them. Amen.

THE WAY, Part 2

Read Matthew 4:17-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” (John 14:3-4, NLT)

the-way-1Just the other night I watched a film that I had been meaning to watch for the past couple of years. Being a busy person, I kept forgetting about it until the other night. I was perusing Netfilx and I came across the movie, “The Way,” and remembered that I wanted to see it. The film was written and directed by Emilio Estevez and stars his father, Martin Sheen.

The film is about a father who discovers that his son died during a storm while backpacking on the Camino de Santiago (“The Way of St. James”), which is of various lengths depending on where you start. The father, who spontaneously decides to complete his son’s trek, started in France and traveled by foot approximately 800 km or 497 miles. Along the way, the father meets and, eventually befriends, several people along the way.

In a flashback scene, the father is remembering an argument he had with his son. He wasn’t happy with his son’s life choices, and he thought his 40 year old son’s passion for world travel was frivolous. In the argument his son questions him on why he doesn’t just go on the trip with him. He also questions why his dad insists on basing his life around work and other such things. His father replies, “You may not think much of my life, but it’s the one I choose.”

At that moment his son replies, “You don’t choose a life dad, you live one.” Wow, what words of wisdom. His father didn’t reply to him that day, which would be the last day he ever saw his son alive, but those words forever echoed in his head. “You don’t choose a life dad, you live one.” His son had hit upon something that would take him an 800 km trek to discover.

We often go about our daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly routines as if we have chosen the lives we have. But have we? Did you choose to be born? Did you choose what family you were born into? Did you choose what schools you were first educated in? Did you choose every last detail of your life? The fact is, while we do have and make choices that affect our lives, we do not choose our lives. They are a gift given to us by God through our parents. Life is a gift that is meant to be used, and used abundantly.

Along The Way, the father discovers that life is meant to be lived and he discovers that living life means living it in the company of others, even those who seem worlds apart from who you are. We do not get to choose our lives, but we do get to choose to live them and to be a presence of hope and faith, of love, support and encouragement for others along the way of our life’s journey.

Christ calls us, as his disciples, to live life through sharing in the journey with others. Jesus was not just one person out in the country side, choosing his life all by himself; rather, he chose to journey with and encourage others who rather different than him. Sometimes their differences were downright frustrating; yet, Jesus chose to love them. From that loving bond came an even larger community of people who chose to join in with them, a community that continues on to this day through the Church. Today’s challenge is for you to stop pretending you choose your life and start living it. Live it in the presence of the people around you and live it in, through and with love! That is THE WAY to the Kingdom of Heaven.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Make Jesus the way you live your life.

PRAYER

Lord, I want to be more like you. Though I do not choose my life, I choose to live my life for you. Amen.

THE WAY

Read Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Leviticus 19:11-18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Abstract Circular Maze whit Glowing Solution PathThis past Sunday, I just celebrated the two-year anniversary of my starting a 60 day juice fast that would, ultimately, change my life.  Sixty days and sixty-six pounds later, I was on the road to a new me…a healthy me…and I wasn’t about to start looking back. From that point on, I stayed vegan. For most people, the word “Vegan” sounds like something from Mr. Spock would say in an old Star Trek episode. All it means is that I abstain from eating meat, dairy, eggs and anything that comes from an animal.

Many people don’t understand why anyone in the world would want to abstain from meats, butter, cheese, milk, ice cream, eggs and all of the things that come from those products. I often get many questions and, to be honest, some people balk at me as if I am a lunatic. While it is true that I may be a little nutty, as it turns out my being vegan has absolutely nothing to do with it! Just ask anyone of my friends and family members.

Of course, I can certainly understand why people are put off by the notion of being vegan. In our culture, it goes against everything we were taught about a well-rounded diet. We’ve been told that we need animal protein, that we need milk to make our bones strong, and who can ever imagine baking without butter and eggs? Seriously! The truth is that I, too, balked at vegans before becoming one. I swore that I was a carnivorous meat-eater through and through. I could eat a block of cheese in a single sitting! I loved cheese! And baked goods, cookies in particular, forget about it! I couldn’t get enough of them.

But in my quest to lose weight and regain my health, I discovered what life without them would be like. I discovered that I would have tons of energy, that I would get rid of all of the diseases plaguing me, and that I would actually LOVE food just as much…if not more so…than I did before! Anyone who knows me knows that I NEVER stop talking about food and I certainly never stop trying new recipes! Yet, the foods I eat are definitely different than the ones I used to consume, and as a result, I am a new and transformed person.

While I have been talking about my personal dietary lifestyle, I can truly tell you that the same principles apply to our spiritual lives. In our culture, we are told to seek fame, fortune, and bliss. We are taught to expect things automatically. We are told what is beautiful and what is ugly. We are told what is healthy and unhealthy; however, a majority of people in our world are plagued with spiritual dis-ease. Many are seeking answers in all of the wrong places and balk at people when they are told that there is a better way.

Yet, there IS a better way! There is a way that is healthy and wholesome! There is a way that leads to abundant life! There is a way that will transform you completely from the inside out! There is a way that will lift you out of dis-ease and into HOPE, HEALING and WHOLENESS. That way was embodied by Jesus the Christ. That way leads us into service of others. That way leads us to love our neighbors as ourselves. It leads us to seek justice and love mercy. It leads us to forsake everything, but the Gospel of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, as rubbish and worthless. Jesus embodied THE WAY and is calling you to join him in doing the same.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Transformation in the world happens when people are healed and start investing in other people.” – Michael W. Smith

PRAYER

Lord, transform me. Lead me on the way toward hope, healing and wholeness so that I may bear witness to it for the transformation of the world. Amen.

Blessed With a Flat Tire

Read Acts 9:1-8, 17-18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

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

PRAYER

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

God’s Concert

Read 1 Corinthians 12:14-27

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

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

PRAYER

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

 

Two Probing Questions

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

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

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

PRAYER

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

 

No One Can Judge

Read Romans 7:14-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

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

PRAYER

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