Tag Archives: Lent

Lord and Savior

Read Mark 1:29-34

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know You are the Holy One of God. ” (John 6:68-69 NLT)

Peter-upside-down02The danger with reading stories, or even watching them on the television or in the movies, is that we tend to turn the people those stories into two-dimensional caricatures at best. This is especially true when we look at historical figures in true stories. Take Abraham Lincoln, for instance. There is so much to that particular president for us to read on and learn about. We can learn about all of his failures, his chronic depression, his doubts regarding his faith, his troubled childhood, his tumultuous marriage, his lack of self-confidence. We can learn about his courage, his rising up out of the bare-bones frontier life to become a lawyer, a politician and one of the most beloved presidents. We could read about how vastly unpopular his presidency was, how scrutinized he was, and all of the resistance he met as he led a country through a bloody civil war.

And that wouldn’t cover even a fracture of the man. Yet, even so, when we think of Abraham Lincoln, we only think of a fraction of what I just mentioned. In essence, we see good old Abe as a fraction of a fraction of who he actually is. We think of him being tall, lanky, with a weird beard. We call him “honest” abe, and mythologize him as the single man who saved the union and brought an end to slavery. That would sum up our common understanding of him is but a mere caricature.

We do the same with the people in the Bible. For instance, take Jesus’ disciple Simon. We see him as bold and brash fisherman, who may or may not have been illiterate, who often put his foot in his mouth, and who Jesus renamed Peter and is the “rock” upon which the church is built. If we add anything else to that, it is usually Peter’s fear on the water and his denial before the crowing of the rooster on Good Friday morning. In fact, we caricaturize Peter and the other Apostles so much that we think, “Well of course they followed Jesus and did nothing else. They had nothing else going for them anyway, besides fishing and collecting taxes.”

Yet, there was so much more to the disciples than that. In fact, if we look at today’s suggested Scripture reading, we find out that Peter was married and was responsible for not only supporting his wife, but also his mother-in-law. Though it isn’t mentioned, he more than likely also had children. When he said yes to follow Jesus, and through down his nets, he wasn’t just leaving fishing behind; rather, he was leaving his ENTIRE FAMILY behind. He was leaving his wife, his mother-in-law, and his children to fend for themselves. He was leaving them without any source of income, and without any means of getting food. What’s more, what happens when taxes are due and they have no means of paying those taxes.

In other words, Peter was leaving behind HIS ENTIRE LIFE because Jesus’ claim on his life was THAT IMPORTANT. Peter devotion to Christ, albeit flawed and wavering at times, was rooted deep. Jesus wasn’t just the next best prophet to him, he wasn’t just Peter’s teacher, he wasn’t just the messiah come to liberate Israel, or any such thing. JESUS WAS LORD TO PETER, and Peter submitted his life to his Lord at all costs. Ultimately, many years later, Peter ended up giving that life up literally as he was, by tradition, crucified upside down in Rome.

Today’s reflection is this: what are you leaving behind to follow Jesus? What are you willing to give up, to part ways with, to sacrifice in order to follow THE ONE WHO HAS CALLED YOU? Do you see Jesus as neat and nice guy? Do you see Jesus as a wise, sagely teacher? Do you see Jesus as a warm and fuzzy “pick-me-up” at the beginning of your week? Or do you see Jesus as YOUR LORD and SAVIOR, the one you would cross land and sea to follow at all costs? Today’s challenge is to evaluate yourself, to evaluate your faith, and to move toward more fully devoting yourself to Jesus, who is Lord of all Creation.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other.” – Jesus Christ (Matthew 6:24a NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, work in my heart that I may devote myself wholly to you. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: A Phantom Lesson

'phantom-of-the-opera'-at-25-offers-a-special-showWriting the Life-Giving Water devotionals is not only an important ministry, but is a deeply rewarding spiritual discipline for me as well. With that said, observing Sabbath (aka rest) is an important spiritual discipline as well. So here is a LOOK BACK to a devotion I wrote in the past. Read it, reflect on it, be challenged by it. Who knows how God will speak to you through it and how it will bear relevance in your life today? May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read the suggested Scripture and subsequent devotion.

The Great Achilles

Read Joel 12-17

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Though the LORD is great, He cares for the humble, but He keeps His distance from the proud.” (Psalms 138:6 NLT)

tumblr_o5dqzbrhat1rqqedro1_1280Just last night, I decided to sit down and watch the three hour sixteen minute epic director’s cut of the film, “Troy”, starring Eric Bana as Hector, Orlando Bloom as Paris, Diane Kruger as Helen of Sparta/Troy, and Brad Pitt as the great warrior, Achilles. The film itself is a wonder to watch. It is epic in every sense of the word. The sets are amazing and huge in scale. One can’t help but feel like you are back in the 50’s watching a Cecille B. Demille flick, with far superior special effects and action sequences! If you haven’t seen it, check it out. I do recommend the Director’s Cut, which adds an extra half hour of footage on to the film.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the story of the Trojan War, though that is honestly hard to imagine, I will briefly and loosely sum it up for you. The most famous of the accounts of this story is found Homer’s epic poem, “The Illiad”. Basically, the story is about a forbidden romance gone bad. In Sparta, a city in the kingdom of Mycenae, a land that was believed to be founded by the Perseus (of Medusa fame), Princes Hector and Paris of Troy were negotiating at peace deal between King Agamemnon and Troy.

Unfortunately, Paris (who was more of a lover boy than he was a diplomat) fell in love with Helen of Sparta who was married to the brother of the King. Once the peace agreement was made, Hector and Paris sailed away for Troy; however, little did Hector know that Paris kidnapped Helen to take her back to Troy with him. As you can imagine, that put a quick and bitter end to the fledgling peace agreement that had just been reached the day before. The result of Paris’ unscrupulous act was a ten year war that King Agamemnon waged against Troy to defend his brother’s honor (and, let’s be honest, to subject another city under his rule).

This is where Achilles comes in. Achilles was a warrior who had a tenuous relationship with King Agamemenon (at best) and who fought for the king on many occasions. His mother, prior to his deciding to go fight for the king against Troy, had warned Achilles that he would either live a safe life and die unknown, or he would fight and die young, but be remembered for all time. Without getting into the different mythologies of Achilles, he was known for being the greatest of warriors and was widely seen as having no vulnerabilities. Choosing noteriety over safety, the egotistical Achilles decided to fight against the Trojans. That proved to be a costly choice for the brave warrior.

While the Trojans did end up losing Troy in the end, Achilles lost his very life after being shot through the heel (in some accounts) by an arrow loosed by Paris. In the long war, Achilles defeated and killed Hector, he helped lead the Mycenaeans win the Trojan war; however, he also overestimated his own strength and invincibilites and paid with his life for it. Once shot in the heel, Paris was able to kill the immobilized warrior. The hero did die young and remembered for all time, just as his mother warned him.

The parallel for us is pretty obvious. We often see ourselves as above being destructable. We do things as we do them, and we don’t give it much thought. We think that the way we live our lives is perfectly fine because “it hasn’t hurt us yet”; however, if we take anything away from the great Achilles, is that we all have our vulnerabilities. When we sin, when we steer away from the path God put us on, we expose ourselves to the arrows of death awaiting to hit us in the most unexpected and painful of places.

Lent is a forty day period where we are called to reflect on our lives and on the areas in which we need to tear our hearts (Joel 2:3), do a U-Turn, and head back to God.  It is a time where we should be reflecting on our sinfulness and where we should be looking to God, as Jesus did, to help us overcome and rebuke our temptations. Rather than letting our egos get the best of us, as Achilles did, we should seek to be dependent on God and humble in accepting the changes God is calling us to make. I pray that, as you journey through Lent, that you will abandon the way that the great Achilles took. I pray that you will humble yourself before God and repent (do a U-Turn). Don’t let your pride best you, don’t let it expose your heel; rather, in humility, be led to the great fountain of life that is Jesus Christ in which all of you, including your vulnerabilities, may be washed clean!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes people as angels.” – Augustine of Hippo

PRAYER
Lord, help show me my Achilles’ heel so that I may discard of it, abandon my pride, and turn to you as my refuge and my strength. Amen.

A Love That Lets Go

Read Mark 6:1-12

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. And now, look, your house is abandoned and desolate.” (Matthew 23:37-38 NLT)

Letting GoHave you ever had to make decisions on behalf of someone you love that you really, really didn’t want to make? As a parent, there are times that I have had to make decisions that had eaten me alive in the process of making them. For anyone who has been a parent, or has been responsible for someone else, you probably know exactly what I am talking about. Ever parent wants their kids to love them, every parent longs for their children to look up to them, to respect them, but also be close to them. The problem is that, by virtue of having the responsibility of parenthood, there are times that parents have make decisions, and take certain courses of action, in order to do what is right for their children…BECAUSE THEY LOVE THEM. Those decisions often come with consequences, such as the children not “liking” their parents and/or feeling sorry for themselves, which can only go to make the parent feel even worse for having to make the dreaded decision. With that said, it was the RIGHT thing for the parent to do.

One of the hardest thing for parent to do, one of the things that goes against a parent’s very fiber, is the decision and the act of letting their child go. In fact, that is not just a hard thing for parents to do, is it? That seems to be a universally hard thing for many people to do. Whether they are parents, siblings, family, or friends, it is hard for people to let the ones they love go; however, there are times when LOVE demands that one do just that. This perhaps is the most painful, and yet the most radically profound, act of love.

Letting go is an act of love that God knows very well. After all, God created this world and all that is in it, and God did so out of love. In that love, God created human beings in order to have a relationship with them. God gave them everything and tried to guide them to a life that was good for them; however, out of love God also gave them the freedom to choose and boy did humanity choose…not God, but themselves. So God let them go; God let them make their choices, regardless of whether they were good or bad.

That’s not to say that God completely stepped away, because God did try and intervene in order to get people to remember their relationship with their Creator. God even sent God’s own son in order to show people how much God loved them, yet the people either didn’t understand it, or they chose to reject it. That was their choice and, in that choice, God let them go. Even when they chose to torture, whip, and crucify God’s Son, God chose to let them go. Why? Why would God do such a thing? Because God loved humanity that much that God was willing let them go.

While it is not easy, God is calling us to do the same. As much as we want to control the relationships we are in, as much as we want everyone to love us and to understand how much we love them, as much as we want our relationships to remains strong and happy, the reality is that some will inevitably deteriorate and fall apart. We should try to mend those relationships if possible, we should try to reconcile ourselves with our family, friends and neighbors (if at all possible and regardless of whether we were in the right or wrong); however, if the door to reconciliation continually comes swinging shut, at some point we need to love the person and/or the people enough to let them go. Why? Because love demands that we do. Because in love for us, God has let us go. Letting someone go does not mean giving up on them, it simply means that you love them enough to let them choose to love, or not love you…no matter how painful that is. This Lent, I pray that, in those necessary moments, God gives you the grace and the strength to express your love for others through the act of letting them go.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.” – Hermann Hesse
PRAYER
Lord, help me to know when it is time to hold on and when it is time to let go of the ones I love. Give me the strength to do so. Amen.

Antichrist Superstar

Read Matthew 18:1-10

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I tell you the truth, all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. This is a sin with eternal consequences.” (Mark 3:28-29 NLT)

tumblr_static_antichristsuperstarIt was October of 1996, I was 18 going on 19 years old, and I remember the religious fervor that was being struck up by a band that had just hit the mainstream airwaves a year before with their cover of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These).” Though this band came out in 1994, it was clear that this latest album would become it’s defining moment; for some Christians, choosing to listen to that album would be a soul-damning moment, one that had eternal consequences, and this is just what the band Marilyn Manson was banking on.

It’s not that they were banking that their album, Antichrist Superstar, would send people to hell; however, Marilyn Manson were banking on the religious fervor that inevitably ignited against it, and they rode that money train all the way to the bank. The album, to date, has sold over 7 million copies, with 1.9 million of those copies being sold in the United States alone. That’s probably not what the protesting Christians were hoping for, but it was an unintended consequence of all of their protests.

One of my favorite songs off of the album is the title track, “Antichrist Superstar.” In it Manson writes, “You built me up with your wishing hell, I didn’t have to sell you…cut the head off, grows back hard. I am the hydra, now you’ll see your star.” Many Christians feared that Manson was the Antichrist, that he was leading kids to Satan and ultimately to hell, and that the end of the world was near with the rise of someone who seemed so blatantly Satanic. But when you look at the lyrics, we find some substance beyond all of the theatrics. It is Christians who created this “Antichrist”, and it is Christians who were now protesting his rising like a star.

Brian Warner grew up going to a Christian school that taught him all about the devil. It taught him to fear Satan, but to fear God even more. He was taught that if he didn’t do the right things, think the right things, say the right things, and pray the right things, he would end up going to hell. He grew up having nightmares of the Antichrist coming and devouring him, he grew up having nightmares of God damning him to hell for not living the “good” life. This was what Brian Warner (aka Marilyn Manson) grew up believing Christianity was. The lyrics to his song, “Antichrist Superstar,” are a mirror of how Christianity represented Christ to him. It was Christianity that had built him up to fear, it was Christianity that taught him God was a God of wrath, and it was Christianity (sadly enough) that helped drive him away from Christ. Of course, it was only a certain brand of Christianity; however, it was the brand he grew up knowing and fearing. Though he attempts to show he’s broken free of that fear, his album is really more of a reflection of how that fear still consumes him.

As Christians, we are not called to be driving the “fear” of God into anyone. Satan only has as much power as we give him. If all we do is focus on evil, on the possibility of misstepping, of the possibility of damnation, then we imbue power into our fears of such things. God has not called us to do that; rather, God has called us to focus on the hope, healing and wholeness that comes through a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. What saddens me is that Marilyn Manson, and countless others, have not gotten that memo because the ones who were representing Christ were too busy pushing fear rather than love and acceptance. Let us not be such a people. Let us not fail the little ones who look up to us and model themselves off of us. Let them see within us the light of God, rather that the fear of darkness. Let us not build up antichrists by our wishing hell, but let us build up Christians by showing the love and the light of heaven in all we do.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“This is the culture you’re raising your kids in. Don’t be surprised if it blows up in your face.” – Brian Warner

PRAYER
Lord, teach me to move beyond fear and into your eternal arms of love. Help me to grow in that love and share it with others. Amen.

Scapegoat

Read Genesis 3; John 11:47-53

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:15)

GoatHave you ever read or seen the play, “The Crucible”, by Arthur Miller? It tells the story of the Salem Witch Trials, which happened from February 1692 – April 1693 in Salem, Massachusetts.  In the story, while dancing and casting spells in the woods, a group of girls were caught by the village’s minister, Reverend Parris.  Parris’ daughter was one of the girls and, upon seeing her father, fainted and did not regain consciousness.  Knowing that much of the town was divided over the effectiveness his leadership and ministry, Parris was fearful of what might become of the girls behavior and proceeded to interrogate the girls.

The girls, in turn, blamed Tituba the slave out of fear for being scolded and beaten.  Parris then brought in the Reverend John Hale of Beverly to interrogate Tituba and to investigate whether or not the devil had indeed been raised in Salem. Tituba was harshly interrogated, and after she had been threatened with severe beatings and death, she confessed to being in league with Satan. But that confession wasn’t enough. Her accusers wanted her to give up any names who might have also joined her in signing Satan’s black book.  Afraid for her life, and just wanting the nightmare that had befallen her to come to an end, Tituba calls out the names of four people who lived within the community.

The stage had been set, the spark ignited, the fire kindled, and the blazing flames were about to engulf the entire village of Salem. Historically speaking, by April of 1693 over 160 people were accused of Witchcraft, most of whom were jailed and deprived of their property and legal rights.  Fifty of those people confessed to witchcraft in order to save themselves from immediate trial and certain death. In the end, twenty-five of the accused died: nineteen were executed by hanging, one was pressed to death by stones, and five died due to the horribly unsanitary conditions of their imprisonment.

It seems to be human nature to scapegoat people in order to save our own hides.  We see this reflected in the Adam and Eve story, where Adam points the finger at Eve, followed by Eve pointing the finger at the serpent who, unfortunately didn’t have any fingers left to point. And this pattern of playing the blame game can be seen throughout history. Early Christians in the mid-first century were scapegoated by Nero for the fire that burned down a large portion of Rome. And let’s not stop with Rome, for we need look no further than the Inquisition, the holocaust and some of the reactions to the attacks on 9/11 to see that Christians have certainly done their share in scapegoating too.

Let us, in the spirit of Lent, remember that Jesus was a scapegoat and was executed for crimes that he didn’t commit. In the spirit of Christ, let us repent of the times we have participated in scapegoating others, whether it be as small as scapegoating our siblings to avoid a spanking or as large as scapegoating minority groups in order to maintain the socio-economic and political status quo.

God is calling each of us to swallow our pride, repent of our sins, and accept responsibility for what we have done.  It is only then that we can rise out of the water of our baptism with Jesus and follow him into the wilderness of preparation. It is only then that we can truly be his disciples. It is only then that we will can bear the Good News of God’s hope, healing and wholeness to the people in our midst.  During this Lent God is calling us, not to be perpetually guilty, but to repent and move forward in the direction God is calling us…the direction of witnessing to God’s unconditional love of us all!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.” – Jesus of Nazareth, in Luke 5:31-32

PRAYER

Lord, bring me to the point of true, and liberating, repentance so that I may truly serve you and represent your unconditional love. Amen.