Tag Archives: Love

The Walking Dead

Read Acts 2:1-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.” (Matthew 23:27)

WalkingDeadOne of my favorite TV shows as of late is called “The Walking Dead.” I’m kind of a late comer to this show, as I am to all shows, and have been catching up on the three seasons that are available on Netflix. At some point, the fourth season will be out and I will catch up on that too, hopefully in time to catch the fifth season as it airs on TV. Needless to say, I am hooked on the show and for good reason.

The Walking Dead is a series that is about the zombie apocalypse. For those of you who are not already aware, zombies are en vogue in today’s society. It used to be that when we talked about the apocalypse, we discussed seven headed beasts, “the antichrist”, or even nuclear warfare. We may have even thought of machines we originally designed to kill our enemies turning against humanity in general and altering their mission to “terminate” all of human kind. Nowadays, when the word apocalypse is talked of people think of the living dead wandering the earth in search of human flesh to feast on. Mmmmm. I apologize if you are reading this while eating.

In the series, a group of survivors make their way place to place trying to avoid contact with the walking dead in order to not get bitten and turned into the walking dead themselves. As it turns out, the walking dead are in the state they are because of a virus that reanimated them into walking corpses. The kicker is that living humans are actually carrying this virus and, when they die, they too will become walking corpses. Pleasant, right?

What I love about the show is that, though on the surface it is dealing with zombies, it really is a metaphor for our world and society today. When we turn on the news we can see lots of instances of “the walking dead.” From our government, to crazed individuals, there are lots of people and institutions that just seem to have lost their way. They were created and/or designed for a specific purpose…but that purpose is dead to them and they are just wandering mindlessly preying and feasting upon others. What’s more disturbing is that, most people, are not fighting against such a state of being as much as they are fighting to maintain their status quo…only to become “the walking dead” themselves.

In this season of Pentecost, we think of the Holy Spirit filling the disciples with new life and a sense of purpose. We hear of the fire that was kindled within them that raged out of control and spread to 3,000 people on that day, which then turned to tens of thousands, millions and eventually billions of people. The church was God’s antidote to the virus that creates the “walking dead.” Yet, from time to time the virus seems to creep into the life of the church as well. Every so often, the Holy Spirit raises up a leader such as Paul, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Mother Theresa, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., etc. to go against the status quo and act as an antidote to the virus that is consuming us.

The Holy Spirit is calling you to be an antidote to the Walking Dead virus in the church. The Holy Spirit is calling you to stand up against the injustices, oppression and bonds that the world, including the Church, put upon people. Are you going to be among the countless zombies lurking around in the shadows looking for people to mindlessly feast on, or are you going to be filled with the TRUE LIFE of the spirit and become an agent of God’s Hope, Healing, and Wholeness. Christ is calling us to be in a deeper relationship with him so that, instead of reanimation, we find RESURRECTION and LIFE! Rise up with Jesus, be filled by the Holy Spirit and become an ANTIDOTE that brings life and resurrection to the LOST and NEGLECTED!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“What is my task? First of all, my task is to be pleasing to Christ. To be empty of self and be filled with Himself. To be filled with the Holy Spirit; to be led by the Holy Spirit.” – Aimee Semple McPherson

PRAYER
Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit so that I may be guided into serving others and bringing them your Hope, Healing and Wholeness. Amen.

From Sand to Cement

Read Hebrews 10:24-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

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

PRAYER

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

Strawberry in a Cup

Read 2 Kings 4:8-17

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

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

PRAYER

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

 

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 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.

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.

Trading Twilight for Sunlight

Read Romans 3:10-233

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.” (Romans 7:24-25)

twilightJust recently my girls were re-watching the Twilight series. Do you remember that movie series, which ended a couple of years ago with “Breaking Dawn.” Before “New Moon”, “Eclipse”, and “Breaking Dawn” came out, I had read all of the books. I guess I found the movie “Twilight” captivating enough to read the books. My favorite of those books, to this date, is “New Moon” because I love the character development of one of the supporting characters, Jacob Black. In that book, he goes from a boy to a man and, though ending up on the short end of the stick in terms of getting the girl, I would argue he would be the better for it if it weren’t for the author’s contemptuous ending.

But that is neither here nor there. I have a love/hate relationship with that book series. I thought the author did a great job in capturing teenage love, to a “T”, and really transported the older readers back to High School, which for me was more of a nightmare than a pleasure. But still, she did do a good job of that. WIth that said, the entire series, minus one section of the last book, was completely written in the first person. The story is being told as if it were the thoughts of the main character, Bella Swan. SIDE NOTE: Bella means “beautiful” in Italian, so her name really translates to “Beautiful Swan”. Mein Gott!

Despite her name, being inside her head was anything but beautiful. It was in there that I saw her justify manipulating people such as Jacob Black. She used him in order to fill a void in her life that her boyfriend Edward couldn’t fill. And, when she was finished using him, she dumped him like a bag of hot coals. But it wasn’t enough for her to dump him, she had to make him feel guilty for not just wanting to “be friends.” I also saw her manipulate her other friends, her father, and even Edward in order to get the things that she wanted.

I could go on and on about this, but it should suffice to say that being inside her head made me feel trapped. I wanted to get out of in the worst way. Let me pause here, because I don’t want to be too unfair to Ms. Swan. She may be a flawed character, but which one of us arent. Every day we live inside our own heads and every day, we think and do things that aren’t always the most virtuous things to do.  It is the nature of being subjective human beings, isn’t it? We know what we are thinking and feeling, and those thoughts and feelings always take precedence over what others are thinking and feeling. After all, we really don’t know what others think and feel…it’s kind of out of sight and out of mind.

Even as I sit here and criticize Bella Swan for being manipulative, I fully recognize that I, too, have been manipulative in the past. Which one of us hasn’t been? If we are honest, we will readily admit that none of us are perfect. As Paul writes, we “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23). But Christ calls us to move beyond our shortcomings and to enter into a new life of living in Christ’s mind as opposed to ours.

Today’s challenge is to step outside of yourself. Begin to see, feel and experience things as Christ did. How do you do this? By entering into a relationship with Christ, one in which you hold yourself accountable to his teachings and to his way of living. Ask the questions, daily, what did Christ do? Then, without a moment’s hesitation, step out and start doing what Christ did. Start caring for the poor, the sick, the differently-abled, the imprisoned, the homeless, the naked. Start being a presence of HOPE, HEALING, and WHOLENESS in the lives of others and you will see that you are no longer trapped in your own head, but are free in Christ’s. Go forth, live and die for others as Christ did.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.” – St. Francis of Assisi

PRAYER
Lord, help me to conquer being stuck in myself and give me your mind, filled with love and compassion for others. Amen.

Don’t Feed the Trolls!

Read Matthew 16:1-4

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.” (Matthew 7:6)

troll1Have you ever encountered a troll? You may be scratching your head at such a question. You might be wondering, “Why in the world would he ever ask me if I’ve encountered a troll?” After all, surely such a fantastical creature doesn’t exist, outside of fantasy novels and fairy tales such as “Three Billy Goats Gruff.” What an odd, and seemingly trivial question for someone to ask, right?

Yet, I ask it. Have you ever encountered a troll? My guess is you probably have even if you’ve never referred to it that way. So, what exactly is a troll? Anyone who has ever spent any amount of time reading blogs, chatting in chat rooms, or participating in discussions on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube knows what a troll is. It is very easy to find these trolls online. Indeed, one does not have to look far at all, and if one is not careful, he or she might end up a victim of trolling.

A troll, in this sense of the word, is a person who goes on to blogs, into chatrooms, into conversations on social media and seeks to cause trouble. They will go online and, as the Urban Dictionary defines it, “deliberately post provocative messages with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.” Such a person, in the online community, is referred to as a troll…for obvious reasons.

While Jesus didn’t have the Internet in his day, he certainly had his share of trolls. People were purposely setting out traps for him to fall into, with the intention of discrediting him, causing disruption and division among the people following him. These people were out to get Jesus, and they made trolling him their mission in life every chance they got.  Yet, they could never seem to get an edge on Jesus, and he taught his disciples to turn the other cheek all the while moving on from people who clearly had no intention of engaging in serious and sincere dialog with them.

Often times, we want to please others to the point that we will endure all sorts of abuse. We want people to like us and we want people to accept us. We want them to see worth in us and to at least see our worldview as being valid; however, some people are simply not interested in seeing that no matter what you do to show it to them. Some people are simply out to trap, humiliate and discourage you.

While Jesus did call us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us, he did not call us to suffer abuse needlessly. There are times when we suffer abuse unexpectedly and that is bad enough. We certainly do not need to be persistently putting ourselves in situations that set us up for abuse. In fact, loving our enemies sometimes means recognizing that there can be no mutual relationship with them and, therefore, recognizing the need to let such a relationship go.

That may be a hard thing to do, but sometimes it is the loving thing to do. Jesus did it with those who only intended to troll him and his followers, with those who refused to seriously engage in a meaningful and constructive way. It follows, then, that Jesus frees you to do the same. Don’t feed the trolls! Don’t play into their game of division and derision. It’s simply not worth it as there is nothing you can do to change them. As Jesus rightfully said, “Don’t give what is holy to dogs, and don’t throw your pearls before swine, or they trample them under their foot and turn to maul you.” But do not hold grudges either. Rather, lovingly and respectfully let such people go and continue building meaningful relationships of hope, healing and wholeness with those who truly seek it.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.” – Jesus of Nazareth in Matthew 7:16-17.

PRAYER

Lord, teach me to profoundly and unconditionally love everyone, and to learn to let go out of that love. Amen.

An Invite To Be Invitational

Read John 10:33-38

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (Luke 9:5)

BWHave you ever noticed that we live in a world that sees black and white? Things are either right or wrong, they are either true or false, they are either good or bad. In this type of world view comes the unnecessary consequence of judgment. We cannot help but seeing things as we see them, and anything that comes against our way of seeing them is wrong. And of course, who ever views themselves on the wrong side? I’m always right and everyone else is always wrong. My ideas are the right ideas, and everyone else is deceived, ignorant, confused, and/or delusional.

Religions, and in particular Christianity, have often been huge proponents of the black and white mentality. If it says so in the Bible, it MUST be that way! If we were taught it at church, no other view can be true. If the Bible and Jesus are right, then no one else can be. If you don’t believe as I do, you can’t possibly be a true believer.  These and many more sentiments have led to much division and derision. It is this mentality that has led to egregious atrocities and wars…all in the name of one’s religion.

With that said, the black and white mentality is not just exclusive to Christianity or even to just religion.  It exists in just about every form of human community that exists in the world. As a person who has been both within religion and outside of it, I have seen it take many forms. I have seen atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens use it against people who believe in a divine higher power. I have seen scientists use it against each others in battling out their theories. God knows that politics is rank with this kind of mentality. And in the spirit of honesty, I can say that I have participated in it myself.

Overall, Jesus did not view things in such a black and white way. In fact, I believe his actions pointed us in a different direction. Jesus surrounded himself with all sorts of different people. He invited people who were extremely different than him to join him. His companions were tax collectors, prostitutes, religious leaders, zealots, and many others who all had different ideas of what God wanted for Israel. They all had different ideas for who they thought he was and and what his mission should be. One of them even ended up betraying him as a result.

I think we can learn from Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John. “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works” (John 10:38). Rather than seeing in black and white, rather than placing ourselves on the throne of judgment, we should be inviting others to join us in what we are doing. It doesn’t matter if we see eye-to-eye on everything, it doesn’t matter if we can agree intellectually or not, what matters is what we are doing.

Christ spent his entire three year ministry feeding the hungry, giving hope to the poor, healing the sick, and bringing abundant life to all who sought it. No matter where we are on who Jesus is, no matter where we are on who each of us are, if we share a desire to help those who are in need we should be working together to bring that about. How much energy gets wasted in senseless and pointless debates when we could be inviting others to join us in the work of bringing hope, healing and wholeness to those who need it. And who doesn’t need it? Let us stop being confrontational and join Christ in being invitational. If people won’t join us, that’s okay. Just kick the dust off of your sandals and move on to where God is calling you.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Freedom would be not to choose between black and white but to abjure such prescribed choices.” – Theodore Adorno

PRAYER

Lord, help me to move beyond seeing in black and white and allow me to be invitational as opposed to confrontational. Amen.