Tag Archives: Love

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.

Two Simple Questions

Read Matthew 16:13-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“[Jesus] asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’” (Mark 8:29)

4741068-3x2-700x467Over the years I have been in ministry, I have developed a curriculum for teaching youth who are looking to be confirmed into the Christian faith. I feel that Christianity, particularly Protestant Christianity, has become rather lax in its education of confirmands and people in general. So, I took on the task of developing a curriculum that would educate those seeking confirmation so that in the end they knew why they were being confirmed and that they, indeed, wished to be confirmed into the Christian faith.

The curriculum started off with the history of Christianity, starting with Jesus of Nazareth and ending at our present age. And I didn’t just present the sugar-coated, Sunday School “history”, but a ten week study of the real history behind Christianity. Then I taught them the doctrinal and theological positions of our particular denomination, as well as its polity (or structure).

At the very outset of the class I assigned a paper to be written. I actually assigned two papers, but for the sake of this devotion, I will cover one of them. The paper I assigned was one that I actually had to write in seminary and I found it to be such a rewarding exercise that I included it in my confirmation curriculum. The questions I asked each of the students to answer are the following: “Who do people say that Jesus is?” and “Who do you say that Jesus is?”

These are the very questions that Jesus asked his disciples. They are very pointed and very important questions for anyone who places their faith in Christ to answer. None of us have grown up in a bubble. We have all learned who Jesus is from various sources. From reading the Bible, to Sunday School, to Church, to what we’ve gathered about him from our family and friends. All of those sources have helped shape our understanding of who Jesus is. And so the first question should be a fairly easy one for us to answer.

The second question, however, is one that forces us to go beyond what we’ve heard and learned about Jesus. I forces us to search our soul and our own personal experiences. It forces us to reflect on how we’ve experienced Jesus in our lives. How has he been revealed to us personally? How has he influenced our lives? How has he communicated with us? The apostles didn’t just hear things and learn things about Jesus. They knew him personally. They walked with him, asked him questions, and followed him. They witnessed him after the resurrection.

If we claim Christianity as our faith, if we believe in Christ, there has to be a reason why. Is the reason merely based off of second or third or fourth hand information passed down to you? Is it because you feel you have to believe it? If that is the case, then perhaps it isn’t belief at all. Surely, somewhere along the line you have experienced the presence of Christ in your life. Somewhere along the line you have been transformed by the presence the love of Christ.

Today’s challenge is for you to seriously reflect on the above two questions. Who do people say Christ is and who do you say Christ is? Take the time to sit, meditate and seriously reflect on who Christ is to you and why you believe the way you do. It is not an easy process, but it is certainly a rewarding one. As you grow your beliefs will adapt and grow as well. So make this exercise a part of your faith journey this Lent and beyond. Every so often revisit these questions and really see how God is working in your life.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.” – Billy Graham

PRAYER

Lord, as I continue to walk in your light, illumine me. As I continue to seek your way, strengthen me. As I continue to grow in my faith, reveal yourself to me. Amen.

Daily Reminder of God’s Love for You

God__s_love_and_glory_by_imruiFor the next couple of weeks I will be away on a retreat, followed by a family vacation. While I will not be writing new devotions until I return, I wanted to leave you with daily reminders, for the next ten days, of God’s unconditional love for you. Read on per day and meditate on the scriptures (New Living Translation) throughout the day. Let them be a reminder to you that you are God’s special Creation, that you are loved unconditionally, and that God is calling you to do the same.

Friday, February 21, 2014

“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)

Daily Reminder of God’s Love for You

God__s_love_and_glory_by_imruiFor the next couple of weeks I will be away on a retreat, followed by a family vacation. While I will not be writing new devotions until I return, I wanted to leave you with daily reminders, for the next ten days, of God’s unconditional love for you. Read on per day and meditate on the scriptures (New Living Translation) throughout the day. Let them be a reminder to you that you are God’s special Creation, that you are loved unconditionally, and that God is calling you to do the same.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.” (John 13:34-35)

Daily Reminder of God’s Love for You

God__s_love_and_glory_by_imruiFor the next couple of weeks I will be away on a retreat, followed by a family vacation. While I will not be writing new devotions until I return, I wanted to leave you with daily reminders, for the next ten days, of God’s unconditional love for you. Read on per day and meditate on the scriptures (New Living Translation) throughout the day. Let them be a reminder to you that you are God’s special Creation, that you are loved unconditionally, and that God is calling you to do the same.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Daily Reminder of God’s Love for You

God__s_love_and_glory_by_imruiFor the next couple of weeks I will be away on a retreat, followed by a family vacation. While I will not be writing new devotions until I return, I wanted to leave you with daily reminders, for the next ten days, of God’s unconditional love for you. Read on per day and meditate on the scriptures (New Living Translation) throughout the day. Let them be a reminder to you that you are God’s special Creation, that you are loved unconditionally, and that God is calling you to do the same.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Daily Reminder of God’s Love for You

God__s_love_and_glory_by_imruiFor the next couple of weeks I will be away on a retreat, followed by a family vacation. While I will not be writing new devotions until I return, I wanted to leave you with daily reminders, for the next ten days, of God’s unconditional love for you. Read on per day and meditate on the scriptures (New Living Translation) throughout the day. Let them be a reminder to you that you are God’s special Creation, that you are loved unconditionally, and that God is calling you to do the same.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

“’But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,’ says the LORD, your Redeemer. For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then My faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken,’ says the LORD, who has mercy on you.” (Isaiah 54:8b, 10).

Daily Reminder of God’s Love for You

God__s_love_and_glory_by_imruiFor the next couple of weeks I will be away on a retreat, followed by a family vacation. While I will not be writing new devotions until I return, I wanted to leave you with daily reminders, for the next ten days, of God’s unconditional love for you. Read on per day and meditate on the scriptures (New Living Translation) throughout the day. Let them be a reminder to you that you are God’s special Creation, that you are loved unconditionally, and that God is calling you to do the same.

Friday, February 14, 2014

“Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, Your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O LORD.” (Psalms 36:5-6)

Daily Reminder of God’s Love for You

God__s_love_and_glory_by_imruiFor the next couple of weeks I will be away on a retreat, followed by a family vacation. While I will not be writing new devotions until I return, I wanted to leave you with daily reminders, for the next ten days, of God’s unconditional love for you. Read on per day and meditate on the scriptures (New Living Translation) throughout the day. Let them be a reminder to you that you are God’s special Creation, that you are loved unconditionally, and that God is calling you to do the same.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

“I will be glad and rejoice in Your unfailing love, for You have seen my troubles, and You care about the anguish of my soul.” (Psalms 31:7)