Writing 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.
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19a, NLT)
Just the other day I had an opportunity to stop and see the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, NJ with a group of friends. The building was brilliant and awesome. I am huge fan of gothic architecture and this particular cathedral takes the cake in New York/New Jersey Metropolitan area. Yes, I have visited Saint Patrick’s Cathedral; however, the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart stands on its own without other buildings taking away from it’s immensity and beauty. The saints and gargoyles guard and protect the building and, standing at it’s base, the building ironically reminds me of Martin Luther’s hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” This place, even on the outside, feels like it would be a sanctuary on the inside.
So, naturally we decided that we would take a walk inside to see its beauty from within; however, as we approached the doors and began to pull on them, we found them to be locked! Bummer. We really, really wanted to see the inside of it…but we were barred from entering. This took me by surprise as every Roman Catholic church I had ever been to had always been open for people to come in, pray, meditate, confess, etc. Yet, these doors were locked and we were not able to enter into the sanctuary within.
When talking with a fellow colleague the following day, I was reminded that the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart was located in Newark, which is a major city that has, whether right or wrong, been known for it’s crime. Now, I am not sure if that is the reason the doors were locked or not, and another colleague pointed out that if we went one of the other side doors and knocked someone would have let us in, but the fact remains that the doors were locked and that was enough to turn us away.
While I am certainly not blaming the cathedral caretakers for locking the doors, I see a powerful metaphor here that can illumine our own lives. According to Paul, our bodies are to be God’s temple. We, as God’s children were created to be sanctuaries. The church, not the buildings but the people of Christ, was called to be a sanctuary of hope, healing and wholeness for all who seek refuge; however, often times, the church finds itself weathered and beaten. We find ourselves being reshaped by the experiences of the world that surround us in our daily lives and, as a result, we become more like a locked fortress than an open sanctuary.
What’s important to stress here is that the church is not called to be a fortress; rather, the church (meaning the people of Christ) are called to be living and breathing sanctuaries. We are called to be open. If we look at the aforementioned hymn by Martin Luther, we will notice that GOD is our fortress. GOD strengthens and fortifies our hearts so that they won’t be changed by the weathering and beating that the storms of the world so often cause in us. The fact of the matter is that if we have become fortresses on the outside, it is because the world has hardened us on the inside.
We are called to be LOVE on the inside. If we have faith in God, if we trust in God to be our fortress, then we have nothing to fear in remaining open as a sanctuary for others. God will not abandon us and God will protect us from the weathering that tends to lock us up into stone fortresses. All we need to do is remain open to God, who will lead us to be open sanctuaries for all who are weary and heavy laden. Have faith in God and be the sanctuary you have been called to be.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus of Nazareth, (Matthew 11:28 NLT)
Lord, re-enter into my life and secure me in your love. Give me the peace and the foresight to open myself to others in the same way that you have opened yourself up to me. Amen.
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” (John 13:34)
Along with being a pastor and a chaplain, I am also the co-coordinator of the district youth team in the district that I am serving. As the District Youth Co-coordinator, I am act as a bridge between the youth in each of the local congregations within the district. This past weekend I co-led a district wide Open-Mic Night which turned out to be a wonderful evening of listening to all of the many talents that came out and shared their gifts. I also performed and, being that I just recently wrote about it, I chose to perform Bon Jovi’s “We Weren’t Born to Follow”, among others. It really is an awesome song and it is a lot of fun to sing to. So, I gave that song my all and enjoyed rocking out to it.
Prior to singing the song, I explained to the people present that I had just written a devotion about the song, and how we ARE actually BORN TO FOLLOW. We are born to follow the ONE who created us. We are born to follow LOVE and to be LOVE wherever we may go. I basically succinctly summed up what I had written in that devotion, because I feel that it is important to take the stigma off of following. There is NOTHING wrong with being a follower…depending on who or what it is that one is following.
But I didn’t end it there, as I had in the last devotion. It is absolutely true that WE ARE BORN TO FOLLOW, that we were made in our Creator’s image, and were born to follow the example and the path that our Creator laid before us. That being said, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora weren’t talking about that when they both wrote the song; rather, they were talking about following what others tell us about ourselves…about following in line with who and what world tells us we are. I am not sure where Jon and Richie stand spiritually, especially regarding this song; however, there is definitely some wisdom to be found in their words.
This world often tells us that we ought define ourselves based off of what we do for a living, based off of our status in life, based off of what community we live in, based off of our income, and based off of other such things. The world tells us how thin to be, how pretty to be, what clothes to wear, what foods to eat, and how to continue to hollow ourselves out into shallow, empty shells with no purpose or meaning to fill our lives. If we turn to the world we learn about might makes right, strength (aka force/violence) equals peace, and that there is a pecking order that we need to submit ourselves to.
But WE ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY WERE NOT BORN TO FOLLOW THE WORLD!!!! We were born to follow God, in whom there is no longer Jew or Greek or French or Iraqi or Russian or American. We were born to to follow God, in whom there is no longer slave or free, male or female or transgendered or whatever other label the world wants to impose on each of us. That is not to say that we should ignore the unique value of each individual, or that we should pretend we don’t have differences, but that we should stop limiting our sights to the “labels” that we use to define each individual!
In the end, we are all CHILDREN OF GOD! That’s what matters! Each one of us was born a child of God, which makes each one of us related to each other in and by the Spirit of God. We weren’t born to follow the World’s labels or definitions. We weren’t born to follow the things of this world but, rather, were were born and are called to follow our Creator who had deemed us to be one, to be united as kin! Let us stop getting hung up on what the world tells us to think and/or to do, and let us preoccupy ourselves with following the ONE who created us with a purpose and a plan in mind: TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS GOD HAS LOVED US!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.” – Oscar Wilde
Lord, help me to tear down the walls of division in my heart. Heal me and teach me to love others as you love me. Amen.
“We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:22-23, NLT)
Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite rock band is Bon Jovi. From a young boy through the present day, I always found Bon Jovi’s music to be relatable. Their songs are often about life for the average person. If you’ve ever had to work hard and struggle to make end’s meat then you can certainly relate to Bon Jovi’s music. If you’ve ever been jaded in love, or fallen head over heels for someone, then you will certainly find a home in Bon Jovi’s lyrics. Over the course of nearly thirty years, Bon Jovi has written and recorded an extensive musical catalog that speaks to almost every aspect of life.
One of my favorite songs off of their album, New Jersey, is a song called “Living In Sin.” The song actually tells the story of two lovers who are wanting to be with each other and are meeting resistance by the girl’s parents. In the song Jon sings: Is it right for both our parents Who fight it out most nights, then pray for God’s forgiveness when they both turn out the lights. Or wear that ring of diamonds when your heart is made of stone. You can talk but still say nothing…stay together but alone.”
Here, Jon is questioning the “moral” restrictions that people put on being in love. If you cross the boundaries without being married, then you are living in sin; yet, in our culture, the same people upholding those restrictions are also failing in their relationships. Jon, in the character of this girl’s boyfriend, points out the hypocrisy that is often found among people who claim the moral high ground all the while failing to reach the moral high ground themselves.
This song, while it certainly does not excuse bad behavior and while it certainly does not eliminate the need to strive to live a moral life, causes the listener to ponder the nature of hypocrisy. How often have we, as an individual, failed to live up to the standards that we put forth for others to follow? How often have we preached one thing and failed to follow what we preach?
While the Bon Jovi song, “Living in Sin”, is about love and marriage, the song should cause us to reflect on the bigger picture. Are we so quick to judge another person’s behavior without carefully examining our own? Are we living examples of what it means to be holy or are we besmirching Christ with a holier-than-thou persona teeming with hypocrisy. Does our attitude represent Christ or repel people away from Christ?
When people see us preach one thing and do another, it causes them to look at the message itself as flawed, judgmental and hypocritical. Jesus warned against being the type of person that does not practice what he or she preaches. Jesus grew angry with people who taught one way and lived another. According to Jesus, if you are going to claim the moral high ground, you had better live up to that claim. The question is, which one of us can truly claim the moral high ground?
We are not called to be kings and queens of the moral mountain; rather, we are called to be ambassadors to the kingdom of compassionate mercy and unceasing grace. Rather than trying raise the bar up to a level we have yet to live up to, we should embrace humility and extend to others the grace and love that God has extended to us. Once we do that we will no longer be living in sin; rather, we will be living in the love that conquered all sin on the cross.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” – Jesus of Nazareth, Luke 6:41-42
Lord help me to live out your love so that I may adequately be a reflection of your hope, your healing and your wholeness. Amen.