Tag Archives: Peace

A LOOK BACK: Afraid of the Dark

Read John 1:1-18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

The night was dense, thickened by the looming darkness that fell swiftly over the land. A fog had rolled in off of the sea that night, a mist of death that shrouded the land like a linen that covers a grayish dead corpse from passers by.  The air was cut thin by an uneasy feeling, a horrid sense of despair that crept in one’s bosom and suffocated away the life.

There in the distance, I could make out a shape through the fog. I squinted as if to focus in and, the more focused I became, I began to realize that the shape was the body of my friend Lucy. Her figure was lying still on top of a marble bench in the cemetery outside of the abbey. A called out to her in hopes that she would hear me; however, she lay there motionless as if she were made of marble herself.

At the sound of my voice I noticed movement. Directly behind Lucy’s motionless body loomed a shadowy figure. It was hunched over her like a vulture that has come to eat the flesh of its prey. What looked like its head raised up and I could see, cutting through the thickened veil of mist, two beady, red orbs illuminating a path straight toward me. Terror overwhelmed me as I realized that its eyes, its terrible red eyes were fixed on me. It was at that moment that I felt the blood within me grow icy cold with the fear of death.

The scene above is one that is forever etched into my mind. It is my representation of a scene that I read in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, where Mina follows a sleepwalking Lucy out to the chapel at Whitby and sees, for the first time, the shadowy monster we all have come to know as Count Dracula. There are lots of memorable moments in that book, and the truth be told that it is my favorite novel; however, there is no other scene in the book that stands so horrifying in my mind that that very scene.

What is it that makes us so afraid of the dark and of darkness? Is it that our sight and our senses are limited? Is it that what lies beyond our sight is unknown to us and, as we all know, we fear what is unknown? The fact of the matter is that, whether it be day or night, there is much to fear in this world. Evil exists, and its monstrous presence in this world can be experienced even in the seemingly safest of places. In fact, don’t let the light and your senses decieve you. You are no more guaranteed safety in the light of day than you are in the dark of night.  We live in a world where cruelty, depravity and hopelessness seem to rule.

Yet, we are not without hope for we know that evil does not rule. We know that God sent true light into the world, the light of life, and that life resides in each and everyone of us. We can give into our fears and close out the light of God, or we can open our hearts to that light and let it transform us into beacons of hope, healing and wholeness for the rest of the world. In Jesus of Nazareth we see such a light, in Jesus Christ we see the hope of God carried out in humanity and we see the frailty of evil.

Do not let your fears conquer you. Trust that the true light of God is within you and shine it out for the world to see. Live as Christ did in this world. Love God by unconditionally loving others. Remove your fear and your cynicism and be a sanctuary of hope, healing an wholeness for the people around you who desperately need it. Shine that light no matter how the world reacts. Know that not even death can stop that light from shining within you for it is the light of Christ who conquered death.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

PRAYER
Lord, help me to conquer my fear. Fill me with your light and through me, bring hope, healing and wholeness to those who need it. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Let Freedom Ring

Well, it’s summertime again and my family and I are on vacation. While we are away, I will not be writing any new devotionals; however, this is a great opportunity to look back at a couple of devotions that were written over the course of the past years.  I hope that though this was written in the past, that in it you may find a relevant message that God is speaking to you. So without further adieu, click here to read today’s devotion.

A LOOK BACK: Unanswered Prayers

Well, it’s summertime again and my family and I are on vacation. While we are away, I will not be writing any new devotionals; however, this is a great opportunity to look back at a couple of devotions that were written over the course of the past years.  I hope that though this was written in the past, that in it you may find a relevant message that God is speaking to you. So without further adieu, click here to read today’s devotion.

God’s People, part 250: Agrippa I

Read Acts 12:1-5

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”  (Philippians 2:3-5, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 250: Agrippa I. King Herod Agrippa’s rise to power and reign is one of the most fascinating out of all of the kings in the Bible. His story is one of politics, deception, backstabbing, and vying for power. Born Marcus Julius Agrippa, he was the son of Aristobulus IV, and was grandson of King Herod the Great. Aristobulus the IV was one of two sons that King Herod had strangled to death on charges of treason; however, King Herod showed favor to Marcus and his other grandchildren despite this. In fact, Herod the Great had Marcus sent to Rome where he became beloved of future Emperor Tiberius, and received an education alongside the future emperor’s son.

While his early adulthood years were nearly squandered, he was able to pull through because of Tiberius’ love for him. Despite being accused of accepting a bribe by his own brother, and being exiled by King Herod Antipas, Agrippa was well-received back in Rome by Emperor Tiberius. It was there where he formed a close relationship with future Emperor Caligula. Having been overheard wishing for Tiberius to die so that Caligula could ascend as emperor, he was thrown into prison; however, that was short lived because, once Caligula became emperor, he released Agrippa and appointed him king of the regions of Auranitis, Batanaea, Gaulanitis, and Trachonitis, all of which his uncle Philip the Tetrarch had held. Eventually, Agrippa brought about the banishment of his uncle, King Herod Antipas, and ascended to rule over Galilee and Peraea.

Eventually, through supporting Claudius as Emperor following Caligula’s assassination, Agrippa was given dominion over all of Judaea and Samaria, and was king over a domain that equaled that of his grandfather, Herod the Great. As can be seen by this abbreviated historical biography, Agrippa was politically savvy, shrewd, and willing to do whatever it took to increase in power and authority. Nothing was off limits, and no one was going to stand in his way.

This is the same King Agrippa, simply named King Herod in Acts 12, who became a persecutor of the early Christian Church in Jerusalem. It was this Agrippa, who had James, son of Zebedee (one of the earliest of Jesus’ disciples), violently executed and Peter imprisoned in order to send a message to anyone trying to disrupt the religious and political status quo. In fact, the crowd loved seeing the death of James so much that, for good sport and public approval, Agrippa was going to have Peter put on public trial as well.

How does someone allow power and status to corrup them so? How does someone go from being the son of a murdered parent, to a murderous ruler willing to do anything to maintain control? This should be a warning to all of us. Power is intoxicating and corruptive and it can cause the greatest of us to fall. While this devotion might be centered on a King with nearly absolute power, granted to him by Rome, it still speaks to us as well because we in the church can be seduced by power too.

The church has long forgotten that the roles and heirarchy are meant to SERVE the body of Christ as opposed to making the body of Christ SERVE the people in those roles. We as the church, while we must respect the need for heirarchy and we must respect the offices of the Church, we also must never forget that the ONLY one we worship is Christ Jesus our Lord. Yes, I was called to be a pastor. Yes, others are called to be bishops, or church leaders. Yes, those positions are important in the life of the church; however, they are not more valuable than any other role in the church, no matter how big or small. Let us, as the Church, remember that all are one in Christ Jesus our Lord.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
We are each other’s keepers, bound in love to all who are in Christ.

PRAYER
Lord, remind me that no matter my role or status, I am yours and am in service to all who are my family in Christ. Amen.

God’s People, part 248: Christians

Read Acts 11:1-26

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong.”  (Galatians 2:11, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 248: Christians. The suggested Scripture above continues on with the account of the beginning of Gentile inclusion in the early church. While Luke didn’t have the time or space to fully recount the difficutlies in that debate of whether or not to include them, and the concessions that would need to be made to do so, it goes without saying that it was more difficult than the text lets on.

Peter’s reporting to the church leadership, of which he was a part, is a literary way of saying that eventually the church came on board, which is true; however, it would be more accurate to say that they did not come on board easily or right away. In fact, more than changed minds and hearts, circumstances are what led to the eventual acceptance of Gentile Christians.

The Apostle Paul’s own writings paint that picture all too clear. In Galatians 2, we learn that while Peter was eating with Gentiles when he was not in the presence of James, Jesus’ brother, and the other leaders, he kowtowed to them when they were around. According to Paul, he angrily scolded Peter and called him out publicly in Antioch. He basically called Peter a hypocrite and then argued the case that Gentiles should be included and that Peter was in the wrong. What’s more remarkable than what Paul wrote was what he did not write. Paul stated his case and then abruptly ends without sharing the conclusion to the big debate. The truth is that is probably indicative of the probability that the debate did NOT end there.

Peter and the rest of the Apostles, no doubt, continued to wrestle with this issue and Paul continued…FOR YEARS…to advocate for Gentile inclusion. In fact, his letter to the church in Rome shows us that his advocacy of Gentile inclusion led him to his eventual arrest, trip to Rome and, eventually, death.

This brings us to an important fact, the earliest church was distinctly Jewish and did not so easily want to blur the lines around that identity! The earliest Jesus followers were not known as “Christians”; rather, they were known as The Way. Make no mistake about it, they saw themselves as the The Jewish Way, meaning that they saw themselves as the fulfillment of Judaism as followers of the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

The term “Christian”, which means Christ Followers, was only later attributed to them by outsiders in Antioch. Like other great movements, such as Methodism, the Jesus followers did not choose their name; rather, it was given to them and it eventually stuck. These Christians would eventually go on include Gentiles, thanks largely to people like Paul, Luke, Timothy, Silas and probably Peter in the end; however, Christianity would eventually grow into a predominantly Gentile religion thanks the Great Jewish Revolt and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple. Western Christianity’s center, from that point forward, slowly (or quickly in the grand scheme of things) moved from Jerusalem to Rome. Eastern Christianty moved to Syria, Egypt, India, and even as far east as China.

We should be challenged by these facts. We should, first and foremost, reflect on the fact that Christianity has never been a homogeneous group and that there was never that “old-time religion” where everyone agreed on everything in perfect harmony. That may be idyllic, but it certainly is not a realistic view of Christian history.

Whe should also be challenged by another fact: despite it’s bumpy history, Christians became known by outsiders as those who followed Christ and became like “little Christs”. In other words, despite human bickering and differences of opinion, God’s glory and self-revelation in Jesus Christ was still made known to the world through those Christians, which set Christianity on a historic and baffling rise to prominence and power. We can argue the pros and cons to such an assent, but there can be no doubt that Christians throughout the past two millennia have sough to share the Good News of Jesus Christ to a broken world still very much in need of Salvation. For that, we should all praise God and be thankful.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Jesus. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is. Jesus Christ is LORD.

PRAYER
Jesus, you are our Lord, and I submit to you and your authority. Amen.