Tag Archives: Peace

Victims…Aren’t We All?

Read Revelation 3:1-6

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” (‭Jeremiah‬ ‭17‬:‭10‬ NLT)

movie-the-crow_00212772One of my favorite movies, on my endless list of movies, is a film called “The Crow.” It is starring Brandon Lee, who was the son of the ever-famous Bruce Lee, and it was his definitive role as an actor. The story is about a man who was murdered, along with his fiancée, on the eve of their wedding day. Exactly one year later, Eric Draven is resurrected by a mysterious crow who brings him back in order to exact revenge against his murderers. The first one he goes after is a man nicknamed, “Tin Tin.” He’s nicknamed that because his weapon of choice is a knife, and he’s really good at using them. When he runs into Tin Tin, he screams out, “Murderer”, and reminds “Tin Tin” of how he raped and killed his fiancée.

Tin Tin, of course, attacks the now ghostly Eric and comes at him  with his knives. He screams back at Eric, “Murder!?! Murder!?! Let me show you a little something about murder! It’s fun, it’s easy, and you’re gonna learn all about it!” Pulling you two of his blades, he mockingly says to Eric, “I’d like you to meet two friends of mine. We never miss.” But, as I am sure you can guess if you’ve never seen the film, Tin Tin does miss. Eric deflects one blade, and then the other. Tin Tin pulls out yet another blade and throws it at Eric who catches it and throws it back, hitting the gangster in the shoulder blade and tacking him to the wall. Tin tin, now broken, bleeding and frightened begins to breathe heavily and starts to moan in pain as Eric approaches him. Then, picking up one of Tin Tin’s other knives, Eric says sardonically, “Victims; aren’t we all?” and then kills Tin Tin.

While this is a violent scene, I think it also bears a lot of truth as well. How many times in our lives have we felt victimized by someone or something? I am sure each of us can come up with countless examples of the times that we have been victimized. Yet, if I were to ask you how many times you’ve victimized others, I bet it wouldn’t be as easy of a question to answer. We are often so good at playing the victim, and extra quick to overlook the times that we are the victimizer. Sometimes, like Eric, we start off as the victim only to become the victimizer.

This devotion is not being written to assume that you, the reader, have ever played the victim, or that you’ve victimized others, or something in between those two. Nor is it defining victimization in any other way than the broad definition of intentionally bringing harm to another’s body, mind, emotions, and/or spirit. I think it is safe to say that we’ve all been on both sides of the victimization spectrum. What I hope this devotion does is cause you to introspectively reflect on whether you are the VICTIM or the VICTIMIZER and, depending on your answer, what are going to do about it? If you are the victim, are you going to lash out at others and become the victimizer? If you are the victimizer, are you going to continue down the destructive path of bringing harm to others, regardless of your reason for doing it?

Remember, we’ve all been victims at one point or another; it is never okay to become the victimizer! Remember, God sees us for who we really are and calls us to repent and to believe in Christ’s Good News of hope, healing and wholeness. If we are truly victims, God will not fail us nor abandon us; rather, God stands in solidarity with those who are oppressed and downtrodden. God seeks to restore them to healing and wholeness. With that said, if we are the victimizers then it is time for us to humble ourselves and turn to God’s way of LOVE and PEACE. It is there that we will find reconciliation, restoration and renewal. Let those with eyes see, let those with ears hear, and let those with hearts be transformed by LOVE.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“When you’re the victim of the behavior, it’s black and white; when you’re the perpetrator, there are a million shades of gray.” – Dr. Laura Schlessinger

PRAYER
Lord, open my ears, my eyes and my heart and give me the insight to see myself for who I am, so that I may change where I need to. Amen.

Start With Yourself

Read Matthew 7:1-6

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I have much to say about you and much to condemn, but I won’t. For I say only what I have heard from the One who sent Me, and He is completely truthful.” (John 8:26, NLT)

logsFor those of you who are on social media, and perhaps some of you read these devotions on some of those sites, have you ever run into comments posted that make you sit back and seriously question what in the world the people who posted them are thinking? Often times, people post things that they think are “wise beyond their years”, often decrying something they think they don’t like…yet they are no better than the people and/or the things they are bemoaning. More often than not, many of us have come across such things and have been left scratching our heads and wondering, “For the love of God, why?”

I have seen many such posts that have left me wondering. For instance, people posting to the world that they are “going to rise above” and “not let people bring them down” only to follow that up with a series of comments putting down the said people that they are supposedly “not going to let bring them down.” In this world of social media, many people have lost their filters and their self-awareness; many people end up posting things they would never say to the face of others. While there are many awesome things about social media, it is such behavior that ends up giving social media a bad reputation.

Of course, social media is not just to blame regarding this. Prior to social media there were bumper stickers (perhaps there still are) and the like that expressed the same kind of sentiment. But the truth is, that if you want to not let people get you down, you kind of need to start with yourself first. It is so easy to look across the way, point the other finger, and hold other people accountable for your you’re feeling. Yet, the truth is, it is not quite as easy for us to self-reflect and see where and how we are bringing ourselves down. What’s more, often times misery likes company and we end up bringing others down with us!

The truth of the matter is that this kind of behavior has been going on for quite some time. Jesus, during his famous Sermon on the Mount, talked about this very thing when he warned his listeners not to pull out the speck in another’s eye without removing the huge log their own eyes first. The fact of the matter is that we all play our part in viewing ourselves as the ones who are in the right and everyone else as being in the wrong. The truth is that not one of us has clear eyes or 20/20 vision when it comes to our own shortcomings and for us to act as if we have none is both disingenuous and sinful.

Christ is calling you to concern yourself with the log(s) that are clouding your vision before you even begin to point out the specks that are in another’s eyes. If you do not want to let other people bring you down, then you had better start with yourself. Once you have been perfected then you will see clear enough to judge other people. Of course that day of perfection will never come in this life and so, therefore, our judgment of others should never come either. Let us, rather, leave judgement and speck pulling up to God who could judge each of us for our faults but chooses not to. Amen.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.” (Proverbs 18:2 NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, help me to be a person who does not tear others, myself included, down; rather, let me be one who lifts people up both in prayer and in life. Amen.

SON OF GOD: Easter Sunday

Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-10

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, ‘I have seen the Lord!’ Then she gave them His message.” (John 20:18 NLT)

jesus-Is-laid-in-a-tomb-tomb-03-1800Happy Easter Sunday! This is the day to which all of the previous days and devotions of Holy Week have been pointing to. This is the day when the power of God was fully displayed in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. It’s not enough that he lived the life of a prophet. It’s not enough that he lived the life of one who had compassion on the “least of these.” It’s not enough that he held to his beliefs even unto death. It’s certainly not enough that he bore his cross and died on it. For if that is how the life of the Son of God ended, if that is the end of the story, then what hope is there that evil will ever be overcome?

If the Jesus movement were to die with him at his death, then he would go down in history as just another poor peasant who dared to defy the powers that be and paid the ultimate price for it. What’s more, his teachings would go down as nice but unrealistic. His miracles would go down as nothing more than magic tricks, and his claims of divinity would go down as nothing more than an egotistical delusion. Yet, the story did not end there; rather, on the third day following his passion and death, the Son of God was resurrected from the tomb. What’s more, his resurrection was experienced by countless people, at least 513 people according to the Apostle Paul who was writing about 24-27 years after Christ’s death and resurrection.

The resurrection is not about a dead body becoming resuscitated back to life. The resurrection isn’t about faith that goes against reason, nor is it about believing in something ludicrous that cannot be seen or experienced. If it were about those things, no one would have believed Paul or the countless others who preached the resurrection of the Son of God to others. In fact, Paul would have never believed it either were it merely about belief in what cannot be seen or experienced. What’s important to note is that belief in the resurrection of Christ is not about blind faith, but about an experiential faith. The question is not about whether or not the Son of God resurrected from the dead, the question is about whether or not you have witnessed the resurrected Son of God, and whether or not you have experienced that resurrection in your life as well.

Whether you are celebrating Easter Sunday or not, ask yourself this question, have you experienced the miracle of the resurrection? If not, why not? Perhaps it is because you have not died to anything or, if you have, perhaps it is because you have not let that experience go. I can tell you that I have experienced both the risen Son of God in my life, and I have experienced the miracle of the resurrection too. But what I have experienced can only intrigue you, if that. You need to open yourself to experiencing it too. I pray that on this Easter Sunday, the power of the resurrected SON manifests itself in you and that you are aware and open to it. If you are, NOTHING will ever be the same again.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“People have been told so often that resurrection is just a metaphor, and means Jesus died and was glorified – in other words, he went to Heaven, whatever that means. And they’ve never realized that the word ‘resurrection’ simply didn’t mean that.” – N.T. Wright

PRAYER
Lord, reveal your resurrected self to me and a produce in me the resurrected life. Amen.

SON OF GOD: Good Friday

Read John 19

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
When the Roman officer who stood facing Him [heard His cry and] saw how He had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39 NLT)

2014-NIUE-AUGUSTUS-FEATUREUp until now, it might not be clear why I entitled this series of Holy Week devotions, “Son of God.” I mean, sure, I am writing about Jesus of Nazareth who is known by billions of Christians to be the “Son of God.” That much is self-evident; and sure, I am writing about the activities, suffering and death of “the Son of God” because it is Holy Week and that is when billions of Christians celebrate the last days of Christ. But, other than that, why entitle this SON OF GOD?

What most people don’t realize is that the title, “Son of God”, was not held exclusively by Jesus during his lifetime. There was another person who was known to the world at the time as son of god and his name was Tiberius Caesar, just as Augustus Caesar was before him. Because Julius Caesar was divinized following his assassination, Augustus (whose birth name was Octavian) took on the title divi filius, aka son of the divine one, aka son of god. When Tiberius succeeded Augustus, he took on the same title, as did the Caesars that followed him. And, honestly, who was going to argue with them. They were truly the most powerful men in the known world and to argue their divinity with them was to order your own death.

When Jesus’ followers, and later the Gospel writers, started hailing the peasant carpenter from Nazareth as “the Son of God,” this instantly put him in immediate competition with Caesar, who did not take kindly to such competition. What’s more, Jesus wasn’t being called the equivalent of divi filius; rather, he was being called the equivalent of Dei Filius, which put him above the son of a deified mortal and made him the Son of the immortal God. Also, this Jesus claimed that being the Son of God meant conquering people with love and truth, as opposed to Caesar’s way of conquering people with fear and force. It was on this day, nearly 2,000 years ago, that this peasant Nazarene came face to face with the Roman Empire. It was on this day, nearly 2,000 years ago, that the Son of God challenged another son of god. It was on this day, nearly 2,000 years ago, that LOVE and brute force crossed paths in such a dramatic way that the world would never forget it. While brute force may have won the battle, three days later it totally lost the war!

On this Good Friday, we are being called by the Son of God to reflect on the ways we oppose walking the path of LOVE. How often have we tried to force our way on others? How often have we put ourselves above the Son of God through our thoughts and through our actions? Christ is calling us to search our hearts and our souls. The Son of God is calling us to acknowledge his Sonship, his divinity, and his Lordship over our lives. The Son of God is calling us to abandon our ways for his ways, and he is calling us, at all costs, to return to the pathway of LOVE. While this is not always easy, it is what the Son of God calls us to do and his death on the cross is a reminder to us all of the extent to which he was willing to go in order to see that pathway through. The Christ on the cross is waiting for us to join him in his mission.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many.” – Jesus of Nazareth (Mark 10:45 NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, precious Son of God, thank you for your sacrifice. Stir up in me a sacrificial love that reaches far and wide to those in need around me. Amen.

SON OF GOD: Holy Wednesday

Read Luke 20:41-21:4

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Every day Jesus went to the Temple to teach, and each evening He returned to spend the night on the Mount of Olives. The crowds gathered at the Temple early each morning to hear Him. (Luke 21:37-38 NLT)

TempleWhen looking at Holy Week and trying to match what Jesus did according to the Gospels and trying to match it with each day of that week is a not as easy as one would think. We know that on Palm Sunday, a week before his resurrection, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem on a donkey, surrounded by an energized crowd. We know that on that same day he went into the Temple. We know that the next day he went into the Temple as well. Depending on which Gospel you read, he either “cleansed the Temple” on Palm Sunday or on Holy Monday. We can guess that either Monday night or Tuesday night Jesus’ feet were anointed with expensive perfume.

We know that on Thursday night Jesus sat down with his disciples for the Passover Meal. We know that on that same very night he was betrayed and brought to the high priest’s house. We know that by Friday morning he had been found guilty of blasphemy and brought to Pontius Pilate to be tried for treason. It was on Friday that Jesus was eventually nailed to the cross and crucified. It was on Friday that Jesus died. From Friday afternoon to Saturday, Jesus was laid to rest in the tomb, and we all know what happens on Easter Sunday.

But what about Holy Wednesday? What happened on that day? The Scripture isn’t real clear. According to Luke, Jesus went to the Temple every day during Holy Week, to worship, to pray, and to teach. Every day, Jesus came to the Temple in order that he could speak truth to power and stand up for the people that the power was crushing. Every day, Jesus brought truth to those who did not want to hear it, for it meant that they would have to change their ways and start living according to the plan of God rather than their own plan. They would not have it. Every day Jesus came to them temple, he met opposition, derision, and people trying to trap him at every turn.

While we cannot know exactly what the Son of God did on Holy Wednesday, we have every reason to believe that Jesus was in that Temple speaking truth to power. We Christians believe, in light of Christian Scripture, that our very bodies are Temples that are meant to be kept holy and pure. We are meant to act as living sanctuaries, bringing hope, healing, and wholeness to those in desperate need of it. The Son of God is within that Temple, this very Holy Wednesday, speaking truth to power. Will you listen to his cry for justice, mercy and humility? Will you align your plan with God’s plan? Or will you oppose, deride and ignore Jesus’ cry? Sit in silence and reflect on the Son of God’s call for change upon your life and allow Holy Wednesday be the day you begin to rebuild your Temple in God’s image.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.“ – The Apostle Paul of Tarsus (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, I realize that I am to be a pure and holy Temple, and that I am called to bear witness to the hope, healing and wholeness of God. Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me. Amen.

SON OF GOD: Holy Tuesday

Read Matthew 26:6-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” (John 12:7-8 NRSV)

sw_ms_1003aPeople who are caregivers do so because they are compassionate people who want to help others. They provide the care out of love. Jesus was a caregiver on so many different levels, and he brought that care to others because of his profound love and compassion for them. I can only imagine, at the end of the day, how exhausted Jesus was. In his caring, he also was compelled to speak out against injustices and woes of society. So, when Jesus finally left Jerusalem after a long day of healing the sick and the paralyzed, after preaching in the Temple and cleansing it of it’s impurity, I can only imagine how drained and exhausted Jesus must have been. Then to top it off, he was carrying around the weight of his imminent torture, humiliation, and excruciating death. Jesus was spent emotionally, physically, psychologically, and even spiritually.

In Bethany, after having performed miracles and after teaching, Jesus sat down to relax. It was then that a woman came into him and broke open an alabaster jar and began to anoint Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume. The disciples were incensed because that could have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor; however, Jesus welcomed it and scolded his disciples. The woman, Jesus revealed to them, was caring for Jesus in his moment of great need. The Son of God, who had cared for so many, was being cared for by someone who saw his need and had compassion for him.

We often reflect the attitude of the disciple, do we not? We are often to busy caring or to busy being cared for to notice the needs that lay right by us. We look to our caregivers for their guidance and support, we look to them for their care, and for their example in caring. In the process of that we often forget that they, too, need to be cared for. They are, after all, human like the rest of us. On the flip-side, we caregivers are often so busy that we don’t ever take the time to stop and assess the kind of care we need. Caregivers are notorious for constantly going as if we are the furry pink bunny in the Energizer commercials…you know, the one who keeps on going, and going, and going, and…well you get the drift. In the process, we fail to give others the opportunity to care for us.

Just as in the story about the woman with the alabaster jar, the Son of God is calling us to be his disciples and to start taking note of the needs around us. Don’t turn a blind eye, or be apathetic to the needs of those around you. Also, take note that those who provide you care are, themselves, in need of care too! As a community, God is calling us to be mutual caregivers. Just as in the aforementioned story, Jesus is also calling those of us who are caregivers (doctors, nurses, CNAs, first responders, educators, community leaders/organizers, and spiritual caregivers) to take a break and allow others to care for us once in a while. We aren’t superhuman, we aren’t omnipotent or omnipresent; rather, we are human beings. Remember that caring for others also means giving them the opportunity to care for you. In doing so, you will live into the example hat Jesus, in his humility and in his humanity, set for all of us.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Many of us follow the commandment ‘Love One Another.’ When it relates to caregiving, we must love one another with boundaries. We must acknowledge that we are included in the ‘Love One Another.’” – Peggi Spears

PRAYER
Lord, you have called me to be a caregiver in my own unique way, and you have gifted me with the talents and gifts to carry that caregiving out. Please give me the discernment to know that I, too, need care and that I need to be willing to allow for others to care for me. Amen.

SON OF GOD: Holy Monday

Read Mark 11:12-14, 20-22

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’” (Matthew 13:31-32 NRSV)

fig_tree2Have you ever been in an apple orchard, or in a strawberry field, or in a garden and really desire to eat the food you come upon? One of my favorite things to do is to eat the fruit fresh from the tree. I get hungry walking through the orchards and the fields and, for whatever reason, the fruit tastes so much more fresh and desirable when freshly picked. There is nothing like it.

I can only imagine that Jesus, heading in to Jerusalem on that Monday morning nearly 2,000 years ago would have felt the same way as he passed that fig tree. The only difference is that, as he was passing, the fig tree was not in season to grow fruit. It only had leaves on it. Jesus surely knew this and understood it, yet when he arrived at the tree he cursed it upon the sight of it not having fruit. Odd, right? His disciples must have thought so.

Then this Jesus headed into Jerusalem, and went straight to the Temple. It is there that he began teaching against the religious establishment of his time period. You see, Jesus felt that they had become more focused on upholding their power and status, rather than being servants of the people. Rather than leading the people closer to God, Jesus felt the establishment was crushing the very people it was meant to serve. Jesus did not parse words as he levied the indictment of those who stood to gain from the establishment. On the way out of Jerusalem on the morning after that long and tense day, the disciples had noticed that the tree had withered and they remembered the curse Jesus had pronounced against the tree.

The tree is a symbol, a metaphor, and it represents the religious establishment and all of those who would claim to be God’s. When God comes, when God shows looking for fruit, we had better be bearing some. There are no excuses that will fly. We cannot claim to be out of season, or unaware of the coming of the Lord. Rather, we are called to ALWAYS be bearing fruit and we are not only called to bear fruit for some…but for ALL!

The question for us, as it was for those in Jesus’ day, is this: are we bearing fruit, or are we just a tall trunk with leaves? Are our branches far reaching, do they reach out to all who are in need of the fruit they bear, or are short and sparce? Are we like the great tree that grew from the mustard seed that shelters all of the birds of the air in its shade? Or are we a tree that shelters only the few and privileged? The Son of God wants us to bear fruit. The Son of God is calling us to recognize that all are children of God and all are chosen to receive the fruit of God’s love…the fruit of God’s hope, healing and wholeness. All we need to do is to root ourselves in God’s unfailing love and grow.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” – Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 7:18-19 NRSV)

PRAYER
Lord, produce in me a clean heart. Prune away the dead branches and nurture me into a strong tree that produces much fruit for your Kingdom of hope, healing, wholeness, love, peace, justice, compassion, mercy, and humility. Amen.

SON OF GOD: Palm Sunday

Read Mark 1:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.” The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them.” (Matthew 21:11-14 NRSV)

PalmSundayThe mob rules, does it not? We all know about “mob mentality” and how it is really a force to be reckoned with. We have seen on the news how people in mobs can do some crazy, scary and unimaginable things. I instantly think of Beauty and the Beast, when Belle magically shows her fellow villagers the beast through her enchanted mirror. Once the villagers see him, once they lay eyes on him, terror over comes them. Seizing the moment, Gaston pulls out his sword and begins to sway the crowd to follow him in killing the beast. Of course, Gaston is successful and they do, indeed, take up arms and follow him.

When we think of Palm Sunday, we see such a fickle crowd. They were looking for a hero, for anyone, to come along and claim the role of Messiah. So, when Jesus comes (intentionally and prophetically) riding in on a donkey, the crowd was there and ready to hail him as king. “Hosanna, hosanna!” The crowd roared with excitement, “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna, hosanna!” But was it the Lord they were praising, or was it their idea of the Lord? Without being too critical or judgmental, they had good reason to hope for their idea of the Lord. After centuries of subjugation and oppression, they were longing for God to come and liberate them.

This “king”, however, was not going to live up to their hopes and expectations; rather, this “king” was going to ride into the city, head to the Temple and start turning stuff, quite literally, upside down. Jesus’ first move as the crowd-proclaimed “king” was to go into the heart of Jewish worship and call out the religious leaders of his day and age. This is a far cry from the anti-Roman Messiah that everyone was hoping for. That’s not to say Jesus was pro-Roman. No, not at all. He was pro-Jewish without a shadow of a doubt and it was from that passion for his people, and his God, that Jesus acted out in anger toward a temple and its leadership. As a result, the fickle mob changed its opinion of this Jesus and went from proclaiming him “king” to handing him over to Pontius Pilate as a criminal and a traitor.

We too, like the Temple, get corrupted by the surrounding world and its influences. We may be the church, we may be Christ’s community of faith, we may be proclaiming Jesus to be the Son of God; however, does Jesus meet up to our hopes and expectations? Will Jesus come in and champion our “Christian” cause, will he love our theology, and uphold our rigorous doctrines? Or, like he did in the temple, will Christ come and start turning stuff upside down in a fit of cleansing anger? This holy week, let us be challenged to not be a part of the fickle crowd; rather, let us begin to reflect on who we are and what Christ is calling us to be. Let the things that need cleansing be purged from us, and let the Christ who would be king reign in our hearts forever.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“A [person] who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” – Max Lucado

PRAYER
Lord, give me the strength to turn my heart over to you regardless of what the “crowd” is shouting. Turn the tables in my temple so that I may see the need to change and so that I may act accordingly. Amen.