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.
Read Luke 13:1-9
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.’” (John 14:6 NLT)
I am sure everyone who has been consistently reading these devotions knows that I am a huge fan of The Walking Dead. For those of us who watch the show faithfully, we know that the opening to Season 7 was a doozy. I am not going to give away any major spoilers; however, I am going to discuss this first episode in a way that I think will lend itself to this devotion. The season kicked off where the previous season left off, with Rick Grimes and the leaders from the Alexandria community grouped together in a circle bound up and on their knees.
In the previous season, the Alexandria community decided to help the Hilltop community in fighting against a common threat: The Saviors. These supposed “Saviors” were anything but. They were some pretty bad dudes who were forcing other communities to either work for them or, if the community refused, killing them in brutally awful ways. So the Alexandria community attacked the Saviors outpost and killed everyone there, only to find out that the outpost the attacked was merely one outpost among many. There were far more Saviors than Alexandria could handle, and the plan ultimately backfired. The Alexandria leaders were eventually captured and grouped together in the circle we see them in at the start of Season 7.
What happened following that can only be described as horrific, brutal and extremely hard to watch. To sum it up and spare you the emotional trauma that TWD fans had to endure, unless you are already among them, a bloodbath ensues. Negan (pronounced Nee-gan), the leader of The Saviors, plays a twisted game of “eeny meeny miny moe”, where he selects the person who is going to die. When he arrives at the person, he brutally bludgeons him to death with a barb-wire wrapped bat that Negan has nicknamed “Lucille”. Trust me when I say this, it wasn’t pretty. It was graphic, numbing, scarring, and certainly painful to watch. But it was not pretty. What’s more, Negan didn’t stop with the first victim, but ended up choosing a second one to kill in the same fashion.
The point of my bringing this up is because we can very easily imagine such violence existing in our world. As much as we try to pretend it doesn’t exist, we know it does. Honestly, it doesn’t take a zombie apocalypse for that kind of stuff to happen. Yet, while such senseless, brutal violence exists in our world, it is also true that most of us (in Western Civilization anyway) have the choice to be sheltered from it. We can choose to not watch the news, to not open our eyes to the suffering of others around the world, and to live as disconnected from such violence as we choose to be. Yes, I realize that some suffer domestic violence and that not everyone has this choice, but most of us do.
With that said and out there, there are many in our world who think that we can excuse ourselves, as Christians, from following in Jesus’ footsteps. We think that Jesus’ teachings were good for his time because he didn’t live in the age of terrorism. We think that Jesus lived in a golden age that allowed for him to be all “tree-huggy” and “hipster” like. First, Jesus was no tree-hugger nor was he a hippie. Those things come from our world not his. Second, if we truly think that Jesus’ world was less dangerous and less violent than ours, it is time for us to head back to World History 101.
God’s honest truth is that while the actions of Negan shock us because we NEVER see anything like that on a regular basis, Jesus and the people in 1st century Palestine would not have been shocked in the slightest. Growing up, Jesus would vividly remember the forest of crosses, upon which thousands of Galilean men and women were crucified on because of their trying to revolt against King Herod. He drew a reference to, and clearly was aware of, Pontius Pilate slaughtering the mob of people he lured to the public square to “talk” to them about their grievances. It is true, Jesus’ world was not like ours. It was much, much worse.
So, the challenge for us today is to show both a bit of honesty and a lot of humility. Comparing the things we face in our world to that of Jesus’ is NOT AN EXCUSE for us not following the Christ. If we believe in Jesus, then it is clear what we ought to be doing. If we don’t believe, or we don’t think that Jesus’ teachings make sense for us today, then at least be honest and admit that you don’t follow Jesus. This is not meant to push anyone way, but to draw the line so that we can honestly evaluate ourselves. As Christians, everything we do, say and believe ought to be measured by THE ONE who is THE WAY in which we follow. I pray that we all have a heart-to-heart with Jesus during this Lenten journey and choose to follow The Way, The Truth and the Life.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.” – Pope Francis I
Lord, help me face the truth and shed the excuses. I am yours. I follow you. Amen.
Read Matthew 11:25-30
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.“ (John 10:10 CEB)
As I have stated on multiple occasions, one of my all-time favorite shows is “The Walking Dead” on AMC. I was just watching the most recent episode entitled, “J.S.S..” I run a pretty tight ship in the “no spoiler zone”, so I will not be making any major spoils to the episode; however, I will be letting you know what the initials “J.S.S.” stand for. So if you are a fan of the show, haven’t seen this episode and don’t want to know what they mean, let this be your warning. Just put this devotion aside and read it after you watch the episode.
In the latest episode, a girl is seen wandering the empty streets. She is the last in her family to survive and she is wandering by day and hiding in empty cars by night. She eats whatever she can get her hands on to survive and looks like a bloody mess from all of the animals, and zombies, she’s had to kill. There doesn’t seem to be much left of her. She looks exhausted, confused, lost, empty, and hollowed out like an embalmed cranium. She is a shadow of her former self and she is just barely surviving. Everywhere she goes, she writes the initials, “J.S.S.”.
Without giving anymore of the storyline away, we finally find out what “J.S.S.” stands for: “Just Survive Somehow.” Indeed, that is what she had been doing, wandering from place to place, eating whatever disgusting and unpalatable animal that came her way. That is what she had been doing night after night, clearing the rotting dead from the cars parked on the road so that she could have a “safe” shelter to sleep in. That is what she had been doing…just surviving somehow.
As I see it, that is what a lot of us do. We just survive somehow. Day after day, night after night, week after week, and year after year. We just survive somehow. We wander through our lives like the aforementioned girl wandering the zombie infested streets. Every day we wake up, get out of bed, put on our shallow, fake smiles and our “happy face” masks and set out to just survive another long and painful day. In fact, we’ve gotten so accustomed to surviving that it has really, for all intents and purposes, become our sole purpose in life: just survive somehow.
We think to ourselves, “maybe tomorrow will be better,” and when tomorrow comes and goes we think, “Maybe next week will be better.” Of course, next week, next year, next decade, things don’t seem to ever get better and we feel trapped in perpetual survival mode. So we tell ourselves again to “just survive somehow.” Surviving becomes such a terrible and lonely fight and some of us, too many of us, simply don’t win out in the end. Surviving becomes too much for us and we find that it’s better to succumb.
How sad it is that so many people have spent their lives “surviving.” Sadder still is the truth that many people don’t survive at all, but rather become victims of their loneliness and hopelessness. These unfortunate ones never got to see their true worth, they never had a chance to see that there is beauty in this life, and they never had the chance to see that God wants them to thrive, not just survive.
If this is you, if you are just surviving somehow, if you are merely hanging on in your life, then I bring you good news. You are not alone in your struggles. God created you, you are a daughter or a son of God, and God wants you to move beyond surviving to thriving in life. This doesn’t mean that you’ll become rich and permanently happy; rather, this means that you will rise up out of the ashes of survival and into the hope that comes through the sacred community of the Triune God. You will be surrounded by a community of thriving survivors who have experienced God’s hope, healing and wholeness and want to freely share that with you. If this is you, I pray that you enter God’s community and experience love.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.” – Aristotle
Lord, I’ve been in survival mode for far too long. Awake in me the desire to thrive in my faith and in my life. Amen.
Read Galatians 5:19-25
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.” (Proverbs 10:9 NLT)
One of my favorite shows on television, as I have mentioned in the past, is the show “The Walking Dead”. Recently, I have been rewatching the series with my wife, as she has never seen it before. This is actually a great way to get more of “The Walking Dead” as I eagerly find myself in the advent of Season 5, which premiers on TMC in October. For those of you who have not watched the show, but might consider watching it, no worries…I will not put any SPOILERS in this, or at least not any that truly matter.
I have found that, on my second time through the series, I am beginning to pick up on things that I totally missed in my first time through. There’s all of the same elements such as zombies (obviously), character development, drama, suspense, humor (though depending on the season, it can be sparing), and action. But, I have noticed more within those elements that didn’t necessarily dawn on me originally. That is the beauty of a well-thought out, well-written script…there is lots of depth.
One of the things I have noticed is how the characters react to circumstances off of their core values. For Rick Grimes, who’s the lead character, his core values follow a more moral and ethical code. In his career, he was a deputy sheriff who took his job seriously and was a typically honest guy. He’s a guy who values human life, who believes in risking all to help others and believes in honesty.
As Rick and his group go through the trials and tribulations that come with living during the zombie apocalypse, his core values get put to the test. We often like to go through life thinking that there is a right and a wrong, a black and a white, an up and a down; however, in reality, there is often times much more gray and abstract areas, where the discernment process is muddled by the circumstances surrounding us. As Rick’s character develop, we see him go through periods where he is almost at war with himself because the circumstances seem to be calling him to do one thing, but his values are screaming at him to do something completely opposite to that.
In the end, because he is a values driven person, he ends up making decisions that are in line with his core values…even if his first instincts and decisions were against those values. There is a whole host of truths and parallels between this and our lives as Christians. If we are Christian our core values, by necessity, have to be in line with Christ’s virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Let’s also not forget the virtues of forgiveness, mercy, and compassion. And if our core values are in line with the fruit of the Spirit, we will live our lives accordingly.
So often we allow the world to define what our core values are and that is when we find ourselves compromising on things that go against what we claim to believe. Our challenge, as the church today, is to develop the spiritual discipline to mold our values around the virtues of Christ, around the fruit of the Spirit. If we do that, we will find that those core values will, more often than not, guide us in all that we do. What are your core values and do they line up with the virtues of Christ? These are questions we, as Christians, should be measuring ourselves on a daily basis. I pray that you make this a part of your spiritual journey.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” – George Washington
Lord, teach me your ways so that I may build the things you count as virtue into my core values. Let me ever walk in the footsteps of Christ. Amen.
Read Matthew 8:1-4
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:17-18)
As I have mentioned before, one of my favorite TV shows as of late is the AMC series, “The Walking Dead.” Aside from it being about a world overrun by zombies, the show is filled with situational ethics, moral dilemmas, as well as metaphors for life. Each character is tested to their limits with the things they have to deal with. They are literally living in a nightmare world and it is hard to imagine yourself having to live in a world like that.
Then again, take a look at the world around you. Our world may not be overrun by the walking dead; however, when you think about it, our world is filled with much worse. There are children being used as human shields, women being treated like property or worse, boys being forced to join armies and die for tyrants and murderous leaders. There are people starving because their economies are being undercut by rich, Western economies. There are people dying of common illnesses because corrupt governments won’t allow humanitarian aid into their countries.
We live in a broken, and often times ugly, world. Our reality may be different than the one found in “The Walking Dead”, however, if it is different, it is only so on the surface. In one episode of the series, the group is being threatened by a nasty illness that is highly contagious. In fact, there is an outbreak in the group and many of the people are isolated to keep the illness from spreading. The healthy people were separated from the sick. The sick, in essence, were left to choke on the blood they were coughing up…until they die.
One man, named Hershel, decided he wasn’t going to sit by and watch those people die. He went out and collected berries to make a tea that he knew was helpful for people who were sick with illnesses like the flu, and he was hoping that it would help buy others enough time to go and find medicine to bring back. But in order to give the people the tea, he had to go into the isolated area and risk being infected himself.
Though the others tried to talk him out of it, he couldn’t be persuaded. He went into the isolated area and began to treat one of the doctors who had fallen ill because he had been treating others. He cared for the man and even had blood coughed up on him in the process. Despite the personal risk to his own health, he chose to be present to someone in need of his help.
When I saw this, I instantly thought of Jesus. How many sick, disease-ridden people did Jesus surround himself with. How many of them touched him, breathed on him, coughed on him? He was laying his hands on people with contagious skin diseases such as leprosy. He was constantly putting himself at risk for others. Ministry, after all, is totally risky buisness…and God is calling us to it.
We have been given the opportunity to not value ourselves above others. We have been given the opportunity to take the next step in our faith and be present for people in need, no matter what the cost is. We have been called to be healers for those who are not well. We are called to risk it all for “the least of these”, just as Jesus did for us. Whether or not people are suffering from a physical illness, from oppression, from poverty, from starvation or anything else, Christ has called us into an active and living faith. Today’s challenge is for you, if you haven’t already, to begin to answer that call.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” – Hippocrates
Lord, use me to bring hope, healing and wholeness to those who need it. Use me also to bring others your peace. Show me what you would have me do today. Amen.
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)
One 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
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.