Tag Archives: wholeness

Legacy

Read Luke 10:25-37

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

Henry G. AppenzellerHave you ever heard the name Henry Appenzeller? My guess is that you more than likely have not heard of that name, unless you are a Korean Methodist and/or have happened to study at Drew Theological School in Madison, NJ. Henry Gerhard Appenzeller was born on February 6, 1858 a mother and father who were in the German Reformed Church. In 1879, at the age of 21, Appenzeller joined the Methodist Episcopal Church three years after having a profound conversion experience and quickly started serving as a Methodist minister. Being a  minister led him to Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, NJ and it was there that Appenzeller found the call to be an overseas missionary in Korea. At the time he arrived, Korea was in a political struggle and Christianity was not a welcomed religion. Missionaries could not set up churches, nor could they preach in public. Initially, Appenzeller’s ministry had to be done secretly.

In just two years, though, worship in public became possible and Appenzeller established a chapel for Christian services. In his time as a pastor in Seoul, Appenzeller founded a boys school, converted and trained people as disciples of Christ (in the Methodist tradition), and served on the board of Bible Translators who were working to translate the Bible into Korean. Today, Appenzeller is seen as the founder of the Korean Methodist Church which, as of 2001, comprised of 5,262 churches, 1,396,514 members, and 7,298 ministers. What’s more, six Methodist Universities have since been established, as well as the Methodist Theological Seminary in Seoul, six theological institutes, and fifty-four junior high and high schools.

While these are all some pretty outstanding achievements by a man who, for a majority of American Christians, has mostly gone unnoticed, Appenzeller’s character is best seen through the last thing he did before he died. On a boat that was taking him to a Bible Translation board meeting in the city of Mokpo, the boat capsized and ended up sinking. An advanced swimmer, Appenzeller swam to safety, but soon realized that not everyone had. As a result, he swam back out to help rescue those who had not gotten out.

Unfortunately, he drowned in an attempt to save a young Korean girl from drowning; however, Appenzeller’s legacy did not die with him. It lives on in countless devout Korean Methodists who not only serve Christ in Korea but throughout the world, including here in America. In fact, I was recently commissioned and one of the Bishops who laid hands on me was Bishop Kim of Seoul Annual Conference in South Korea.

In Matthew 16:25, Jesus says that whoever wishes to save their life will lose it, but those who lose it for the sake of God’s GOOD NEWS of hope, healing, and wholeness, will have eternal life. I cannot help but think of Henry Appenzeller and the countless others who have given their life up for the sake others. We are called to not prize our lives over the lives of others, but to see the divine image of God in all people, everywhere. Jesus calls us to be present for the lonely, to be love for the hated, to bear acceptance for the rejected, to be freedom for the enslaved, to bring food for the hungry and shelter for the homeless. We are to bring guidance and direction for those who feel lost. If we do that, if we live as Christ lived and be God’s Kingdom in the world, we too will build a legacy that far outreaches our earthly lives.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER

Lord, teach me to be like the Samaritan and continue to equip me to carry out your work of LOVE in the world around me, whatever the cost. Amen.

From Sand to Cement

Read Hebrews 10:24-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

For where two or three gather together as My followers, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20, NLT)

sandbagsLast weekend, while down at our Annual Conference down in Wildwood, NJ, I made sure that I got up at 6 am every morning to do one of my favorite things in the world. I would get up, get dressed, plug earphones into my music, and take a nice four mile jog on the beach. I just love going for a jog, no matter where I am; however, there is nothing quite like jogging along the shoreline, right by the water’s edge.

One of those mornings my oldest daughter came with me. We ran a good two or more miles South heading from Wildwood to Wildwood Crest. I was very proud of my daughter who jogged the first 2 miles with me. It’s amazing to see how much her endurance has grown over the past couple of years and it is a pleasure being able to share in a run with her, with both of us enjoying the time together and the time exercising.

On the way back, she asked me, “Dad, are we supposed to stay off the dunes?” I looked at her and smiled, while replying, “Yes, we should stay off the dunes.” She then asked me why that was. “Is it to protect the natural habitat of the animals,” she asked, rather wisely and inquisitively. “Yes,” I responded, “part of the reason is to protect the natural habitat; however, the dunes also play another important role. You see, they help to act as a natural barrier when storms cause the water to come this far up the beach. In a major hurricane they wouldn’t be large or strong enough, but they do act as a line of defense against storm surges.”

I then brought up the fact that whenever there is flooding, people will often build up walls of sand bags. My daughter was amazed at this. “How can sand really stop water from gushing out and flooding everything? Sand is so small and washes away so easily.” Her point was a valid one and, so, I responded, “Yes, loose sand is pretty small and insignificant. But when the sand is bound together in a bag, packed in tightly, it goes from being loose and wish-washy to being like a cement wall. One grain of sand is pretty insignificant; however, trillions upon trillions of grains of sand packed and working together is a force to be reckoned with!”

What an important lesson of us, as people of faith, to learn. We often think of doing BIG THINGS and CHANGING THE WORLD; however, when we head out there to do it we feel so small and insignificant. We often find ourselves wondering if we can really change anything. We become confused, discouraged, and we often end up feeling helpless and hopeless. What’s more tragic is that, in the end, we often give up on our call to be an agent of change.

But God has not called us to individual grains of sand. We are not called to be islands floating out in the middle of nowhere; rather, we have been called into community with one another. When Jesus was ministering to his people in ancient Israel (then known as the Roman Provence of Palestine), he did not do so alone. Instead, he gathered a group of twelve disciples and, actually, had many more disciples and followers than that.

Together, they were able to bring REAL change…REAL HOPE, HEALING, and WHOLENESS to the “least of these” in his community. That is what we are being called to do…not alone, but together as God’s children…as God’s community of faith. It is together, working as the hands and feet of Christ, that we really witness to the world the transforming POWER of God’s LOVE!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” – Rollo May

PRAYER

Lord, bring me ever deeper into your community of followers so that I may be a blessing to them and, likewise, them to me. Guide us forward so that we may bring your transformative love into the lives of others, one person at a time. Amen.

Strawberry in a Cup

Read 2 Kings 4:8-17

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)

strawberry-03This past Thursday through Saturday, my family and I went down to Wildwood, NJ in order to attend the Greater NJ Annual Conference in the United Methodist Church. This is an annual meeting of clergy and lay delegates from each of the churches in the conference get together in order to vote on church legislation, worship, join in the commissioning and ordaining of new ministers, and fellowship. So, every year, my family and I make the three and a half hour trek to Wildwood in order to take part in the conference.

As most know by now, I abstain from eating any meats, dairy and eggs. Eating out can be pretty rough no matter where I go, because most restaurants have not given much thought to alternative lifestyles. Often times, I will end up getting a salad and I usually have to tell them to hold about 3-5 ingredients in order to make the salad vegan.

As you can imagine, Wildwood is not the most vegan-friendly place. It is a shore town and that equates to all the foods I used to love but no longer eat. Things like seafood and board walk food is common place at Wildwood, but vegan fare is not. So it takes my family and I a while to find restaurants that we all can eat in…restaurants that offer options for us all.

On Thursday evening, we ended up going to a restaurant called Tavern on the Bay that advertised brick oven pizzas, two for $25 dinner specials, and other great sounding things. When we got there I ordered a grilled veggie pizza and some seltzer water and was content to be eating something other than a salad. It was delicious.

When it came time for dessert, I knew I was out of luck. There was just no way they were going to be able to accommodate me, because the desserts they offered were laden with cream, eggs, and other non-vegan ingredients. Actually, I was quite okay with that because I don’t tend to eat to many sweet things anyway. After all of the desserts were delivered, however, our waitress came out with one more…a plump and succulent strawberry in a tiny serving cup.

When I saw it, I was taken back. I couldn’t believe she did this on her own. I hadn’t asked for a dessert, nor even hinted at wanting one. With that said, this waitress had compassion on me. She saw that I was going without a dessert while everyone else was eating one, and she took it upon herself to get me a strawberry in a cup.

While that isn’t a whole lot and most people dismiss the though of ordering a single strawberry in a cup, that didn’t matter to me. I was so thankful for that single strawberry that my reaction to it was as if I had received a whole bushel of strawberries. The truth is that acts of hospitality, no matter how small, make a world of a difference in people’s lives. This woman, through the strawberry in a cup, showed me radical hospitality.

Jesus also calls us to be bearers of radical hospitality. We are called to show that hospitality to people, no matter how small of a showing it might be. Remember that the tiniest of seeds turns into the largest of trees. So it is with hospitality. Even the smallest of acts will blossom within the hearts of those who receive it. So, be hospitable. Be compassionate and find your strawberry in a cup, whatever it actually might be, and give it to someone in need of some love!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

The word ‘hospitality’ in the New Testament comes from two Greek words. The first word means ‘love’ and the second word means ‘strangers.’ It’s a word that means love of strangers.

PRAYER

Lord, present me with ample opportunities to show hospitality and continually remind me of my need to rise up to every occasion! Amen.

 

By Our Love

Read John 13:34-35

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10)

love-winsOne of the great pleasures of being a pastor is the fact that I get to lead in worship week in and week out. I love worship because it brings people together with a common purpose, which is to refresh and renew our connection to our Lord and God. One of the most important elements in worship, for me, is music. I love singing hymns, singing and/listening to “Special Music”, centering myself on the prelude and greeting people during the postlude.

Many people don’t know the actual purpose for hymns. Most people sing hymns in church because it is an “age-old” tradition, never giving it a further thought beyond that. But hymns do play a very important part in the worship service in that they impart important Christian theology to the congregation as they sing them.

One popular hymn tells us that “they will know we are Christians by our love.” This hymn suggests to those singing it that Christians are distinguished from the rest of the world by our love for each other and our love for all of God’s creation. This is one of those hymns that informs us of Jesus’ words to his disciples and for his will for us as his followers; however, when we look at the history of Christianity, and even at Christians today, are we living up to the love for each other that the hymn speaks of? Are we graceful toward one another, are we accepting of difference, and patient with those who don’t see eye-to-eye with the way we believe and understand things?

I remember a couple of years ago, Rob Bell came out with a book titled “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person That Ever Lived.” Up until the writing of this book, Rob had garnered quite a following and was well-liked by most in the Christian world, including Evangelicals; however, once the title of this book was released in order to promote it, that acceptance quickly turned into anathema. People, including the likes of Rev. Franklin Graham, were calling Rob Bell a “heretic” and denouncing this book which, according to the critics, claimed that hell doesn’t exist.

The odd thing is that these criticisms of Rob’s book came out BEFORE the book was released for people to read. That means, in case you didn’t catch it, that people were claiming the book said something without ever having read the book. Their assessment was based off of the title of the book and a promotional video where Rob poses some provocative questions…again, not giving the answers to them but just posing them. After actually reading the book, which was provocative for sure, I did not discover “heresy.” I simply found Rob wrestling, in a relevant way, with a theology that many people wrestle with. Nor did I find him EVER claiming that hell does not exist. Quite the opposite, actually.

The point of this is not to endorse Rob Bell or his book, but rather to put a caution on something that should, by this point, seem obvious. Christ called us to love one another…that people will know we are his by our love of one another. Let us not be so quick to judge, to anathematized, and to demonize fellow Christians who might think differently than we do. If we cannot love our own family in Christ, how can we ever love our neighbors? What’s more, if we cannot love our own spiritual kin, how can we ever love our enemies? Christ has set the bar high for those wishing to follow him, and when we fall short of that bar, we do not reflect Christ. Remember, they will know we are Christian by our love.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

In Christ love ALWAYS wins.

PRAYER

Lord, teach me to be more loving of my fellow Christians, especially those who think and believe differently than me. Amen.

The Devil Is In the Details

Read Matthew 18:21-35

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

DevilI just recently saw the movie “Devil”, which was a film that was produced by and based off of a story written by M. Night Shyamalan. For those of you unfamiliar with his name, he is the one who wrote, directed and produced the widely successful supernatural thriller, “The Sixth Sense.” While many of his other films have not garnered the success that his first film did, I have always been prone to watching them and have found them meaningful and thought provoking. “Devil” certainly is both meaningful and thought provoking.

In this film, five people get on an elevator together. None of them know each other, yet when the elevator breaks down and they are stuck in it for hours, each of them gets to know one another perhaps a little more than they’d like to. Each character has a flaw, which I will not reveal here; however, one of the five characters has a little more than just a flaw as that character (again I will not reveal who) is the incarnation of Satan. Sounds like a real wholesome family film, right? Well, to use a perfectly good pun, the devil is in the details here.

Every so often, while on this elevator, the lights flicker and then go out, leaving the victims and the viewers in the dark. When the lights come on, one of the characters is dead in a weird and gruesome way. This continues to happen through out the film. Meanwhile, a detective, the police and firemen are all trying to get these people safely out of the elevator. They, too, watch in horror as the lights flicker, go out, come back on and they see yet another dead person.

While I will not spoil the whole of the movie, I will spoil it’s message a little as I believe it is so very relevant to us as people of faith. Each person in the movie is being killed by the devil, their souls taken, as a result of their unwillingness to see that they have sinned and are flawed individuals. The result of that is that these individuals never, ever seek forgiveness for what they’ve done, because they continually justify their own actions and, therefore, are blinded to their own sins and sinful nature.

Again, I will not even hint at how the film ends (you really do need to see it), but it is powerful in its message. We often talk of God as being merciful and loving, kind and compassionate, just and filled with unending grace. We often talk about God’s willingness to forgive us all, and we see Jesus Christ as the divine expression of that forgiveness; however, how can we be forgiven if we don’t see our need for forgiveness? How can we be forgiven if we are so blind to our own faults that we we fail to seek or accept forgiveness? What’s more, how can we receive forgiveness if we are unwilling to be forgiven and/or unwilling to give forgiveness to ourselves and to others?

Christ calls us to a life of forgiveness. We are called to a life of being forgiven and to a life of forgiving others. If we are unwilling to see our need for forgiveness and, therefore, are unwilling to be forgiven, then we cannot, and will not, experience the healing power of forgiveness; however, if we are open and transparent to God about our shortcomings, and we seek forgiveness, we will have it in abundance. With that said, we too have to be willing to forgive. For how can we seek forgiveness but not give it in return? How can we experience mercy and not be transformed by it? How can we receive grace but refuse to give it to others? Remember, the devil is in the details. Be transformed by God’s grace and be transformational by extending that grace to others.

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY
“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.” – Bruce Lee
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER
Lord, soften my heart so that I may admit my faults and seek forgiveness. Also, soften my heart so that I may extend forgiveness to others. Amen.

Turning Your Scars Into Stars

Read John 19:20-29

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Look at My hands. Look at My feet. You can see that it’s really Me. Touch Me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” (Luke 24:39, NLT)

StarsA couple of weeks ago I was eating out at a restaurant with my wife and daughters. During the meal we were sharing in memories of the home we used to live in and we were laughing about how our cat, Sophie, was so cute and adorable when she was little. At one point, I looked up at my youngest daughter and I was reminded of a not so good incident that we had with the other cat we used to have, George. On my daughter’s right cheek is a huge scar and seeing that scar reminded me of the horrible memory of George, what he did to my daughter, and how we could not longer keep him.

My youngest, at the time she was around 7 years old, was playing in a big box as children often do. When she came out of the box, George attacked her clawing at her face. He severely scratched her on her right cheek and nearly got her left eye with the other claw (literally only a centimeter away). This wasn’t the first time he had done this. He had attacked her while she was hugging her mom, and had attacked her another time severely scratching up her legs. The first two times we passed off as being an accident. Perhaps our daughter was playing with him and he was playing rough. But the third time pushed us over the edge. We knew we couldn’t keep him, especially after he nearly took my daughter’s left eye.

The horror of that moment had flooded me and I started my shaking my head in disbelief. “What Dad,” asked my daughter? “I just can’t believe he did that to you,” I replied. “Perhaps we can get that cream the doctor had said helps to remove scars,” I said to her. My daughter put her hand over her face and shook her head no. “I don’t want to get rid of my scar,” my daughter protested. “I want to keep it because so I can remember George.”

George was her favorite cat. She loved him and it was very hard for her when we took George to the animal shelter, especially when we learned what they were going to put him to sleep because they could not give him to another family if he had a history of attacking people. It still hurts me to think of it and, clearly it still hurts my daughter as well. Even more that that, my daughter still loves him and wants to keep her scar because of her love for him. The more I reflected on that, the more I realized the truth behind it.

How often we go through life, picking up scars along the way. We get battered down by circumstances and, sometimes, we even get battered down by other people. Many of us try to hide those scars, to mask them, and to pretend they were never there to begin with; however, scars never truly go away, do they? There really isn’t some special cream we can rub on our hurts, our fears, our insecurities and all of the other scars we collect throughout life. There isn’t any magic elixir that will remove the scars we carry with us.

Even Jesus, in a post-Resurrection body, had scars to show his disciples when he appeared to them. The holes in his hands, feet and side were still there, still visible. In fact, those scars were very much a part of Jesus’ transformed identity, in the same way that my daughter’s scars are a part of hers. Rather that trying to erase the scars, rather than trying to bury them or hide them or pretend they never existed, we should acknowledge their existence. We should grieve the loss, the hurt, the circumstances that caused them and, just as importantly, we should also acknowledge the person we’ve grown to be as a result of them. While no amount of reflection will justify the suffering we’ve been through, it will help us to move beyond the suffering, remembering where we’ve come from, and resurrect into a person transformed by the grace of God in spite of the experiences that tried to keep us down. Allow God to, as Robert Schuller once coined, “turn your scars into stars.”

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Turn your scars into stars.” – Rev. Dr. Robert H. Schuller

PRAYER
Lord, help me to turn my scars into stars so that I can move beyond them, without forgetting them, into the life you’ve called me to. Amen.

Trading Twilight for Sunlight

Read Romans 3:10-233

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.” (Romans 7:24-25)

twilightJust recently my girls were re-watching the Twilight series. Do you remember that movie series, which ended a couple of years ago with “Breaking Dawn.” Before “New Moon”, “Eclipse”, and “Breaking Dawn” came out, I had read all of the books. I guess I found the movie “Twilight” captivating enough to read the books. My favorite of those books, to this date, is “New Moon” because I love the character development of one of the supporting characters, Jacob Black. In that book, he goes from a boy to a man and, though ending up on the short end of the stick in terms of getting the girl, I would argue he would be the better for it if it weren’t for the author’s contemptuous ending.

But that is neither here nor there. I have a love/hate relationship with that book series. I thought the author did a great job in capturing teenage love, to a “T”, and really transported the older readers back to High School, which for me was more of a nightmare than a pleasure. But still, she did do a good job of that. WIth that said, the entire series, minus one section of the last book, was completely written in the first person. The story is being told as if it were the thoughts of the main character, Bella Swan. SIDE NOTE: Bella means “beautiful” in Italian, so her name really translates to “Beautiful Swan”. Mein Gott!

Despite her name, being inside her head was anything but beautiful. It was in there that I saw her justify manipulating people such as Jacob Black. She used him in order to fill a void in her life that her boyfriend Edward couldn’t fill. And, when she was finished using him, she dumped him like a bag of hot coals. But it wasn’t enough for her to dump him, she had to make him feel guilty for not just wanting to “be friends.” I also saw her manipulate her other friends, her father, and even Edward in order to get the things that she wanted.

I could go on and on about this, but it should suffice to say that being inside her head made me feel trapped. I wanted to get out of in the worst way. Let me pause here, because I don’t want to be too unfair to Ms. Swan. She may be a flawed character, but which one of us arent. Every day we live inside our own heads and every day, we think and do things that aren’t always the most virtuous things to do.  It is the nature of being subjective human beings, isn’t it? We know what we are thinking and feeling, and those thoughts and feelings always take precedence over what others are thinking and feeling. After all, we really don’t know what others think and feel…it’s kind of out of sight and out of mind.

Even as I sit here and criticize Bella Swan for being manipulative, I fully recognize that I, too, have been manipulative in the past. Which one of us hasn’t been? If we are honest, we will readily admit that none of us are perfect. As Paul writes, we “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23). But Christ calls us to move beyond our shortcomings and to enter into a new life of living in Christ’s mind as opposed to ours.

Today’s challenge is to step outside of yourself. Begin to see, feel and experience things as Christ did. How do you do this? By entering into a relationship with Christ, one in which you hold yourself accountable to his teachings and to his way of living. Ask the questions, daily, what did Christ do? Then, without a moment’s hesitation, step out and start doing what Christ did. Start caring for the poor, the sick, the differently-abled, the imprisoned, the homeless, the naked. Start being a presence of HOPE, HEALING, and WHOLENESS in the lives of others and you will see that you are no longer trapped in your own head, but are free in Christ’s. Go forth, live and die for others as Christ did.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.” – St. Francis of Assisi

PRAYER
Lord, help me to conquer being stuck in myself and give me your mind, filled with love and compassion for others. Amen.

It’s Go Time

Read 1 Timothy 4:7-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27)

173848134_640This past week I started a new exercise program that one of my parishioners let me called T25. It was developed by Shaun T of “insanity” fame, and each workout is only 25 minutes long. Just twenty-five minutes, five days a week, for ten weeks. Each day is a different workout and the order of those workouts alternate week to week. By the end of it all, Shaun T claims that you will shed weight and gain muscle, stamina and endurance. All in ten weeks time. Sounds easy, right? I mean, all you have to do is workout for twenty-five minutes, five days a week? That’s it? For real?

Well, if you are thinking, “Gee, that sounds too good to be true,” then you are both wrong and right. You see, you are wrong because it is true that the work out only lasts for 25 minutes, and that one is supposed to do those workouts five days a week and that the program lasts for ten weeks. It is true that if you follow Shaun T’s plan you will end up shedding weight and gaining muscle, stamina, and endurance. I have seen what his “Insanity” program has done to my friend, and I trust that Shaun’s newest program T25 delivers just well.

But you are right in thinking that this sounds to good, to easy, to be true. While these exercises last only twenty-five minutes, they are an intense and grueling twenty-five minutes of high impact, focused interval training (F.I.T.) that get you the same results as an hour long workout. The sweat starts pouring out within the first ten minutes and the workout is over in twenty-five, but those are the longest twenty-five minutes for someone who is not conditioned to it. In fact, I had to do the modified workout because I am not quite used to all of that hopping and jumping around, and it still owned me!

Shaun T. is famous for saying, “You don’t get results by resting, you get results by working hard.” And that is very true. If we truly want something, we have to be willing to put the effort into what it is we want. If we can easily understand this regarding a work out, if it makes sense in our careers, if it makes sense in the things we want to accomplish, why does it seem to be lacking in our spiritual lives? Why is it that we will give it our all in certain things; however, we slack off on stuff as important as our spirituality and our relationships with God and with our fellow human beings. And then we wonder why we feel out of sorts, lost and a profound emptiness in our lives.

Today’s challenge is for you to step up your game, as it were, when it comes to your spiritual well being. It’s time to become spiritually fit, as well as physically and emotionally fit. Join a faith community, read and actively study the Holy Scriptures, pray regularly, partake in the sacramental life of your faith community, observe as sacred day of rest, and invest yourself in works of charity or, as I like to put it, in works of hope, healing and wholeness. If you do this, if you begin to make these a part of your daily/weekly routine, you will find that the results are amazing! It’s go time!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“You don’t get results by resting, you get results by working hard.” – Shaun Thompson

PRAYER

Lord, build me up into a whole person who is spiritually fit. Give me a desire to work for a stronger and deeper relationship with you, one that seeks to do your work of hope, healing and wholeness in the world around me. Amen.

Two Probing Questions

Read Mark 8:27-30; Matthew 16:13-20; Luke 9:18-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

who_am_iAnyone who has ever had me as their teacher in confirmation class can attest to the fact that I take confirmation very seriously. I have developed a curriculum that goes beyond teaching the meaning of membership to a curriculum that instructs the students to engage in Christian History from Jesus to our current day and age. The curriculum has the students actively engage theology and doctrine (and the history behind the formation of the doctrines) as well as learn about the meaning of membership in the church.

One of the exercises I have the students do as a requirement for the class is to write a 3 page paper, or longer if they desire, answering two very simple, and very Biblical questions. In Mark 8:27-30, in Matthew 16:13-20, and in Luke 9:18-21, Jesus asks his disciples who people say that he is and, following their various answers, he asks them who they say that he is. So, likewise, I have the students answer those two questions.

It is amazing how challenging such an exercise is. Most of us can easily and quickly come up with a long list of the things that people say Jesus is; however, when it comes to who we say Jesus is, if we are going to take the exercise seriously, it becomes much more difficult to articulate. But each of my students have been through the exercise and each have come away saying that the experience of it was rewarding, leaving them with a richer sense of who Jesus is to them.

When God created humanity, God did not create robots. It was not God’s intention to have an android creation that just mindlessly, and robotically, did whatever God wanted them to do. Rather, God created a free-willed, free-spirited, and free-thinking people who had the ability to not only choose to be in a relationship with God and, in that relationship, seek to come to an understanding of God and of self in the context of that relationship. As human beings, we do not only define ourselves by our own thoughts of who we are, but rather we define ourselves by the relationships we have with ourselves and with others. Who am I without my mom, my sister, my friends, my wife, my children, and myself?

Thus, if we are Christians who claim to be in a relationship with God and with Jesus the Christ, then doesn’t it make sense that we would seek out who Jesus is? Doesn’t it make sense that we would not just settle for who people say Jesus is, but that we would find out who Christ is to us? Doesn’t it makes sense that we would want to get to “know” the person we claim to love and to follow?

Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt for you to write down Jesus’ two probing questions: “Who do people say that I am?” Who do you say that I am?” God is calling you to probe deep into your faith. It is never okay to just accept things at face value. God is calling you to move beyond what you’ve been taught into the realm of personal, experiential knowledge. Who is Christ for you? How have you experienced the power and the love of Christ in your life? How has Christ healed you, been present with you, changed you, and/or challenged you? Where does your story and the Gospel story intersect? God is calling you to truly discover who Jesus is and to deepen your faith in him. Such an invitation leads to transformation and conviction. Get to know your Lord and be convicted to bear his hope, healing and wholeness to world.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“The steady discipline of intimate friendship with Jesus results in [people] becoming like Him.” – Harry Emerson Fosdick

PRAYER

Lord, take me deeper in my faith that I may more intimately know you and grow more and more like you. Amen.