March 22, 2017
E Devotion March 22
For everything there is a season… Ecclesiastes 3:1
She came in first, sat down and I asked her about her father. The tears started falling as she shared how her father had moved into town from the farm where he had been born 77 years earlier. The move was planned. What wasn’t planned was his death just two days later. Then he arrived.
They had come for our last meeting before their wedding. I listened as they spoke. His heart went out to her and she shared and wept and smiled at him. It was not the meeting any of us had planned but it was a wonderful demonstration of the reason we were together: to celebrate their love. Love that creates the bond that transcends any season. Love that alone lasts.
Each of us has a season particular to our time of life and circumstances. Sometimes those seasons are of our own choosing. At other times, not so much. No matter what season we may be in, love builds a bridge. Perhaps that is why human love is a reflection of the steadfast love of God.
God’s love always builds a bridge. It’s just that sometimes we cannot see it. Sometimes the fog of our personal experience or the dark of our loss obscures God’s bridge. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It just means that, if we keep walking, if we keep seeking the Holy Spirit’s direction, sooner or later will find ourselves walking over the bridge we didn’t know was there.
I listened. I watched. I was humbly aware of Love – the presence of Jesus in that meeting. Not a season chosen but one necessary to bridge. And love built that bridge.
May Love build your bridge today. Amen
March 15, 2017
E Devotion March 15
Jesus said in Matthew: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.” Matt. 7:12
All around us are people who are searching, seeking, attempting reentry into life. It seems that life hangs for many teetering in the balance between life and death. Everyone needs to know that someone cares for them, believes in them, accepts them just as they are. In his book “Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them” John Ortberg says: “We try to separate the world into normal, healthy people (like us) and difficult people … We all want to look normal, to think of ourselves as normal, but the writers of Scripture insist that no one is ‘totally normal’ – at least not as God defines normal. ‘All we sheep have gone astray.’” In dealing with people the imperative is that we are invited to accept people “as is,” as they are. Everybody is a little weird.
However, in this journey of life God gave us dominion; and as such, we are guardians of the human spirit. We have the power to manipulate and coerce. We can avoid and ignore, if we choose. But, we can also ennoble and inspire, appealing to all that is good and honorable and holy. The efforts of all those around us truly matters.
In our journey we can make a difference in the lives of those around us. Accepting those around us as they are allows us to see life through their eyes. Gerhard Frost saw life one day through the eyes of his 2 year old grand-daughter. She typed a row of hyphens across a sheet of paper and looking at them said – “Ants.” And then he said, there they were for me to see. What is life? he asks. Isn’t life to see through someone else’s eyes, hear through someone else’s ears, and realize that we are far more than we think because someone else makes us special?
God’s son came into our world to redeem us from sin and death, not to condemn the world. So, as we look to our Lord and Savior, maybe we should take a cue from him – don’t condemn, rather seek to see the best in those around us (to redeem, accept, and do to others as you would have them do to you).
Have you seen the movie “The Finest Hours?” The Chatham Station Chief sends a Coast Guard team into a brutal nor-easter to rescue a tanker that has split in half off the coast of Cape Cod. Many of the old seamen in the community, some of his fellow Coast Guard sailors, and his fiancé encourage him not to go. But Bernie Webber, played by Chris Pine, says “We have to go out, but we don’t have to come back.” Their mission is to save those in distress. It is a wonderful movie about one the of the most dangerous and daring rescue attempts in Coast Guard history.
“We have to go out, but we don’t have to come back.” God has sent us forth as his ambassadors – his witnesses, in this world. We have a wonderful joy and privilege given us by our Lord – “Go into all the world … make disciples, baptize, and teach … for I am with you always.” So, let us try each day to reveal the profound wonder that comes in following our Savior – in letting His light shine in a dark world. Let us do to others as we would have them do to us.
Blessings to all of you!
March 8, 2017
E Devotion March 8
This is what was spoken through the prophet Joel… Acts 2:16
“What is ‘God’s Will’?” he asked. “Is it God’s will that our Congress is so divided by parties?” I thought for a moment and said, “I don’t think that’s God’s will. That’s part of our free will. We can choose these lesser things. I think the Bible talks about God’s will in a much larger context. Everything will eventually conform to God’s will… but we don’t believe that God orchestrates everything that happens.”
From the explosive emergence of the Christian Church described in Acts 2, the Church has asserted that God’s will is consistent and unstoppable. That’s why, in Peter’s sermon, he refers to Joel in the text above. That’s why the New Testament is filled with references to the coming, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus as fulfilling the words of the Old Testament. God’s will is dependable.
On the other hand, the Christian Church has steadfastly refused to succumb to determinism: that God determines all that happens just as it occurs. God didn’t decide that I would stand six feet tall and have blue eyes – my genes did. And that was, in part, a function of my mother and father falling in love. The present Congress was not determined by God but through an election process. Nonetheless, my life and the present Congress will, ultimately, serve the will of God. As Martin Luther once said, “You can serve God willingly… or serve God anyway.”
With the variables of life surrounding us, people of faith can confidently trust that whatever happens, it will eventually be shaped by God’s good will. We may not see it at the time, but we boldly confess it to be true. That’s why my favorite picture of God’s Will is that of a stream that becomes a river. The river will bend in response to the geography it flows through; it may even go underground; but it will eventually, in whatever shape necessary, flow into the sea. God’s will may bend due to the choices, good or evil, of people but it shall prevail. Thanks be to God!
March 1, 2017
E Devotion March 1
Make room in your hearts for us… 2 Corinthians 7:2
As I was searching the scriptures for a particular text, my eyes scanned the one above. I was stopped, captured by the words of St. Paul. And my heart went to all those whose prayers would echo his.
I thought of those who seek a spiritual home, a place to worship but fear being embarrassed by not knowing what to do in a local church so they don’t ever come.
I think of the immigrant that longs for a place to call home without the threat of war or persecution – whether that be religious, political or social.
I think of the immigrants leaving our country, walking across the cold of northern Montana into Canada because of their fear of being unwanted.
I think of the homeless who shelter in tents and blankets or cardboard houses because there are no affordable, safe and welcoming places.
I think of the Muslim organization that collected $60,000 (three times their original goal) in support of a Jewish community that suffered vandalism and bigoted graffiti in their cemetery – two seemingly opposed religious communities wanting us to make room in our hearts for them.
I think of the mentally ill who still suffer the stigma of their disease.
I think of African-American young men who face fear born of racial distrust.
I think of all of us who whisper this prayer to God asking for the reassurance that, in Christ Jesus, God has made room in his heart for us.
And I pray that my heart will grow large enough to make room for at least some of these.
February 22, 2017
E Devotion February 22
But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20
“How are you doing?” I asked her. “She smiled,” as she always did, and responded, “Well, apart from these shaky hands, I think I’m doing very well.”
She has had a stroke and the palsy that has developed is one of the results. She picks up a coffee mug with both hands in order to bring it to her lips – the weight of the mug makes it easier for her to manage the half-filled hot liquid. When she holds her Bible or the hymnal at church, she usually will rest it on a stationary object like her armchair or the pew in front of her in church. She manages all these inconveniences with humor and grace. It’s not an act. She has a hope that transcends her circumstances.
That’s the hope St. Paul writes of in his letter to the Philippians. Heaven, in the Bible, is not so much a place as a condition of the heart. Heaven in the triumph of God, the promise of remaking our shaking world into one our Creator originally intended. That hope is fulfilled in the life and work of Jesus Christ. Heaven is not something that we look forward to after death – though I hope we do! Instead, it is the present-day resilience of faith that leads us through our struggles into the joy of Christ’s presence. She is already living a piece of heaven even as she manages the obstacles of her physical condition. That’s what makes her smile so radiant and real.
I have always been impressed by the grandeur of faith like hers. (She would be embarrassed to hear me say such a thing – but it is nonetheless the truth.) Heaven is the promise of healing and restoration that changes how we handle our situation without denying its reality. This is the faith of St. Paul, the saints at Philippi and so many saints around us!
May heaven be in your heart and soul today – and forever. Amen
February 15, 2017
E Devotion February 15
God it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth; he makes lightnings for the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses. Psalm 135:7
The Grand Canyon stretches 277 miles long and its chasm in one mile deep. Over many years, the Colorado River carved it out of rock and scientists say it was at the depth of one sheet of paper per year. Standing at the edge of that geological masterpiece it is hard to imagine the water shaving the stone one paper width at a time.
As we sat in the restaurant overlooking the Grand Canyon, the clouds covered the deep and we could see nothing of that immense chasm. Then, just a few minutes later, I glanced out and saw a spectacular sight: the Canyon laid bare, its serrated edges in relief and the layered colors revealed in the sunlight. The winds had blown the clouds away, the fog had lifted and we saw the majesty of that natural wonder again.
When I listened to the geologists describe their finds and the time it took to create the Grand Canyon; when I saw the multi-colored layers of stone and liken, shrub and dirt; when I watched the clouds form and then dissipate; I thought of our Creator God… and the words of this psalm.
Our God sculpts the earth like clay and sends the clouds spinning in the air – and for whom time is no constraint. The Creator who finger paints the stone in layers and etches the river into it. This is the One we know and worship. This is the One who comes in Jesus Christ to create a new people, a new order, a new hope – and death flees like those clouds over the Grand Canyon. Standing in awe before that natural wonder, my heart was lifted to worship the Creator, our Life-Giver. And I am reminded of how Great our God truly is.
February 8, 2017
E Devotion February 8
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” Luke 5:27
Jesus consistently sees more in people than others do. Consider this tax collector, Levi (who is also called Matthew). When other people of his era looked at Levi they didn’t see a person – they saw a tax collector. That is to say, they saw a caricature, a traitor in league with Rome, a man dominated by greed. When others looked at Levi, they looked through the prism of their prejudice.
When Jesus looked at Levi he saw something more. He apparently saw a man with soul. When Jesus looked at Levi he looked through the prism of God’s love and considered a man with heavenly possibilities. What our Lord saw he called forth. No wonder Levi responded immediately!
We live in a season of caricatures. Politically the landscape is littered with labels that paint people in corners not of their own making. Socially we are conditioned to generational biases that may be generally true but fail to apply to any specific person. Religiously we have constructed graceless exaggerations of one another. Consequently, we withdraw into relationship silos affiliating only with those who fit our judgment as acceptable.
I am not sure this hasn’t always been true to some extent. I can imagine the chagrin of the other disciples when Jesus showed up with a tax collector in tow!
I have begun to pray for Jesus’ sight. I cannot change the world… but, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I can change my perception of the world. It’s a risky prayer of course. What I’m asking for is to be made aware of my prejudice and empowered to see beyond it. I’m praying to see more of heaven in others.
Care to join me?
February 1, 2017
E Devotion February 1
What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable… it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power… 1 Corinthians 15:42-43
A friend of mine died last night. I learned about it this morning. He was a man who lived life fully. He enjoyed conversation and laughed easily. I will miss him. I have a sculpture that he made and offered me at an affordable price. I see it every time I enter my home office. Now, it has deeper meaning for me. It reminds me of watching him work with chisel and sandpaper and file. I look at that piece and remember how difficult it was to get his attention when he was working on a stone. And I am reminded of his vision: to see form and texture in rock and diligently work to reveal it to the rest of us.
I am comforted by the faith we shared. Stacey’s last hours in the hospital were his first steps into eternity. His body was weakened by the failure of his heart. His soul was awakened by the power of his faith. And I wonder what he sees now. I wonder who he sees now that he has longed to see again.
In Jesus Christ, the perishable has become imperishable… the weak raised in power.
We have this treasure of heaven in Jesus Christ. Let us cling to it as steadfastly as he would work on stone. Let us catch sight of God’s kingdom as surely as he could see form in rock. In Jesus of Nazareth what has been invisible has become visible; what seemed beyond hope is now our only hope; the promise of God is the foundation for our forever future. Thanks be to God!
January 25, 2017
E Devotion January 25
The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. John 4:50
The man in this episode in the ministry of our Lord had just asked for his boy to be healed from a life-threatening disease. Jesus responds with the simple words, “Go; your son will live.” And the man believes Jesus by walking away. Jesus’ word was enough. Even though the man had asked for the Savior to come to his house, the word of Jesus was sufficient.
What faith this is! I have stood beside the hospital beds of little children so sick that their lives were in danger, I am amazed at this father’s faith. As a pastor, I have prayed with countless parents for children in a wide variety of extreme circumstances. Going to God in prayer was a plea for the touch of Jesus to be added to the best medical care. But walking away – even after a doctor’s encouraging words – was not an option. Prayer continued. Vigilance continued. Hope continued.
This man’s hope was met and fulfilled in the words of Jesus. Having left his child to seek the help of the Lord, he could now return in confidence. And, on the way, John tells us, his servants meet him and declare that his son is alive.
When their baby was still born, I could declare to them that they would meet their son in heaven. Not sentimentality – the hope of the Savior who healed this man’s son. The healing of God is eternal. They believed the promises of Jesus Christ and their profound grief was tinged with hope and upheld by faith.
Today, trust the word of God. Place your most heart-felt needs, desires and hopes in the hands of the One whose word is sufficient to accomplish all that is needful. Amen
January 23, 2017
Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away. Mark 13:31
This is a week of change. One President will leave office as another is sworn in. A new cabinet will be put in place and the promise is for sweeping change not only in the executive office of our country but the legislative as well. Some are excited by these prospects of change; others are fearful.
With the words above, Jesus reminds us that change is inevitable. His sweeping declaration that heaven and earth will pass away suggests that nothing is secure in this life. Then he declares what we can trust: his words. His words are eternally true and will not change. In so doing, our Lord invites us to rise above the immediate and see the sweep of time from his perspective. Historically, we have always had political change – some of it surrounded by violence but most in this country through peaceful transition. Likewise, we have had enormous periods of social change in our past. Through it all, the truth of Jesus Christ has stood the test of time. Understood differently for different ages, his Lordship has remained the promise of God for our future.
Christians have reason to be calm in the face of great change. Our ultimate hope is not established in one administration or another. Our optimism is not tied to any particular aspect, political or social, of this world. It is in Him.
O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come… so begins a hymn that has lifted Christians through world wars and times of terror – natural and man-made.
The sun comes up it’s a new day dawning, it’s time to sing your (God’s) song again. Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me… may I be singing when the evening comes. So, begins a new hymn for a new generation. But its message is the same timeless assurance of God’s presence.
Take time today to rest in the confidence of our faith. Heaven and earth may pass away, but Jesus Christ is the same today and tomorrow and tomorrow’s tomorrow. Amen