The Daily Thought – July 18, 2017
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear.” (1 John 4:18 RSV)
Psychologists say that dying is one of the greatest fears identified by people when they are polled on their greatest fears; yet I cannot tell you how many times I have visited with someone who was seriously ill, or facing surgery, or in their last days, and had them tell me that they were at peace and had no fear of dying. So why are some people not afraid? I believe it is because they have experienced the perfect love of God. To be sure, living in God’s love is not denial; it is rather to know that we can trust even the unknown (death) to God.
If people are willing to trust God with their dying shouldn’t we all the more trust God with our living? Stop and ask yourself today how much you really trust God. I think that may well be the defining question for people who want to be Christians. The perfect love of God is not a license to live any way we may want to live; rather it is an invitation to be fully alive, and we can only be fully alive when we have no fear. That is why the martyrs sang hymns of praise while they were being burned at the stake. That perfect love is offered to us today. We either choose to live in our fear or to live in faith in God’s perfect love. They are mutually exclusive.
The Daily Thought – July 17, 2017
“And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” (James 3:10 NLT)
James is right to the point with his discussion of the power of the human tongue in this third chapter. The tongue is a flame that sets other fires. The tongue can praise God and curse a neighbor. James says that the problem is that such actions do not belong in the same life. James even admits that we can tame animals but no one can tame the tongue. So what is the solution? James would tell us that only God can tame a human tongue and bring it under control. That is why we have to surrender our hearts and minds, our hands and our tongues to God. That is why Jesus taught us to love God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. Only God has the power to bridle the power of the tongue.
Remember that old ditty, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never touch me.” That is a lie. I think everyone who reads this thought could testify to how much pain a tongue can cause. In my 39 years of ministry I have seen so much pain and hurt caused by unbridled tongues. I have been both a victim of the tongue and guilty of that sin myself and have worked to control my tongue by surrendering it. If we could all record ourselves for one day I expect that we would have an embarrassing time listening to the recording. Why don’t we try praying each morning for God to help us control our tongues? Why don’t we try thinking good thoughts even about people that make it hard to see the good in them? Why don’t we put out the fires by letting God douse the pilot light that burns in our own mouths? Life would be better – wouldn’t it?
The Daily Thought – July 15, 2017
“Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. You have six days in which to do your work, but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to me. On that day, no one is to work—neither you, your children, your slaves, your animals, nor the foreigners who live in your country. In six days I, the Lord, made the earth, the sky, the seas, and everything in them, but on the seventh day I rested. That is why I, the Lord, blessed the Sabbath and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11 TEV)
When the Lord meant for there to be a day of rest, he really meant it. Read the scope of this commandment again: neither person nor animal is supposed to work on the Sabbath. Even the foreigners, who may not share your beliefs, are supposed to rest. That means you cannot use others to do the work you want to do but cannot on the Sabbath. Several years ago, I read a book entitled “24/6.” It is a book about keeping Sabbath and why it matters. It set me to thinking about how busy our lives are and about we have lost the gift of Sabbath keeping.
There was a time when people did keep the Sabbath. They worshipped at Church, spent time with family, and enjoyed the Sunday meal which was always special.
The industrial revolution created a demand for goods and that meant more work. Men, women, and children were soon working 12-hour days. Yet people honored the Sabbath. Over time work days were shortened and thanks to the efforts of the Church and Labor Unions, children were protected and the work week shortened to five or six days. However, our culture started treating Sunday like any other day and in the process, we lost the meaning of keeping Sabbath. Tell me, how much rest do you get? Do you rest on Sunday? Did you know that you can have a Sabbath with God anytime you stop to rest and spend time with God? Reclaim the Sabbath, the rest will make your healthier and the time with God will help you grow spiritually. It is a double blessing.
The Daily Thought – July 14, 2017
“The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1 NRSV)
Have you ever noticed that at the hint of dawn the birds start singing? Have you ever noticed how many flowers seem to point their blossoms upward? The Psalmist must have been observing such phenomena when he wrote these words. In fact, the Psalm seems to be a reflection of his meditation on the many places he saw creation praising the Creator. As I read this Psalm it reminded me of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees on Palm Sunday when they complained about the crowd shouting “Hosanna.” Jesus said, “If these people were silent the rocks and stones themselves would cry out.”
It has always amazed me how much of the grandeur of God can be seen in nature. From the crashing waves of the ocean to the breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. From the day lily that opens its bloom during the day and closes it at night to the rose which points its beauty heavenward I have seen the earth praising the Lord God. I have also seen it in the kindness and generosity of people. I wonder if we are all really looking hard enough to see what God would like to show us. Open your eyes today and look for it; heaven and earth are both praising God. Let’s join them in the celebration.
The Daily Thought – July 13, 2017
“Showing partiality is never good, yet some will do wrong for a mere piece of bread.” (Proverbs 28:21 NLT)
Solomon was nothing if not astute in his observation of human behavior. It is a very human inclination to show favoritism but the problem with favoritism is that it is always destructive to the community as a whole. If we are all created in the image of God, and the Scriptures attest to that fact, then we ought to treat each other as the same as we are. Any notion of a privileged status leads to an entitlement mentality and a resulting culture of narcissism and that is destructive. Moreover it leads to an acceptable morality where we believe that we can buy someone’s partiality if we cannot get it any other way and it is okay to do so. You only need to look at the daily news to see the evidence of that truth.
So how do we avoid this problem that has become so prevalent that it has corrupted even the highest levels of our government? We have to orient our lives on the basis that we are all the same in God’s sight. That notion, by the way, is the very reason that the “Constitution of the United States” is based on the principle that “all people are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.” The founding leaders sought to create a society that would not be as likely to be vulnerable to bribery and corruption. The salient point here is that their vision failed because as a society people were willing to do wrong for a “mere piece of bread,” and the bribes got larger. Power and money have assuaged many a person’s conscience to the point where they attempt to justify lying and cheating. We need to live the values of the Kingdom of God which means that we live lives of integrity and impartiality. We are all in this together and we make the world a better place when we realize that we are all loved equally by God and we should love each other the same way.
The Daily Thought – July 12, 2017
“There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his disciples didn’t even have time to eat. So he said to them, “Let us go off by ourselves to some place where we will be alone and you can rest a while.” (Mark 6:31 TEV)
How busy is your life? You would have thought in first century Palestine that life would have been at a slow pace. However, there was so much energy and excitement around Jesus and his disciples that they did not even have time to eat. Now that is a hectic schedule to be sure. Our lives can get busy and hectic in a short time. First, we add one routine and then another and pretty soon we are lost in calendars, activities, and events seemingly beyond our control.
I remember going to help Dr. Clyde McCarver, my first District Superintendent load up his van when he was retiring. He had been sick and needed help. I asked him, “Dr. McCarver, what is the first thing you are going to do now that you are retired.” He replied, “I am going to burn my calendar and pull the phone cord out of the wall!” Well that is a bit drastic but all of us need some control over our lives and our schedules. Perhaps Jesus’ prescription of Sabbath Keeping, (getting away to a quiet place to spend time with God and rest more often) is the best solution. Find some time on your busy schedule to schedule some time for Sabbath today. Even the Lord himself needed Sabbath rest – and he taught us that we do too.
The Daily Thought – July 11, 2017
“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.” (Romans 12:9 NRSV)
Paul was so very insightful in describing how to live the Christian life. Paul seems to hit on every single issue that we could raise about living out the Christian faith in a pagan world. Here in Romans 12 he points us to the reality that we must first be transformed to a Christian worldview or we will be conformed to a pagan one in the world. Then he goes on to this verse to say that we need a clear understanding of what is good and what is evil. That is the only way that our love can be genuine.
The problem is however, in our world we have blurred the lines between good and evil so much that we don’t even like to speak of evil any more. Dr. Richard Dawkins, Professor of Biology and a leading exponent of atheism says that he no longer believes in evil; instead he believes we are all dancing to the tune of our DNA. Our culture has been conformed to a pagan worldview thanks to work of the media and universities, and to the failure of the Church. We need to be clear that the Bible makes it plain that there is good and there is evil and we need to know the difference. To hate evil means that we must first identify what is evil and then we must hold fast to what is good so that evil does not corrupt us. Think of the good things today and hold on to them. Remember, “Evil can only triumph if good people do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)
The Daily Thought – July 10, 2017
The Apostle Peter wrote, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.” (I Peter 1:3 NLT)
Peter was looking at the Christian life through his experience with Jesus. One of the things that he learned, and for Peter it did take a while for him to get it, was that God has given us everything we need to live a Christian life. Please note, it is not innate, not something born of reason or any other human effort, it is given by God alone. Living the Christian life is not easy. From a human perspective it would be impossible were it not for God taking the initiative to empower us to live as Christians. Paul saw it this way, “It is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20).
All of us struggle with trying to live the way of Christ because it is not easy. Mother Teresa had her days of struggle which she attests to in her journals. Father Henri Nouwen, the most prolific spiritual writer of the middle 20th Century had a period of emotional crisis in his life. Living for Christ is never easy. Why do we do it then? Well it is because when we surrender our lives to the one who died for us we come to realize there is only one path that leads to life and peace (Romans 8), and God has made it possible for you and I to walk that path – led by a shepherd who knows the way. The way becomes a little easier and the journey more hope filled when you have a shepherd who says I love you so much that if you follow me I will lead you home to God.
The Daily Thought – July 8, 2017
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6 NRSV)
In Thornton Wilder’s classic play, “Our Town” one of the characters Emily dies but returns to earth to relive one day of her life and it is her twelfth birthday. She asks the stage manager, who is the narrator of the play, if anyone understands the value of life while they live it. He replies, “No. The Saints and Poets maybe, they do some.” Wilder has captured a real human dilemma, namely, can we see the value of life as we live it? So many people, who have obtained wealth and fame, looked back over their lives with great sorrow. It is hard to see the value of life while we live it if we are only looking to get just what we want out of life. We have so devalued life in our cultural ethos that people are suffering and dying every day.
Paul reminds us that what we focus our minds on makes all the difference in our life. If we focus on the things of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – see Galatians 5) then we will know the value of life as we live it. Life becomes important and therefore other people become important. We would all care about our neighbors, all of us who would be eligible would be organ donors, and we would all stand up and speak truth to power about the needy and the powerless. What Wilder’s character lamented in his play is a reality that we can all have if we are willing to focus on the value of life. As the great poet John Donne put it, “Any human's death diminishes me, because I am involved in humankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
The Daily Thought – July 7, 2017
“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.” (Mathew 5:13 NLT)
Do you ever pause to think about the people that have made an impact on your life? Maybe it was a relative, or a school teacher, or someone you worked for or with. I have a list that I give God thanks for every day. I have personally thanked as many of them as I could because they have made my life better. They were salt to me. You see salt is a flavor enhancer. Although I eat a low salt diet I have never figured out to cook grits or make gravy without salt. They just have no taste without salt in them. Just as salt makes things taste better so the people who impact our lives make our lives better and make us better people.
Jesus calls us to be salt in a bland world. In order for salt to have an effect however, it must first be put on the food. That means that we cannot have an impact the world unless we are touching the lives of those around us. If we are loving, if we are kind, if we are merciful, if we are models of patience and forgiveness then we will impact the lives of others around us. It isn’t rocket science; it is simply being willing to live out the faith we claim to have in Jesus in the way we live with others. We don’t even have to know we are having an impact, we just need to live this way and Christ has guaranteed we will. I have read a lot of epitaphs in my time and many are very meaningful. I hope that mine will honestly read, “He had an impact on those around him.”
The Daily Thought – July 6, 2017
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!” (1Kings 8:27)
It took seven years and thousands of workers for Solomon to build a Temple in Jerusalem. It was a great accomplishment and certainly one of the most magnificent buildings of antiquity. Yet at the dedication ceremony Solomon asked the proverbial theological question, “If heaven and earth cannot contain God how can he live in this Temple?” Good question.
You see the nature of God is one of unique flexibility. While God is bigger than the Heaven he inhabits, God can also live in a great Temple or in a small country Church. While God’s presence fills the universe with his grandeur he can take up residence in the human heart. It is really quite extraordinary when you think about it. You see God is not bound by the Laws of Physics, he is free to be where and when God chooses to be. Jesus walked on water and walked through walls. It is comforting to know that nothing made by human hands can stop God. We can refuse to admit God into our lives but we cannot stop him from knocking on the door of our hearts.
The Daily Thought – July 5, 2017
“So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” (Mark 3:23-25 NKJV)
Jesus had been casting out demons and healing people. These actions threatened the power base of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Their threats to excommunicate people from the Synagogue did not stop them from following Jesus and so now the Pharisees and Sadducees sent the Scribes to try that age-old method of undermining Jesus’ integrity. They tried to convince the people that Jesus’ power came from Beelzebub, which is another name for Satan. (See 1 Kings 1:2-3). Jesus however, used a clever philosophical argument against them. “How can Satan cast out Satan? If Satan allows his kingdom to be divided it cannot stand. The Pharisees and Scribes knew their argument was a contradiction of the truth but they wanted the people to believe it so that they would stop following Jesus. Jesus’ used their own argument against them.
In our world today, many people want things to be true, simply because they want them to be true. When they offer an argument from that perspective (emotivism) and someone challenges them with an argument based on reason, then their response is to label that person (close-minded, bigoted, etc.) so that people will not listen to their reasoned argument. It is sad that we are so divided that we cannot listen to each other. We cannot reason with each other and work toward a common understanding for the benefit of everyone. The truth cannot be stopped no matter many labels are put on it to make it go away. I think we would be wise to accept the Lord’s invitation in Isaiah 1, “Come, let us reason together.”
The Daily Thought – July 3, 2017
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Israel learned the hard way that when you ignore the moral boundaries established by God you end up in a mess. The people suffered, the land suffered, everyone suffered. Yet they also learned that God is a God of restoration and renewal. He forgave their sin and renewed the promise of the Covenant. There are no more beautiful words spoken than those in Isaiah 40, “Comfort, O Comfort my people, says your God.”
Tomorrow we celebrate “Independence Day.” It is a celebration that commemorates the signing of the “Declaration of Independence.” Although the word “Independence” is not found in that document it none-the-less served as a statement that declared formally our separation from the tyranny of King George. It is based on the premise that “all people are created equal and endowed by the creator with certain inalienable rights,” that means, our rights come from God not the government. As we now live in a time when there is much brokenness and uncertainty in our land we are in need of the healing, restoring hand of God. Let us pray that we can be healed of the issues that plague our land and affect us all. We ought to celebrate and give thanks for the Founding Fathers and Mother’s Vision they led to our freedom. Even more, we need to pray that God will help us to keep from squandering it.
The Daily Thought – July 1, 2017
“There are six things the LORD hates—no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family. (Proverbs 6:16-19 NLT)
The writer of Proverbs captures in these three short verses a profound understanding of the human actions and attitudes that are the most destructive. Reading these words, written 2500 years ago, we can all see how they are still relevant today. We have all seen them in action and we have been guilty of some of them in our own lives. The news in our Newspapers, and on our TVs and Computers is a daily litany of these things writ large across our culture in the most graphic of words and pictures.
You will note that the writer of Proverbs says that God hates these things because they are so destructive. You see God loves us and nothing arouses the emotions of the eternal God like watching the suffering of his children caused by the actions of other human beings. God has shown us a better way. The fabric of his kingdom is love, mercy, kindness, patience, and gentleness. (See Galatians 5 for a full list) God invites us to live in a better way, a way that builds up and does not tear down or cause suffering. The old Prophet Micah said it so powerfully, “What does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Can you see the difference living that way makes?
The Daily Thought – June 30, 2017
“Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” (Genesis 28:16-17 NLT)
Jacob discovered that God can show up any place even in the middle of a desert. Jacob was traveling to Haran (modern day Turkey) where his uncle lived. He stopped for the night and as he slept he saw Heaven opened and Angels ascending and descending on a stairway. At the top of the stairway he saw God. Jacob awoke shaking with fear and exclaimed, “The Lord is in the place and I wasn’t even aware of it.” When have you had a close encounter of the God kind? You can experience God in any place, even in places you might not expect.
Thirty-five years ago, tonight I stood next to my wife Barbara as she gave birth to our son Larry. Dr. Covington held up our son, covered in mucous and blood, and said, “Behold, a miracle from God.” As Barbara held our new born son I whispered to her, “I did not know that God would show up in a delivery room, but God did.” I have experienced God in so many places in my life that it has taught me that God wants us to have these encounters, just as Jacob did. Open your heart and mind and look for God to show up today and you too will have a surprising encounter of the God kind. When you do it will surely be an awesome place.
The Daily Thought – June 29, 2017
“For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:14 ESV)
That great British philosopher, G.K. Chesterton once said, “The Christian Ideal has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried.” When Jesus made that troubling statement in Matthew 7 people thought that he meant that that way to life was hard to find and that is not true. The way to life is not hard to find because it is right in front of us. You see what Jesus is talking about is that it is a hard choice.
In this world around us we have so many roads to choose from. North Carolina, along with a number of other states is suffering from an Opioid epidemic. People are devoting their lives to political movements with great fervor. Some people choose the path of pursuing wealth and fame and we see the disasters of their lives continually in the news. There is only one path and it is the path of following Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life. The real truth is, not everyone chooses it. Robert Frost said it best, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I chose the one less traveled by and it made all the difference.”
The Daily Thought – June 28, 2017
“For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:25 NIV)
In 1994 a large crowd gathered for the President’s Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC. Heads of State were there, as were leaders of Congress and members of the media. The President and First Lady were present of course. When the guest speaker walked in the crowd stood in respect and in awe. She had no political power, she ruled no country, she had no wealth or status in society. She was a humble, bent over, and frail woman named, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. For a few moments that morning some of the most powerful people in the world witnessed the power of God in the life of one woman and see just how great that power really is. (You can read her speech online).
In our narcissistic, self-absorbed culture we have deluded ourselves into thinking real power is found in government, or the military, or in money. I think we are all seeing the deluding power of the media fading right now. The very reason that social media has grown so much is that people no longer trust the media hence their power is on the wane. You see, real power is found only in God and it is the power of love. This is power that can change lives, heal wounds, and bind hearts forever. The Apostle Paul was on to something in this verse. God’s foolishness is wiser than all human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than all human strength. God wants to give these things to us – that is if we are wise enough to accept them!
The Daily Thought – June 27, 2017
“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:48 NLT)
Corrie Ten Boom survived the horrors of Auschwitz during the Holocaust. She wrote about her experiences in a book entitled, “The Hiding Place.” On a speaking tour, she shared her story in a number of Churches and then afterwards greeted people and signed her book for them. One night on her tour a man came forward and as she looked into his eyes she instantly recognized him as a guard from Auschwitz. He had been cruel and bitter. He looked at her with tears in his eyes and asked if Christ could ever forgive him. Corrie felt a wave of emotions but then she felt the peace of Christ and taking his hand in hers she said, “In the name of Christ you are forgiven.” The man fell to the floor wracked with sobs and wept bitterly.
Forgiveness is at once the hardest thing we are asked to do and yet it is the most powerful. You see forgiveness sets us free from all the hurt, pain, and bitterness that hinders us from knowing the full joy of this life that God intended for us. Moreover, when we experience the forgiveness of God for our sins shouldn’t we be compelled to be people of forgiveness? Those who are forgiven much will show much love. We have been forgiven so much in our lives how could love so little as to not forgive. I know it is hard, in fact it is impossible to do unless the love Christ fills our hearts first. You may have to start by forgiving someone for one minute today and two minutes tomorrow, and pretty soon you will have let go and forgiven them all together. Is there anything you are carrying with you today? If there is, only forgiveness can remove that burden.
The Daily Thought – June 26, 2017
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8 ESV)
Every human being is seeking something in life. We seek to find happiness, purpose, and meaning, in life. It is even in our Declaration of Independence; the founding fathers declared our independence for, “Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” That is a very human thing and there is nothing wrong with seeking these things. The problem is that we look in all the wrong places so many times. One popular writer was given an award a few years ago. He was asked this question by a reporter, “If you could have known anything that you know now when you first started this journey what would be?” The writer replied sadly, “I wish someone had told me that when you get to the top there is nothing there.”
If we want to find real happiness, if we want to find the meaning of our lives and our purpose for being, the only place to find it is in the one who created us. Jesus reminds us that if we seek these things in him we will find them. In fact, he says that really wants to give them to us. If you go to school seeking an education you can find one there. If we go to God to find the deepest longings and needs of our human life we will find them there. All we need to do is seek for it in Christ. All we need to do is ask for it. All we need to do is knock on his door. Everything else in this world will leave you empty but God will leave you full. In fact, don’t be surprised if your cup over flows – it happens all the time.
The Daily Thought – June 24, 2017
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)
The first Christian converts devoted themselves to study, fellowship, Holy Communion and Prayer. These were the elements of their discipleship. In our all too busy world we sometimes forget that we need to set priorities. We get so involved with our kid’s activities, our work, and other things that we get into a rut from which there appears no escape. Somewhere in all of that maze some folks try to make some time for Church.
We need to slow down. We need to be serious about setting some priorities and devoting our lives to them. Why don’t you write down these four elements on a card and place them where you will see them and let them help you to make a covenant to be more devoted to them. While we are waiting in the doctor’s office we can read our Bibles. We can get a Bible app and listen to the Bible in our cars while driving. We can attend a Bible Study at least one hour a week. We all need to be in Worship as much as we possibly can. We should pray every day and make it a discipline of our lives. We cannot become disciples in a vacuum; it takes some decided priorities and the willingness to be committed to a community of faith. The first Converts were not Church members, they were disciples of the living Christ.
The Daily Thought – June 23, 2017
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)
The 53rd Chapter of Isaiah is one of the most moving passages in the Bible. It describes the suffering that the Messiah would endure on our behalf. When we turn to the Passion Stories in the Gospels we see that Isaiah’s prophecy was completely fulfilled. It is both moving and disturbing to learn not only that Jesus suffered but that he suffered that much for you and me.
Even when we have not lived as we should, when we have sinned, we have the hope of knowing that God loved us while we were yet sinners so that our sins could be forgiven and our brokenness made whole. Moreover, Jesus suffered for our healing. We can claim that healing for ourselves, and we should, but we should also be sharing that good news with others. If we really embraced the power of this word we would all be praying for and believing in healing. What needs healing in your life or the life of your loved ones? There is healing available to you.
The Daily Thought – June 22, 2017
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:2 NRSV)
There is something majestic and awesome about the way Psalmist describes God here. I am always moved when I read these words. “From everlasting to everlasting” has a poetic ring to it, but more than that it has a power to it. It is much more powerful to say, “from everlasting to everlasting” than to say, “from beginning to end.” The Psalmist wants us to know the power and sovereignty of God.
Perhaps losing sight of the power and sovereignty of God is the one thing that “rationalism” and “enlightenment,” the philosophical results of the Renaissance upon human civilization, did to hurt humanity the most. We have become enamored with the ability of human beings and we have lost sight of the power and sovereignty of God. One of the pictures developed from the Hubble Telescope in outer space shows a constellational formation that looks exactly like an eye. It is very moving for people to see. I wonder if we will ever understand that despite all of the things we are capable of as human beings we are not god. There is only one God and he has his eye on us. Maybe that is what the Hubble telescope saw – the almighty God playfully winking at us and letting us know that he is really there.
The Daily Thought – June 21, 2017
“But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.” (2 Peter 3:8 NLT)
Today is June 21 and that means that it is the “Summer Solstice.” This occurs when the earth’s northern tilt is most inclined towards the sun. Although is usually referred to as the longest day of the year the actual time of sunrises and sunsets may vary by a few days. We humans measure time chronologically. That means that we use seconds, minutes, hours, days, years and so on. Everyone has calendars today either on a wall, a desk, or on your cellphone or tablet. We mark the passages of our lives by time. We all know what happens at age 16, or 18, or 21 or 65. In our busy lives we meticulously keep up with time.
It might interest you to know that God does not measure time chronologically. God uses Kairos time. This time is marked by the purpose and acts of God, not hours or days. In fact, Peter lets us in on it when he made this quote above. One of day of God’s Kairos time could be 1000 years of our Chronos time. You see, God is not bound by time, or matter, or space. Therefore, our Chronos measurement of time is meaningless to God. This may be the longest day for us but it is only a millisecond to God. Since God does not keep tract of time the way we do we can be comforted that God is with every second of every minute of every day. Years ago, the Rolling Stones sang a hope filled song entitled, “Time is On My Side.” I have even better news, God is on our side and never leaves us. Even when our time here is over the eternal God will take us home to a Kingdom where there will be no clocks or calendars. You see, since we will live with the one who is eternal light we will be living in an eternal solstice, in the only place where there will be no night!
The Daily Thought – June 20, 2017
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.” (Matthew 7:21 NLT) Perhaps no other words that Jesus uttered have caused as much consternation among Christians as these words. It is clear that knowing about Jesus is not enough. Even serving Jesus is not enough. The ultimate and most essential thing is submitting our wills to God’s will. Submitting our wills to God is, in the final analysis, the most difficult thing for human beings to do. It runs contrary to our human nature and it is certainly subversive to the cultural ethos that has shaped us all to be rugged individualists who believe that we are rightly entitled to live life our way.
The problem with the cultural ethos of our day is that it runs counter to the Kingdom of God and undermines the joy and wonder of living in community. It is erodes any notion of responsibility and makes us narcissistic (viewing the world only through our own needs and wants) animals, rather than social (viewing the world through the needs and wants of the community) beings. Moreover, Christians are also to look at the community through God’s eyes who sees us all as his Children who need love, redemption, and reconciliation. It is not enough to say; Lord I was doing it for you – God wants those who are willing to do it God’s way and the only way to do God’s will is to surrender our wills to God. Mary modeled this for us when she submitted her will to God and said, “Let it be according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
The Daily Thought – June 19, 2017
“How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life forevermore.” (Psalm 133 NRSV)
If the daily news is any indication then it is abundantly clear that we have lost the importance of the concept of unity. True unity comes out of diversity, it is a unity of will and purpose. Unity that comes from uniformity is an illusion because it is an enforced unity. It is the unity that comes the will of those in power. University Students riot to prevent speakers that they disagree with from speaking and political pundits speak over each other. The beautiful, and by the way Biblical, concept of “Civil Discourse” has been lost in the lust for power and control. Orwell’s and Huxley’s dystopian prophecies have become reality in so many ways.
As I observe this cultural shift I am brought back to this short but pithy Psalm 133. Here is contained a fountain of wisdom. God blesses unity because it creates the atmosphere where God can best work among people. I grew up with 5 sisters and a brother. We had our conflicts, all humans will, but our unity came from our love for each other. I have worshipped in Churches whose style or liturgy was different from my own but found unity in our worship of God. Unity is not some kind of nice platitude, or some utopic concept, it is in fact the essential nature of the Kingdom of God. We all don’t have to agree on everything but do we have to agree to respect each other’s ideas and feelings and to treat each other with respect and dignity. My friends, without a unity rooted in love for each other as sisters and brothers in Christ, all we will have left is chaos and conflict. God cannot bless chaos and conflict – he will however weep over it.
The Daily Thought – June 17, 2017
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out any-thing in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Psalms 139:23-24)
The Psalmist invites God to examine his heart. Several times I have had to undergo a Nuclear Stress Test where my Cardiologist examined my heart to see if there are any blockages in my arteries. The Doctor takes a close look for anything detrimental that may be hiding there. It is not the most pleasant experience but it is necessary.
It is not a pleasant thing to invite God to examine our hearts either if we are expecting jugment. However if you look at the text you will notice that the Psalmist was not inviting judgment he was asking God for help. God cannot help us fix what we keep from him. I love this translation because it has the Psalmist asking God to look for anything that may offend God. There may be things in my life that are comfortable for me until I know that they are offensive to the Lord God. When was the last time you asked the Lord to do a heart test on you to find anything offense to him? Remember, God does not come to just judge our hearts but to help us clean them out. A clean heart is necessary to walk the path of everlasting life. (See Psalm 24)
The Daily Thought – June 15, 2017
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34 NLT)
We spend much of our lives living in the future. We look forward to graduations, weddings, childbirth, starting or ending school, the next election and of course retirement. It is the way we have been encouraged to think by our cultural mindset. We rush childhood, we can now finish high school with two years of college credit, we promote people before they have had a chance to really mature into leadership, and we are seeing people retire at younger ages, even from professions not normally known for early retirements.
Jesus offers us the wisdom of living with our focus on today so that we do not bring tomorrows concerns into today. I believe that if we focus on today we are building for the future. President Lincoln was known for saying, “It was best not to cross a bridge until to you come to it.” Each day is a gift from God, and as someone recently reminded me, that is why we call it the “present.” Tomorrow is not promised to anyone. Today should be our only focus. Jesus is with us here and now and therefore let’s enjoy each moment with him. Remember that old adage, “Slow down and smell the roses?” Well my advice is slow down and enjoy every single day one day at a time. It will make each day brighter and the future, whatever it may hold, even better.
The Daily Thought – June 14, 2017
Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit." (John 3:5)
In many old movies that show Church services you can see the old tradition where women sat on one side of the Church and men sat on the other. To our mindset it was a strange tradition that overtime gave way and was changed. There are many traditions that have gone by the wayside. Agreements were once sealed with a handshake. Telephone Party-lines were one the rule and now we all have cell phones. Nurses once wore white dresses with caps in the hair; now they all wear scrubs. Traditions are interesting and important but they are not permanent.
When Jesus told Nicodemus that Nicodemus needed to be born of water and the Spirit he was not starting some new tradition nor was he breaking one, he was instead indicating the only path into the Kingdom. To be water washed (Baptism) and Spirit born (regeneration) is to surrender one’s life to Christ and the transformational power of the Holy Spirit. How is the Spirit working in your own life? While we no longer need to wear coats and ties to church (another tradition that has given way to a modern mentality) we still need and always will need the Holy Spirit working in our lives. As the old bumper stick said, “Be patient with me, God isn’t through with me yet.” Thank God he is not through with me or you either.
The Daily Thought – July 13, 2017
“How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you. We have never even heard of another God like you!” (2 Samuel 7:22)
David began his prayer to God with a clear acknowledgment of God. If you read this whole prayer (verses 18-29) you will quickly see that David understood that his whole life was being lived out within the providence of God’s provision and blessing. He even acknowledges that his children and grandchildren have no hope for the future apart from God’s provision and blessing. Unfortunately for his children they had to learn a painful lesson and they had to learn it the hard way. When they thought they were independent they deteriorated morally and the nation imploded which led to much suffering.
The Puritans taught the same ideal that we depend on God for provision and blessing throughout our lives. They believed that one of the ways we can honor God, along with acknowledging God’s provision and blessing, was to do our part in gathering, blessing, and sharing all that God gives with those who are in need. Today our nation suffers from an “entitlement mentality” primarily caused by a culture that became convinced after World War II that we did not need to depend on God when we could depend on the government to pay our bills and solve our problems. We need to turn back to God and pray as David did. If you think the Federal Treasury, the Saudi Arabian Oil Sheiks, and the Chinese have a lot of resources – you have not seen God’s riches in glory. By the way, all that God has cannot be taken away, nor will it ever fail.. How long did it the take the richest nation on earth to get into its current bind?
The Daily Thought – June 12. 2017
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27 NRSV)
How big is your view of God? It is amazing that Solomon built a great Temple for God but then at its dedication declared that God was too large, too great to live in any Temple. A Temple is a physical and limited building, no matter how large or grand it may be. However, the Lord God is Spirit and as large as the Cosmos itself and therefore cannot be contained in any Temple. Solomon rightly points to the absurdity of thinking that all that God is can be contained anywhere.
I think that we too often want to put God in a box because we believe that if we can contain God we can control God. It doesn’t work that way. God is always larger than our ideas or dreams or visions. God cannot be boxed into any stream of thought, any set of doctrines, or in any theological concept. This God, who cannot be contained, delights in moving ahead of us and yet being with us. This God delights in inviting us on an adventure where God reveals God’s self along the way and utters whispers of love to us. This God is bigger than any problem, any obstacle, or any issue. Not even death itself stops this God. How big is your view of God? Look again; this God is “supersize.”
The Daily Thought – June 10, 2017
“Those who live as their human nature tells them to, have their minds controlled by what human nature wants. Those who live as the Spirit tells them to, have their minds controlled by what the Spirit wants. To be controlled by human nature results in death; to be controlled by the Spirit results in life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6 TEV)
Paul makes it clear that we cannot have divided loyalties. We must either be controlled by the Holy Spirit or by our human nature. What we have learned about human behavior is that human nature can be supplanted by a new nature a whole lot easier than it can be bridled by human will. We have seen this with people trying to control an addictive behavior, a negative attitude, or a personality quirk that is troublesome. When they try to control it, even with the best of intentions, they most often fail. However, when they supplant it with a new nature, i.e. not trying to do it alone, thinking about their problem in a new way, being open to new ways of living, they can overcome.
Consider Jerry Graham. Jerry was a vicious criminal. Sentenced to several life sentences without parole he spent his life in solitary confinement at San Quentin. A group of Christians from a Church came to San Quentin to pray for inmates and to offer tracts and Bibles. Jerry would laugh at them and spit on them. They prayed for him and left him tracts. One day he began to read them and finally he read a New Testament. One day he knelt in his cell and surrendered his life to Christ. The Warden would say of him, “Jerry went from being one of the most violent inmates I have ever known to be being the gentlest.” This is the work of the Holy Spirit who will help us overcome our human nature and its destructive tendencies and be controlled instead by the life-giving inspiration of God. The Holy Spirit is the real supplanter who can transform our human nature into a Spiritual nature. What nature controls your life? Perhaps today is the day that you need take a hard look and consider for yourself what controls your life.
The Daily Thought – June 9, 2017
“Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” (Mark 1:23-24 NRSV)
It has always amazed me that the only person who knew who Jesus really was in that Synagogue in Capernaum was a demonic spirit. That the demons recognize the holiness and the power of Jesus is a startling testimony. Why couldn’t the other people see it? Even when Jesus cast the demon out of the man the people only saw an amazing man with an amazing gift but they did not see the Son of God.
How often do we miss it? Yes we give it an intellectual nod, say we believe he is the Christ, but do really see who he is, that he is the Son of God? Do we really see in our minds that all authority on earth and in heaven is his? In one translation the demon asks, “Have you come to interfere with us?” The truth is the Jesus does interfere in our lives. He comes to challenge our narrow minds, melt our hard hearts, and call us to a new way of seeing. George Beverly Shea reminds us in his song, “In times like these, you need a savior.” Jesus, the Savior is in the house, as our young people say, but I wonder if we can really see who he is.
The Daily Thought – June 8, 2017
“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8 NLT)
The fabric of the Kingdom of God, and therefore the Christian Church (The Community of Faith) is love. Peter makes it clear that this was the most important thing for the Community to do. Deep love provides the strength to forgive others over and over again. Deep love enables us to overcome the quirks of human personality and the disappointments of life that naturally inhabit any human community including the Church.
Perhaps one of the reasons that many people complain about hypocrites in church is that we don’t love deeply enough to forgive other people. I realize that the most painful experience that one can have is to be hurt by someone you trusted to never hurt you. The Christian Community is supposed to demonstrate to the world how people can live together and overcome even the greatest hurt. I will always remember the pictures of those Church folk in Charleston praying for the man who shot and killed their pastor and eight other members of their Church. I will always remember the Amish families, praying for the man who had killed five of their children in an Amish School. These two groups of Christians took this text seriously – and look at the witness they made to the world!
The Daily Thought – June 7, 2017
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)
There is an old tale from the wisdom tales of the Middle East about a traveler who came upon woman at a fork in the road. He watched as she was tossed a stick in the air. Then after a few moments she would toss it again. The traveler inquired as to why she was doing this. She explained that when she came to a fork she would toss the stick and go whichever way it pointed. The puzzled traveler asked her why she kept tossing the stick. She explained, “It keeps pointing that way and I want to go this way!” This story captures the human condition. We all want to determine our own path in life. We think we know the right path for us. Unfortunately, in our hubris we often end up far from where we want to be. There is a reason that surveys show that very high percentage of college students change majors at least once.
There is a better way. The teachers of Israel share it with us in this short jewel of wisdom. Trust in the Lord and let the Lord show you which path to take. Some of the greatest people in history admitted at the end of their lives that they chose the wrong path. One of the greatest poets in British history was George Gordon Lord Byron. He chose the path of pleasure and at the end of his life he wrote, “The worm, the canker, the grief are mine alone.” Why do we want to take the chances on our own when the Lord God offers us a guiding hand through the minefields of life? Human wisdom will fail you often but the one who loves you most will never fail you. Minnie Louise Haskins once wrote – “Go out in the darkness and put your hand in the hand of God, that shall be better to you than light, and safer than the know way.”
The Daily Thought – June 6, 2017
“There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.’ (John 15:13 NLT)
On this date in 1941 General Dwight David Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe gave the go ahead to launch D-Day. The Allied Invasion of Europe began. 4,414 men died that day but 10,000 were wounded. These men, and there were women at risk too, gladly risked their lives to end the tyranny of Nazism in Europe. They were greeted and cheered by the French people who hugged and kissed them in gratitude for their liberation. I have had the honor of being the pastor of some of those men who were in that invasion. Every single one of them were good men and every single one resisted being called heroes, claiming that the real heroes were the ones we left there. Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a speech in Switzerland once stated, “We have gone forth from our shores and put young men and women at risk and all we ever asked was enough ground to bury them in.”
Jesus himself said that the greatest example of love is when someone lays down their life for someone else. As we remember those who gave their lives on the beaches on D-day, and those who died in countless other battlefields we should pause at the wonder of their love for country and love for others that they do not even know. Even more let us also remember the one who died for us, who showed his great love for us on a cross outside Jerusalem. We can never forget the depth of his love for us. Bishop Peter Storey once said, “Grace can only be offered by nailed scarred hands.” Let us remember how Christ died for all of us and set us free. Let us also on this day pause to remember all of those who were wounded and or killed to set Europe free. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:13 – ESV)
The Daily Thought – June 5. 2017
“Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” (Psalm 105:4 NIV)
It struck me that the Psalmist calls us to seek the face of God. If God is spirit, as the Bible teaches, then how can we seek his face? Well the truth is that God is indeed spirit but what the Psalmist means is to intentionally seek God’s presence. To seek the face of God is to want to be intimately close to God, to be near enough to God to know you are on holy ground. The closest look old Moses got was God’s backside – but the backside of glory is close enough.
Jesus put a face on God for us. He made it clear that if we have seen him we have seen God. He also said that those who seek God will truly find God. However, we need to remember we will see God only where and how God chooses to reveal himself. God is not limited nor is his revelation. Some have seen God in a microscope, some have seen God in a vision, and some have seen God as they soared in clouds. Saint Teresa of Calcutta saw God in every dying baby and in every sick person she touched. Mark Lowry put it this way, Mary did you know that when you kissed your little baby, you kissed the face of God?” God is close enough to be seen, close enough to be kissed – but are we really looking for his face?
The Daily Thought - June 3, 2017
"But no human being can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil."
James knows how to make a point. That little piece of tissue in our mouths can cause great destruction. That old bromide about how sticks and stones can break our bones but words can never touch us is the worst kind of lie. Words hurt and we can all testify how much.
On the other hand the same tongue that speaks words of hurt can speak words of Hope, words of comfort, and words of love. Words are powerful and that is why we have intense debates over freedom of speech. Let's all commit ourselves to putting a bridle on our tongue so that our speech builds people up instead of tearing them down. God gave us a tongue so let's use in way that honors God. The world will be a better place, don't you think?
The Daily Thought – June 2, 2017
“As I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’” (Acts 17:23 NRSV)
The people of Athens in the first century were very much like us. They loved to debate philosophy, religion, and politics. Not wishing to offend any god that they did not know, by overlooking them, they even had an altar to an “unknown god.” The Apostle Paul visited there in about 51 ACE and had an interesting debate with the philosophers of the day. Paul sought to use their altar to an “unknown god” as a segway into an explanation of the Christian faith which was a sermon in philosophical garb. It was a powerful enough sermon that he got the attention of some of those pagans and they converted.
What gods do you have an altar to in your life? We all do it - even if it is unintentional. We should take a page out of Paul’s book and stop to reflect on the God we know. The God we know is a God of love and compassion, so much that even when we are not thinking about him, he is always thinking about us. The God we know is relentlessly in pursuit of us and yet patiently waiting on us. With a God like that to worship and love we don’t need any other idols in our lives. We need to tear down all those other altars – the only altar God wants is your heart.
The Daily Thought – May, 31, 2017
“They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” (Isaiah 61:4)
God is a God of restoration and renewal. Isaiah is speaking of the time that Jerusalem, which had been destroyed by the Babylonian armies in 587 BCE, would be rebuilt and restored. Can you imagine the hopelessness we would feel if we saw every house, every business, and every Church destroyed and burned to the ground? What if we saw hundreds or thousands of men, women, and children slaughtered?
It boggles the mind in a real sense. Yet in the face of such devastation God offers the hope of restoration. Jerusalem was rebuilt after 529 BCE. Our lives also need restoration. We suffer our own brokenness and pain. So many people today are hurt by life, by a failed marriage, a lost job, the death of a family member, or a terrorist act. So many people are wounded by the sheer number of stressors in our world. The good news for us is that God offers us the hope of his love which comforts, restores, and transforms our lives. It is good news that the ruins of people’s lives can be rebuilt, that devastating lives can be restored. Now that is something to hold on to – something real we can trust.
The Daily Thought – May 30, 2017
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27)
The human body is a marvel. It has miles of blood vessels and miles of nerves. It has many kinds of organs, muscles, and cartilage. Yet all of the individual parts work together in harmony. When one part is not functioning correctly the whole body is affected. It is no wonder that Paul used the human body as an analogy for the Church. It is the one metaphor that could be immediately recognized and felt by every individual. The Church is the same way.
I marvel at how people with different gifts can come together to be the Church. Some have the gift of teaching, others of organizing, others of leading, others of praying, and so on but everyone is necessary. You and I are important to God and to the Church. Once, a long time ago, a wealthy man built a church. When it was dedicated the people noticed that there were rows of hooks on every wall. They inquired about the hooks and the wealthy donor began to pass out lanterns. “Each of those hooks represents each one of you,” he said, “and if any one of you is absent his or her lantern will not be hung on their hook and there will be a dark place in the Church.” Our absence leaves a dark place – have you ever considered that?
The Daily Thought – May 29, 2017
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
This is “Memorial Day” weekend. On Memorial Day we honor all of the military personnel who have died in all of the wars of this country. It was first begun to honor the Union and Confederate Soldiers who died in the Civil War. After World War I it was extended to honor all those died in all of the wars. These brave men and women who laid down their lives for cause of freedom are to be remembered as the true heroes of our nation.
I remember walking in Arlington National Cemetery and for the first time I understood the full scope of the price of freedom and I had the revelation of what real love truly meant. Jesus said it; “there is no greater love than to willingly lay down your life for another.” On This Memorial Day let us take time to remember those who gave “their last ounce of devotion,” that we might be free; lets hug one of those veterans still living or one those men or women still serving and thank them. They are our heroes and we should never forget them or their sacrifice.
The Daily Thought – May 27, 2017
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1Corinthians 12:27 RSV)
The story is told of a great conductor who was rehearsing with his symphony one day. He stopped the piece and exclaimed, “Where are my piccolos?” The two piccolo players explained that they just wanted to see if their tiny instruments really made any difference. It was obvious that they did. Have you ever thought of yourself as an instrument in God’s symphony?
While Paul used the analogy of the human body and its many parts, because that was a metaphor that everyone in his day would immediately understand, I like the metaphor of the symphony. The symphony plays the music of God’s kingdom, the rhythm of love and the melody of grace. All of us are a part of the symphony and we are each important to the sounds of the music of the Kingdom of God. People are listening for that music and if even one of us is silent – they do not get to hear the full quality of the music that God wants the ears of their hearts to hear. Grab your instruments – people are waiting.
The Daily Thought – May 26, 2017
Jesus said, “Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4 NRSV)
Have you ever wondered why Jesus put such great emphasis on being humble? You see Christ cannot work in our lives if “we” are in the way. Humility means being willing to surrender our wills to his will, our way to his way, and our control to his control. It goes against the grain of our human impulses and that is why it requires us to surrender on a daily basis. Once is never enough; it is a lifelong process.
St. John Chrysostom once said, “Humility is the root, mother, nurse, foundation, and bond of all virtue.” He captures well what Christ was getting at when he called us to humble ourselves. Humility, far from being weakness, is actually great strength. One would need only to study the power of the non-violent protests of the Civil Rights movement to see that power in real life. Why would people use the violence of clubs, water hoses, vicious dogs, and illegal imprisonment against unarmed people if they thought those people were powerless? Humility makes our hearts and lives fertile ground for the work of the Holy Spirit. While humility is not a popular concept in our world today, it was and is and always will be the way of God’s Kingdom.
The Daily Thought – May 25 2017
“Who can understand the human heart? There is nothing else so deceitful; it is too sick to be healed.” (Jeremiah 17:9 TEV)
Who can you trust? There was a time that agreements were made with handshakes under a shade tree. Today we have contracts for everything and the courts are backlogged with lawsuits over failed contracts. The TV News Investigative Reporters are always doing stories on corruption. I don’t think anyone with a brain can doubt that the human heart is deceitful and causes tremendous hurt and pain in our world, often in our own families and circles of friends.
Jeremiah was commenting on the deceitfulness of Israel. They claimed loyalty to God, but instead were turning to idols. That the prophetic message had failed to reach them and bring them back to God made him wonder if there was any cure or hope for the human heart. Well I am here to tell you that there is a cure. Jesus touched hearts and lives and changed them. He did acknowledge that all sin comes out of the heart but he offered to transform hearts and make them a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. I remember that children’s song we sang in Sunday School, “Come in to my heart, come in to my heart, come in to my heart Lord Jesus, come in today, come in to stay, come in to my heart Lord Jesus. Who can you trust? You can trust Jesus; he will never let you down.
The Daily Thought – May 24, 2017
“I felt my heart strangely warmed, I felt I did trust in Christ alone for my salvation.” (John Wesley May 24, 1738)
On this date 279 years ago, a pivotal moment occurred in the life of the Rev. John Wesley; indeed it was a pivotal moment in the life of the Church. Although Mr. Wesley was raised in the Church and ordained a Priest in the Church of England, he was a man without a vital faith. He had never experienced the power of grace. It was the same thing with Luther until that faithful day he felt the power of grace in his life too.
What is the power of grace? It is that moment that we surrender to God and feel his loving grace washing away our sins and transforming our lives. In those moments, we feel a real sense of newness, wholeness, and assurance. You may feel it in private moments of prayer, while a hymn or anthem is being sung, during a Scripture reading, or wonder of wonders, during a sermon. The truth is God wants to pour out the power of that grace on us just like Jesus did on that woman who washed his feet with her tears. The whole Bible is a story of the relentless nature of a God who wants to pour out the power of grace on all his children – but they must first be willing to receive what only God can give.
The Daily Thought – May 23, 2017
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love cast out fear” (1 John 4:18 RSV)
For John the Apostle, the fabric of the Christian life is love. It is rooted in our love for God and neighbor. John makes it plain that the power of this love is such that it can literally remove all our present fear and deter all future fear from our lives. Love and fear cannot co-exist in the same heart, in the same life. Does that sound inviting to you? Does that sound possible to you?
You see the problem is that perfect love only happens when the one who is perfect love, Jesus Christ lives and abides in our life. We become so rooted in him that the power of fear no longer holds sway over us. Yes, we may have pain and sorrow but it will no longer make us afraid. It is recorded in history that many of the martyrs went to their deaths singing hymns and praising God to the absolute astonishment of their tormentors and executioners. In our own time we have seen people act in love with such courage that we could tell that they had no fear. Let the true lover of your soul kindle that love in your own heart and life so that fear will find no place in you. As Paul reminds us, “If God is for us – who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31 KJV)
The Daily Thought – May 22, 2017
“And he said to me, ‘It is done, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.’” (Revelation 21:6)
In John’s great Revelation the conflict of good with evil, of God with Satan and the suffering of the world as result of that conflict is brought to a stunning denouement when God declares the victory which was really a forgone conclusion. The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end means that God was before all things and will be after all things. God alone is sovereign no matter how impotent our post-modern culture wishes he was.
The Good News is that we live our lives in between the Alpha and Omega, within the boundaries of God’s eternal nature. While God gives us freedom he retains the right to pour out his mercy like the rain on the just and unjust. He also retains the right to judge all of his creation. Life takes on a whole new meaning when we realize that it is not random and arbitrary but is really lived out within the order and power of a sovereign God. Have you ever noticed a caterpillar inching lazily along a tree limb, he or she will soon become a butterfly, because their life is lived within the boundaries of the orderliness of creation. In the same way our lives will also be transformed from this temporary life to the eternal life of God’s design.
The Daily Thought – May 20, 2017
“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20)
Our world prizes wisdom. We put great store in education even if the people who have diplomas cannot read them; even if they cannot write a complete sentence, or answer a question cogently. It is the arrogance of humanity that makes us believe that we humans can solve every problem and resolve every issue on our own and therefore we do not need anyone’s help. Yet with all of our knowledge we cannot cure a broken heart, soothe a guilt ridden soul, or heal a life messed up by sin. We can apply psychological understanding to the causes but that is not really the cure.
Jesus however has offered us the cure for all of these. His love and grace can forgive our sins and wash away our guilt and his presence can comfort a broken heart. Jesus can make the broken whole and fill an empty life with purpose and meaning. If we would only humble ourselves and realize how much we need what Jesus wants to offer us in his love for us. There is an old hymn that says, “I need thee every hour most precious Lord.” The great mathematician and theologian Blaise Pascal one said, “There is a God size hole in our hearts and it is so large that only God can truly fill it.” Yes, we need Jesus – but our pride often gets in the way.
The Daily Thought – May 19, 2017
“These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has entertained them as guests. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.” (Acts 17:6b-7 NRSV)
Paul and Silas were preaching the Gospel and making disciples. In Thessalonica they ran into trouble when the Jews there became jealous and tried to stop them. The most important thing to note here though was that Paul and Silas were preaching that Jesus was God – not Caesar! This was subversive and counter-cultural and was unsettling to those Roman Citizens who believed that loyalty to the state was the highest priority.
Paul and Silas, on the other hand, were teaching that the first loyalty of Christians is always to God. They did not teach armed rebellion, neither would be guilty of that, instead they taught Christians should embrace the Kingdom of God and try as best they could to live at peace in this world. However, they would not bow the knee to Caesar and therefore were perceived as a threat to the established order. The Christian Faith has always been subversive because it teaches a higher loyalty than loyalty to the state. Stop to consider today how your faith might be subversive where you work, or where you attend school, or where you shop. If we lived our faith in such a way that God was always our first priority – we could be accused of turning the world upside down too.
The Daily Thought – May 18, 2017
“Let them praise the name of Lord, for his name alone is to be praised.” (Psalm 148:13)
People like to get credit for the things they do, a pat on the back or a kind word of praise is often a tremendous morale booster. On the other hand to have worked very hard at something and then to receive absolutely no recognition is often a morale deflator. So people make an extra effort to get praise. We learn it as children and carry that same emotional ego need into adulthood.
Yet, we Christians are called to give all the praise and glory for the fruits our lives to God. He gave us life, redeems our lives, and gives us abilities, gifts, and talents. Therefore the credit should always go to God. Beethoven used to mark his music with the words “Solo Dei Gloria,” to God alone goes the glory. The reformer John Calvin said it like this, “We must always speak of the efficacy of the ministry in such a manner that the entire praise of the work may be reserved for God alone.” I once knew a man who wanted to help others but he did not want to get the credit and praise for it so he started what he called “An Anonymous Fund” in his Church. That way he and others could help those in need but God would get all of the praise. Let us praise God and give him the all of the glory that is due to a God so awesome and extraordinary – because if we want all of the credit we will be choosing to live our lives without him.
The Daily Thought – May 17, 2017
“O sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!” (Psalm 96:1 RSV)
The Psalmist experienced all of the highs and lows of life, suffering every pain and sorrow, celebrating every feeling of jubilance and victory. Here in Psalm 96 is an invitation to praise. This is a day of jubilation, there is no doubt about it, but is this really an honest expectation for all the days of our lives. Even this jubilant Psalmist had a hard time praising God when he found himself and his people in the land of exile (Psalm 137).
The Apostle Paul invited us to rejoice in the Lord always. The difference is that Paul is saying that we can rejoice in the Lord even in the dark days of pain and sorrow because we can rejoice that God is with us. We are not alone. It is a call to look beyond our circumstances to the promise of God’s presence and deliverance. Many years ago, when Polio was crippling and killing thousands of people, a little girl came to school on the first day with a brace on her leg. Her fourth grade teacher, wanting to appear compassionate, said, “I am sorry, it must be a terrible thing to suffer.” The little girl replied, “Oh no, you see polio only affects your legs not your heart.” A heart that has not allowed life to cripple it, can always sing a new song to God!
The Daily Thought – May 16, 2017
“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)
The writer of Hebrews is expounding on the calamity of what happens when Christians sin. He goes on to talk about the justice and judgment of God. He then ends his discussion with this verse. I am sure he was pointing the fact that God gets the last word but his statement holds an even greater truth. When we fall into the hands of God we have to realize that before we encounter the justice and judgment of God we encounter his love.
Why is that fearful? Well to encounter that love is have our lives held up to a mirror that reveals us as we truly are. Everything about us is exposed and we must come face to face with essence of real love. Can any judgement be more unsettling than that? However, when we confess the truth and turn to God in repentance then God’s love washes away our sin and we can live into that love that goes from being fearful thing to being a wonderful relationship. As Augustine of Hippo said, “It is not that we keep His commandments first, and that then He loves; but that He loves us, and then we keep His commandments.” Maybe a better way to translate this verse is, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a loving God.”
The Daily Thought – May 15, 2017
Jesus stood still and called them saying, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Matthew 20:32)
Jesus was leaving Jericho heading for Jerusalem and there was a crowd walking with him. Over the noise of the crowd two blind men called out to him and Jesus stopped the parade and asked them what they wanted. They wanted their blind eyes opened and so Jesus opened their eyes and they joined the parade and the celebration able to see all of the people who had here-to-fore ignored them as they begged by the Jericho road.
What do you want Jesus to do in your life? What he wants to do is to touch and transform our lives into lives that are abundantly full and fruitful. That means that he comes to us where we are to offer forgiveness, healing, reconciliation, hope, and peace. Whatever your need is today why not learn a lesson from two blind men and call out to the one who can bring sight to the blind and life to the dead.
The Daily Thought – May 13, 2017
“How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” (1 John 3:17 NRSV)
Generosity is one of the Bible’s clearest indicators of the Christian life. We can find it in Matthew 25, in Luke 19:1-10, in the “Fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5) and here in 1 John. In fact John goes so far as to say that we cannot even claim to live a loving life if we are not generous. It becomes the barometer of how faithful we are in and to our commitment to Christ.
I think about people who have been generous to me in my life. They were generous with their time, their encouragement, their wisdom, their mercy, and yes with their resources. I hope that other people can say that about me. Of course generosity does not just happen. Generosity comes out of a life that has fully grasped how much God has done for us and that all that we have been given or earned is to be used to honor God by helping others. Otherwise no matter how much they may claim it to be otherwise – the love of God cannot be living in them.
The Daily Thought – May 12, 2017
“He said to me, Mortal, can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3)
Ezekiel found himself in a valley filled with nothing but bones, very dry bones, the final remains of a people long dead. Then God asked Ezekiel if those dry bones could live? What a question? Could there be any hope for a pile of dry bones? Have you ever stood in a valley of hopelessness? A bad diagnosis, a bankruptcy, a sudden death, the loss of a job, and a failed marriage are all valleys of hopelessness.
Yes, there could be hope for that pile of dry bones because God was there. Ezekiel gave the only possible answer to the Lord’s question. They could only live if God wanted them to. God was and is indeed the only hope for dry bones. If you read the rest of the story you will see that those bones did come back to life. Whenever you find yourself in one of those valleys of hopelessness remember the one who can put life back into dry bones can turn your situation around as well. No matter how bad your situation may seem to be you can hold on to the hope of God’s presence in your situation because with God all things are possible.
The Daily Thought – May 11, 2017
The Psalmist David said, “The Lord is merciful and gracious; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (Psalm 103:8)
This was the same David who confessed the terrible sins he had committed in Psalm 51 and then experienced the mercy of God. This notion of mercy and steadfast love is called “Hesed.” It is really a concept more than a word. It has to do with that part of God’s nature that we experience when we turn to God and honestly confess our sin and brokenness to the one who loves us most. It is what we experience when we come home to God and bring all of our hurt, pain, disillusionment, and despair to him.
That is why Jesus told the parable about that young man who squandered his inheritance and came home to the only person he knew that really loved him. He came home with a confession in his mouth and instead of judgment found only mercy and love. That is how God loves us. Whatever may weighing heavy on us today can be given to the Lord who offers us the shelter and rest of his loving arms. Some days I just need to be cradled in those arms and when I am the world is not so heavy, not so big, and not so mean because the one who holds us is greater than any of the issues that confront our lives. Jesus invited all who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens to come to him and he would give them rest. If that is not love then I don’t know what is!
The Daily Thought – May 10, 2017
“The start of an argument is like the first break in a dam; stop it before it goes any further.” (Proverbs 17:14 TEV)
The Media provides some very alarming pictures of the devastation of the floods in the midwest. Many thousands of acres of farm land are flooded and many houses in the towns and cities along have been. Amazingly it all started with one drop of rain. When the rain drops gather and run into the river and there is nowhere else for the rising water to go it rises above its banks and spreads out creating widespread damage. We do the same thing when we are not careful with our words.
Solomon advised us than an argument is like the first drop of water seeping through a crack in the dam. It is so much easier to seal a small crack than to stop a breeched dam. The damage is done and it is wide spread. Lifelong friends no longer speak; families are divided; and tension fills the air around them. As Christians we are to guard our tongues (James 1:26; 31-12), and we are to forgive. Admittedly it is easier for some people to guard their tongue than to forgive and it is easier for others to forgive than to guard their tongues. I think Solomon and James would encourage us to learn how to do both thus sealing any cracks in the dams of life and preventing any breech. Take it from me as a Pastor, there has been enough damage done this way in our world, let’s not contribute to it.
The Daily Thought – May 8, 2017
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 1:7 NRSV)
Solomon, in this wisdom teaching points to this foundational truth. The fear he talks about is not fear in the classic sense but reverence or awe. It is acknowledging the sovereignty of God. Solomon understood and wants us to understand that when we acknowledge God and submit to God it is foundational for a living wisely in the world.
To ignore God, to put ourselves in the center of the universe, is to live without a moral compass, to journey without a guide through all of the landmines around us. The Lord God has offered to lovingly guide us through all the paths of life and bring us through every storm we face. If we are smart enough to know that life is full of risks then we ought to be smart enough to know we need a guide. Otherwise we are on our own and that is a real risky journey that will end in disaster.
The Daily Thought – May 5, 2017
“So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalms 90:12 NKJV)
The Psalmist begins Psalm 90 with a clear statement on the eternal nature of God, “from everlasting to everlasting you are God,” and then proceeds to the temporary nature of humanity, “the days of our lives are 70 or perhaps 80 if we are healthy.” Then after having made those two pronouncements the Psalmist offers this petition to God, “So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Notice he does not ask God to let us live longer, but rather he asks God to help us live wiser!
I remember the wisdom lessons I learned from my father which had been passed down to him by his father and so on. I have tried to pass on the best of them to my children. You see the wisdom referred to hear is not education (education is a tool) it is a perspective, a philosophy of life. The Hebrew word (chokmah) means that kind of wisdom that is gained from experience in life. In other words the wisdom we learn from others. What lessons are we passing on these days? What lessons have we conveniently forgotten? Perhaps the Psalmist is correct in that we don’t really see the importance of wisdom until we have first been wise enough to count our days, to recognize our mortality. He was on to something in teaching us that wise living is the way to go.
The Daily Thought – May 4, 2017
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) We live in a world of rapid change. Within two years, portable thumb (flash) drives for our computers went from 256 megabytes to 4 gigabytes. Today, only a few years later you can get 128 gigabyte drives. Cell phones, I-pads, and Kindle Readers are all productions of technology that grows and changes by the year. It makes me wonder what we will have in 20 more years, if the Lord tarries and the world does not come to an end sooner.
How do we maintain the historical tenants of the faith in a changing world? First, we must embrace the vital importance of those historical tenants and second, we must adapt them to a changing world. We have done it before. Radio and Television were quickly adapted and used for spreading the Gospel around the world. While we are adapting to changing times, we must however always hold on to those precious and life-giving truths that will never change. As former President Jimmy Carter once said, “We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles.”
Blessings, Dennis Sheppard
The Daily Thought – May 3, 2017
“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)
Solomon, writing retrospectively, laments the emptiness of his life. He had wealth beyond avarice, pleasures beyond his wildest dreams, and wisdom that made him legendary in his own time. Solomon had everything and yet every day he lived with a gnawing sense of melancholy. One famous writer in our own time was given an award. A reporter asked the writer this question. “If you could have known anything that you know now, when you first started, what would it have been?” He replied, “I wish someone had warned me back then that when you get to the top there is nothing there!”
Our culture is marked by an incessant and indecent drive to obtain everything we can. Many people who have won the lottery end up broke. Many athletes and celebrities who have gained wealth and fame end up in legal trouble, addicted to a variety of substances, and go from one relationship to another. The antagonism that many of them exhibit is symptomatic of the seething anger they feel because they have it all and yet are still unhappy. The promise of this culture of materialism and greed lies unfulfilled (as it always does). In the face of his awareness of the emptiness of life Solomon came to the startling conclusion, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1a). If you want to have it all then start with having God in your life and you will have everything you will ever need. Jesus understood our human dilemma and that is why he said, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33)
The Daily Thought – May 2, 2017
“No one can serve two masters.” (Matthew 6:24)
When you read the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5-7, we can see that Jesus is offering both a vision of the Kingdom of God and some very practical advice for daily living. In this verse he offers a challenge, a corrective really, for one of the greatest problems that human beings contend with. We call it “divided loyalties.” We understand this all too well. That is why in our marriage vows we promise to “forsake all others and be faithful unto him/her as long we both shall live.”
The same thing is true with our faith. If we love God with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength we will have no divided loyalty. The problem with divided loyalty, according to Jesus, is that we grow to resent one or other because we can never be truly happy and fulfilled when our loyalty and focus is divided. However, when we focus on Jesus as the one thing to which we are devoted our lives are transformed and we live differently. Remember, it is not a matter of having a master in our lives, it is a matter of which master we will serve. Joshua made it clear 4,000 years ago, “As for me and my house – we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
The Daily Thought – April 28, 2017
“The Kingdom of God is among you.” (Luke 17:21) When Jesus said these words to the Pharisees they were amazed. The Kingdom they had in mind was a new day when Israel was a liberated sovereign nation enjoying plenty of material prosperity. However, Jesus was pointing to a different Kingdom, a Kingdom where we are set free from sin and where we live in the wonder, the joy and the mystery of eternal life. A Kingdom where we are free to live out the human vocation that God had planned for us from the beginning. That Kingdom is right here, right now because he is right here among us.
Such a viewpoint is in sharp contrast to the current perspective of our cultural ethos. Today we are taught that religion is okay as long as it is private. It must be kept from the public square lest it be offensive to anyone. I got news for you – the Christian faith is always offensive because it is intrusive, (1 Corinthians 1:23), countercultural (Matthew 20:25-26) and subversive (John 20:28). There is a Kingdom among us, a new dimension of existence, and all of the laws and lawsuits, all of the prohibitions and bans, all of the posturing and debating, and all of the rioting and protests cannot stop what God is doing in that new Kingdom. You see, the real truth is, all of us are a part of a kingdom; the question is, which Kingdom do we want to be a part of?
The Daily Thought – April 27, 2017
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.” (1 Corinthians 13:11 NRSV)
The Apostle Paul uses an earthy example to describe maturing in the Christian Faith. Just as an adult gives up (or should give up) childish ways of thinking, behaving, and living, so also should Christians mature in the faith and give up thinking the way the world thinks. For Paul, and us, the Christian Faith is a process of growing closer to God and closer to one another.
The real truth is however that too many Christians have stunted their growth by trying to control or compartmentalize their faith. To have faith in Christ means that Christ must have complete control of our lives as surrender our wills over to his will for us. We do this because this is the only way to live into God’s preferred future for our lives. Remember that a plant cannot bear fruit until it grows and blossoms. If we let Christ grow us – then we will be fruitful all the rest of our lives and we will celebrate the joy of bearing fruit. It is the growing season in nature – and it can also a growing season in our hearts and lives!
The Thought of the Day – April 26, 2017
“So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” (James 2:17)
James’ rather stark pronouncement leaves us scratching our heads with confusion over how he could say such a thing. Isn’t faith, in and of itself, dynamic and alive? Didn’t Jesus say that “faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains?” Well yes Jesus did say that about faith. The truth is however that Jesus is not talking about faith in and of itself, but faith that is put into practice, lived out, demonstrated in the lives of those who profess it.
There is an old story about a Church that gathered to pray for a member whose home burned. They were waiting for old John, the elder of the Church to arrive. He arrived in his wagon loaded with flower, bacon, beans, and other staples. The people asked him what he was doing. He explained that it was not enough to show up with words of faith but that they needed a wagon load of action if they wanted to help the needy family. Faith must issue in works or else it issues in meaningless words.
Blessings, Dennis R. Sheppard
The Daily Thought - April 25, 2017
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God; who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." (Revelation 1:8 ESV)
Whatever else John was going to see and hear in his time of Revelation, he was certain that he was the presence of the eternal. It strikes me that God is described in three ways in this one verse. This is a powerful theological statement. There is no question but that God is and that God reveals God's self.
How do you see God. Some people think of God as a Spirit floating around out there somewhere. Some people think God is an old gray haired man sitting on a throne. Interesting Jesus said that if we look at him we can see what God looks like. God is love and God loves us. Whatever else you may think please remember, the one who is called Almighty and Eternal does not come to us in thunderous judgement but in solemn gentleness offering us grace with nail scarred hands.
The Daily Thought – April 22, 2017
“Do not love the world or the things in the world.” (1 John 2:15 NRSV)
Of all the things that John says in his Epistle this is one of the most confusing. If God created the world and called it good and gave it to us then why shouldn’t we love it? Well the truth is that John’s meaning is somehow lost in the bluntness of his statement. We are to love God above all things and we are to love the world only as gift of God that has been entrusted to us. We are never to love the world for its own sake. That causes us to fall into the trap of loving the creation more than we love the creator.
That said, we are to care for the creation as loving trustees. It is a gift after all and not one to squander. However, we are to root our lives only in the eternal love of God. That great mystic, St. John of the Cross said it this way, “Live in the world as if only God and your soul were in it; then your heart will never be made captive by any earthly thing.” That is what John the Apostle was talking about in this verse and that is the real way to live.
The Daily Thought – April 21, 2017
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.” (Psalms 46:1-2 NRSV).
It seems that we are besieged with potential disasters. There are ongoing terrorist attacks in many places. Potential conflicts in Iran, Syria, and North Korea headline the news daily. All of these things could be added together to make this era of time aptly be called the “Age of Uncertainty.” Yes we face both natural and human-made disasters. The world has shifted and along with the natural storms and political storms we are in the middle of a moral storm. People have their homes destroyed and looters show up with the emergency crews. Identity theft is a national crisis and College and University Students are rioting to prevent any conservative speaker from having the opportunity to speak on their campus.
Yet in the midst of all of these storms the Psalmist reminds us that we can trust in the God who stands fast and faithful through all of the stormy blast. We can trust God when the whole world is falling apart As the Psalmist also reminds us “Lord you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:1-2 NRSV)
The Daily Thought – April 20, 2017
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!” (John 14:8-9 NLT)
Philip asked Jesus the ultimate question of longing, “Just show us God and we will be satisfied.” The problem was Jesus had been showing them God all along they were just too blinded by zeal to see him. So Jesus removed the cataracts of doubt and stubbornness from their eyes so that they could see God. It is remarkable to us that these men spent three years with Jesus, hearing every word he spoke, watching every miracle he performed, and praying with him daily and yet they had not yet really grasped who he was.
Even as they become to realize that he was the Messiah they had not grasped what that meant for them. Indeed in Christ they could see God face to face. This was the most intimate of encounters and they almost missed it. How close do we come to God each day and miss it because we are blinded by doubt, pain, betrayal, grief, or anger. Let me invite you to look again at Jesus Christ with eyes of faith and see for yourselves who he is and what he reveals to us. Philosopher Blaise Pascal said it best I think, “Not only do we not know God except through Jesus Christ; we do not even know ourselves except through Jesus Christ.”
The Daily Thought – April 19, 2017
“He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15 NRSV)
Jesus had gathered with his disciples to share the Passover. There are four cups that are used in the ceremony of the Passover. The first is the Cup of Sanctification, the second is the Cup of Deliverance, the third is the Cup of Redemption, and the fourth is the Cup of Restoration. It was this last cup that Jesus did not drink and could not drink until the world is restored into perfect harmony with God.
When we come to receive Holy Communion there is only one cup but all four meanings are contained in the one cup. Christ sanctifies us (sets us apart), Christ delivers us (sets us free from sin and death) Christ redeems us, (suffers for our sins) and Christ restores us (reconciles us with God). All of this Christ does for us out of his love for us. Just imagine a love so great it is offered freely all the while knowing that some people will reject it. What will you do with the love that has been so freely poured out on you?
The Daily Thought – April 18, 2017
“By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” (Matthew 26:12-13 NRSV)
It was on Wednesday that Jesus went to eat with Simon the Leper who had been healed. It was a great celebration, the sound of music and laughter and the smell of delicious food filled the house. Somewhere in the midst of the revelry a woman slipped past everybody and got to Jesus. She took an alabaster jar of expensive ointment and poured it on Jesus. Suddenly the room was filled with the sweet aroma of the ointment. Someone scolded her for such extravagance but Jesus scolded them and honored her. She has anointed me for my burial and what she has done will be remembered wherever the Gospel is preached. An act of adoration, in the middle of a celebration, launched an unknown woman into immortal renown and turned a jar of sweet smelling ointment into embalming fluid.
What acts of ours will be remembered? It could be an act of generosity, a testimony of how Christ touched our life, a kind word to someone who is hurting. One never knows what will be remembered or why. However what we do know is that while no one else on the face of the earth may remember the good things we do – God will remember the things done in his name for the least of these. So you see it not just an act of generosity, or a testimony, or a kind word, it is an extension of God’s goodness to the world. That is why we are called to be his hands and feet, his mouth and words, his presence and his compassion. Grab your alabaster jar and get busy.
The Daily Thought – April 15, 2017
He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3 NASB)
The prophet Ezekiel was given the ultimate conundrum, can dead bones live? He gave the only appropriate answer that he could think of, “O Lord, only you know that.” Yes only God can make dead bones live again. Only God can put bone to bone and restore muscle and tissue and organs. Only God can send his breath from the four winds and breathe life into the hopelessly dead. That whole story was to give hope to Israel in exile and to us in the devastations of our lives.
On a beautiful September morning in 2001 America was sent into a national state of mourning, devastation, suffering, and sorrow. It is amazing all that we have can be gone, that which is most precious can be taken away in only seconds. Yet, in the face of the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and in a field in Pennsylvania, lives were lost and thousands were affected. The Good News is that even in the middle of such tragedy we can hold on to the promises of a God who can restore life even to dry bones. We have a hope that cannot die and that cannot be taken away. “Can these bones live?” Because Jesus Christ defeated sin and death those bones can live, oh how they can live.
The Daily Thought – April 13, 2017
“For every time, you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.” (1 Corinthians 11:26 NLT)
I remember when I was growing up and my family went to Church. I always knew when we walked in and saw the white cloth covering the Elements of Communion that the attendance that day would be lower. Many people would not stay for Church because Holy Communion extended the time for worship and they did not want to be there that long. For me though, it was such a powerful experience that I never wanted to miss it.
Paul reminds us that something happens every time we receive communion. Every time we receive the bread and the cup we are remembering all that Christ did for us. We are remembering his sacrifice, that his body was broken and that his blood was shed. We are remembering that he loved us enough to take the sins of the world upon himself. We are remembering that he died to defeat sin and death and was raised from the dead to proclaim the victory. No matter how often we celebrate Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist, it is a profound moment in which we remember the ultimate picture of grace, and we are proclaiming it to the world. To tell the truth, you can’t do that too often, now can you?
The Daily Thought – April 12, 2017
“As a father has compassion for his children, so the LORD has compassion for those who fear him. For he knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14)
The Psalmist says that God loves us. Moreover God remembers how we are made. That does not mean that God looks past our humanness but rather that God understands it and is patient with us. That does not however give us license to do what we want. Even God has a limit to his patience and He will not keep us from dealing with the consequences of bad choices.
Instead let us learn from those who came before us and live according to God’s will for our lives so that we do not flirt with disaster or stubbornly walk ourselves into suffering because we think what we want is best. To live in God’ will requires an attitude of humility and that begins with the clear acknowledgment that God is God and we are not. This is the kind of God who turns dust into people and people who are dust can’t challenge the wisdom of that kind of God.
The Daily Thought – April 11, 2017
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6)
The big problem for believers, according to Paul, is that we all have a tendency to fall away from the faith. Paul is clear in saying that the corrective for that all too human tendency is to be rooted in Christ so that we are continuously nurtured, strengthened and guided by Christ.
Paul also says we need to have a continual attitude of thankfulness. You see if we are living thankful lives they will also be obedient and faithful lives. What do you give God thanks for today? We can be thankful for our homes, families, work, and all those things. However, it is far more important that we thank God every day for God’s love toward us. We owe God a debt of gratitude we can never repay. We can however live thankfully.
The Daily Thought – April 10, 2017
“And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this down: Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:13 NLT)
This is the second blessing in Revelation and at first glance it seems so strange to see any blessing in death. Please note however that the blessing comes from dying in the Lord. What that means is that those who are living in a relationship with Jesus will be blessed when they die because they will live again. How else can your deeds follow you unless you live again? The blessing is that death will come for us but it cannot keep us – we belong to God and God will get the last word even over death.
The good news is that we have a hope that is unshakable, a promise that is unbreakable, and a peace that is unwavering. We are indeed blessed when our lives are rooted in the one who defeated sin and death and who has prepared a place for us. Without faith in the promises and the actions of Christ then we are left with only the notion that this life is all there is. Paul says if we subscribe to that theory we are to be pitied because God has so much more for those who are willing to have faith in him.
The Daily Thought – April 8, 2017
“The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets.” (Psalm 50:1)
The Psalmist repeatedly extols the sovereignty of God. What he realized was that one of the most important ways to keep ourselves in perspective, that is to stay humble, is to be reminded continually that God is God and we aren’t. Moreover, this isn’t just any God either. This God is the only one who can summon the earth.
A big part of our human problem is that we want God to act when and how we want him to. We want God to explain the cause of suffering and to answer the mysteries that we doggedly want to unravel. We want to fix everything based on our sense of justice. Just as God had to remind Job (Job 38) since God is God we don’t get to call the shots – God is in charge. The comfort in that for me is in knowing that while human beings may louse some things up in this world the world is still in the hands of a sovereign God. I believe that this world is far safer in the hands of the God who created this world (and the whole universe) than it could ever be in our hands.
The Daily Thought – April 7, 2017
“Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.” (Amos 5:14)
Amos was a farmer before God called him to be a prophet and that probably explains his bluntness in this statement. However, there is a greater truth that we may not see at first glance. There is a way that leads to life and there is a way to leads to death. The way to life is the way of goodness which means the way of God’s will. The way of death is the way of evil which is going against the will of God.
Jesus and Paul taught us that living in God’s will means that we love God and that we love our neighbor. It means that we walk in the way that builds community, that values life, and that focuses on the spiritual life. The way of evil focuses only on the self, what I want, what I need, what matters to me. Mohandas Ghandi once said, “If every Christian lived the way that Jesus taught them to live the whole world would be Christian by now.” You know old Amos was really on to something because it really does make a difference how you live.
“So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above.” (Colossians 3:1)
Paul calls all who come to Christ to a new focus, a new orientation for life. Paul makes it clear that when we come to Christ the old life in us dies and a new life begins. That new life has a decidedly new orientation. Christians are to focus on the things that are above. That means that we focus on the Spiritual things not on the carnal things. That is not to say that we stop loving our spouses or children or friends. On the contrary, it means that we love them all the more because we now see them as a spiritual person should see them – as children of God.
We value what really matters and we no longer submit ourselves to the slavery of this world and all of its glittering temptations. On one occasion, St. Augustine, the first great theologian of the Church, was walking down the street. Prior to his conversion he had lived a very sin filled life. On this day he met an old girl-friend who was a prostitute. She called out, “Augustine it is I!” Augustine heard her and turned to walk away saying, “Yes – but I am no longer me.” Let Jesus be the compass and he will put your life on a new heading.
The Daily Thought – April 4, 2017
“I am the vine, you are the branches.” (John 15:5)
As I reflect on Jesus’ teaching here in John I cannot help but think about the vines I have dealt with. If you have ever had to cut down vines like grapevines, kudzu, or wisteria, you know how they wrap around and cling to other things. However, if you cut a vine it will soon die because it is separated from its roots which supply the food and water that it needs. In same way we must be connected to our roots in God in order for us to be spiritually nourished.
You can take that cut vine and pour water on it but it will not survive because it is disconnected. You can come to church once in a while but that will not sustain you because you are disconnected. I am firmly convinced that real spiritual nourishment happens in small groups where we can encourage one another, study and grow together, and benefit from the fellowship of fellow pilgrims on the faith journey. The sad thing is that without being connected we either suffer from malnutrition, which is a slow death, or from depravation which usually is faster but masked by rationalizations, bitterness, or lethargy. Hook-up and hang on and thrive in God’s goodness today.
The Daily Thought – April 03, 2017
“Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.” (John 18:2)
Do you have a favorite place to be alone with God? I remember on one occasion being up in the mountains in the Nantahala National Forest. I sat down in a place where the trees opened up to the sky. I could actually hear the silence. What a great place to be alone with God. I have had that same experience watching the sun rise over the Ocean, in the late afternoon quiet of Duke Chapel, and in many other places.
Wherever we may go it is important to spend time with God. You can go into the sanctuary of a church or you may go into the quiet of your bed room. It does not really matter as long as you make yourself available for renewal. Jesus met with his disciples in a garden on many occasions for rest and renewal. It was the last place they would be together until his resurrection. I am sure that they never visited that garden again without that memory being awakened in them. Find some time today to be alone with God – it will be life-changing.
The Daily Thought – April 1, 2017
“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19 NRSV
April 1 is often called “April Fool’ Day.” It is a fun day when people play jokes on each other. People like to have fun after all and if it is harmless then there is no problem. In some places if you get taken in a practical joke they give you a hat to wear for the day with the word “Fool” written on it. That could be real embarrassing. Paul says that the message of the cross is foolishness and those who believe in it are therefore fools. They believed that no self-respecting savior, no omnipotent god, would allow themselves to suffer and die, especially on a cross. That was the cruelest form of capital punishment the ancient world knew. Yet this foolish message is saving those who believe it.
The answer to the puzzle here is the 19th verse. God was destroying the wisdom of the wise. That is, God was using a different way to redeem and reconcile the world from the way the world would do things. He is the Lord God after all, and can therefore choose the way of deliverance. That cross stands today, not as a symbol of capital punished but as a sign of the depth of God’s love for his creation. As Elizabeth Clephane put it, “Upon that cross of Jesus, mine eyes at times can see, the very dying form of one who suffered there for me; and from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess: the wonder of redeeming love and my unworthiness.”
The Daily Thought – March 31, 2017
“The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:19 NLT)
I must admit this is a verse that has always intrigued me. It is the conclusion of a prayer of trust. (Read the whole third chapter). The Prophet has professed his faith in God even if everything falls apart (vs. 17). Then he concludes with this verse. When your strength comes from God you can face any adversity and overcome it. You can scale the heights of extreme difficulty as surefooted as a deer. I remember watching deer scale a mountain in West Virginia right behind the hotel we stayed in. They did it with no difficulty.
We too can overcome the seeming obstacles of life because with God all things are possible. In these unsettling times in which we live we would do well to follow the prophet’s example and put our trust in the strength of God. Throughout the history of the Church there are many examples of people who did just that and they found triumphs in the face of certain defeat. Lean on Christ, and you will not stumble or fall and the mountains won’t seem so daunting after all.
The Daily Thought – March 30, 2017
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” (Matthew 11:17 NASB)
Jesus was comparing the leaders of Israel with children who were pouting and refusing to participate with their playmates. They would not follow John the Baptist because he was too strict in his practice of the faith and they would not follow Jesus because he was too liberal in his. It was proof positive of the human inclination (really our sin) of wanting to be in charge, to have it our way, rather than God’s way.
If our generation will be known for anything it will be our narcissistic compulsion to want to be in control of everything. Even Nations play the game – you do it our way or we don’t participate. The truth is that we need to let go and let God. As author Larry Eisenberg has so eloquently put it, “For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe.” Jesus does not need generals; he needs servants who surrender control of their lives to him because they believe he knows far better than we do how to lead the Church and transform the world.
The Daily Thought – March 29, 2017
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)
Paul clearly wanted us to understand that living in Christian community, being the body of Christ, means that we intimately share each other’s joys and sorrows. This is far more than just some general kind of empathy or understanding; this is actually caring enough to be a part of other people’s lives and allowing them to be a part of our lives.
You see the cement that holds this community together is love, that kind of love that puts another’s feelings and needs above our own. Jesus and Paul called it Agape, self-giving, sacrificial love. This is the kind of love that is lived out in forgiveness, compassion, and generosity. That is what the Church of Jesus Christ is supposed to be about and that is how Christ’s followers are supposed to live.
The Daily Thought – March 28, 2017
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18 KJV)
Vision is an extraordinary thing. With vision people can make dreams become reality. With vision people can start with only an idea and achieve great things. However without vision great ideas never get off the ground or out of someone’s head if you prefer. It was vision that drove inventors like Edison and Bell. It was a lack of vision that led the man who invented Gatorade to put it on a shelf because he did not think it would sell. Another man with vision bought the formula and became quite wealthy.
All of this is to say that the Church began with a vision of taking the Gospel to the whole world. The Methodist Movement began with a vision of changing the lives of people in England. Vision has driven the Church and a lack of vision has constrained the Church. What vision do you have for our Church? What vision fills your heart that could become a reality for God? Remember that all things are possible with God. Millard Fuller had a vision for simple affordable housing for the poor and millions of Habitat for Humanity Houses have been built. Just give God your vision and your faith and watch what happens.
The Daily Thought – March 27, 2017
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
The very first thing that all Jews are taught about their faith is these two verses. They constitute the heart and soul of the Jewish Faith and reflect the perfect summary of the Covenant that God made with Israel. Jesus went so far to say that these two verses, along with Leviticus 19:18 (You shall love your neighbor as yourself) were the heart of the Law.
It reminds us that God is God. As Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “The greatest act of faith is when man decides he is not God.” There is only one God and in order to relate to the God who created us and who has come to redeem us we are to respond with all of the love in our hearts, souls, and minds. This verse also reminds that there is only one God; there can be no room in our lives for idols. But hey, with a God as big, as powerful, as relentless, and as loving as the God described here who needs idols anyway!
The Daily Thought – April 6, 2017
The Daily Thought – March 24, 2017
“Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
This verse strikes me as an interesting invitation by Paul to Christian living. Paul is not being arrogant here; he is offering the only example for Christian living that was available to those people in Corinth and believe me the Church at Corinth needed an example badly. They were missing the mark of Christian living (Did you know that the Greek word for sin, “harmartia” means, “missing the mark?”) by a mile. So what Paul is saying in effect is, “If you model your life after me you are modeling Christ.”
I wonder if we realize how many people look to us to model Christ in our own lives. That is why we have to watch what we say and do. Our behaviors, our words, even out attitudes confirm that we are either modeling Christ in our lives or we are not. One of the most troublesome and chafing charges leveled against Christians is hypocrisy, saying one thing but doing another. Moreover, many people are looking at us to see if our lives have integrity between what we claim and how we live. Perhaps we need to take a good long look at ourselves today and make sure that the Christ we claim to follow can really be seen in our lives.
The Daily Thought – March 23, 2017
“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 NKJV
Karl Wallenda strung a high wire over Niagara Falls and walked across to the fascination and joy of a large crowd of spectators. Then he pushed a wheelbarrow across and back. He asked, “How many of you think that I can push this wheelbarrow across the high wire with someone in it?” All of them raised their hands, He called out, “Who will be the first to ride?” People backed up and some even ran away.
Doubts are nothing new. We can intellectually believe something but yet still have doubts. We can believe that a medicine can make us better but have doubts about its safety. We can believe that a politician is sincere but have doubts about their character. We can believe that God loves us but have doubts about whether or not he really cares about our problems.
The man in this Scripture did the right thing – he took his doubts to Jesus. That is what we must all do – take our doubts to Jesus. You see Jesus is not troubled by our doubts, what bothers Jesus are people who do not bring their doubts to him and give him a chance to deal with them. Some people would rather drown clinging to doubt than to reach out in faith and be saved. There is nothing wrong with bringing your doubts to the Lord and saying to him, “Lord I believe but would you help me with my unbelief?”
The Daily Thought – March 22, 2017
“Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” (Ezekiel 37:9)
I remember once, standing in the old historic cemetery in Savannah Georgia when I was only about 7 years old. I stood with my father in front of a monument that honored the soldiers from the Civil War, that were buried there. On that monument was inscribed these very words from Ezekiel, “Come from the fours, O breath, and breath on these slain, that they might rise again!” Those words have stuck with me ever since.
The prophet’s experience in the valley of dry bones was a very compelling one. Where he saw only bones, death, hopelessness, God saw a new beginning. If you read the rest of the story you will see that those dry bones did live. I don’t know why Ezekiel should have been so surprised, God started with only dirt when he made Adam and only one bone when he made Eve. At any rate this is a story of hope.
All of us have those places and times where we need to start over; to be begin again. Where do you need a new beginning in your own life? Is it in a relationship that is broken? Perhaps it is in something you have had planned but never really got around to? Could it be in your relationship with God, where you need to repent and start over? Whatever your need may be we have a God of new beginnings, even if all you got to work with is a bunch of old dry bones!
The Daily Thought – March 21, 2017
“God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
The Apostle Paul had a way with words. This is one of the most packed verses in all of the New Testament. Whole volumes of theology have been written on just this one verse. Although this is very theologically powerful verse it is also very comforting. It reminds us that while God recognized that we were all sinners he loved us in spite of our sin and was willing to send his own son to die for us. God was willing to make so an incredible sacrifice for us so that he could have the kind of relationship with us that he wanted to have and so that we could have the quality of life that he intended for us to live.
In all of the issues that plague our lives in this world we want and need to feel loved. I believe that the reason so many people are hurting these days is that they don’t feel loved by anyone. Yet the Scriptures teach us that we are all loved by God. The problem is that we get so wrapped up in our pain, or hurt, or anger that we cannot see the out-stretched arms of Jesus being extended to us. Close your eyes today and feel yourself wrapped in the loving arms of one who was willing to die to show us how much he loved us.
The Daily Thought – March 20, 2017
The Apostle Paul once said, “You know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize. So run to win!” (1 Corinthians 9:24 NCV)
Paul must have been watching the Olympic Athletes train as he was composing this letter to the Corinthian Church. It struck Paul that all of the runners run the race but only one wins the prize. Therefore, we should run to win. Hall of Fame Coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning isn’t everything; wanting to win is.” I think Paul is talking about attitude in this passage. He understood that attitude is 99.99% of anything we want to accomplish.
I think all of those teams competing in the NCAA College Basketball Tournament want to win the championship but only one can win it. It will be the team that puts together the most desire, the hardest effort, and the smartest game plan. In the same way we need the desire, the passion to follow Jesus. We need to make every effort to serve him. As for the game plan – Jesus has given us the perfect game plan and that is to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves. If we do that we will all be winners because we will all have a winning attitude!
The Daily Thought – March 18, 2017
“For surely, I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Jeremiah proclaims God’s word of hope for Israel. They found themselves in the throes of bondage in Babylon. The world they knew had been destroyed; their homes, their city, and their Temple was in ruins. Jeremiah comes to speak a word to them in the midst of this despair, when all seemed lost. Jeremiah tells them that God has a plan for them. They have a future with hope.
Do you have a plan for your life? There is an old adage that goes, “If you do not plan, you plan to fail.” God has a plan for our lives. God’s plan is for us to be a part of his Kingdom. God’s plan is for us to serve him and thereby find the most fulfillment and joy that this life has to offer. It’s true that living this way with God is risky, but I would rather risk life with God than risk life without God. I am glad God has a plan for my life – how about you?
Blessings, Dennis Daily Thoughts posted on Facebook
The Daily Thought – March 16, 2017
“Blow the trumpet in Zion.” (Joel 2:1)
Joel’s clarion call to Israel to turn to God contains some powerfully descriptive language. They were to blow the trumpet (shofar or Ram’s horn) to signal that the people were to come together for a solemn (a very serious) meeting. This would be a time of fasting and prayer. This was a matter of such urgency that he called for the elderly and the nursing mothers to come (vs. 16) Israel had failed to listen and that was her ultimate downfall in 587 B.C. The prophets preached their hearts out trying to get the people to listen.
Most people today are listening to CNN, MSNBC, or FOX News. We hear a sense of urgency from all of them because they believe and are invested in the erroneous notion that politics and political leaders are source of salvation. However, we need to be listening urgently to the Word of God for our lives; God is the real source of our salvation. During this season of Lent take some time to listen. Joel is right – it is urgent matter for everyone to pay attention to it. Are you willing to listen? Can you hear the trumpet blowing in Zion?
The Daily Thought – March 15, 2017
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5 NLT)
Solomon spoke from experience. When God asked the young king what he most wanted, he replied, “Wisdom that I might govern my people wisely.” He became known as the wisest man on earth. Do you know the difference between knowledge and wisdom? Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in fruit salad
In our arrogance we think we are smart enough to find our own way until we get lost, or the walls cave in, or we discover that we are not really in control of the world. The antidote to the pervasive narcissistic attitude of our contemporary culture is to trust in God and rely on God’s wisdom to guide our lives. Teacher and writer Minnie Louise Harkins once wrote, I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied, “Go into the darkness and put your hand intothe hand of God, that shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!”
The Daily Thought – March 14, 2017
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." (Julian of Norwich)
Julian of Norwich was an English Mystic in the late 14th and early 15 centuries. She was venerated because of her visions of God and her belief in the grace of God. She had a way putting her thoughts in pithy (short but loaded) sayings like the one quoted here. This one expresses her belief that if we trust in God, if we put our lives in God’s hands, then all shall be well. This is not some kind of naïve optimism, it is rather the insightful faith of a woman who survived a terrible illness. Like the Apostle Paul she had learned to trust God in all things and to be at peace in his never failing love.
Life is tough and can throw some hard things our way. As a Pastor I have walked with many people through the toughest things in their lives and have been through some myself. The suffering of life can either make us bitter or it can make it better. We can either grow closer to God through our experiences or we can grow farther away from God. That does not mean that we take things stoically, but rather as we work through our hurt and anger, which we are entitled to feel) then we let God bring healing to our hearts and lives. When we can surrender the struggles of our lives to God then, as Julian reminds us, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
The Daily Thought – March 13, 2017
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death -- that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14)
The writer of Hebrews cuts to the chase with this powerful theological statement of the mission of Jesus. Along with coming to redeem humanity Jesus also came to deliver us from Satan’s power. You see Satan held the power of sin and death; he is the ruler of darkness, the father of lies. However, Jesus changed all of that when he defeated sin at the cross and death at the tomb. He won the battle on all fronts. That means that we are forgiven of our sins and that we need not fear death anymore.
There is a reason that Christians have historically embraced a military metaphor for the Christian life (Onward Christian Soldiers) in this world. They knew and we should too that there is a war going on and it is a battle for human souls. While there have been many casualties in the war the good news the victory has already been won. We therefore continue to battle using only love, obedience, and a cross as our weapons in the sure and certain knowledge that if we wage this battle alongside Jesus, and battle his way, then we cannot lose.
The Daily Thought – March 11, 2017
“Then he appointed twelve of them and called them his apostles. They were to accompany him, and he would send them out to preach, giving them authority to cast out demons.” (Mark 3:14-15 NLT)
Mark tells us that from the beginning Jesus was inaugurating a movement, a new community of faith. He called people to participate in the movement and to carry it forward. (Please note that they were not called Apostles until later). These disciples were equal in their responsibilities and in their service. The two most important activities for the movement in those early days was preaching (proclaiming the message so others will believe) and casting out demons (removing anything that hindered others from joining the movement).
This movement we now know is the Church. However, it never stopped being a movement or a mission. That means that it is always about being active. Jesus taught that love and service were verbs not nouns and therefore they imply action. We need to realize that Church is not so much about place as it is about movement, action, activity. The passivity of the Church in the 20th Century is why the Church lost its influence. There is a clarion call for the Christian Church to turn back to its roots and get busy. Now there are roles and responsibilities for everyone. Come find your place – I promise you that there is one.
The Daily Thought – March 10, 2017
“The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:8}
It is both comforting and unsettling to know that our lives are lived out under the watchful eye of God. However, the Psalmist makes it clear that God not only watches us he protects us. This means that God is intimately involved in our lives even when we do not notice. That is the nature of God, loving, caring, and attentive. A loving father who watches over his children.
Many people deny God, reject God, or do not invite God into their lives but that does not mean that God stops loving them. On the contrary, God never stops loving us. He gives us every chance to come to him and live with him. The difference is that God never forces us or compels us. We would do well to pause and consider in this Lenten season whether we want to walk intimately with the true guardian of our souls or whether we want to walk without him. I much prefer to walk with the Shepherd; it is always safer that way. Besides, the arrogance of a self-willed life always leads to destruction.
The Daily Thought – March 9, 2017
“You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12 TEV)
One day I was making hospital visits and inadvertently forgot to take off my hospital issued Clergy Identification Card, which I wear on a lanyard around my neck. When I got home my son saw it and called to my attention. Later on it occurred to me that there I was with my name and the word Clergy in large letters right out in the open for all to see. If I had said or done anything that was unbecoming for a member of the Clergy what an embarrassment I would have been to God and to the Church. (I am not perfect by the way – but I did have a real good day!)
Paul reminds us that when we remember whose we are, we will we remember who we are. The fact that we belong to God means that our lives should be characterized by compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Think about it; what should the children of God look like? Shouldn’t they look different from the world? If you need any motivation for living this way then consider that Paul gives it to us when he reminds us that we are chosen and loved by God. What other inspiration would you need to live as God’s children?
The Daily Thought – March 8, 2017
“I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:7-8)
The Apostle Paul gives us the theological litmus test of whether anything has ultimate value in our lives. If we think it has more value than knowing Jesus Christ then it is worthless. For Paul, our relationship with Jesus Christ has got to be the ultimate value of our lives. That means that there must be an enduring but unwavering standard that takes first place in our lives above all else. Otherwise we will find ourselves on a roller-coaster ride of going down with guilt and shame and coming up with grace and mercy.
Having the one standard makes it easy to deal with all of the allurements, opportunities, and questions of life. It is not that everything else is bad, it might be quite good and beneficial, but nothing else in life should take the place of God as the priority of our lives. We don’t really intend for it to happen – but when other things start taking hold of our lives, family, work, leisure activities, social clubs, it becomes easy for them to slip into first place. That is why we must make an intentional effort to realign our priorities every day so that we keep God first. The only thing we have that is eternal is our relationship with God. Everything else either gets passed down, since we cannot take it with us, or goes in the land-field.
The Daily Thought – March 7, 2017
“The LORD will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:7-8)
David spent his early life as a shepherd who looked after his father’s flocks of sheep. He understood the importance of protecting the sheep at all times. The shepherd risked his life to protect the sheep against all predators. That meant that the shepherd had to face all kinds of dangerous animals that threatened the sheep and the shepherd. The shepherd had to lead the flocks to water and to grass to graze.
In the same way David envisions God’s care over us. We can live within the protective watch of God’s attentive love or we can go it alone. Writer Mary Gardiner Brainard once said, “I would rather walk with God in the dark than go alone in the light.” It really is our choice. I want to live in God’s flock because he alone can lead us to green pastures and still waters. I want to be in God’s flock because even when I have to face all of the dangers in this world, and that includes the valley of the shadow of death, I have a Good Shepherd who will go with me. Remember, this is the Good Shepherd who has already defeated evil and overcome death. That is the way to find that peace that passes all human understanding.
The Daily Thought – March 6, 2017
“For by him [Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” (1 Corinthians 1:16
I think the thing that strikes me most in Paul’s incredible comment in Colossians 1 is not that Jesus created all things, as powerful as that is, but that all things he created he created for himself. That means that all things in creation have a purpose beyond just existing. That includes you and me by the way. That Jesus created us means that we matter to Jesus and that we have an intrinsic worth way beyond what we can imagine.
It also means that since we were created for a purpose then we have a purpose outside of ourselves. Our purpose is to serve our creator by loving him, glorifying him, and caring for all of his creation. In order to care for God’s creation, we have to care for land, for the air, for the water, for the animals, and for each other. Moreover, it means that we have a purpose that gives meaning and definition to our lives. We do not just exist on this earth, we have been entrusted with it and therefore we are all in this together – together that is – with God.
The Daily Thought – March 4, 2017
“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?” (1 John 3:16-17)
The Church is all about mission; it is how we live out our faith in the world. John gives us the basis for all of our mission endeavors. Whether we are helping people in the US or in Rwanda, it is for the same reason. We are inspired, motivated, compelled to live out the love of God that is in us. For Christians love is always a verb. It denotes actions not feelings. It means that we are about serving God not being served
Perhaps like no other time since the days of the Apostles has the world been in such need of people living out a genuine, heartfelt, self-sacrificial love. It really is what defines us and it is what sets the Church apart in this world. In Chicago a little boy walked a long distance to a particular Church. He had to pass several others Churches. When he was asked why he walked all the way to that one Church he replied, “Because they really love a fellow over there.” Friends, let us pray that people say that about the Church once more – “They really love you over there.
The Daily Thought – March 3, 2017
“It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” (Proverbs 19:2)
Passion is a good thing. Passion has led to some of the greatest discoveries that have benefited human kind. Passion has led to some of the greatest ministries that the Church has started. It was passion, the passion of Christ that led to our salvation. Wise Old Solomon was correct though when he said that passion without knowledge was a dangerous thing. You can be passionate about something and be wrong. We need to connect our passion to thorough knowledge and solid morals and then it will serve as the fuel to burn a mighty fire.
What are you passionate about? Jesus said that those who choose to follow him will be passionate about sharing the story of his passion for sinners, for the outcast, the broken, the sick, the poor, for widows and orphans, and those possessed by demons and for reaching out to them in love. They will be passionate about working to make a difference in the lives of others. The followers of Christ are passionate about living out their faith in such a way that others can see the passion of Christ coming through them. Jesus said it this way, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 ESV) Now there is something to get passionate about.
The Daily Thought – March 2, 2017
“In those days John the Baptist came ... saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matthew 3:1-2)
The season of Lent is always about repentance. Unfortunately repentance has gotten a bad rap in recent years. Obviously if we talk about repentance we have to admit that there are things we need to repent of. We all know what they are (if we are honest with ourselves). Repentance does not mean that we have to stand up and read a whole list of our sins. It is enough that we honestly face them and confess them to God in an act of repentance. To come to terms with our sins means that we also recognize that we need to repent and to recognize that God forgives sins and redeems us.
The other side of this is that repentance is good news. If God did not forgive sins then it would do us no good to repent of them. Jesus came to deliver us out of sin into new life. Remember, “Jesus did not come to make good people better; he came to make dead people alive.” (Ravi Zacharias) What is there in your life that you need to repent to God for? Take some time to look deep within your own hearts and get those things out in the open so God can wash them away. Our sins may cause us to cry tears of sorrow, but God will transform them into tears of joy. Blessings, Dennis
The Daily Thought – March 1, 2017 – Ash Wednesday
“For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”.” (Genesis 3:19 ESV)
Lent always begins with Ash Wednesday. Traditionally on this day Services are held and worshippers are marked with the ashes made from Palms from Palm Sunday a year ago, which are usually applied in the shape of a cross on the foreheads of worshippers as the Minister says,“Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return; repent and believe the Gospel. It is a powerful and moving service of worship.
It is also a startling moment to remember our mortality. However, this moment is not meant to cast us into a well of depression. On the contrary it is meant to remind us that we need to look deep within ourselves, repent of where we are failing to live faithfully with God, and to really experience the overwhelming joy of Easter. I hope that you will pause to consider your mortality and your sinfulness. I also hope that you will experience fresh and new the wonderfully transforming grace of God. May this be the Lent that forever change your lives.