Thursday, February 16, 2017

Devotion for Thursday, February 16

In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them,
and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us (2 Corinthians 5)

Not counting their trespasses against them.  These words are important to remember as we seek to live into a life of reconciliation.

In his book, As For Me and My House,Walter Wangerin writes that the most vital attribute of a faithful and lasting marriage is forgiveness.  Not love, passion, or shared interests.  Forgiveness.
He says that spouses will disappoint each other and even hurt one another. Learning to forgive each other allows couples to move through and beyond difficult times into a place of reconciliation that breeds deeper and greater commitment and love.

As St. Paul writes above, God, in Christ, offers Himself to us in a posture of reconciliation and forgiveness.  God forgives the ways we disappoint and hurt God and reconciles the world back to himself. And God does so build a deeper and greater commitment and love between us and God, i.e. God initiates reconciliation in our relationship.  God then entrusts that message of reconciliation to us and our relationships with each other.

The model of Christ is the model of discipleship. And this message of reconciliation is made present in the very person of Jesus; his life, ministry, death, and resurrection.  Our message of reconciliation will embody the life of Jesus in our own lives.    

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Devotion for Wednesday, February 15

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, 
and has give us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5)

The longer I continue in the work of professional ministry, the more I become convinced that seeking and providing opportunities for reconciliation is at the heart of the way of Jesus.  While I have always known this, of course, it has become more and more personal to me in recent years.

When people are estranged from each other and reconciliation happens, a true holy moment occurs, nothing short of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God.  I've witnessed it in so many occasions.  I've even experienced it myself with others.

When reconciliation ceases to occur in so many instances, all that remains is distrust, envy, anger, and frustration.  Ultimately, most of the time, people simply ignore each other or remove themselves from each other's lives.  The disconnect remains however and in quiet moments the anger and pain rise up in unhealthy ways.  

This is why, as the people of Jesus, if we can foster avenues and spaces where reconciliation can happen, we will be doing what Jesus first did for all of us.  My prayer is that we can embrace a spirit of reconciliation within our community of faith and as part of our personal witness in the world. May God bless us to do so. Amen.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Devotion for Tuesday, February 14

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. 
   Worship the Lord with gladness;
   come into his presence with singing. 

Know that the Lord is God.
   It is he that made us, and we are his;
   we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
   and his courts with praise.
   Give thanks to him, bless his name. 

For the Lord is good;
   his steadfast love endures for ever,
   and his faithfulness to all generations.

On this Valentine's Day, I lift up the "theme psalm" that Heidi and I used at our wedding.  As a couple and partners in life, we have sought to "make a joyful noise to the Lord" and to "enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise."  We indeed give thanks to God for our lives together, our family, and the wonderful gift of the ministry. We hope to be blessings to others because we first have been richly blessed by God's grace.

On this day, a day that celebrates love, I invite you to remember the great love that God has for you! Not only on this special day, but ever single day of your life!  Amen!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Devotion for Monday, February 13

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view ... 
if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5)

This week, we will be exploring 2 Corinthians 5: 16-20.

We often view others through the prism of their less than best selves.  When someone makes a mistake, or acts judgmentally, or treats us in a fashion that is hurtful or dismissive, we tend to see them as that and that alone.

I am challenged by the first part of these words.  They remind me of when Jesus told Peter to "get behind me Satan, for you have set your mind, not on divine things, but on human things."  I can be eager to set my mind on human things, i.e. seeing others flaws, imperfections, and failures as most defining of their person.  Yet, I lament and argue when others do the same to me.

Consider today, how might the world change if we could learn to regard others not merely by their human foibles but increasingly through the lens of Jesus' compassion and love? 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Devotion for Friday, February 3

Children are a heritage from the Lord (Psalm 127)

My son, Micah, was born February 3, 2008.  My daughter, Leah, was born January 30, 2011. Because of the closeness of their birthdays, we will, on occasion, celebrate a shared party like we are doing today with a bowling party this evening. 

They are really close. Their older brother, Noah, is 5 years older than Micah and 8 years older than Leah.  He's a great big brother to them both and close with them both for sure.

Leah and Micah, being closer in age however, are always playing together.  They are tight.  Which means that they fight and argue and compete all the time.  To be sure, this makes for some frustrating moments for the parents.  Noah rises above all of this generally, being a teenager.  But Leah and Micah play regularly and have many of the same friends.  And I love this.

They will be in high school together (Noah will be out of college by then).  They will be in college together (while Noah will be hopefully making the big bucks).  This portends that as they grow up, Leah and Micah will share so much of their lives, having a common experience in many ways.

This reminds me of my sister and I.  She was 2 1/2 years younger than me. We played together alot when we were younger. Later on, we shared similar experiences, both in high school and in college (Lenoir-Rhyne).  I treasure those shared experiences so much and I am delighted that my children will have a similar relationship.

My prayer today is simple:  I pray that my children will grow up knowing that they are loved and unique and valued, by their parents, their siblings, and by God.  I pray that they will be faithful, living into the Jesus life with all its blessings and challenges.  I pray that they will value themselves, value others, and strive for justice and peace in all the world.  

And I pray that they have a TON OF FUN together and make lasting memories!

Happy Birthdays Leah and Micah. Daddy loves you! 

In Christ,

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Devotion for Thursday, February 2

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice. 
Let your gentleness be known to everyone. (Philippians 4)

Can we find a way to rejoice together? 

Rejoicing is a gift from God and too often we rejoice separately.  Instead, in faithfulness, we need to seek those places where we can rejoice together.  

A way to make that happen, I believe, is to let our gentleness -- with each other -- be known! Can we seek to listen to those with whom we disagree?  Can we be open to sharing our concerns with others so that we can foster relationship, if not, reconciliation? Can we find that what may divide us is not as strong as what unites us?

As a man of faith, I am challenged to live my faith fully and completely.  It calls me as a Christian leader to both speak the Gospel in my understanding but also to be humble and listen to those who would share a critique.  Witness in courage and listen with humility. This is the only way that I can grow and the only way I can help others grow.  It is incumbent upon me to model faithfulness in both ways I believe.  

My sincere desire is to help catalyze more rejoicing together.  I believe that we can find ways to give thanks and rejoice in the Lord always.  For through gentleness and love for all, we can help foster an environment of mutual trust and learning together.  And this, when and where are successful, is indeed in cause for rejoicing! 

In Christ, Amen.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Devotion for Wednesday, February 1

I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law,
the Christ died for nothing (Galatians 2)

I have found that I appreciate these words from St. Paul more and more as I grow older.  So much of my life, I have beaten myself up when I have made mistakes.  I feel badly when I fail or don't succeed. I have struggled with self-esteem when I have acted in such a way that was inconsistent with my values and faith.  

I would imagine that all of us have moments in our lives when we have ceased to be our best selves, when we have behaved poorly or said something we came to regret.  I imagine that all of us can find something we are not proud of in our lives or something that makes us feel ashamed.  

How beautiful then are these words?  "I do not nullify the grace of God."  So simple, yet so profound. Yes, I fail.  Yes, I fall short of the glory of God. Yes, I make dumb decisions and say hurtful things. 

Yet, my actions -- neither my good works nor my mistakes and failures -- can affect the love and grace that God has for me.  This baptismal promise frees me to grow and change and live more faithfully.  

And this same promise is yours!  You cannot and will not ever nullify the grace of God which will and has called you beyond your sin and into the promise of new life.  Amen.