Thursday, September 29, 2016

Devotion for Thursday, September 29

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above (Colossians 3:1)

I am a preacher's son. I went to church every week and our life revolved around the work of the church. My grandparents were active church goers, with my grandfather being a choir director for many years.

I have been raised with Christ in my life. I am attempting to raise my children with Christ. If I thought I had it hard as a preacher's kid, my children have it doubly hard.  They are up early for worship, and Sunday school, and then remain at Bethel all morning, each Sunday.  At least I was able to go home with mom early and didn't have to stay at church all day.  My kids spent all morning, every Sunday at church.  They are not only raised with Christ they are being raised IN the church.  

And honestly, I am so proud of my children for not being difficult about all of this.  They simply go with it. They realize to some degree I imagine that there is really nothing they can do about it, but I do believe that because of awesome friends and other people who spend time with them each Sunday, they have come to accept and value their time at Bethel each Sunday.

So, while they have a little less freedom than most kids on Sunday, they are receiving something pretty neat too. They are being shaped by loving, caring Jesus followers.  I value this for them. I value that other adults are helping them see that living and loving like Jesus is important.  I am thankful that they are receiving this message from people other than just Heidi and me.

Lord Jesus, thank you for those who shape the faith lives of our children, as they are precious as gold. Amen.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Devotion for Wednesday, September 28

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, 
there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28)

We are currently having a really fun and engaging study at our Adult Forum on Sunday mornings.  It is entitled, "Seeing Gray in a Black and White World: Thoughts on Religion, Morality, and Politics." This study was chosen to coincide with the months leading up to the presidential election intentionally.  

I feel that we should not be shy about talking together about difficult issues in the church. As followers of Jesus, our unity in Him allows us to dare tread into the places and topics that could be divisive among us. 

In Christ, our unity defines us amidst our diversity. And as we begin to embrace our unity in Christ, we find that our diversity is a gift.  And as we embrace our unity and honor our diversity, then we built meaningful community. 

Unity ... Diversity ... Community!  All to be experienced within the fabric of God's love and grace!

Lord Jesus, may we always seek to find our unity in you and with each other. Amen.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Devotion for Tuesday, September 27

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you (Luke 17)

Like the apostles, we all seek to grow in faith.  There are moments in our lives, seasons even, when we are confident in discipleship, excited about discipleship, and have energy around our discipleship.

And then there are times when we are exhausted - by life, by fear, by uncertainty.  And in these moments, we need strength and an "increase" in our ability to be faithful.

Jesus reminds us that the "amount" of faith is not important.  It is not dissimilar to water in baptism. You are not "more baptized" with more water.  It is like bread and wine amounts at communion.  You do not have "more forgiveness" with a larger wafer or a longer sip from the chalice. 

The power of faith does not come from us, Jesus is saying.  God can use whatever we have to bring wisdom, comfort, strength, and peace.  This is the gift of God in our lives. It is not up to us. The beautiful truth from Jesus today is this; trust, even a little bit, is a powerful tool in the hands of a mighty God!

Lord Jesus, you are enough to bring us through our fears and struggles. Amen.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Devotion for Monday, September 26

Success in golf depends less on strength of body 
than upon strength of mind and character (Arnold Palmer)

I met Arnold Palmer once. A colleague invited me to play golf with him in Orlando at Bay Hill, Arnold's course, where my colleague was a member.

As it turned out, Arnold was in line when I teed off the first hole (I hit my best drive of the day fortunately).  As we went around the course I was acutely aware that ARNOLD PALMER was playing the group behind us and that we saw them regularly as we made our way around the course.  Believe me, having a legend and the owner of the golf course playing behind you keeps you from playing slow.

On one hole, I drove right off the tee (shocker) and ended up having to pitch back over a tree onto the green.  As I prepared to hit my shot, a golf cart rode up in my peripheral vision.  Instinctively, I look over and there was Arnie, looking right at me. My heart skipped a beat and as the King watch I hit my only other wonderful shot of the day, right over the tree onto the green.  As far as I know, Arnold Palmer saw me hit two shots -- my excellent drive off the first tee, and my approach shot over a tree onto the green.  As far as I know, Arnie believes I am a tremendous golfer! 

Afterwards, in the locker room, which was also had a bar, we sat and enjoyed the 19th hole, Arnie came in and we approached him as he was sitting at the bar. My friend introduced me and I told Arnold that it was an honor to meet him and shared that my wife had attended Wake Forest, like he did.  He said that obviously she was a smart woman!

Hearing of Arnold's passing I am thankful that his life and values were on display for the world to see.  A man of grace, humility, strength, and courage he gained notoriety not only for being a great golfer, but for being the one who took a country-club sport and brought it to a mass audience purely through his personality and greatness.

It reminds us that our lives can make a difference, especially if we live with character and courage. We will most likely not achieve the fame and influence of someone like Arnold Palmer. But having someone of such statue live so well, it reminds us of our better angels and what is possible.

Today, I lift an Arnold Palmer in honor of Arnold Palmer!

Loving Lord, thank you for the life of Arnold Palmer and bless the Palmer family and all those who mourn today. Amen. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Devotion for Friday, September 23 (A Week with First Peter)

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God ... 
Cast your anxiety on him, because he cares for you (I Peter 5:6-7)

We have all used the phrase "at the end of the day".  I think this means that after all the noise and distractions of our day, the final moments as we reflect on all that has happened can be rich soil for learning from and leaning into the love of our Lord.  

Whenever I have had trouble sleeping at night it is generally because of anxiety; either personal anxiety or professional anxiety (and, I must say, occasionally sports anxiety brought on by my beloved Redskins, bless their hearts!).  What I try to remember in these moments is to cast my anxiety on the Lord.

It is not always easy. Sometimes my mind will be so full of negative thoughts and disappointments and frustrations that I wonder if I will ever fall asleep.  And it is not fun to lay there "at the end of the day" eyes wide open, heart racing, and just wanting to fall asleep.  

Still, except for a few "dark nights of the soul", I have eventually fallen asleep after praying for the Lord's presence, and I wake up the next day in a different state of mind.  It is the gift that "at the end of the day" we are met by our Lord who leads us into a "new day" full of hope, possibility, and promise.

May we remember that our anxieties are never too big or too overwhelming for the comfort that God will bring. The peace that surpasses all circumstances is real. I have felt it. You have felt it too I suspect.

As we experience humility in our sin and brokenness, we are built up by the Lord's grace and mercy and power.  We are not "at the end of the day" defined by our failures and missteps. Instead, "at the end of the day" we are met that the Lord who cares for us, values us, and will strengthen us.  

Lord at the end of our days, meet us in our pain, comfort us in our shame, and draw us close to you. Amen.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Devotion for Thursday, September 22 (A Week with First Peter)

But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed (I Peter 3:14)

You will suffer for Christ as you follow Him.  You will struggle because of your faith. You will be ridiculed for the way that you live your life in Christ. You may be persecuted, and you may even die.

Quite a recruiting strategy huh?

Come, join our church, join our movement, and then go through some seriously difficult times and perhaps even lose your life! Awesome!

Well this is what the early Christians went through.  To be sure, our lives are not nearly as fraught with direct danger.  We will not be incarcerated for going to worship.  However, the reality is that living the life of faith will put us at odds with others, lead us to take action that is against our own personal and financial interest, and may even put us in harms way.

When this happens in your life, the comfort offered is that we are blessed amidst our struggles because we are following the work of Jesus.  And this is comfort to us who love Jesus.

If I am following Jesus and it brings me into conflict or struggle or frustrating situations, I know that I can sleep well, and deal with the issues at hand because I am confident in my faith and my work. It may be difficult or maddening or sad.  Still, faithfully following the Jesus Way will bring its own reward, a reward that will trump other struggles.  This I have experienced and this I know to be true.

Lord, grant us the strength to serve you and find our comfort in you. Amen.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Devotion for Wednesday, September 21 (A Week with First Peter)

Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you, 
they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God (1 Peter 2:11)

Although Paul in Romans 12 says, "insofar as it depends on you, live peaceably with each other", we know that this is often very difficult.  Especially if others have hurt us or wounded us. 

To conduct ourselves honorably, we must put effort and energy into being honorable and peaceful in our dealings with others.  It takes WORK!

When Jesus calls us love our neighbor as ourselves, I don't believe he means for us to have the same emotional depth of feeling for others as we have for those most dear to us. So, loving our neighbor isn't about feelings and emotions.  It is about behavior.

Our reading today reminds us that our behavior toward others matters.  Living with honor, treating others with fairness, and showing integrity in our relationships is up to us.  As we do this, we reflect our faith and our Lord to the world. And this matters!

Jesus followers have a blessed opportunity to be the most generous, welcoming, committed, and courageous people. Following the example of Jesus we are called to live and love like Jesus.  But like for Jesus, this is not easy nor without danger and struggle.  

We need prayer to live and love like Jesus. We need scripture to help us live and love like Jesus. We need worship to help us live and love like Jesus. We need community to live and love like Jesus.

And as we learn to live honorably and love indiscriminately like Jesus, then the world will notice and the world will change!

Honorable Christ, through our actions and activities, may we be beacons of light and peace amidst the darkness of the world. Amen.