Glimpses of Grace: “Life’s Two Estate Sales”

I had a birthday this past month. I am at that stage in life when asked, “What do you want for your birthday?”, my reply is that I really have no “wants”. If I want something, I buy it or at least learn to do without it. Both my wants and needs are getting simpler with each passing year. However, when pressed about a present, I tell my family to give me something that I can eat or drink or that will sell well at my estate sale. For many, if not most of us, when our time here on earth comes to a close there will be two estate sales; one of our worldly good and another of our soul.

When my folks died, my wife and I were left with the responsibility of sorting through over 50 years of accumulated “stuff”. We did the best we could but I am sure that in the end some of their most precious “heirlooms” were not recognized by me and undervalued.

That is one kind of estate sale, but there is another kind of estate sale: an estate sale of the soul.  In I Chronicles 29 King David set the stage for this latter estate sale. He told the 12 clans of Israel to remember that God is the source of all wealth and power. No one truly pulls themselves up by their own bootstraps because no one can choose the family into which they are born, their time in history, or their nation. For much of their most formative years they are powerless.

In his parables Jesus noted that we begin life with certain opportunities (talents) based on the color of our skin, family of origin, time and place of our birth–all things totally beyond our control. In these parables Jesus said that there is a day of reckoning, or accounting whereby we are judged on how well we used God’s “gifts” in making this world a richer or poorer place. Have we built others up and made them small in order to make us look large. Have we been selfish or generous? Did we see the naked and the hungry and walk by? Did we care not only for ourselves, our kin, our kind, or our generation or did we remember our responsibility to the generations that will come after us? Did we give more than we took, or did we live in such a way that those around us and this world are the poorer by our passing by here? These are the eternal questions that each of us will be asked when the number of our days draw to a close. These are the elements of our spiritual estate, the estate sale of the soul.

Lord, make he conscious that You created me for the purpose of glorifying You not enriching myself in any number of ways. Thank you for your blessings. Make me a good steward in the brief time that I am here on earth. Amen.


Glimpses of Grace—A Fool’s Easter

Devotional Reading: Mark 24:1-12

For the first time since 1956 April Fool’s Day and Easter falls on the same day. Someone unfamiliar with Christianity might think that Easter is the biggest April Fool’s hoax ever.

The disciples didn’t believe the women when they came back from the Tomb saying that Jesus was alive that first Easter morning. The apostle Paul, reflecting upon the story of Easter, wrote that it is a stumbling block to some and sheer foolishness to others. (I Corinthians 1:23) But “Who is the biggest fool?”

Maybe the biggest fool was Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. He could have stopped the crucifixion. By all indications he wanted to, but didn’t. After interrogating Jesus he said, “I find no crime in this man”. Compounding his doubts was a troubling dream his wife had about Jesus. She warned her husband to stay out of it (Matthew 27:19). But did he listen? No. He was too weak to resist public opinion. He ceremonially washed his hands and declared that Jesus’ blood was not on his hands. But history judged differently. The stain of Jesus’ blood is on Pilate’s hands and our hands when we value the opinion of the crowd above God . ” What does it profit a person,” Jesus said, “to gain the whole world and lose their soul”?

Maybe the biggest fool was Caiaphas who valued political expediency over justice when he declared that it was better for one man to die for the many than for the many to die for one man. What difference does innocence make in the greater scheme of things? .

Maybe the disciples were the biggest fools. They scattered like sheep, just as Jesus said that they would. None of them, save possibly one, was at the Cross.

Mark’s Easter story has been called the unsatisfactory gospel. It originally ended with women telling no one what they saw or heard. Subsequent writers added two different endings. But I think that Mark meant to keep us in suspense for the story of Easter didn’t really end 2000 years ago. The story is continued by us. The story of Easter calls upon us to be foolish enough to take Jesus seriously. We may not know what the Future holds but we do know this, the Resurrected One waits for us in “Galilee”. No matter what the Future holds, we cannot escape either His claim upon our lives.

Lord, make us an Easter people. Amen.


Glimpses of Grace: It’s Not About You

Have your ever wondered if you’re “good enough”? Good enough to go to heaven? Have you ever woken up in the early morning hours and wondered? If so, maybe you can take comfort in  knowing that the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther had the same worry. As a German monk he prayed to St. Anne to make him “righteous enough”. He fasted, confessed, did pentitance, and practiced all of the spiritual disciplines of the Church but he flet that he was “good enough” or that he had “done enough”. And then one night, as he read Romans 1: 17, Paul’s words jumped out at him, “We are made righteous through faith”. Being good enough, being righteous enough, is not about what we do; it is about about something called “Faith”. And Faith is a gift from God.

In Ephesians 2 we read,  for by faith you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God–not the result of works, lest anyone should boast. (vss. 8&9)

Faith is a gift not a work. You don’t have to earn enough points to hit the magic “heavenly score.” As a matter of fact, even if you did, you couldn’t no matter how hard your tried. Why? Because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)  Nor can you go to a spiritual gymnasium and lift “faith weights” because such a gym does not exist.

Faith is like the manna God provided the Israelites during their 40 year wilderness journey. They were told that they could not be saved for a rainy day. God would provide, and they would have to learn to trust God to provide their “daily bread.”  

When Corrie ten Boom was a young girl she frequently worried about whether or not she had enough faith to die as a martyr for Jesus. One night she shared this concern with her father, a wise man. Kneeling beside her bed he asked her, “When you are going to visit family when do I give you your train ticket? A week before? A day before your journey?” “No”. she replied, “you give it to me as I get on the train.” “That’s how it is with Faith,” her father continued. “God gives you the faith you need when you need it and not a moment before.” That night stuck with her as she and her family entered a concentration camp. It stayed with her as she saw her sister die. It carried her throughout throughout the rest of her life as she “tramped for the Lord”.

Not too long ago I saw a billboard that simply said, “He first loved us”. That billboard says it all. When I teach confirmation classes I tell them we are not good to earn “brownie points” or get “stars in the crown”. Nor do are we trying to earn our way into “heaven” or “win”  “God’s love”. Our baptism reminds us of the truth contained in I John 4, namely, “we love God because God first loved us.” We do not baptize the worthy or the loveable but the loved. Our salvation is a done deal. It was signed, sealed and delivered 2000 years ago “on a hill far away”.  It is not about us but about God.

The good works we do and the lives that we live are our “thank you notes” to God for what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.  Our lives–the decisions that we make, the things that we do and do not do–are not for our edification but God’s glorification. God created us in Christ Jesus, the writer of Ephesians said, so that we can do the good works that God prepared for us to do before we were even born.

Lord God, let my life be my thank you to You for your Saving Love. Amen,


Glimpses of Grace

Daily Lenten Devotion for 11th Day of Lent

Reading: Mark 2:23-36

Text: the sabbath was made for people, not people for the sabbath. (v. 27)

This has always been one of my favorite teachings of Jesus. It is foundational in helping us avoid legalism.

Jesus was criticized by the “legalisms” for plucking and eating grain from a field on the sabbath. Immediately following this He asked his critics if it was allowed to heal a man on the sabbath. They didn’t respond thus showing their hardness of heart. He healed the man right there in the Temple “in front of God and everyone”! There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.

I am not one who believes in precedence because there are never two situations that are exactly alike. I’ve often thought that “precedence” was the work of lazy minds that did not want to make hard decisions. Circumstances change by the minute and the hour. Some needs have to be met now. Others do not. It takes work to distinguish between the two. Opportunities are fleeting. And discipleship is hard. That is why we need to pray constantly and think deeply.

Lord God, give a sound mind that that think critically and act quickly when it Cannes to sowing the mustard seeds of Your Kingdom in my daily life.


Glimpses of Grace

Lenten Daily Devotion Day 10. F23C7140-33B4-4374-B38A-5772135E88FDReading Mark 2:13-22.

Text: As Jesus was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

The thing that always struck me about Jesus is not the teachings, nor His examples nor even the miracles. Rather, it is the immediacy of the response to His invitation to follow Him in discipleship.

Discipleship is not about knowledge, though that is needed to a certain extent. Rather it is about apprenticeship in following Jesus. We must learn as we go. As apprentice we learn how to care, share and to love unconditionally within a community of faith.

If you do not have a faith community of faith to guide you in your Jesus’ journey of discipleship, I challenge you Look for one in this season of Lent. Don’t do it tomorrow, or later or when you get settled, but now.  Your first try will probably not be successful, but start. Find one that is disciplined without being judgmental and loving but not permissive.

Lord, I hear Your call to follow. Lead me to a faith community that can teach me. Amen.



Glimpses of Grace Lenten Devotion Day 9: “God will take care of you”

Devotional Reading: Mark 2: 1-12

Text: And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof tiles and let him down before Jesus (v. 4)

Whenever I do a worship service in a nursing home I ask the residents if they have a hymn or two they’d like to sing. Invariably someone always requests “God Will Take Care of You”. As we sing, before the hymn is finished, several residents will wipe away a tear or two.

God will take care of you/ Through everyday o’er all the way/ He will take care of you/ God will take care of you.

In today’s reading the paralytic man’s friends knew that through Jesus, God would take care of their friend.

I continue to marvel at the unshakable childlike faith of the my friends in the nursing home as well as the man’s friends. May God grant me such faith.

Lord God, bless me with a trusting childlike faith that the world can never take away. Amen.


Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for Lent: “Take the Time”

Reading for the 7th Day of Lent: 1:29-45

Text: In the morning while it was very dark, Jesus got up and went to a deserted place, and there He prayed.

I used to have a ceramic mold of ” the praying hands”. It sat on the corner of my desk. It served as a constant reminder of the necessity and power of prayer.

One day it was knocked off the desk and onto the floor breaking the base. I carefully glued it back together but a couple of pieces were missing and the cracks were never really hidden. I kept if for it’s sentimental value and set it on relatively safe place on a shelf in the church study.

Several years passed before I plucked it from the shelf for a children’s message. As I talked about prayer I suddenly noticed that nestled in the crevice where the hands met, a spider had build a small web. Surprised, I changed the direction of my message and told told the children that even when things seem broken, prayer reminds us that we live under the Providential care of God. We live our lives in the palm of God’s hand.

Jesus took time to be alone in prayer. Do we?

Lord, teach me to pray. Convince me that I need to find the time to be alone in prayer. Amen.


Glimpses of Grace for the First Sunday in Lent

Devotional Reading: Genesis 9: 8-17

Text: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. (v. 13)

The story of Noah, the Ark and the Rainbow is a story often told to children but its profundity has often been ignored or forgotten.

When God brought order out of the chaos at the Creation, the Almighty declared the Creation “good”. But things soon went bad; Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the fratricide of Able, the Tower of Babel, “the sons of God” impregnating “the daughters of Eve”, corruption and violence spiraled out of control nearly sending God’s good Creation back into chaos like grass braking disintegrating a sidewalk that hasn’t been maintained.

Finally God had enough. He vowed to wipe the slate clean like a child shakes an “Etch and Sketch”. But then the Almighty had second thoughts. God decided to save a remnant. It seems that God always leaves a remnant.

And then God did something totally unexpected and even unprecedented. God declared a unilateral peace treaty with all of the Creation.

In this story we are reminded that retribution never wins a human heart or anything else. In the end, only Love wins.

The story of the Rainbow moves us from retribution to forgiveness, and from frustration to patience.

Lord, as you set the Bow in the sky and thus declared a truce with all of Your Creation, show me how to be as wise. Amen.


Glimpses Of Grace: A Conundrum

Lenten Devotional Reading for the 4th Day of Lent: John 17: 20-26 (from the Dailey Common Lectionary)

Text: …that they may be one… (vvs. 21& 22)

A conundrum is “a confusing and difficult problem or question; a riddle”. Today’s text is a conundrum in that Jesus prayed for His disciples then and now, to be one. He prayed for their “unity”. He prayed for this twice in today’s reading. Yet, as we look at Christianity today, we are far from united.

Recently I attended a 24 hour 3 day professional development class. During one of the presentations the presenter noted that the “pre-Constantine” Church was focused on caring for one another and the general community. They showed no partiality between those in the Church and those outside of the Church. They met need wherever they found it. They realized that they had been “saved to serve”. Accordingly, as people saw their selflessness and their numbers grew.

The “post-Constantine” Church, by contrast, focused less on serving and more on doctrine. As a consequence, the Church became increasingly divided along doctrinal lines. The unity that Jesus prayed for faded into what we see today.

So, here’s the conundrum, how to work toward the building unity For which Jesus prayed?

In this season of Lent I encourage you to visit a worship service other than the one in which you were raised or now attend. Engage in one local mission project were participants cross the boundaries that divide us be they cultural, economic, religious, racial, etc. Look for “the other image of God in those around you. See them as one of God’s children worthy to dignity and respect, just like you. When you do this, you will be a living glimpse of grace.

Lord, make me an instrument of your preface. Let me be the one who takes the first step to dismantling the walls that divide. Amen.


Glimpses Of Grace: Being In the World

Lenten Daily Devotion Day 3: John 17: 9-19 (from Daily Common Lectionary)

Text: And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world. (v. 11)

The world is a big place. It is an overwhelming place. The world’s problems are exponentially compounded by people, by you and me.

In His life Jesus showed those who would take Him seriously a new Way, a way illuminated by the lantern of Truth. This Truth would in turn lead to a Life that knows no end.

He expected us to sow the tiny “mustard seeds” of God’s Kingdom each and every day of our lives. He didn’t ask for full-grown highly developed programs because He knew better. Just a mustard seed or two.

When Jesus saw the crowd of 5000 in search of Truth and Meaning, he asked of the disciples no more than what they could provide. He asks the same of us.

In the season of Lent many people talk about what they’re giving up. I think that that is too easy. Besides, usually it’s things that we should give up anyway, or at least cut back on: coffee, chocolate, maybe a lunch or two–you get the point.

Maybe we shouldn’t give things up but give things to–time to the irritating person who just wants someone to listen, comfort to the frightened, help to the person who doesn’t know how to ask for help. Maybe it’s deciding to being on time, writing a note or card a day to people on your Christmas list. It could be buying a cup of coffee for the person behind you. Just do an act of kindness without wanting or expecting anything in return.

The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, Jesus once said. It begins small but grows into something beyond imagination.

Jesus isn’t here anymore, except as He is reflected in the lives of those who call Him Lord.

The world is big. We are small. We have a lot of work to do. Let’s get to it, for the glory of God.

Lord, move my spirit in this season of Lent to plant the mustard seeds of God’s Kingdom in this big world. Amen