Christian, devotion, Easter, faith, Lenten Devotion, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace for Easter, 2017

Devotional Reading: Luke 24: 13-35. Morning Psalm 93; Evening Psalm 136.

Text: Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him, and He vanished from their sight. (v. 31)

The walk to Emmaus. It is often an Easter evening text and one that I don’t get to preach on since the churches that I have served do not have an Easter evening service. But the story calls to my heart. It is remembered every time Presbyterian followers of Jesus celebrate the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

Jesus “vanished from their sight” but not from their lives. He is always with us. He also goes before us. Some theologians call this prevenient grace or the grace the precedes. It is this grace that leads us as we live a life of faith. Christ always precedes us, always arrives before us and is always waiting for us. There is a comfort in that knowledge.

Gone from our sight but not from our lives. He showed us Life and Death and Life again.

Lord, thank you for Your grace that opens our eyes; your grace that precedes us in life. Thank you for walking before us and with us. May my life glorify you, Amen.

Christian, devotion, Hebrews, Letter to the, Lenten Devotion, Presbyterian Church (USA), Sabbath, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace for the 40th Day of Lent, 2017

Devotional Reading: Hebrews 4: 1-16* . Morning Psalm 43; Evening Psalm 31.

Text: So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from His. Let us therefore make every effort to enter into that rest, … (vss. 9,10,11a)

While coming home from an out of town meeting I made a quick stop at a McDonalds for a hamburger and a soft drink. A couple about my age was in line ahead of me. They called over to their 20-something son to see if he wanted something to eat or drink. Engrossed in a video game on his I Pad, he didn’t raise his dead as he shook his head.

The couple got their food and sat down across from their son. Waiting for my order I looked over at them and saw that despite various attempts at conversation, their son never took his eyes off of the I Pad nor did his thumbs ever quit moving. The young man seemed to be addicted to his electronic device.** Now I don’t know the family or their situation but their image got me to thinking about the Sabbath.

The letter to the Hebrews encouraged that community to keep a sabbath. We have been created to both work and rest, play and rest. The most durable muscle in a healthy person is their heart. It has been estimated that the heart beats, on average, 42,048,000 times a year and 3,363,840,000 times in a life time. The only way that it can do this is by having a balance between work and rest.

On this 40th day of Lent, take time to consider whether you have a balanced life. All work and no play not only makes Johnny a dull boy but it destroys family and social life.

Lord, motivate me to keep a sabbath and send people into my life who will hold be accountable. Remind me that only by living a balanced life can I truly glorify you. Amen.

*The Common Lectionary does not assign a Gospel text for the Saturday before Easter.

**It is easy for us to become addicted to our electronic devices. Like Pavlov’s dogs we respond to the ding of an incoming email or tweet or… Consider taking an internet or electronic device sabbath for half a day, or even a whole day. 

Christian, devotion, faith, Good Friday, Lenten Devotion, Presbyterian Church (USA), The Gospel of John, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace for the 39th Day of Lent, Good Friday, Evening, 2017

Devotional Reading (evening): John 19:38-42. Psalm 105.

Text: Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. (John 19: 39)

The evening devotional reading is a story about a “secret” disciple, Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus, the one who came to Jesus at night. Together they came to claim the body of Jesus for burial. What struck me most was not the “secret” disciple–there are many secret disciples in totalitarian countries around the world. Rather, I was struck by Nicodemus, or more accurately, his extravagant generosity. He acted like the woman who bathed Jesus feet with fragrant oil valued at more than a year’s salary and Zacchaeus who not only made restitution but gave away half of his wealth to those in need.

Jesus once said that you can tell about a person’s faith by the fruit that it produces. I think that one of the fruits of the spirit is Generosity. I believe that once a person has been touched by Jesus, truly touched by Jesus, they become extravagantly generous. They become extravagantly generous because they realize that Life is not about them, but about God. They understand that their call to be stewards of everything God entrusted to their care. They realized that they are responsible to God for the assets of God’s Kingdom–the whole of creation including its creatures and especially God’s children.

A part of the Good News is that we are freed to be who God knows we truly are. We are free to be God glorifying stewards.

Lord, open my eyes, heart and mind to see the true abundance of your merciful grace rather than the fearful scarcity that the world wants me to see. Let me have a Nicodemus. Amen.



devotion, faith, Good Friday, Lenten Devotion, Presbyterian Church (USA), The Gospel of John, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace for the 39th Day of Lent, Good Friday Morning, 2017

Devotional Readings for the Day: John 13: 36-38.  Morning Psalm 22

Texts: “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times. (John 13:38).

(There are two devotional readings for today; one for the morning and one for the end of the day. They will be treated in separate Glimpses of Grace.)

One morning, when I was in grade school, my mother came into my room to wake me up for school.  Blurry-eyed, I slowly rolled over and said, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak!” Where that came from I do not know. My family often took “church sabbaticals”, largely due to work schedules. And, I was definitely not a religious kid; sports were my religion. Nor was I good at memorizing scripture verses. So where the words came from I have no idea!

The morning devotional reading is a part of the exchange between Jesus and Peter. Peter had just pledged his unwavering loyalty to Jesus, but Jesus knew better. He knew who Peter. He knew Peter better than Peter knew himself.

We say that we love Jesus and that our faith is solid, unshakable. Yet, often we, too, falter when following Jesus gets in the way of our safety, security or wealth. Our spirit may be willing but our flesh is indeed weak. Jesus knows this. God knows this. The Psalmist acknowledged this: “God knows we are weak and remembers that we are made of dust”. (Psalm 103: 14)

As we walk in Jesus discipleship we will stumble and fall. We will deny His Lordship of our lives in a variety of subtle and not so subtle ways. But here is the good news: we are forgiven. God picks us up, brushes us off and sets us on the path of discipleship again and again and again. And each time we will do better until we are finally molded into a reflection of Christ.

Lord, I want to be true but I am weak. Teach me. Strengthen me in my weak places. Give me courage. Amen.


Christian, devotion, Lenten Devotion, Presbyterian Church (USA), The Gospel of John, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace for the 38th Day of Lent, Maundy Thursday, 2017

Devotional Reading John 17: 1-26. Morning Psalm 27; Evening Psalm 126.

Text: I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. … As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. (vss. 15 and 18, Jesus “Great Priestly Prayer)

I have problems with “labeling” people and things. Not labels on packaging but labels that segregate–Christian music, for example. If “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1), then I believe that all music is glorifying in that it is used by God to teach us something. Sometimes we label certain teachings as “Christian” when in reality they simply re-enforce our prejudices and stifle curiosity.

In His prayer “High Priestly Prayer” Jesus reminded His disciples that they were not to withdraw from the world but be deep in the mix of it.  His followers are to be involved in every aspect of family, business and community life. How else can they be light in the midst of darkness? We are harbingers of God’s Kingdom, proclaimers of God’s eternal unconditional love. We are the living “the Body of Christ” touching society’s “lepers”, talking to the “Samaritan woman at the well”, and forgiving as freely as God has forgiven us. We are both proclaimers of the Good News and its very embodiment.

The High Priestly Prayer is a prayer for us. It is a prayer reminding us that Jesus sends us into the world, and that we must be embedded in the world. After all we are salt. We are light. We are followers of Jesus.

Lord, send me where You will. I submit myself to Your leading, trusting in Your  Providential care. I will do my best in glorifying Your Name. Amen.

Christian, devotion, Lenten Devotion, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace for the 37th Day of Lent, Wednesday, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 12: 27-36. Morning Psalm 5; Evening Psalm 27.

Text: Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say–“Father, save me from this hour?” No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.” (Jesus, John 12; 27)

I have found that doing the “right” thing is seldom an easy thing to do. I find comfort in Jesus’ internal debate as He wrestled with what lay before Him. He concluded that he could do no other for to do so would be to avoid purpose for which He came.

The lesson reminded me of a story that occurred centuries earlier as an Old Testament figure named Esther faced a dangerous and life changing decision. Would she keep silent or speak up? Would she reveal who she was or let evil win? Her cousin Mordecai challenged her and wondered if “for a time such as this she had been born”. Her decision changed the fate of a people. Jesus decision changed the fate of the world.

We probably won’t face such a life and death with the decision in our lives. But we will find that doing the right thing is not easy because it means that we must be willing to lose something. But we also know that in John’s gospel at least, Jesus made the ultimate “right” decision. And that changes everything.

Lord, give us the clarity of vision and the courage of conviction to make the “right” decision in our daily events. Amen.

Christian, devotion, faith, Lenten Devotion, Pope Francis, Presbyterian Church (USA), The Gospel of John, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace for the 36th Day of Lent, Tuesday of Holy Week, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 12: 20-26.  Morning Psalm 34; Evening Psalm 25.

Text: They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” (v. 21)

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” People still wish to see Jesus. I am convinced that a part of the popularity of Pope Francis is that he exemplifies the teachings of Jesus in such a way the his predecessors didn’t. Not too long ago he said that the Church of Jesus Christ should not be known for what it is against, but for what it is for; the least, the last and the lost. A recent example of this concern for marginalized people was the announcement that the the Vatican would provide free laundromats  for the poor and homeless in Rome. This is faith in action. 

Jesus wanted His disciples to learn from Him and be like Him. “I set an example before you,” He said after washing the disciples feet. (John 13:15) He did not intend His ministry to be left to popes, bishops, priests and pastors. Ministry is the responsibility of everyone who calls themselves a disciple of Jesus. My wife is very good at this. Instinctively she sees a need and sets in motion the wheels that are necessary to address the need. She does this with quiet determination and without fanfare. I’m not so good at it.


As Lent draws to a close let us not allow the Lenten disciplines to end with Easter. Let us dedicate ourselves to being reflections of Jesus’ love, forgiveness and acceptance every day for the time left to us.

Lord, the world still wants to “see Jesus”. Show me how to live in such a way that when they see me they give glory not to me, but to You. May others “see Jesus” through me. Amen.

Christian, devotion, faith, Lenten Devotion, Presbyterian Church (USA), The Gospel of John, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace for the 35th Day of Lent, Monday of Holy Week, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 12: 9-19. Morning Psalm 119: 73-80; Evening Psalm 121

Text:  When the crowd learned that Jesus was there, they came not only because of Him but because of Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was because of him that many followed Jesus. (vss. 9-11)

Several years ago a colleague at a neighboring church shared a bit of clergy wisdom with me,  “If you go after the poor the rich will come after you.” By that he meant that if you minister to the least, the last and the lost, the wealthy will support your ministry. All of us want to live a lives of influence. We want to make a difference.

But the more I repeated his insight, it dawned on me that there is a more ominous meaning to his wisdom. They will come after you can also mean, “they will try to stop you”.  As long as the comfortable do not feel threatened, they’re supportive. But if they feel threatened, watch out.

And so it was with Jesus and Lazarus. When Jesus came into Lazarus’ life with a “new” life, Lazarus became a “threat”. The powerful already had Jesus in their sights, now they had Lazarus there, as well.

In Christian ministry whenever we repair the breaches in life, whenever someone is set free, someone else is threatened. This is true for Christians and non-Christians alike; from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King, Jr. to Anwar Sadat. There are those who thrive on the world’s brokenness. But as followers of Jesus, we must be true to our calling and be “repairers of the breach.” (Isaiah 58:12) We must be true even to the Cross.

Lord, when my courage falters, give me strength and guidance and wisdom. Keep me mindful of the fact that I live my life under Your Providential Care. Amen.

Christian, devotion, faith, Lenten Devotion, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace for the 6th Sunday in Lent, 2017–Palm/Passion Sunday

Devotional Reading: Matthew 21: 12-17. Morning Psalm 84; Evening Psalm 42

Text: He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.” (v. 13)

In the first church that I served there was quite a debate over whether or not they should raffle off a quilt during the annual bazaar. To have a raffle would require a state gambling license and old time United Presbyterians found this very hard to swallow.  Yet, just about everyone bought a lottery ticket promising to tithe to the church their winnings. In the course of the debate Jesus’ words from Matthew 21 were quoted.

While I have problems with congregations supporting their ministry budget through community-supported fundraisers, if we think that that is what Jesus was talking about, we are mistaken. He was talking about a corrupt sacrificial system.

Sacrifice lay at the heart of the their faith practice. The problem with the Temple system was that worshipers were being “gouged” or “taken advantage of.” The religious leaders were “in it” for the wrong reason. Jesus’ criticism was not unlike that of the beloved story of the widow’s mite. In both the religious leaders were acting like modern day television religious charlatans who want your financial support but will neither visit you in the hospital nor officiate at  your funeral.

Religious disciplines are supposed to draw us closer to God. Christian communities are called to give themselves away for they are the Body of Christ in this world. When we forget that this is our purpose, our “why”, then Jesus’ words judge us.

Lord, make me a servant of your Kingdom and an active member of your Body here on earth. Show me how to live a noble life, one that is worthy of example. Do not let me not take advantage of another or look disparagingly upon someone else. Remove my fear of the foreign and the new. Create a right spirit within me. Amen.


Christian, devotion, faith, Fear, Glory, Lenten Devotion, Presbyterian Church (USA), Temptation, The Gospel of John, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace for the 34th Day of Lent, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 12: 37-50. Morning Psalm 43; Evening Psalm 31.

Text: for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God. (v. 43)

The words jumped out at me; “they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.” No truer words were ever written or spoken. My mind immediately raced to the scene during Holy Week when Pilate, “afraid of the crowd”, ceremonially washed his hands of the events that would lead to the crucifixion of Jesus. Our politicians are too often make decisions based on poll numbers and fleeting popularity rather than on what they believe to be right. And, if we are honest with ourselves, we are no better than they are. Peer group pressure has a hold on us not matter what our age.

Human glory is an intoxicating Siren call. It speaks loudly and passionately. It demands attention. God’s voice, though, is that still small voice that we hear deep in the soul. It is the voice that Elijah heard (I Kings 19: 11-13) at the mouth of a cave. It is a voice that whispers in the stillness of the moment or the darkness of the night. It comes unexpectedly but unmistakably. As I write this I am drawn to Jesus’ words, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33)

In this season of Lent, let us remember how fickle human glory is. It waves branches in celebration one day and cries “Crucify him, crucify him” before the end of the week.

Lord, make me attentive to Your still small voice. While I must live in this world I need not be of it. Let me see You as my guiding North Star throughout life. Amen.