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

Glimpses of Grace for the 33rd Day of Lent, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 12: 1-10. Morning Psalm 22; Evening Psalm 105.

Text: So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well. (v. 10)

While recently leading a Bible study one of the men in the group said, “Jesus was quite radical; you could say He was revolutionary, even today.” I agreed and added, “There’s a reason He was crucified.”

In today’s devotional reading from John’s gospel we learn of a plot to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus? “Why Lazarus?”, we may wonder. The reason is really quite simple–his very presence was witness to Jesus as the Messiah. He was, therefore, a threat. He had to go.

I believe that we 21st century followers of Jesus–when we take Him seriously, are willing to give ourselves away for the glory of God, and awaken the “dead” from their captive tombs of poverty, war, famine and the like–will also be threatened, even unto death in our faith journey. Comfortable people do not like to have the proverbial “apple cart” turned over.  Any threat to the “status quo” will result in some degree of sabotage, either intentional or unintentional.

As I reflect upon this reading I am reminded of something that happened earlier, in the 11th chapter of John’s gospel. When Jesus decided to return to Jerusalem, the disciples warned him of the danger that lay in that ancient city. When the Jesus would not to be dissuaded, Thomas–sometimes called “Doubting Thomas” –stood with the  Savior and said, “Let us to with Him that we, too, may die.”  Such discipleship. Such conviction. Such surety. Such faith. May we, too, possess that faith.

Lord, strengthen my heart so that as I walk the path of Lent I, too, might have the faith of Thomas. Let me be bold in my discipleship doing the work of Jesus, even when it is dangerous or unpopular. Amen.

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

Glimpses of Grace for the 32nd Day of Lent, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 10: 19-42. Morning Psalm 27; Evening Psalm 126

Text: No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. (vss. 28b & 29)

I remember the elderly parents who were nearing the end of their life. They were worried for their only son. They couldn’t have biological children so they adopted their son as a toddler. Unfortunately, he had already been scarred by life. Nevertheless, they loved him dearly. This is why they were afraid, not just what would happen to him after their death, but forever.

Faithful in the rural Presbyterian church that my wife and I served, they had somewhere in the later years of their faith journey fallen under the influence of a radio evangelist. The concern they expressed to me was that their son, while a good husband, father and faithful in church and community, had not said “the believer’s prayer.” I asked the couple if they loved their son. They said that did. Then I asked if they thought that God loved their son any less than they did. They didn’t. Next I reminded them of their son’s baptism. Baptism is the visible sign of an invisible Truth–“We love God because God first loved us”. (I John 4: 19) In baptism we acknowledge the mystery of this love and commit ourselves to raising a child in Christian nurture.

Salvation is not our story but God’s. It is not about us, but about God. Our salvation is secure. It was secured on a hill far away over 2000 years. It is this truth that seems to lie at the heart of John’s gospel; God’s love–for the world, for you and for me. “No one can snatch them out of my hand,” Jesus said. Grace is unconditional and irrevocable.

I believe that we need to remember this during the season of Lent as we prepare for Easter. We need to tell others, too, because there is no greater news to share. Our challenge, as followers of Jesus, is to live into our baptism,

Lord God, remove ALL fear from my heart. Show me how to live into my baptism and give me the strength to do what You show me to do. Amen.

Christian, devotion, faith, Lenten Devotion, Love, The Gospel of John, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace for the 31st Day of Lent, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 10: 1-18. Morning Psalm 5; Evening Psalm 27.

Text: I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. (Jesus, John 10: 16)

Protestant Reformer John Calvin once said that there are two Churches–the Visible and the Invisible. The Visible Church is the one that gathers on Sunday morning. The Invisible Church is the True Church known only to God. It could be that not everyone in the Visible Church is in the Invisible Church and vice versa. Reality is known only in God’s Heart.

I’ve always liked John 10:16. It reminds me not to judge the legitimacy of another’s faith journey. I believe that God often speaks to us through the circumstances of life. My job as a Christian is not to judge another person but to learn to love them. The epistle of I John tells us that God is love and that perfect love casts our fear. It goes on to say that all who abide or live in the presence of God, lives in love. If we want to grown closer to God, we must learn to love more.

In this season of Lent you and I need to exercise our spiritual muscles of love. through the disciplines of regular worship, prayer, fellowship with a faith community, and the sacraments. We also need to consciously do loving acts, expecially to those who do not agree with us, with whom we have little in common with, and those that we do not like. The more we consciously exercise this spiritual muscle, the more muscle memory we will develop. The more muscle we develop, the more natural our love will become.

Lord, you have given me a loving heart. Help me to strengthen it. Help my love grow so that others will see You in what I do, for Your glory. Amen.

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

Glimpses of Grace for the 30th Day of Lent, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 9: 18-41. Morning Psalm 34; Evening Psalm 25

Text: His parents said this because they were afraid of the enemies of Jesus…(v. 22)

Fear. For the longest time I was afraid of flying. In my own mind, I was afraid for good reason but in reality my fear of flying cut me off of many opportunities and forever changed the trajectory of my life.

Fear may keep us from doing certain things but it also leads us do things that we later regret. Fear appeals to the shadow-side of our soul. It is fear that leads nations to build internment camps and dividing walls. It is fear that segregates  neighborhoods. It is fear that divides us, one from the other. It was fear that led the blind man’s parents in today’s gospel to “throw their son under the bus.”

“Be not afraid” is one of if not the most often command given in both the Old and New Testaments. In this season of Lent, let’s take a few minutes to reflect upon those things that we are afraid of. Let’s face our fears. Name them. And then, recall the words that greeted the women at the Tomb, “Be not afraid.”

God of Grace and Glory, give us Wisdom, give us Courage for the facing of today and all of our days. Amen.

Blindness, Christian, devotion, faith, Lenten Devotion, Presbyterian Church (USA), Romans 8:28, The Gospel of John, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace for the 29th Day of Lent, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 9: 1-17. Morning Psalm 119: 73-80; Evening Psalm 121

Text: His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Once again we have the wrong question before us. In His response Jesus told his disciples that no one sinned, neither the man before birth, nor his parents. He was simply born blind. Period. But his blindness was not the end of the story.

So often we want to know “why”, especially when it comes to disease and disaster.  We want to know what they did or what I did to deserve what terrible thing is happening at the moment. Why did this happen to him or her or me?! And answers evade us.

In high school I read Thorton Wilder’s book, The Bridge Over San Luis Rey. It is the story of the collapse of a Peruvian rope bridge that killed several people. A Roman Catholic friar looked for a reason why each one of the victims had to die that day on that bridge. His research left him empty-handed. The novel left a sixteen year old student, me, empty-handed, too. Yet it had the air of unvarnished truth.

There is much in life that we will never understand. Easy answers and blame lack creditability, especially as we grow older and hopefully wiser. Jesus told his disciples that from the man’s blindness God’s glory would be revealed.

In reading the story of the man born blind I was reminded of something that the apostle Paul wrote, We know in everything God works for good… (Romans 8:28). The verse is tricky and is translated in several different ways but the point of Paul’s insight is that God can bring something good out of any situation. God can use even the broken pieces of our lives to do something good. Tragedy, hardship, disappointment, loss and even death cannot and will not have the last word. That word, the last word, belongs to God.

Lord, take even the broken threads of our lives and efforts and weave them into the beautiful tapestry of Your Kingdom. Amen.

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

Glimpses of Grace for the 5th Sunday of Lent, 2017

Devotional Reading: Mark 8: 31-9:1. Morning Psalm 84; Evening Psalm 42

Text: For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? (v. 36)

I once did a sermon series entitled “The Questions of Jesus”. Today’s text was one of the questions. It is a question that I ask myself often.

When I was in elementary school one of my favorite short stories was “The Devil and Daniel Webster.” It us a story about a “hard-luck” man who wants to be successful. One night a “stranger” visits him and offers to make a deal–all of his dreams will come true if he will but sell his eternal soul to the stranger. Not fully understanding what he was doing and wanting worldly success so badly, he signed his name to the proffered document.

Time passes and his success grows beyond his wildest dreams. Then the stranger shows up to collect his soul. This is when our poor man enlists the help of Daniel Webster–a renowned attorney, orator, statesman and Senator of the 19th century in the United States. The stranger and Daniel Webster go toe to toe in legal battle late into the night until finally Daniel Webster wins the man’s release.

People make character compromises every day of their life. If they are not careful the can, inch by inch, they sell themselves to the devil. I believe that Jesus question is one that we need to ask ourselves nearly every day. “What do I gain if I ultimately lose who I am?”

We face many hard decisions and must make some compromises but we must always ask ourselves that one question. I think that we will conclude that some compromises are simply too much.

Lord, keep our Lord’s question upper-most in our hearts, and give us the courage to do the right thing–even if nobody notices but You. Amen.

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

Glimpses of Grace for the 28th Day of Lent, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 6: 60-71 .  Morning Psalm 43; Evening Psalm 31

Text: when many of His disciples heard it (“It” being what Jesus just said),  they said, “This is a difficult teaching; who can accept it (or embrace it)? (v. 60)

I’ve been trying to play a musical instrument instrument for years. Sometimes I make amazing progress. At other times I don’t. Over the years I have come to realize something shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone who has master an instrument. Proficiency takes discipline.

At the very heart of Christian discipleship is the word “discipline”. Following Jesus is not easy. He never said that it would be.  It is counter-cultural. It is revolutionary. It upsets the satisfied status-quo. It takes conscious effort and discipline. It takes a community of faith to encourage and challenge us, to feed and care for us. After all, WE are the Body of Christ here on earth and that doesn’t come easy.

To their credit the disciples who first heard Jesus’ words in John’s gospel wondered if they were up to the task. Left to their own devices, they weren’t. Neither are we. But here’s the good news, in our journey of life and faith, we are not alone. He is with us, leading the way, showing us the Way to the Cross and beyond.

Lord, Your Way is hard. Give us a will for discipline. We do not pray for easy lives, but that You make us stronger. We do not pray for tasks no greater than our power,  but power equal to the tasks before us. We know that we can do all things through the One who strengthens us. Amen. 

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

Glimpses of Grace for the 27th Day of Lent, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 6: 52-59. Morning Psalm-22; Evening Psalm-105

Text: I assure you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. (6:53, Today’s Living Bible)

No matter what bible translation or paraphrase you read, this verse strikes a discordant note upon our ears.

A few days ago I was leading a bible study of senior adults and the question of literalism came up. I told them that while my theological tradition does not believe in scriptural literalism, we do believe that scripture is the divinely inspired word of God. Cannibalism is one of the rumors that haunted the early Christian communities, especially John’s.

What the gospel writer in John is really saying is that unless we make the teachings of Jesus a part of our very being, like the food eat and the water we drink, we cannot fully experience the life that Christ intends for us. This text is a challenges us to take Jesus seriously! 

It is easy for us to try to “tame” Jesus and explain away his more challenging teachings; forgive and pray for  your enemies, lose your life for the Gospel’s sake, pick up you Cross, humble yourself to the point of washing another’s feet, care for the Least, the Last and the Lost–all of these things are very very hard. They are counter-cultural.

Perhaps for Lent we shouldn’t give something up. Maybe we should pick something up, like the Cross.

Lord, Give us the strength to be living reflections of your Love, Grace and Mercy. Draw us closer to you each day. Give us comfort in hearing you voice whisper in our ears, especially when we are afraid, “Lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the age.” 

Christian, devotion, Lenten Devotion, Presbyterian Church (USA), The Gospel of John, Ugali, Uncategorized, Young Adult Volunteer in Mission

Glimpses of Grace for the 26th Day of Lent, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 6: 41-51. Morning Psalm-27; Evening Psalm-126

Text: I am the bread of life. (v. 46)

    My youngest daughter spent a brief time in Kenya as a Young Adult Volunteer in Mission for the Presbyterian Church (USA). When she returned, shortly before Christmas, she insisted that we include an African food, ugali, in the holiday menu. A few years later I traveled to East Africa and ate ugali that was prepared in a more “traditional” way.  Ugali is a staple food with the consistency of mashed potatoes. In non-touristy areas it is served with every meal. It fills the stomach and takes away hunger.

In the Devotional Reading Jesus said that he is the Bread of Life. This is one of the seven or eight “I Am” statements of Jesus in John’s gospel. By saying the He is the Bread of Life, Jesus told his listeners, then and now, that He can fill a deep nagging spiritual hunger that resides deep inside our hearts. He can give us a clearer vision and add real meaning to life.  Like great advertisers, the world is very skilled at telling us that we are “not enough”. The Bread of Life, though, tells us that we are “enough.” We are enough because God says that we are.

In these waning days of Lent, let us consider how we have been fooled by the “wisdom” of the world into thinking that we are “not enough” and that we need to “have more.” Reflect, instead, upon God’s daily blessings and give thanks.

Lord, please remind me over and over again that Jesus is the Bread of Life. You  lead me not only beside still waters, but your are with me in life’s darkest valleys. And best of all, You set a table of Infinite Love before me every day. Amen.

Christian, devotion, Doug Coe, faith, Lenten Devotion, The Gospel of John, Tim Kreutter, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace for 25th Day of Lent, 2017

Devotional Reading for the Day: John 6: 27-40. Morning Psalm-5; Evening Psalm-27

Text: They said, “What does God want us to do?” Jesus replied, “This is the work of God, believe in the One whom God sent.” (verse 28)

    C.K. Chesterton once said that Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it simply hasn’t been tried.  Neither belief nor faith is an intellectual exercise. The Letter of James says that our faith is seen in our works–in the things that we do and the “why” that lies behind them.

Tim Kreutter of Cornerstone Development in Kampala, Uganda recently wrote a moving tribute to his spiritual mentor, Doug Coe. “Doug was a revolutionary teacher that challenged and stretched me. … All of his theology was built around Jesus. He taught me to call myself a ‘follower of Jesus’ and not a Christian. The first term describes a life-style and the second describes mere membership in a group. …He also taught that we should spend more of our time reading the 4 Gospels and coming back to the simple teachings of Jesus. … (There is) one (more) thing I learned from him … if we are not a bit revolutionary we are likely to be irrelevant.”

Earlier in John’s Gospel when Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” He was inviting us to live life in a bold new way. In this season of Lent, let us consider this New Way. Let’s be a bit revolutionary–for the glory of God.

Lord, show me the way of Jesus but more importantly give me the courage to embark upon that way. Show me how to put others above self and You above all. Amen.