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Glimpses of Grace Daily Advent Devotional for December 7, 2017

Devotional Reading: Matthew 21:33-46.

Text: I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. (v. 43)

Probably noting produces more regret than missed opportunity. In A Christmas Carol when the Spectre (Ghost) of Christmas Past took Scrooge back to his younger self something in the old miser’s conscience stirred. Seeing himself as a child sitting alone in a run down boarding school he wished that he would have been kinder to the caroler who had come to his shop the previous late afternoon.

When, in a later scene, he saw his beloved sister Fan telling him that he could come home because “Father is so much kinder now,” he regretted how meanly he declined his only nephew’s invitation to share a cup of holiday cheer. These were glimpses of grace that allowed Scrooge’s to shed the spiritual barnacles that encased his heart for too long. Sadly, opportunities pass as quickly as they come.

In today’s reading Jesus told a parable directed at the “holier-than-thou” religious people of the day. You know who they are; they are the ones to are quick to judge others, too-sure of who’s a Christian and who isn’t a Christian. They are so sure of their own understanding of the nature of God, which have been solidified by the cement of their own prejudices, that they can recognize neither the True God nor God’s Kingdom in their midst.

It has been said that there are none so blind as those who will not see. In this season of Advent we are well advised to reflect upon our prejudices and preconceived notions of both God and others.  In humility we need to seek God and ask God to allow us, as much as humanly possible, to see this world through God’s eyes. We need to practice the spiritual discipline of being slow to judge and quick to forgive.*

Lord God, give me spiritual insights that shake the spiritual barnacles off of my heart so that I may, day by day, be a truer reflection of Jesus, the very revelation of Your Eternal Self in this Temporal world. Amen.

*At some time in the future I will write about the nature of “Forgiveness”, a greatly misunderstood concept.

Change, Christian, Congregationalist, devotion, faith, Love, Matthew, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), The difficulty of change, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for November 2, 2017

Change is in the air. Literally.

Change is in the air, literally. The buds of Spring gave way to the green leaves of Summer. It is now the season of the red, yellow, and orange leaves of Fall. Yes, change is in the air. Mornings are crisper and days grow shorter, despite our best efforts of grudgingly giving up “Daylight Savings Time.”

Change is a part of life. People enter and leave our lives. Children are born and grow up and begin families of their own. We are changing, too, as we gain new experiences and hopefully, greater wisdom.

Four-star General Eric Shineski once said, “If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more.” The saddest thing in life is the inability to change, especially in the face of new circumstances and information. Survival does not belong to strongest but to the most adaptable.

Jesus once observed that we are so good at discerning the seasons but so bad at discerning the “new thing” that God is doing in our midst. (Matthew 16:2) We continually try to put new wine into old wineskins. (Matthew 9:14-17, et al) We resist change, God’s new thing. 

The challenge for those who take Jesus seriously is to be open to God’s movement in this world. The movement toward justice, equality, respect, humility and generosity. All of these things are elements of the thing we call Love. “Others will know that you are my disciples,” Jesus said to The Twelve on His last night with, “by seeing how you love one another.” (John 13:35)

May the World see a glimpse of grace in our love. 

Lord, let me not be afraid of change but see it as a part of the “new thing” that you are doing. Use me as You will to do the work of the Kingdy every day of my life. Amen. 

Christian, Congregationalist, devotion, faith, Holy Spirit, Luke, Gospel of, Mark, Matthew, Parable, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for October 22, 2017

The winds in Glasgow, Scotland today have been particularly blustery, whipping flags and pushing pedestrians. While coming back from worship, suddenly a strong gust shot up the street stripping the hood of my jacket from my head and then just as abruptly turning around and tossing the hood back where it was! 

In the afternoon, as I read a book I looked out a picture window standing before me. I watched the ever-changing blue-gray clouds of October dance across the sky.  

Jesus once said  that the Holy Spirit is a lot like the wind. We can hear the sound of and even feel it. One moment it can buffer our progress, and the next moment it can push us forward as if to say, “Hurry! Onward!” 

I think that deep down many of us don’t trust the Holy Spirit. We are afraid of it. We are afraid of it because it is so wild, untamable, and free. Yet, it calls to us throughout all of the seasons of life; in the cool winds of spring, the warm lazy winds of summer, the changing winds of fall and the frigid winds of winter. 

If we can but go with this wind in all of our seasons, we can become a glimpse of grace.

Lord God, give me the courage to go where the wind of Your Spirit will lead me. Let me be not afraid. Amen.

Cemeteries, Christian, Congregationalist, devotion, Luke, Gospel of, Mark, Matthew, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for October 21, 2017

As I walked through a late 17th-early 18th century cemetery in Scotland I was struck by the beauty of the walled family plots. This one is that of a Maclaren, who completed this life’s journey in 1817.  To the left of the entrance there is a notation that his four year old son, Peter, is buried beside him. A terrible loss for any parent. 

I stepped into the sacred space and discovered to the left “the home” of a person who has not “home.l As I stared at my discovery  I was reminded of the Gadarene demoniac, shunned and feared by his community and forced to live  among the tombs. In the story Jesus healed the man, “clothed him in his right mind” is the phrase that is used. 

I do not pretend to know why someone took up residence among the tombs. It could be because of a number of reasons; illness, bad luck, choice or because he had nowhere else to go. I do know, though, that someone once said that the greatness of a people is seen in how they treat those who at the dawn of life, their children; those in the twilight of life, their elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, their sick, their needy, their disadvantaged, and their disabled. 

Jesus “healed” the demoniac. He restored the man to the community that ostracized him. He gave him a “new” life. Can those of us who take Jesus seriously do any less? Isn’t that what we are called to do? After all, aren’t we supposed to be “the Body of Christ”’on earth? Isn’t that what it means to be a glimpse of grace?

Lord, let me not settle for easy answers or simply look away from the pain of the world. You gave me a mind to use and resources to be a steward over; show me how to do both, to Your glory. Amen. 

Christian, devotion, Matthew, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for July 30, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Common Daily Lectionary: Matthew 25: 31-46

Text: Then the righteous will say, “Lord, when did you see you hungry and give you feed, or thirst and give you something to drink?” (v. 37)

Doing good with hope of reward is not “doing good”. It is a transaction, plain and simple.

In the parable of “the sheep and goats”, the followers of Jesus were told that the key to the Kingdom is found in caring for the least, the last and the lost, not in the hope of “going to heaven” or receiving “good karma”, but in simply doing the will of the One revealed in Jesus. In other words,we care for the least, the last and the lost because it is simply who we are. Nothing more,  nothing less.

At a different time Jesus told His followers that they could always tell a tree by the fruit it produces. Good trees do not produce bad fruit and vice versa.

Today’s reading and text invites us to do “a gut check”; take a deeply personal and honest inventory of who we really are. I believe that when we realize that we our not our own, but Another’s, then we begin to see the world with a whole new set of eyes.

Lord God, give me the courage to look deeply into my heart. Help me present my motives that need Your cleansing fire. Purify me, make me humble and seek only to please You. Amen.

Christian, devotion, Matthew, Mustard seed, Parable, Presbyterian Church (USA), Sowing Seed, Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for July 25, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Mark 4:21-34

Text: (Jesus) also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs.” (vss. 30-32a)

Several years ago I received a text message from a parishioner in a former parish. She ran into a friend of her now adult son. The friend went on one summer senior high mission trip with us in 2003. That trip, he said, changed his life! I’m embarrassed to say, that I don’t remember him as that was the only thing that he joined us in doing. But God knew that the trip was just what the young man needed.

There are no small events in life. As a matter of fact, often the most important events that occur in our life are things that were unplanned or even forgotten. A chance encounter leads to a new opportunity or a new life!

I believe that we can do no small acts if we live our lives to the glory of God. Everyday we sow little mustard seeds of God’s kingdom, and they spout in the most unlikeliest of places and in the most surprising ways.

Lord God, help me to never thing that something I do does not have eternal consequences. Life if too important and You are too great. Amen.

Christian, devotion, Matthew, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for July 9, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Matthew 22: 1-14

Text: Then (the king in the parable) said (to his servants): “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthing. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you see to the wedding feast.” (vss. 8&10)

Bypass surgery. Those two words strike fear in many a heart–no pun intended. When there is a blockage of one of the arteries to the heart, it is first treated with medicine. But when an emergency arises in the form of a heart attack drastic measures are taken. The chest is split open, a vein is taken from an arm or a leg and reattached to the main artery “bypassing” the blockage. When it goes well–as it more often than not does–health is restored but lifestyle changes are in order.

In today’s reading, a parable, a king sends out invitations to a wedding feast for his child. It was not a general invitation but a very specific one to particular individuals. But they were so preoccupied with themselves that they declined the invitation. So, the king “bypassed” them and invited others to take their place.

I believe that God also practices bypass surgery. When God calls an individual or a church to a particular task God believes that they are well suited for the task. They need to accept the invitation. If they refuse, their place in God’s Purpose will not go empty for God’s Will will be done. Another is simply invited in their place.

I do not pretend to know what the ultimate consequences are for individuals who do not respond to God’s call–God’s nudge, but I do know of many churches that ceased to exist because rather than “serving” they became “self-serving”. As a consequence, they disconnect themselves from “the vine” of Christ, withered and died.

Here’s a question to consider; what is God calling you or your congregation to do? Are you listening? Are you responding? I hope so, if for no one sake but your own.

Lord, I await your invitation. Tell me what to do, show me how to do it and give me the courage to do Your work. Amen.

Christian, devotion, faith, James, Matthew, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for July 2, 2017

Devotional Reading: Matthew 21: 23-32

Text: “Which of the two sons did the will of his father?” (v. 31)

What drives your crazier; a person who says that they will do something but never gets around to doing it OR, someone who says that they won’t do something but does it anyway?

Years ago I read a short essay that said the neighborhood bar is often more “Christian” than the neighborhood church. Go into any neighborhood bar and you will probably see somewhere a can for donations that will go to someone in need. Go to most neighborhood churches and will you find that before any special offering can be taken it first has to go through a committee or two and a board.  The neighborhood bar just wants to know if anyone knows the person needing assistance but the church wants to do a background check to make sure that the person is worthy.

Jesus’ in today’s reading is to those who questioned His authority to do the things that He did. He replied with a common situation. A father asks his two sons to do something. One son says he will but never gets around to it and other son says that he won’t but actually does what the father asked.  Which one did the will of the father?

To say that we are a follower of Jesus or to say that we will take Jesus seriously but not to use His teachings as our North Star is to be like the first brother. The neighborhood bar makes no pretense of following Jesus. The church, though, sings about Jesus and hears talks about how Jesus wants us to live but often there is little evidence that anything ever comes of it.

Taking Jesus seriously means, taking Jesus seriously. In the New Testament Letter of James the writer said that faith without works is dead. In other words, don’t tell me what you believe; show me what you believe. Your actions speak louder than all of your words.

Lord, show me Your will but more importantly move me to do it for I am weak. Let me be a light of Your Love revealed in Jesus in this world that has way too much darkness in it. Amen.

Christian, devotion, Glory, Matthew, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for May 28, 2017

For Devotional Reading from the Daily Lectionary: Matthew 10: 24-33, 40-42 (The Message)

Text: Do not be bluffed into silence by threats from bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life–body and soul–in his hands. (v. 28, The Message)

Have you ever been ashamed of yourself? I don’t mean has someone else ever made you feel ashamed. I mean have you ever been ashamed by something that you did, or, more painfully, something you did not do?  I have.

I was attending a service club meeting when someone made a very inappropriate remark at another group’s expense. The remark was not witty but cruel. Everyone at the table laughed.  And rather than calming and politely saying that the remark was “out of bounds” or inappropriate, I kept silent.  Shakespeare once wrote, “A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once…” (Julius Caesar) I now know what he meant for I have lived that moment of silence over more than once.

Our challenge as Jesus-followers is to live our lives in such a way that God is honored, glorified, if you will. We do not tear others down. Nor are we silent in the face of prejudice. Rather, we lift others up for like rising boats, when others are raised we are, too.

So today, challenge yourself to speak no ill of anyone. Seek ways to build others up. Glorify, Honor God not only by your deeds but by your words and thoughts.

Lord, let me see others through Your eyes. Let my words be kind and uplifting. Let my spirit be generous. Amen.

Christian, devotion, faith, Love, Matthew, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for May 25 2017

For Devotional Reading: Matthew 28: 16-20

Text: Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you until the end of the age.” (vss. 18-20)

When I first arrived at the church I am now serving, their governing Board said, “Now that  you’re here, we need to write a ‘mission statement’.”

I’ve been through this exercise in futility before.  All statements written by a committee are nothing more than gibberish reduced to its lowest common denominator! It gives the illusion of doing something when, in reality, after they are written they are generally put on a shelf and forgotten.

I replied, “Actually, we don’t. Jesus already gave us our ‘mission statement’. It’s very simple. It’s easy to remember. It’s only four words; ‘Go and make disciples.’ And, He even told us how to do it; baptize and teach ‘Love’. This is the ‘mission statement’ of every group of Jesus followers.”

So, those simple four words became our “mission statement”; Go and make disciples.

Everything that we do is educative; our personal decisions as well as our corporate decisions; how we treat others, how we spend our money. Someone is always watching and consciously or unconsciously judging. As Jesus followers we need to be conscientious in not only loving one another but also in loving the least, the last and the lost of God’s children.

We are called to be bold in our love for one another and those considered “different” by world. Each one of us have been created in God’s Divine Image.  We can be courageous in our love, even to the point of risking it all for the sake of God’s Kingdom because in today’s text the Risen Lord promises to be with us until the end of time. There is no greater love than this.

Lord, make me bold as I fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission today, tomorrow and all of my days. Remove fear and intimidation from my heart. Shape me day by day, more and more into the holy image of Christ. Amen.