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Glimpses of Grace—“The way is hard”

For devotional reading:John 6:60-71.

Text: “Many of Jesus’ disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching; who can accept it?’ …Because of this teaching, many of Jesus’ disciples left him.” (vss. 60 & 66)

When I was in eighth grade I fell in love with the poetry of Robert Frost. Back then, “graduating” eighth graders selected a “class poem”. Ours was Frost’s The Road Not Taken. It’s closing lines are:

I shall be telling this with a sigh/ Somewhere ages and ages hence:/ Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–/ I took the one less traveled by,/ And that has made all the difference.

When Jesus’ disciples began to take Jesus seriously, they came to one of Life’s forks in the road of life. They had to decide if they were “all in” or not. Earlier in John’s gospel Jesus said that He was “the Way, the Truth and the Life”; to walk in His Way (to take Him seriously) was the means to discovering both eternal Truth and Life. As long as the road was easy, many of his disciples were “in”, but as soon as taking Jesus seriously became hard, well, that was a different story.

I once led a bible study for a group of men who were new disciples of Jesus. We were studying Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount”. One night, when we talked about “God and mammon” and the impossibility of serving “two masters”, one of the participants grew quiet. A few days later he sent a text message to the group saying that he could not continue. Nor would he be in church any more because the “Way” was too hard. Like many of the disciples in today reading, he decided to take a different road.

Taking Jesus seriously is not easy. Jesus didn’t promise the riches of the “prosperity gospel”. He promised a Cross. He also promised that taking up His Cross was the road that led to a contentment that the world could never take away.  And, He promised to help bear the “yoke” of the Cross with us.

Lord, in our lives we find two roads that diverge. Give us the courage to walk the road that You walked and promised to walk with us. Amen.

Advent devotion, Christian, Congregationalist, devotion, Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (USA), The Gospel of John, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Advent Devotion for December 17,2017

Devotional Reading from Daily Common Lectionary: John 5: 30-47

Text: I can do nothing on my own… (30a)

While I understand the sentiment and the power behind its lyrics, one of my least favorite songs is “I Did It My Way. There is an air of arrogant selfishness about it. None of us can do it my way. None of us can do anything totally my way! We stand on the shoulders of those who went before us. We have been helped by hands that reached out to us.

If anyone could have done it “my way” it would have been Jesus, and he knew better. “I can do nothing on my own”, he said.

Maybe in this season of Advent it is time for us to quit asking God to bless our plans and our dreams, and instead ask God what his plans are for us…for me are. It is only then that we’ll find that which we truly seek.

Lord, show we where you want me and I will go. Only then can I see and be a glimpse of grace. Amen.

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

Glimpses of Grace Devotion for April 23, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 14: 1-7.

Text: Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. (v. 1)

I find this reading to be one of, if not the, most reassuring passages in the Bible. It occurs on the last night, after Jesus showed His disciples what discipleship means by washing their feet–the lowest of all household tasks.

And then He assured them not to be afraid because God’s love is neverending. A place has already been prepared for them in the Presence of God. A nameplate has been placed at their seat in the Kingdom. They are already checked into the Eternal dwelling place, so what is there to be afraid of?

Jesus went on to answer Thomas’s question by reminding the 12, and us, that He has shown us a new Way of life, a better Way of life. In the early days His disciples were known as “people of the Way.”  They lived in the Way of Jesus, their Lord; a Way marked by forgiveness, generosity and unconditional love.

There will be stumbles along our journey. There will be times when we will betray, deny and maybe even leave the Cross of Jesus, but we are never separated from His Love, despite ourselves. Because, you see, in the end it is not about us, but God.

Lord, let not my heart be troubled. Give me the strength and the courage to walk in the Way so that everyone that I meet will know that You are God and that I am Your child. Amen.

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

Glimpses of Grace Devotion for April 22, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 16: 16-33.

Text*: In this world you will face (persecution/trouble). But take courage; I have (overcome/conquered) the world. 

When one decides to become a serious follower of Jesus, life does not necessarily become easier. As a matter of fact it will probably become harder as you begin to see the world as God sees it. You begin to see all of the prejudice and the injustice that exists, blatantly and subtly. . You become more and more sensitive to the victims of disaster and are grieved by the seeming randomness of evil.  You will cry. You will ache. You will feel. You are being sanctified, being made more and more into the image of Christ.

And in seeing the brokenness of the world, you will be moved to do something about it. And this “doing something about it” will get you into trouble as you battle the complacency of society. This can be a period of great frustration and impatience as you cannot understand how others cannot be as moved as you are. But it is also a time for the development of great patience lest you become discouraged to the point of saying to yourself that  you are just one person, one voice. Remember, Israel were slaves in Egypt for 300 years.

But don’t forget; God loves mustard seeds. The Kingdom of God starts small and grows, not necessarily in one lifetime, but over generations. Jesus’ words to His disciples as he was about to complete this part of life are both a source of Hope and Comfort. Hope that through their efforts the Kingdom of God is dawning, even if it is little by little. And Comfort in that he faced the challenges that we face and he has overcome the world. And so shall we… for the glory of God.

Lord, open my eyes to see the world as you see it. Give me wisdom to do what I can do, and the patience that sees the ultimately Your Will will be done, here on earth, as it is in heaven. Amen.

The word is translated both way, depending on the version of the Bible used.

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

Glimpses of Grace Devotion for April 20, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 15: 12-27

Text: This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15: 12)

Jesus only gave one commandment in His life: that those who would take Him seriously, who would be His followers walking in His footsteps, would Love. The distinguishing mark of His followers would not be how they talked or the clothes they wore or the jobs they held. No, they would be known by how well they loved–those in their community as well as those outside their community. It would be known by how well they loved their immediate family as well as the Least, the Last and the Lost.

A Jesus’s love is not a squishy love. It is a hard love. It is a self-sacrificing love. It is not a love that does the easy thing just “to be done with it” but digs into the roots of situations and works toward systemic change that works for the betterment of all. It sees the “big picture” as well as the small individual. It sees the “other” as a person, as a child of God created in the Divine Image.

Jesus’ love is not based on emotion or feelings. It is not given just when “we feel like it”, but even when we do not feel like it. It respects the other person. It does not take advantage or look for its own gain at the expense of another. It is self-sacrificial as well self-respecting. It does not allow another to take advantage, nor does it take advantage.

As I said, it is a hard love. It is a God love.

Lord God, let me see others today as You see them. Let me look for the best in those with whom I share this life but don’t let me be blind to their darker side. Let me see clearly and at the same time love thoroughly with a Jesus-like love. Amen.

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

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for April 19, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 15: 1-11 (from the Daily Lectionary)

Text: I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide (live) in Me and I in them, bear much fruit. Cut off from Me, you can do nothing. (v.5)

“What is your North Star?” What gives your life direction, a sense of purpose? In William Damon’s book, Path to Purpose, the author talks about the necessity of having an overarching purpose in life. This is different from a life “plan”. Plans are good but life never works out as planned. A purpose, though, is a North Star keeping us headed in the right direction. It is never too late to adopt a purpose. All we have to do is the hard work of looking our current reality squarely in the face and making the adjustments necessary to move toward our purpose.

It is easy for us to become hypnotized by shiny temporal objects and adopting them as our purpose. Fame, wealth, glory, popularity are temporary. “The Westminster Divines” spent years debating the nature of meaningful human purpose before they wrote their major theological work. One part of this work is called “The Shorter Catechism.” Its first question sets the tone for the 149 that follow. “What is the chief end (purpose) of Man (and, presumably Woman)? Answer: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

The only real eternal purpose in life is to “glorify God”;  to live a God glorifying life. A life that glorifies God is not based on plans that change at the whim of circumstance. It may lead to a religious vocation, but most probably not. It will, though, sensitize us to the plight of the least, the last and the lost. It will challenge us to be the best student, the best employee, the best spouse, the best citizen–especially world citizen–that we can be. Glorifying God in all of our decisions is the only thing that can give our lives real meaning–eternal meaning.

Lord, Show me how to glorify you in all that I do and say today. Let me not seek vain glory or honor or fleeting wealth. Show me how to live in such a manner that it my life should end today I can be confident that I would hear Your voice whisper, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Amen.

Christian, devotion, faith, Holy Spirit, Orphan, Presbyterian Church (USA), The Gospel of John, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace for April 18, 2017

Devotional Reading: John 14: 15-31.

Text: I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.

I remember the first time that I told someone that no matter how old we are, it hurts to become an orphan. At first they looked at me queerly, but then a knowing look dawned across their face as a tear welled up in his eye. He was the oldest sibling and I had just performed the funeral service of his last parent. And although the man was in his 60s it dawned on him; for a moment he felt like a child again. I became an orphan at 53 years of age. When a person becomes an orphan they realize that there is a part of their past that is forever gone, the part that was contained only in their parents’ memory.

It has been said that you are never truly an adult until your last parent dies; when you become an orphan. I think that this is true because it is only then that you realize that you are now “on the front lines of life.” You may have been independent for years, even decades, but while your parents are alive there seems to be an imaginary buffer between you and life’s final chapter. Even if they are frail and you are now taking care of them, they are still there…that buffer. With their passing life suddenly takes on a more serious air.

Jesus told His disciples that he would not leave them orphaned. He would not leave them alone. They would not be by themselves, left alone in a world that neither understood the lessons that Jesus taught nor those who followed His teachings. He promised them Another, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. Even though He would no longer be with them in the way that He was, He would still be with them. They needed to simply listen to the promptings of the Spirit in the community of faith. He was talking about more than a memory. He was talking about a real Presence, touched and tasted in the sacraments and felt in the blessed community of faith.

My mom and dad have been gathered to their ancestors, in the quaint words of the Old Testament, for several years now. They joined the Cloud of Witnesses of the Letter to the Hebrews, the Church Triumphant. But they are still with me. I catch glimpses of them in the mirror sometimes. I hear their voices in my head; “Slow and steady,” “Don’t worry about sleep, just rest with your eyes closed.”

We have been blessed by those who influenced and guided us. We have been more than blessed by the One who promised not to leave us orphaned.

Lord, I offer prayers of thanksgiving for all of those, known and unknown, remembered and unremembered who have touched my life with love. I offer my greatest prayers of thanksgiving, though, for the One who promised not to leave me orphaned. In His name, Amen.