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, 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, 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.

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, 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.