Thursday, October 31, 2013

Loving our enemies - one of the hard sayings of Jesus (Luke 6:27)

SCRIPTURE: Luke 6:27 (TM)
But I say to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies.

In Context, Mary Marty retells a parable from the Eye of the Needle newsletter: "A holy man was engaged in his morning meditation under a tree whose roots stretched out over the riverbank. During his meditation he noticed that the river was rising, and a scorpion caught in the roots was about to drown. He crawled out on the roots and reached down to free the scorpion, but every time he did so, the scorpion struck back at him. "An observer came along and said to the holy man, 'Don't you know that's a scorpion, and it 's in the nature of a scorpion to want to sting?' "To which the holy man replied, 'That may well be, but it is my nature to save, and must I change my nature because the scorpion does not change its nature?"  

This is one of those hard sayings of Jesus. Most of us, if not all of us, would have preferred that he not include this concept in his teachings. “Love your enemies.” Really? Well, Jesus hasn’t met our enemies! Right?

Our enemies are mean spirited. Our enemies flies planes into buildings. Our enemies poison the water of public opinion. Our enemies work to destroy everything we have built. Our enemies would rather shoot us instead of talk to us. Love our enemies? Really now Jesus get real!

But Jesus doesn’t quantify his instructions. He does not indicate that there are certain enemies that we should love and other enemies that we will be permitted to seek their destruction. Jesus doesn’t suggest that we can have a column A and column B for the different types of enemies. Jesus just lumps them all together under one heading… and says, “love them”.

OUCH… that is hard. It is more than hard, it is actually difficult… extremely difficult… almost impossible… and knowing our enemies it is totally and completely impossible. That’s the point of Jesus’ teaching, especially when we realize that God never asks us to do something that we can do.

The only way we can love our enemies is by the power and the authority of the Holy Spirit. We cannot accomplish this on our own. We need God to make it happen. Try as we may we will always fail if we try to do it on our own. God always asks us to do the impossible so that we are forced to rely on him.

So, love our enemies? Yes, indeed. With God, through God, because of God, and by God’s grace the love shall be given.

And the world will be a better place… and shall we!


God, you ask some very hard stuff for us to do in this mean old world. Help us to understand that you created everyone, including our enemies. Help us to understand that Jesus died on the cross for everyone, including our enemies. Help us to understand that you love everyone, including our enemies. Help us rely on the Holy Spirit to make Jesus’ instructions a reality in our life and in our world.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dealing with our paralysis (Matthew 9:6-7)

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 9:6-7 (TM)
But so you will know that the Human One has authority on the earth to forgive sins"—he said to the man who was paralyzed—"Get up, take your cot, and go home." The man got up and went home.

I recall a story about a man who had to cross a wide river on the ice. He was afraid it might be too thin, so he began to crawl on his hand and knees in great terror. He thought he might fall through at any moment. Just as he neared the opposite shore, all exhausted, another man glided past him nonchalantly sitting on a sled loaded with pig iron.

Here’s a thought: “Between the great things that we cannot do and the small things we will not do, the danger is that we shall do nothing”
(Adolph Monod).
Here’s something to contemplate: What fear grips us and keeps us from doing what we know we should do or from trying something we have never done?
We do not know why the individual in the Matthew story was paralyzed. All we know is that he was. Along comes Jesus who had authority… all authority on earth and says: it is time to end this foolishness, get up and go home. Paralysis meets authority and life changes.
Today where in our life do we need to hear Christ say to us: this present stage in your life is over, get over it, stop acting paralyzed, get up and get on with living? Isn’t it true that sometimes we would rather just lie there on our cot and feel sorry for ourselves? We’ve grown so accustom to our situation that we would rather remain the way we are instead of changing.
And then along comes Jesus. The authority. The healer. The Word. The life changer. We end up confronting our deepest fears, those little things that paralyzes us… and nothing ever is the same again. We simply roll up our cot and get on with living.
Where do we need healing? What is it that paralyzes us? Why are we not allowing Christ to take authority over it?

Well, Lord, here we continue to sit on our cots of pain and paralysis. We have grown very accustomed to it. It actually has become rather comfortable. Besides, we really don’t like change. So, make us uncomfortable. Help us to trust the authority that you have over our lives. Bring us to the point of desiring something better. Help us heal and become whole.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

When the darkness is light enough (Psalm 139:11)

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 139:11 (TM)
Then I said to myself, "Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I'm immersed in the light!"

A recent novel by Madeleine L'Engle is entitled A Severed Wasp. If you're addressing young people or some other audience with strong stomachs, the title, which comes from one of George Orwell's essays, offers a graphic image of human lostness. Orwell describes a wasp that "was sucking jam on my plate and I cut him in half. He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam trickled out of his severed esophagus. Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing that had happened to him." The wasp and people without Christ have much in common. Severed from their souls, but greedy and unaware, people continue to consume life's sweetness. Only when it's time to fly away will they gasp their dreadful condition.

It would seem impossible to have a sense of lostness even when in the presence of absolute and total love and acceptance. But, just walk into any church anywhere in the world. In the pews one will discover individuals just like the wasp in the story… enjoying the sweet nectar of forbidden fruits and totally oblivious to the changed nature of their relationship with God. Eating away, but unaware that a major part of themselves is missing. Much like the dear soul who, upon leaving worship one Sunday, declared: “Preacher who’ve ruined church for me with all this Jesus stuff!”

We want the benefit without the price.

And yet, there is God always loving, always caring, always present to love and accept. God patiently awaits our realization that something is missing. We cannot escape his love or his light. In the play The Dark is Light Enough, Christopher Fry speaks to the heavenly reality that even in our darkest midnights God provides enough light for us to take the next step. It might not be enough to take flight, but it is enough to live another day so that we might rediscover once again our soul and thus, discover the joy of flight as in we will mount up on eagle’s wings.

There will come a time… a moment of realization… that the sweetness of the nectar of this world will no longer satisfy our true hunger. At the moment of dawning we will turn to discover God patiently waiting for us to rediscover our true nature and be embraced by his grace.


God of grace and God of love thank you for waiting for us to come to the awareness that life isn’t worth living without you.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sharing the great news of the light that is within us (Mark 5:20)

SCRIPTURE: Mark 5:20 (TM)
The man went back and began to preach in the Ten Towns area about what Jesus had done for him. He was the talk of the town.

I remember hearing of a man at sea who was very sea-sick. If there is a time when a man feels that he cannot do any work for the Lord it is then -- in my opinion. While this man was sick he heard that a man had fallen overboard. He was wondering if he could do anything to help to save him. He laid hold of a light, and held it up on the porthole.
The drowning man was saved. When this man got over his attack of sickness he was up on deck one day, and was talking to the man who was rescued. The saved man gave this testimony. He said he had gone down the second time, and was just going down again for the last time, when he put out his hand. Just then, he said, some one held a light at the porthole, and the light fell on his hand. A man caught him by the hand and pulled him into the lifeboat.
It seemed a small thing to do to hold up the light; yet it saved the man's life. If you cannot do some great thing you can hold the light for some poor, perishing drunkard, who may be won to Christ and delivered from destruction. Let us take the torch of salvation and go into these dark homes, and hold up Christ to the people as the Savior of the world. 

The experience of nearly drowning must be a horrible experience. To be so close… just a handhold away… just beyond being able to climb aboard… almost there, but not quite… does anyone see… does anyone care… is there a light that could guideLet the lower lights be burning, Send a beam across the wave, Some poor aching, struggling seaman You may rescue, you may save.

That sense of being cut off… going down for the last time… gasping for just another breath… struggling against the forces surrounding us… unable to swim… unable to keep one’s head about water… Let the lower lights be burning, Send a beam across the wave, Some poor aching, struggling seaman You may rescue, you may save.

We live in a very crowded and busy world. It is filled with “drowning” people. They are so close to life… real life… and they are so far away, but they are not beyond our reach. We cannot do everything, but we can do something. We might not be able to dive in and swim out to rescue them… but we are able to hold up a light… a shining light… a clear beacon showing the way to safety… Let the lower lights be burning, Send a beam across the wave, Some poor aching, struggling seaman You may rescue, you may save.

Such was the man in the Mark story. He was drowning in a crowd. The crowd was demons of unimaginable portions. Could those demons be of his own making? Could they be creations from his past? Could them be ramifications of a misspent childhood? This one thing we do know … they could destroy him. He needed to be rescued and a light came into his life… it was the light of Christ.

He found life and had to tell everyone what had happened to him because of the one who rescued him.

Each of us has been rescued from something in our life… something that could have destroyed us… something that could have caused us to drown… something of demon-dimensioned (for demons come in various sizes and in various shapes). And then a light came and changed it all. Changed us. We have to tell. You won’t believe me, but … and the story is shared. People hear. Lives are changed. And the world is less dark for someone else. Yea, God!

A beacon in a dark world brightly shines and another poor struggling “seaman” is rescued.


God, help us to keep our lights lite and our hands ready to be extended to those who might be drowning around us.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday's Inspirational Story - God Lives Under The Bed

"God Lives Under The Bed" - author unknown -
I envy Kevin. My brother Kevin thinks God lives under his bed. At least that's what I heard him say one night. 

He was praying out loud in his dark bedroom, and I stopped to listen, "Are you there, God?" he said. "Where are you? Oh, I see. Under the bed..." 

I giggled softly and tiptoed off to my own room. Kevin's unique perspectives are often a source of amusement But that night something else lingered long after the humor. I realized for the first time the very different world Kevin lives in. 

He was born 30 years ago, mentally disabled as a result of difficulties during labor. Apart from his size (he's 6-foot-2), there are few ways in which he is an adult. 

He reasons and communicates with the capabilities of a 7-year-old, and he always will. He will probably always believe that God lives under his bed, that Santa Claus is the one who fills the space under our tree every Christmas and that airplanes stay up in the sky because angels carry them. 

I remember wondering if Kevin realizes he is different. 

Is he ever dissatisfied with his monotonous life? 

Up before dawn each day, off to work at a workshop for the disabled, home to walk our cocker spaniel, return to eat his favorite macaroni-and-cheese for dinner, and later to bed. 

The only variation in the entire scheme is laundry, when he hovers excitedly over the washing machine like a mother with her newborn child.

He does not seem dissatisfied. 

He lopes out to the bus every morning at 7:05, eager for a day of simple work. 

He wrings his hands excitedly while the water boils on the stove before dinner, and he stays up late twice a week to gather our dirty laundry for his next day's laundry chores. 

And Saturdays-oh, the bliss of Saturdays! That's the day my Dad takes Kevin to the airport to have a soft drink, watch the planes land, and speculate loudly on the destination of each passenger inside. 

"That one's goin' to Chi-car-go!" Kevin shouts as he claps his hands. 

His anticipation is so great he can hardly sleep on Friday nights. 

And so goes his world of daily rituals and weekend field trips. 

He doesn't know what it means to be discontent. 

His life is simple. 

He will never know the entanglements of wealth of power, and he does not care what brand of clothing he wears or what kind of food he eats. His needs have always been met, and he never worries that one day they may not be. 

His hands are diligent. Kevin is never so happy as when he is working. When he unloads the dishwasher or vacuums the carpet, his heart is completely in it. 

He does not shrink from a job when it is begun, and he does not leave a job until it is finished. But when his tasks are done, Kevin knows how to relax.

He is not obsessed with his work or the work of others. His heart is pure.

He still believes everyone tells the truth, promises must be kept, and when you are wrong, you apologize instead of argue. 

Free from pride and unconcerned with appearances, Kevin is not afraid to cry when he is hurt, angry or sorry. He is always transparent, always sincere. And he trusts God. 

Not confined by intellectual reasoning, when he comes to Christ, he comes as a child. Kevin seems to know God - to really be friends with Him in a way that is difficult for an "educated" person to grasp. God seems like his closest companion. 

In my moments of doubt and frustrations with my Christianity I envy the security Kevin has in his simple faith. 

It is then that I am most willing to admit that he has some divine knowledge that rises above my mortal questions. 

It is then I realize that perhaps he is not the one with the handicap . . I am. My obligations, my fear, my pride, my circumstances - they all become disabilities when I do not trust them to God's care. 

Who knows if Kevin comprehends things I can never learn? After all, he has spent his whole life in that kind of innocence, praying after dark and soaking up the goodness and love of God. 

And one day, when the mysteries of heaven are opened, and we are all amazed at how close God really is to our hearts, I'll realize that God heard the simple prayers of a boy who believed that God lived under his bed. 

Kevin won't be surprised at all!