Devotional 06-12-11

Scripture: Numbers 11:24-25
So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.”
The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Nu 11:24–25). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Thought for the Day: This week, I posted the daily devotionals to my personal Facebook page as well as to the church Facebook page. It was initially an accident, but the conversations that were started (and opportunities for evangelism provided) proved to be enlightening. I’m going to continue to post the daily devotionals from Bruce and Tony to my personal FB page and urge you to do the same. I think you’ll find the experience spiritually and intellectually stimulating.

The mere fact people with sometimes competely divergent theologies could have a reasonable discussion made me realize we can have Pentecost-like experiences anytime we are having a conversation about faith, religion, theology, and the meaning of it all. Perhaps it takes movement from the Holy Spirit to create a truly open mind. Oh, we have the same disagreements that have tortured the church for centuries, to be sure. But at the end of the day, we listened carefully and considerately to each other’s viewpoints, shared various bits of Scripture, and had a very healthy compare-and-contrast session. I hope we concluded that our denominational and individual theologies are not as important as simply allowing those different points of view to exist and be heard as unique and marvelous aspects of the One, infinitely creative God.

Prayer: Glorious and playful God, thank you for the amazing freedom you allow us on our journey to be reunited with you. May your Holy Spirit envelope the planet as it did on that awesome Pentecost day, allowing us to not only listen, but also to hear and understand each other. Amen.

Devotional 06-11-11

Scripture: John 4:18

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.
Thought for the Day: I’m starting to think humans are simply afraid of love. Why is it so much easier to bear arms against each other than it is to put our arms around each other? Why does it seem so much easier to close our minds and argue than it is to open our hearts and listen? Perfect love–God’s love–is supposed to abolish our fears, yet all we need to do is look around the world to see we are more consumed by fear than ever. I think this is because many of us (perhaps most of us–maybe all of us) have forgotten that God’s love frees us from fear. We’ve forgotten God’s love is even available! Around the world, people are trying to hold onto wordly power with all the material force they can muster. But I don’t think it’s really rebellion these tyrants are fighting against, I think it’s the presence of God’s love. I feel God’s Spirit growing stronger every day. I see it moving through the people of Egypt, of Syria, of Bahrain, in Wisconsin and Washington D.C. (we could probably use a little more awareness in D.C.). I think there is truly a new time of God’s perfect love dawning, and the dawn is causing the blinding light of compassion and justice to shine and lead us out of humanity’s dark night. God’s perfect love is present and strong in our world, we need not fear anything. We just need to keep the faith.

Prayer: Holy, merciful, just, loving God of peace! May the light of your love shine ever more brightly in our hearts, eliminating our fear, uniting us in your grace. Amen.

Devotional 06-10-11

Scripture: Romans 14:8
“If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” 

Thought for the Day: Relationships are tricky things for humans. After thousands of years on this planet, we still can’t share. We fight over land, food, politics, candy–if someone else has something we want it too. We treat our commitments to each other with the same non-chalance we show towards all the material goods in our lives. When we’re done with something (or unfortunately someone), we throw it away. But our connection with God is ever-lasting and permanent. We cannot throw away our relationship with God. We can choose to ignore (or try to ignore) it, but God still maintains a relationship with us, and continues to attempt to “lead us to green pastures.” Today, as we go about our business, let’s look at everyone we come across as a brother or sister in God. Because we all live and die for the Lord, no matter what, we are all related in the Lord. Let’s see what happens if we start to treat each other as aspects of God’s infinite creativity, as members of one ginormous, universal family. Let’s start setting an example, one that shows everyone their conection with God, and the love and peace that is created by that realization, by simply treating even a stranger as a member of our family.

Prayer: God of love and peace, may your constant presence be felt in our lives as we go about our daily business. May my relationship and love for you  express itself in my relationships and dealings with others, in such a way that, if even for a moment, your kingdom is present here and now. I pray that these heavenly moments begin to flourish and spread, so that someday soon we will all wake up from our selfish slumber, and recognize your glorious compassion everywhere, in everyone.  Amen.

Devotional 06-09-11

Scripture: Acts 9:1-2
“Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.”

Thought for the Day: In the fantastic book What Would Jesus Deconstruct,  author John Caputo explains that long before Christians were known as Christians, they were known simply as followers of “the Way.” He goes on to suggest that the way Christ represents is disturbing to the establishment, so much so that people like Saul are quite literally hunting followers of the Jesus way.

About 300 years before Christ, Lao Tze wrote Tao De Jing. “Tao” means “way” or “path,” and the philosophy includes the notion that there are many paths to God, none more correct than any other. It occurs to me that the mistake Saul made is one many of us (too many with shock-talk radio and TV shows) continue to make today — we assume our path is the only path, and discount or try to eliminate any idea that seems contrary to our tradition. But in truth, there are many spiritual paths. I liken this to many roads to God.  In fact, we each have a path to follow, none more important, none “more correct” than any other, all leading to God.

For Christians, our Tao is Jesus. But I hope we also remember that God manifests itself in many wondrous ways, and that hopefully, we are all learning to follow our road to God in a manner that no longer requires us to invalidate the way of someone else.

Prayer: Glorious God of endless manifestations, grant me the focus I need to clearly follow the Tao of Christ, while also filling me with the compassion and love so present in Jesus. Through your eyes, Holy Lord,  may I recognize and respect your presence in all those who seek you in their own, unique Way. Amen.

Devotional 06-08-11

Scripture: Proverbs 16:9
The human mind plans the way, but the LORD directs the steps.”

Thought for the Day: Recently, I had a recording session with an amateur vocalist, who wanted to record an original song. Unfortunately, she wasn’t really capable of singing the same thing twice. Normally, a client will come into the studio, sing me their song, and I’ll write the music around their vocal (sometimes I have to invent the melody too). But in this case that was impossible, because the tune changed every time she sang. So, she asked me if I would simply “follow her lead” while she went into the vocal booth to sing. Although this is not really the usual (or desired) approach to songwriting and recording, we decided we really didn’t have any choice in this case. So I did my best, but it’s not easy to follow someone when you have no idea where they’re going. In fact, it takes a good amount of faith. Fortunately, and certainly through the grace of God’s creative spirit, we ended up with a nice song.

We probably all ask God to follow our lead now and then, rather than allowing ourselves to be led by the Lord. In the studio, I had to completely give myself to God and unthink everything I know musically, in the hopes that God would simply provide us the tune we were looking for.We can live our lives by clearing our own path, and every now and then we may get lucky and find ourselves in tune with God. But it’s much more fulfilling and less frustrating physically, emotionally, and spiritually, to simply let go of our human mind, and release our lives to the direction of God.

Prayer: Creative God, grant me the ability to release my thoughts, my life, and my soul to you. Amen.

Devotional 06-07-11

Scripture: Psalm 13:5
But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.”

Thought for the Day: I’ve been reading a book for seminary entitled Salvation and the Cross, which is a fascinating work presenting different interpretations of the meaning of salvation. Some theologians have interpreted the meaning of salvation with an eye toward the liberation of the oppressed (Ruether), others with purposeful rejection of religious systems they saw as corrupted (Luther and Calvin, for example). Some early theologians thought salvation was only for the elected (who is elected by God and how continues to cause debate). As far back as the book of Isaiah, salvation is viewed as a personal experience that ultimately changes the world. For me, there’s nothing we really need to be saved “from” except ourselves and our own human fears and selfishness (which usually comes about because of fear). As individuals and society we do a good job of keeping ourselves separated from God. In my opinon, salvation happens when we recognize and accept the transforming power of God in our lives. As more and more people begin living in God, the world is ultimately transformed. God provides the grace, but I think we need to actively rejoice in God’s gift, for salvation to become a global reality as well as a personal necessity.
Prayer: Holy God, I pray to you with an open heart and unabashed love. May I find the strength in you to live my life selflessly for others, shamelessly in pronouncing your grace, and thankfully for the new life you’ve given me. In service to you, Lord most Holy, I find salvation. May my life be an example to others, so that salvation may finally encompass the globe. Amen.

Devotional 05-08-11

Scripture: Proverbs 6:20
“Good friend, follow your father’s good advice; don’t wander off from your mother’s teachings.”

Thought for the Day: It’s amazing how many “Wow!” moments you can have when reading through Proverbs. Because the wisdom offered in Proverbs is so ancient, I think we often take it for granted (and therefore end up ignoring the good advice).  I remember many times when I was younger, thinking I knew better than my parents (or simply out of stubbornness), doing something they told me not to–only to think afterwards, “Man, I should have listened to my folks.” We can also read Proverbs (like much of The Bible) even more deeply to discern information about our relationship with God. If we substitute God for references to parents, we’ll read, “Good friend, follow God’s good advice; don’t wander off from God’s teachings.” God is our ultimate parent, after all. So by following our parent’s good advice, we also honor God.

Prayer: Holy God of Wisdom, help me remember the ancient Wisdom you taught your people so long ago. Help me see that every ounce of respect I pay to my parents, my elders, my contemporaries, is also respect I pay to you, O Lord. Amen.

Devotional 05-07-11

Scripture: 1 Peter 3:8
“Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

Thought for the Day: Today is May Friendship Day, an ecumenical celebration.  Even though there are many different styles of Christian worship, and many different interpretations of Christ’s life and teachings, it’s good to stop and remember that we are all one in Spirit. It would be even more useful if we could find more ways to put that belief into practice, by accepting each other as we are, perfect in the eyes of God. If my denomination worships in one way, and yours worships in another, arguing with each other about whose practice is “better,” or “more historic” is pointless (and beside the point). Whether we’re a Christian, a Jew, or a Muslim, we are still united in Spirit, and as Peter urges, we must still have sympathy and love for each other.

Prayer: Glorious God of equality, help us see your Spirit in all your creation, even as we worship you in different ways. Help us become united in your grace, by being examples of tenderness, mercy, humility and love. May you bless all of us with hearts so filled with your Spirit, that how we worship becomes less important than simply, worship. Amen.