Daily Devotions

A Story of Change

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"The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son,..." (John 5:22)

 

He cannot get over his guilt. He picked up women to fulfill his own sexual desires for so many years. His world was selfish. Gambling was more than a habit, it was a way of life. When he finally married, he had children thinking it would ground him. The whole marriage thing was a disaster, and now his ex-wife has custody of the children and they barely recognize him. Work was his one area of success, but even that was tainted by the shady dealings he made to get ahead.

 

Then one day, a friend invited him to church. He hadn't been a church-goer, but he respected his friend, who had a sense of peace, and seemed to have his life together. He returned week after week. Then he joined a small group and began studying the Bible more. Yet, rather than getting a feeling of peace, he felt convicted. The more he participated in church and studied God's word, the more his selfish behavior made him sick to his stomach. He began to wonder if it was too late for him to make a change and be accepted by God. Had he hurt too many, too often?

 

In a moment of bitter frustration and depression, exacerbated by too many gin and tonics, he knew he had to either get some relief from the guilt, or leave God. It was simply too painful. In one last ditch effort, he made an appointment to visit with the pastor. The poor, unsuspecting pastor was caught by surprise. Barely did the man step in the pastor's office, than he unburden himself by sharing his guilt and pain. His narrative confession flowed out of him in fits and spurts. The pastor knew enough to simply listen.

 

The man concluded his desperate tirade sharing his fear that God would turn him into a pillar of salt on his judgment day. He then proceeded to sob into his hands, too exhausted to keep control.

 

The pastor told him it was not too late for God to bless him with peace. First, he needed to get on his knees and pray for forgiveness. The two literally got on the floor and prayed for forgiveness together. The pastor shared the verse from John 5:22, that the Father has "given all judgment to the Son." He reminded the man that God, in Jesus, no longer turns people into salt, but with Jesus, all are forgiven. We don't earn our forgiveness, but it is the free gift of grace. The pastor then said that God forgives him, but in order for the man to forgive himself, he may want to make a mends by apologizing to those he hurt. He should not push, but be available to others, especially his children, if they want to talk. Accept their anger in a non-anxious way, and not defend himself. Then, simply live a new, more-faithful life, and time will bring healing.

 

The man's life was more whole, and his relationships less stressed. When he realized God, through Jesus Christ was calling him not to destruction, but to redemption, his selfishness was turned to selfless love.

 

Today, offer God your guilt and pain. If there are relationships left in despair, reach out. Trust in God's forgiveness. Then, as a response to the free gift of grace, commit to making faithful changes in your life. Don't wait until tomorrow or next month, but start today and begin with a prayer for forgiveness and the Spirit's leading. A feeling of wholeness is not beyond your grasp!

I'm Religious and Proud Of It

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"For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God." (John 5:18)

 

My life would be nearly complete if I never heard this phrase uttered again: "I am spiritual, but not religious."  How are you spiritual? Do you worship trees? Do you meditate? Do you pay Madam Rose to read your palm? Are you good with a Ouija board? And when did the word "religion" become a derogatory term?

 

The term "religion" means, "Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe." Also, "A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship." The term "religion" simply means an organized belief in something. These Spiritual but not Religious people are not willing to take the time to organize their understanding of faith, or they would not claim to deny being religious. What I believe they are saying is that they do not believe in any institution or authority guiding their spiritual life.

 

If this is indeed true, then they are stating that whatever one wants to worship, is acceptable and their spirituality. It becomes narcissistic spirituality, with the individual as the messiah of their own little religion.

 

There is no room in the Christian RELIGION for this type of understanding. Christianity is meant to be the antithesis of narcissism. Jesus' example is one of sacrifice. Jesus is God sacrificing by becoming human, sharing in our suffering and death. All this is done to redeem the world and bring all of us into intimate relationship with the Divine. To understand and appreciate these eternal blessings, one must stand for something, in other words, believe something.

 

Today, thank God in prayer for bringing us the Messiah. Offer God adoration for the love God has given us. Return love back to God. Rejoice in Jesus' example, and sacrificial love. Honor God by participating in church. The earliest moments in Christianity were formed around churches. Be part of that rich history. Be "Spiritual and Religious!"

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