Daily Devotions

A Dire Warning to the Christian Church

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For the shepherds have become stupid, they do not seek Yahweh. Therefore they do not have insight, and all of their flock are scattered. Jeremiah 10:21

Antonio R. Jackson writes, “The focus of the modern day church has become corrupted and God’s power diminished by idolized personalities and an innate desire for celebrity.” Jackson continues, “Pastors have been widely revered as superstars rather than being identified and recognized as the servants they are. While this is not new, in the case of the televangelist, with the uprising of social media it has become a cultural norm. We live in a world that has, for centuries, played the game of monkey-see-monkey-do.” Jackson warns that God is going to get tired of the cute, and will call out the Church if it doesn’t walk away from the arrogant, and reaffirm its servanthood.

Jackson, in his article, “Entertaining Does Not Mean Effective: A Lesson For The Millennial Church” is concerned that while there are a few churches growing by the cult of personality, the whole of Christendom is in decline because so many are turned off by such “antics” that they have left the Christian faith all together. Jackson’s warning is so harsh, he ends the article with a quote from Jeremiah 10:21, “For the shepherds have become stupid, they do not seek Yahweh. Therefore they do not have insight, and all of their flock are scattered.

If we are to honor God and not be part of the divine problem, our congregations must continue to humbly focus our actions on Scripture. Scripture continually calls us to focus on God and not on ourselves. The more selfless our worship, the more selfless our mission, the more selfless our relationships, the more in tune with the Divine call we become. That is hard to believe in this secular society where bigger means better, and where richer means more successful. God’s idea of success is very different from the world’s understanding of success.

Easy faith can be popular because many people want to feel like they are being faithful while not letting God become too demanding. Hey, if it takes one hour a week to appease God, then the least the church can do is make that hour entertaining. Instead, our lives should center on our faith, and worship should take us deeper into Divine communion, where we empty ourselves, so there is room for God to fill us with compassion, meaning, and wholeness. Pray for God to empty you and me, but also all the faithful throughout the world, and for all generations.

The Wisdom of Arnold Palmer

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Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength is spent. (Psalm 71:9)

The iconic golfer, Arnold Palmer, talked about the end of his competitive golf career. “He said, ‘It was a tough week, ending my career as a competitive player there, knowing that I wouldn’t go out and try to win one more. Yep, it’s hell to get old.’” Palmer wasn’t clinically depressed, but he was experiencing melancholia. Melancholy isn’t something we should medicate or even fight against. Melancholia is in the mind and perhaps is the Holy Spirit’s call for attention.

I found Arnold Palmer’s story in Thomas Moore’s book, “Ageless Soul.” I’ve referenced this book before, because it is so helpful. Moore points out that, “There is an art to dealing with emotions, and art itself can help.” Rather than chastising one’s self for one’s feelings, or trying to ignore them, finding ways to interact with our feelings of melancholia can help us find out what the mind or the Holy Spirit is trying to say. Music, for example, speaks to the heart and mind differently from simple rational thought. Moore provides the example, “A song that touches me with both sadness and romance is Eric Clapton’s ‘Wonderful Tonight.’ Willie Nelson’s ‘September Song’ is another popular song that links melancholy with love, as is Leonard Cohen’s ‘Suzanne.’” Music is just one example of art that can tenderize us enough to address our melancholy. Have you ever choked up at a movie?

For the elderly, like Arnold Palmer, melancholy is often experienced as things that are regularly taken away. Palmer’s pro career was taken away by advancing years. The elderly, in time, have their driving, their health, and their friends taken away from them. Melancholia isn’t an option, but a reality for any elderly person who is honest with himself or herself. Who wouldn’t be melancholy when so much is being taken away?

What makes melancholia a healthy response, rather than one that slides into destructive depression, is one’s ability to evaluate and respond to the feeling of melancholia. Whether you read poetry, listen to or play music, paint, watch an emotional movie, or dance like you’re riding a pogo stick, soften yourself up enough to think through your feelings and face your frustrations. Invite the Holy Spirit into your thoughts, so God can weave strength and wisdom into the healthy responses you make. Melancholia is an opportunity to address struggles and make hopeful transformations. I pray that you and I will have the courage and tenderness to face our melancholia with determination and a few tears. (Don’t tell anyone, but I still tear up at the end the movie “Rudy.”)

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