Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Every Life Matters

I'm taking a step away from the daily Scripture meditation today.  I want to share something a bit different with my readers.

For the past several weeks, I have been hearing about a documentary called, "The Dropbox."  I first heard about it from Focus on the Family.  The promotional clips showed a Korean pastor caring for infants and children in Seoul, South Korea.  The children they showed were mostly little ones with disabilities:  Down syndrome, birth defects, etc.  I felt a tug at my heart, and wanted to know more.  There is a special place in my heart for Korea, as my dad is a Korean War veteran.  There is another place reserved for those precious children who are abandoned or unwanted due to perceived abnormalities.

Tonight, as we entered the theater, we were unsure if it was even being shown.  There was no sign of it on the marquee.  However, as soon as we were inside the doors, a woman asked if we wanted two tickets?  She had purchased four tickets to see "The Dropbox," but two family members were unable to attend.  Did we want their tickets?  We tried to pay her, but she wouldn't hear of it.  Wow.  I think we were meant to be there!

The theater was fairly full when the presentation began.  It was an unusual viewing, as it was not for entertainment purposes.  Yet here were dozens of people, gathering together to listen and learn.

The movie was directed by a man named Brian Ivie.  The background of the making of "The Dropbox" can be found at  What began as a project for the Sundance Film Festival became a life-changing journey for Mr. Ivie.  Meeting Pastor Lee and his wife was an experience Brian Ivie will never forget.
How can I describe seeing newborn infants dropped at this unassuming man's door?  Children who are unwanted, unplanned, or somehow seen as an inconvenience, left in the care of a loving stranger who will put them up for adoption, or adopt them himself...left in a dropbox.

The culture in South Korea still expects young women to remain chaste, in a sense.  That is, if a teenager becomes pregnant, she is seen as a "loose" woman, chastised by her peers, and often dismissed from school.  Though we often see single, teen moms in the United States, this is not the norm in South Korea.  Children with disabilities are too difficult, too expensive, and often looked upon with shame.  Unplanned pregnancies are seen as a disgrace.
Pastor Lee, however, sees each child as a gift from God.  He and his wife have a birth child with severe physical problems.  Through raising him, God opened their eyes to the gift of each life--whether deemed perfect by society or not.

This is a message so needed by our culture.  Children are not possessions to be kept or thrown away at a whim.  They are each a creation of God.  Each of them has a purpose and a place, if only given the chance.  To take that a step further, each human--no matter how young or old--has a purpose until the day God calls them home.  To shorten that life by any means is to ignore their dignity and humanity.

If you see one movie this year, this is the one.  Be ready to have your eyes opened, your heart challenged, and your life changed.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Our Father, We Have Wandered

"What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go in search of the one that went astray?  And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.  So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish."
Matthew 18:12-14

The focus of the Scripture readings in Lent are repentance and forgiveness.  Everything we do throughout these 40 days is a preparation for Holy Week, as we remember Christ's death and resurrection.  In light of all He has done for us, we take a more intentional look at the things which separate us from the intimate relationship He so desires.

Often, we discover small things that have grown over time.  Things that are generally okay or even good can become distractions to our passion for Christ.  Like the sheep in this parable, we find a blade of grass--only a few feet from the herd--that looks delectable.  Oh, but there is a patch over there that appears to be even tastier!  Soon, we find ourselves far from the herd, off in our own little wilderness, and quite distant from the Shepherd.

Thankfully, in His ardent love for us, our Shepherd seeks us.  He actively pursues us along our wandering path, until He discovers our whereabouts.  Whether we're in a cave, have fallen down a slippery slope, or we're caught in the thorns of a wild berry bush, He works to free us from that situation.  Once we are found, there is rejoicing!  He doesn't stand by and say, "Well, too bad.  See if you can get yourself out of this mess!"


The Desire of Your Heart

In the path of thy judgments,
    Lord, we wait for thee;
thy memorial name
    is the desire of our soul.
My soul yearns for thee in the night,
    my spirit within me earnestly seeks thee.
For when thy judgments are in the earth,
    the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
10 If favor is shown to the wicked,
    he does not learn righteousness;
in the land of uprightness he deals perversely
    and does not see the majesty of the Lord.
11 Lord, thy hand is lifted up,
    but they see it not.
Let them see thy zeal for thy people, and be ashamed.
    Let the fire for thy adversaries consume them.
12 Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us,
    thou hast wrought for us all our works.
13 Lord our God,
    other lords besides thee have ruled over us,
    but thy name alone we acknowledge.
Isaiah 26:8-13

Key words:

  • wait
  • desire
  • yearn
  • learn
  • seek (earnestly)
  • acknowledge
These words each show an aspect of actively pursuing our relationship with God.  Christianity is not a spectator sport.  It's all about being on the team and participating.  

Waiting may sound passive, but it is an action verb in this case.  I would define it as, "A purposeful pause of anticipation."  In other words, making ourselves be still to see what God has in store.

Desire is to have an appetite for God.  That may sound a bit odd.  Think about it, though.  If our physical stomach is hungry, we feed it with something that will satisfy those gnawings in our "gut."  If we allow our spiritual hunger to draw us toward God, with a desire to be satisfied, He will satiate us with Himself.

Yearning is a close relative to desire, but actually means to have a strong desire.  Not so much, "I'm hungry, " but more like, "I'm starving!"

Our society's common definition of learning is to "acquire information."  The meaning in this passage is far deeper.  It's not only about accumulating facts, but to make those facts a part of who we are.
To earnestly seek God is again, an action.  Picture it like this:  You've lost one of your small children in a mall during pre-Christmas shopping.  You don't stand around and watch people pass by, hoping you will eventually see your child, and all will be well.  You "earnestly seek" to find them.  This is what the Scripture is saying to us as well.  We need to be active in our relationship with God.

Acknowledging God's name alone means we recognize Him as the ultimate authority in our lives.  This also involves an active setting aside of our own agenda, and allowing His plans to be ours.

It's time to get off the bench, get in the game, and do our part!

Sunday, March 01, 2015

The Transfiguration

**Note:  This is a re-post from 2009.  Have a wonderful Lord's Day!**

"This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him." Mark 9:7b

If you're not familiar with this passage, please take some time to look it up. (Mark 9:2-10) It is what is commonly known as the Transfiguration. Bear with me, because I truly love, love, love this account of an amazing event in Christ's life.

This is the story in a nutshell: Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a mountain with Him to pray. While He was there, He was "transfigured". Literally, He changed in appearance. They saw Him in His glory. (Yet another proof of His deity.) He was bright and shining, and His garments were white. Moses and Elijah appeared there with Him. The disciples fell on their faces. In the midst of all of it, God spoke to them, "This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him." Wow! What an incredible experience this must have been for Peter, James, and John!

Peter got a little confused in all of this. He wanted to build tabernacles for each of them: Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. But God set it all straight. Only Jesus deserved their worship. And how I do love this phrase, that when they looked up again, they saw, "Jesus only." Oh, my friends, may our lives be set on that course, too. That our focus is on Him alone. This world has so many distractions for us, but He alone deserves our praise.

And that is what Lent is truly all about. Regaining our focus. Setting aside worldly distractions to get back on track...

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Always By Our Side

Today's reading is from Isaiah 43:1-7.  Again, it is a lengthy passage, so I won't copy/paste the whole thing here.

I have a lot of thoughts on this segment, but would encourage you to read it for yourself.  Read it through once, and become familiar with it.  Read through again, slowly.  Read it again very slowly.  Now spend some time praying with it, and allow God to speak to you from His Word.  You have just experienced Lectio Divina!

The theme of this entire passage is FEAR NOT!  Why?

  • He has redeemed you.
  • He will be with you.
  • He is the Lord your God.
  • He is the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
  • You are precious in His eyes.
  • He loves you.

    Rest in these promises this evening, as you prepare to worship Him tomorrow.  May His grace and peace be with you.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Priceless Food

Today's passage is the entire chapter of Isaiah 55.  It's a lengthy passage, even though it's only 13 verses.  Click the link above, and you will be able to read the entire chapter.

Just a few thoughts from this amazing portion of Scripture:

If we come to Him, listen to Him, call upon Him, forsake our sins, and return to Him...

  1. Our souls will live (v. 3).
  2. We will be partakers of His everlasting covenant (v. 3).
  3. We will experience His mercy (v. 7).
  4. His word will accomplish its work in us (v. 11).
  5. He will give us His everlasting sign (v. 13)--the unending Kingdom of God.
  6. We will know His abundant pardon (v. 7).

There is a theme in the readings from yesterday and today:  Come to Him, and rest.

There Is Rest for the Weary

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

Key words we see:

- Jesus

   - Who?  "All who labor and are heavy laden."  We all feel that way at times,
      don't we?  Yet Jesus calls every one of us to Himself.

- Take...His yoke upon you
   -  A yoke?  Sounds like a burden.  But a yoke helps a team of horses or oxen
      pull together.  Picture Jesus coming alongside and helping bear the burden.

- Learn...from Him
   - We all want to learn from the best in our particular field of interest.  This

      is our invitation to learn from the VERY best!

- for your soul
   - A place of refuge from the clamor of the world.  A place of protection where

     we can be held close to His heart.

Just a few thoughts:

  1.   Stop worrying about the encumberances of life.  Find rest in Him.
  2.   Let it go.  (I Peter 5:7)
  3.   Even when we take His yoke upon us, we can be at rest.
  4.   He is gentle.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mad As...King David?

Today's Psalm response is from Psalm 34:4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19.  The psalm is beautiful, and full of great depth of meaning:

I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
The face of the Lord is against evildoers,  to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,  and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

I have to say, though, the little preface at the beginning of the psalm (added to let us know the why/when of the writing of this psalm) made me laugh out loud.  It reads:

A Psalm of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.

David was in the courts of Achish (also known as Abimelech), when word came that he was "the" David...
“Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances,    ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?”  So David knew he was found out.  His reputation had put him in a tough spot.  He was afraid now.  But, using his wits, he feigned madness.  Drool running down his beard and all."Then said A′chish (Abimelech) to his servants, 'Lo, you see the man is mad; why then have you brought him to me?  Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?' ”

So this was the occasion of the writing of this psalm.  God had delivered David, in what would seem a very unorthodox manner.

There are times in my own life when I don't see how I should have escaped a situation relatively unscathed.  Or if a bit wounded, how I came out of the predicament at all.  God delivers us from temptations and tough times, still strengthened by His grace.  Even if we have to admit we're a bit mad...  :o)

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all."

The Least

‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’  Matthew 25:40

This is only a short portion from yesterday's Gospel reading.  But it says so much to us.  

Last night, I had the privilege of working with our parish St. Vincent de Paul Society.  Twice a week, our food pantry is open.  There are individuals available to help those who may have need with their rent or utility bills, and also helping with other resources (job search, community outreaches, etc.).

The temperatures in our area were subzero last night.  We still have several inches of snow on the ground, with many sidewalks not very clear.  One sweet lady had walked about two and a half blocks, and was going to carry four or five heavy bags of food, plus a sack of potatoes, all that way back--on foot, through the snow, in the cold.  I offered to transport her.  She was very reluctant, as we had "already done so much for her."  She finally accepted, though, and we were at her apartment in no time at all.  When she thanked me, and offered me a hug, it was my turn to gladly accept.  

When I returned to my car, I was so humbled.  I have often hear people speak of "seeing Jesus" in those to whom they have assisted or ministered.  That was my experience.  I felt I was not just doing it for that dear little lady, but for Christ.  I'm not sure I can adequately express the impact that short encounter made upon me.  

I do know I want to experience that again a multitude of times.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Who's in the Driver's Seat?

"The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, 
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested, 
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
'This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.' ”
 Mark 1:12-15

Today's Gospel reading is the same theme as every first Sunday in Lent:  Jesus in the desert, being tempted by Satan.  For most Christians, this is familiar territory.  For those who observe the Lenten fast, it is our example.  Christ spent those 40 days in preparation for ministry.  As we know from the other Gospel accounts (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13), Jesus spent that time fasting. 

Mark's account says the Spirit "drove" Jesus into the desert.  He compelled Jesus to go.  Matthew and Luke use the word "led."  The concept is of One who is surrounded by the Spirit, and is being pulled forward into something God wants Him to do.  Not "forced," but "led."

This morning, our pastor, Fr. Joe, said something very profound:  "The wilderness is not just a place of desolation.  It is a place of learning."

These Lenten fasts can sometimes seem to last fooooreeever.  In the midst of it, it is tempting to just give in.  Jesus was tempted to make bread from stones.  After all, He was hungry, and He was God in the flesh.  Why not?  Clearly, Jesus knew it wasn't the time for that.  During our fast, we will be tempted to give up our fast because "we just can't do it" for a full 40 days.  There is a beauty and strengthening in the discipline and tenacity of sticking to our fast.  

Even if we feel that the "wild beasts" of our lives (the temptations) are pulling at us, let's hold fast (pun intended) to our resolutions, and allow this time to draw us ever closer to Christ.