Devotional

Anger and Grace
Emily C. Heath

“How can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”– Luke 6

Today I am sitting in my study and feeling angry. I’ll admit that. Yesterday I found out that a man my church helped financially in an emergency was lying about the whole thing. I’m angry that he sat across from me and told me tearful stories about a dead brother who never existed.

And I’m angry at myself too. I think I’m a good judge of whether someone is telling me the truth, and I ask a lot of specific questions before I open the discretionary fund checkbook. This time I just didn’t ask enough.

Jesus tells us that before we judge others we must take a hard look at ourselves. We have to take the log out of our own eye before we focus on the eyes of others. That’s hard to hear when you’re feeling angry at someone who stole from your church.

And yet, it is true. I don’t excuse what this man did. But I cannot allow my anger about his shortcomings to transform me into a person I don’t want to be. I want to believe the best about people. I want to be generous. I want to give freely, and not hold back out of fear.

I can’t control someone who lies to me. But I can control who I become. In the end, all I can do is “keep my side of the street clean,” as the saying goes. Grace will hopefully do the rest.

Prayer
God, thank you helping us to take the log out of our own eye. And thank you for giving us a desire for grace, instead of vengeance. Amen.


Devotional Author Emily Heath

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emily C. Heath is Senior Pastor of The Congregational Church in Exeter, New Hampshire.

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Devotional for 10/2/2014

OMG

Matt Laney


“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside, but full of stinking rot on the inside.” – Matthew 23:27

According to many, the best evidence for America’s headlong slide into religious apathy is not declining church attendance, but the rising tide of casual blasphemy.

No longer seen as the theological f-bomb of yesteryear, “Oh my God!” is as common as table salt. Once upon a time children weren’t even allowed to flavor their speech with “oh my gosh,” because “gosh” was a thinly veiled substitute for “God.”

This trend provides a golden opportunity for modern day “scribes and Pharisees” (like me).  For them, there are two kinds of people in the world: the godless who say “Oh my God!” to express surprise or indignation, and those who take God seriously and say something else.  After all you don’t hear devout Hindus sauntering about saying “Holy Cow!” or find sincere Buddhists saying “Oh my Buddha!” when they get a little tweaked.

Such a perspective works with brilliant efficiency as long as you ignore Jesus.  He said there are some outwardly clean-cut religious folks who talk a good pious game but are altogether scruffy and crude on the inside.  Actually, Jesus put it much more colorfully.

Yes my heart aches whenever I hear “Oh my God” when a simple “wow, really?” would suffice.  Sure I would like to live in a country where some amount of respect is due to the Sacred.  But Jesus won’t let me take it much further.   Jesus would rather have me examine my own heart for small blotches of self-righteousness and huge looming tombs of divine neglect.

Prayer

God, create in me a clean heart with a new, right and humble spirit.


Matt Laney 2014

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.

Daily Devotional 9/30/2014

DD Spring Tuesday

Making the Right Entrance
Kenneth L. Samuel

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise.” – Psalm 100:4

The famous line from the movie “Jerry Maguire” is remembered in the hearts of many. Upon the dramatic reunion of two estranged lovers, one says to the other: “You had me at hello.”

The attitude or mindset with which we enter any conversation is crucial. To a great degree, the success of any contract or covenant is determined by the degree of openness to compromise and the degree of willingness to cooperate that we bring to these enterprises.

When people come to worship already grateful for the blessings of God and already cognizant of the movement of God in their lives, worship becomes a truly shared experience instead of a platform for individual performance.

When warring nations come to the conference table with earnest respect for each other’s right to exist, viable plans for co-existence are much more likely to be established and sustained.

When our elected representatives go to Congress believing that compromise for the common good is actually more important than partisan loyalty, our nation is much better poised for economic and social progress.

When people who have been torn apart by reckless misdeeds and grievous misunderstandings approach each other with the understanding that no relationship, family or community can function without forgiveness, the prospect of personal and collective peace becomes far less distant.

The presence and the peace of God really never have to be invoked. We need only acknowledge and celebrate the amazing possibilities that God has already put in place.

Prayer
Dear God, upon our approach to every challenge and responsibility, touch our hearts and open our minds. Amen.


Kenneth Samuel 2012

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.