Too Much to Comprehend

By Chuck Griffin

Today’s psalter reading is Psalm 104:24-35b. Every now and then, it is good to stop and meditate on the greatness of God, a spiritual exercise that should be humbling, if nothing else.

O Lord, what a variety of things you have made!
    In wisdom you have made them all.
    The earth is full of your creatures.
Here is the ocean, vast and wide,
    teeming with life of every kind,
    both large and small.
See the ships sailing along,
    and Leviathan, which you made to play in the sea.

Our increased ability to study creation deep beneath the sea and across vast expanses of sky should leave us not smugly astonished at our own abilities, but instead even more dumbfounded by what God has wrought. The more we see, the more we grow puzzled, with an always deepening set of mysteries before us.

The ocean in places remains unfathomably deep, and if the human mind were for a second to truly comprehend the vastness of the universe, it might not survive the experience. The scale of it all is far beyond what we can grasp with our senses, and yet, we know it is all within the grasp of God.

They all depend on you
    to give them food as they need it.
When you supply it, they gather it.
    You open your hand to feed them,
    and they are richly satisfied.
But if you turn away from them, they panic.
    When you take away their breath,
    they die and turn again to dust.
When you give them your breath, life is created,
    and you renew the face of the earth.

What’s truly remarkable is that a God so great would care for the minuscule components of what He has created. We are told that He takes note of every sparrow that falls. We begin to at least glimpse the power of an eternal being, one who can take as long as He wants to contemplate every conscious experience made possible by the creative act.

And in having made us, God loves us, so much so that He granted us freedom to choose and then rescued us when we did not choose well.

May the glory of the Lord continue forever!
    The Lord takes pleasure in all he has made!
The earth trembles at his glance;
    the mountains smoke at his touch.

The relationship between creation and Creator brings joy to all involved! Of course, the created, properly understanding our place, also must carry within a deep sense of humility, the first step toward proper worship of the one who has made all things.

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live.
    I will praise my God to my last breath!
May all my thoughts be pleasing to him,
    for I rejoice in the Lord.

True worship fully incorporates body and mind, requiring the assistance of the one who is worshiped. We cannot achieve such worship on our own. Remember this as we move toward Pentecost Sunday; the Creator’s Spirit must be within us and among us if we are to worship Him well.

Lord, grant us what we need so that our worship of you may be full and complete. Amen.

Blessed Is the One

Revelation 22:6-9 (NRSV)

By John Grimm

The angels and humans have one thing in common in this part of John’s vision.  We are slaves.  What a commonality!  For we serve God in our respective capacities.  The difference between angels and humans is how we can be faithful.

The angels were faithful in delivering the vision to John, and to all who read Revelation.  We humans get to be faithful in keeping the words of this prophecy.  We do not worship angels.  We worship God, who is faithful to both the angels and to humans. 

What then are we to do?  We are to keep the words of this book!

When we do keep the words of this book, then we will know how much and for how long we can worship God.  We get to be faithful until Jesus Christ returns.  We are slaves to Jesus through the word that angel revealed to John.  We, therefore, serve with the angels in the worship of God.  If we get nothing else from Revelation, then we deliberately find reason to worship God.  That is the word for us.  Worship God.

God, we worship you.  You are faithful to us.  We are finding encouragement to remain faithful to you.  It is a blessing for us already to know we serve you.  It is with our life that we worship you.  In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray.  Amen.

The True Temple

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.—Revelation 21:22.

By Chuck Griffin

This single verse is part of a much longer passage near the end of the Bible regarding the New Jerusalem, the holy city that is part of the remade heaven and earth. We see the fulfillment of God’s desire to reunite with humanity.

I want to focus on this one verse because it reminds us of worship in its purest form, a kind of worship that is possible now, even before the events that will close the era of broken creation and begin eternal life with God for the redeemed. It is a form of worship many Christians have experienced at least briefly, and it has a kind of power in it that can sustain us for a lifetime.

I am talking of worship that is not dependent on a particular time or place. It may happen as part of a scheduled event, inside a building made for the purpose, but if any of those elements are present, they are merely conduits for the real experience.

Those of you who have had this experience instinctively know what I’m talking about. Place and time seem to dissolve, and what remains before us is God, certainly felt and for a very blessed few even seen. We better understand what it means to describe Christianity as “mystical.”

While the conduits—the steeples, the sanctuaries, the altars, the pulpits, the stained glass, the paraments, the instruments and more—can be very helpful, there also is a danger in their use. We can become dependent on them, even in love with them, in the process forgetting about who it is we actually pursue in worship.

Few Christians would walk away from the buildings they often call “the church.” And often, there is good reason. I call it the “holy ground” problem. So much has happened in the space. Baptisms, weddings and funerals, all with their associated memories, are just the obvious events.

The solution, I think, is to be careful about how we walk toward worship. Have we arrived to visit a place or a memory, or are we moving expectantly into an encounter with God?

The right mindset can help us worship God in full now.

Dear Lord, give us deeper and even unexpected encounters with you in worship. Amen.

Seeing the Dawn

By Chuck Griffin

Today is a special day. First and foremost, it is the third Sunday in this wonderful season of Easter.

The lectionary gospel reading for today is actually my favorite Bible story. Found in John 21:1-19, I will be preaching on it this morning, as will many of my colleagues, I am sure.

It is a story of redemption and renewal, and it also is a reminder that as we follow Jesus Christ, we may encounter hard times. Christ meets us where we are, however, and bathed in His power, we build on each other’s works until that day when we stand before our Savior.

If you are reading this before worship and you’re not sure whether you’re going, get up and go. Immerse yourself in what you should be offered today and then offer yourselves back to the Lord.

Oh, and by the way, as of today, the Global Methodist Church is now an official denomination. We do not yet know how many hoops we must jump through to get there, but I know a lot of us are ready to get jumping.

We will figure it out, and as we do so, let’s cling tightly to the peace the resurrected Christ offers us.

Holy, Holy, Holy

Revelation 4:1-11 (NRSV)

By John Grimm

There is much in Revelation that people find confusing.  There are how many sevens?  There are how many cities?  When does this thing called “tribulation” begin?  Yet, one central part of Revelation does not cause confusion.

We are to worship God!

The living creatures that are attending to God are worshiping God.  We also see a refrain from the twenty-four elders.  The point and counterpoint help us to recognize that heaven and earth can (and do) worship God.  This worship happens together.

The living creatures are spelling out who they see and what they understand about the Lord:

1.)  Holy – repeated three times to show how perfectly true and gracious God is.

2.)  The Lord God the Almighty – an Old Testament name which describes all that God is – sovereign, divine, and having all strength.

3.)  Who was, and is, and is to come – God is before us, is with us, and will come to live within a renewed creation.

The refrain has people from earth repeating these themes from their perspective:

1.)  Worthy – for there is no other creature or any part of creation who can receive glory, honor, and praise.

2.)  Our Lord and God created all – he was before all created things, and he made all created things to be created.

Yes, these accolades for God in Revelation 4 are all true!  Though we see John’s apocalyptic vision as happening in the future, what is stopping us from worshiping God now?  Can we worship God for the reasons the living creatures and the twenty-four elders do?  Will we worship God and speak with our own voices how worthy the Lord is?

Lord God the Almighty, what a vision of worship as it can be.  Even today we realize we can give you all glory, honor, and praise.  Help our generation to know you through our worship of you.  In the name of Jesus Christ, we thank you for the time to worship you now, even though we do not understand everything going on around us, or in the Revelation of John.  Holy Spirit, thank you for John’s vision.  Amen.

A Lost Generation

First of all, I apologize that this is the first devotion to run this week. I’ve been with a family member who needed surgery. (All is well.) Today and tomorrow, we will look at Nehemiah, continuing an exploration of books of the Bible this blog has yet to consider.

The Book of Nehemiah

By Chuck Griffin

Go looking for God, and you may get an unexpected result. There’s a good chance you will find your real identity.

The conquered, beaten-down Jews of Nehemiah’s day certainly had lost all sense of who they were. Their once-great city of Jerusalem lay in ruins, abandoned with no wall to protect it. Nehemiah had been living in exile as cupbearer to the conquering king.

It was a role of trust, a role that eventually allowed him to gain permission from the king to rebuild Jerusalem and restore some sense of belonging for the scattered people of God. The best of the Jews had been carried away to distant capitals; the rest had been left defenseless among their enemies, people who despised and abused them.

To get the full story, I would suggest you read all of the book of Nehemiah. Suffice it to say his task was a difficult one. Over time, he managed to organize the Jews there, overcoming intimidation, murder plots, and the constant threat of attack by surrounding tribes who hated the Jews of old and did not want to see them re-establish a foothold in Jerusalem.

As Nehemiah and those who rallied around him rebuilt Jerusalem’s destroyed wall and its gates, they often had to work with swords strapped to sides or a weapon in one hand. And yet, they rebuilt the wall in 52 days, an accomplishment even their enemies considered miraculous. Nearly 50,000 Jews and their livestock poured into the city.

It was not too much later that the process of discovery began. The people gathered to hear the word of God, and they were distraught at what had been forgotten over the long captivity. That moment of discovery is recorded in Nehemiah 8:1-10. Over a day, it is likely they heard the story of creation; they once again learned of the fall. They heard how God established them as a separate, chosen, holy people through Abraham.

They heard what God had done for their ancestors through Moses after the Israelites had fallen into captivity in Egypt. There were stories of miracles, all evidence of God’s great love. And there were detailed explanations of God’s covenant with them and God’s law for them, and they realized how far they had strayed, how godless they had become. Exploring God’s word that day proved to be a life-changing journey for them.

From God’s word, they remembered how to worship, and began to do so again, celebrating forgotten festivals and re-telling forgotten stories. They confessed their sins to God and sought mercy.

As different as we are today, it is a pattern we can follow. It can be a bit of a shock to discover how far we’ve strayed from God, but as we become Bible-exploring people, we find our true selves. Like Nehemiah’s Jews, one of the first lessons we learn in Genesis is that we are made in our creator’s image, meaning we were designed to reflect God’s nature and God’s will. Know God and we know what should come natural for us.

Knowing God and consequently knowing ourselves seems difficult for one reason alone. Sin remains in the world and in us. Upon hearing what God’s word had to say about God’s expectations of them, Nehemiah’s Jews realized they had suffered mightily because they had stopped acting as God would have them act. They had fallen into sin, and they wept. A sense of brokenness and loss always precedes redemption.

The priestly interpreters of the word, knowing God’s word, had an interesting response, however. They told the people not to weep. The Jews of Jerusalem once again saw God for who God is, and they were in worship! The priest Ezra and the Levites knew that God’s grace would once again shine through their darkness, and joy would be restored.

We see them understanding and experiencing the same kind of forgiving, loving grace ultimately expressed in Jesus Christ, God among us in flesh. Christ came to bring us face-to-face with our need for God.

When we look to Christ, we sometimes don’t like what we see in ourselves. But I tell you today, do not weep, but rejoice—in turning to Christ, we find eternal life and take important steps toward holiness in this life. In Christ God offers us new hope and a new identity.

Dear Lord, help us to become the people we would have been had sin never entered the world.

Do Not Forget the Lord Your God

Deuteronomy 8

By Chuck Griffin

In this season of Thanksgiving—this coming long weekend where we count our blessings and look toward God in gratitude—we Americans find ourselves in a good land.

Some would call such an assertion debatable, citing a pandemic, inflation, a strange job market, and social unrest as their evidence. And these problems do exist, causing suffering.

We still live in a good land, however. If for no other reason, it is good because it remains a place where we can freely remember and worship God. I also think there are many other reasons it remains a good land. Despite the current gloom, I’m an optimist, and I’m mindful that we’ve faced much worse as a nation.

To me, the parallels between our situation and the situation the Israelites were in as they prepared to enter the Promised Land are striking. The book of Deuteronomy largely is Moses reminding the people of their history and their relationship with God, preparing them for Moses’ imminent death and their first steps into a long-anticipated future.

“For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper,” Moses told them, his words recorded in the eighth chapter. “You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you.”

With a few modifications to the types of crops and some additions to the minerals, this could serve as a description of North America.

There also is a warning: “Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God,” Moses said. After reminding them once again of all the perils God had brought them through, Moses added, “Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.’ “

I would not go so far as to describe the United States as some kind of new Promised Land. Our nation was not designed to relate to God through a direct covenant. It is, however, structured so that individuals can enter into any kind of covenant with God, assembling with those of like mind without fear of persecution. That freedom has allowed Christianity in all its variations to thrive here.

Yes, we debate loudly about politics, and the price of a Thanksgiving meal is up; yes, gas is once again over $3 a gallon where I live, and as high as $6 a gallon in other parts of the country. But this land remains a great blessing to its inhabitants and the world as long as our principles of freedom remain. Less stuff would not diminish our connection to God.

The lesson from Deuteronomy is simple, and as relevant to us as it was to those desert people longing for a little variety in their diets and a constant water supply. Remember God—remember the one you follow, the one you have declared to be above all creation.

Worshiping God in good times and bad is our primary task.

Dear Lord, your first blessing was to give us life; help us to use our lives as ongoing acts of thanksgiving and praise. Amen.

When the Bottom Falls Out, Part 2

Job 2:6-10 (NLT)

“All right, do with him as you please,” the Lord said to Satan. “But spare his life.” So Satan left the Lord’s presence, and he struck Job with terrible boils from head to foot. Job scraped his skin with a piece of broken pottery as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.” But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” So in all this, Job said nothing wrong.


By ‘Debo Onabanjo

As noted yesterday, Job had reason to blame God for the calamity that befell him, but the Bible tells us that Job did not blame God. In fact, in the book’s first chapter, Job habitually offered burnt offerings to the Lord just in case his children “sinned and cursed God in their hearts” (see Job 1:5). Job was a worshiper of God. Through his life and response to the unexplainable evil that befell him, he proved himself worthy of the things that God had said about him. 

The Lord who knows the end from the beginning knew that Job would remain steadfast during severe testing and consequently gave Satan permission to once again attack Job, but without taking his life. Satan subsequently struck Job with terrible boils from head to foot and he became a pathetic sight.

To ease the pain of the boils, Job would scrape his skin with a piece of broken pottery as he sat among the ashes. (Job 2:7-8.) Although we do not have details as to the nature of Job’s illness, it must have so devastating and horrible that even his wife could not bear it anymore. 

While we expect that marriage should be a lifelong experience between the man and the woman until they are parted by death, Job’s wife was done with living with her terribly sick husband, whose sight she could no longer bear. She angrily told him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9.)

Job’s stoic response to his wife demonstrated his unwavering commitment and trust in the Lord: “ ‘You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?’  So in all this, Job said nothing wrong.”  (Job 2:10.) Job’s response should make us reflect on our commitment to the Christian journey.

Is our love for the Lord and our faith based on what we get from the Lord? I know some folks who in the face of terrible tragedy, like the loss of a child or spouse, have walked away from God. They could not understand why a God they trusted would allow their child or loved one to die. Is your faith conditional?

When the bottom falls out of your world and you are faced with unexpected tragedy, how will you respond? This reminds me of the response of my late mother to the tragic news of the death of my younger brother Gbenga on Monday Aug. 25, 2003, at the age of 24 years. My mother went to the Mount Carmel Hospital East in Columbus, Ohio, to identify the lifeless body of my brother, and she later shared with me these painful words she had uttered: “Gbenga, your death will not destroy my faith.” 

We all know that as parents, we are not created to bury our own children, but in the face of a most tragic event that she could not understand, my mother testified to her strong faith in the Lord. Of course, my brother’s death rocked our world as a family, but it did not destroy our faith in the goodness of the Lord, who has continued to sustain us almost 18 years after Gbenga’s demise. This same faith has sustained us since my mother, Ibidunni Onabanjo, succumbed to her illness and joined the saints triumphant on Sept. 4, 2012. 

I have no doubt that most if not all of us have experienced painful and devastating events. As Jesus clearly tells us in John 16:33, in this world we are going to face trials and sorrows, but we can hold on to his peace.

How do you respond in the face of tragedy and bad news? Do you blame God or accept the event as part of the consequences of living in a sin-infested and broken world? It is important to note that while we do not have any control over the things that will be done to us or that will happen to us, we have control over how we react and respond to them.

Job, a man described by God as the finest man in all the earth, blameless and of complete integrity, provides a clear example for those of us living the life of faith. He shows us how we should respond in the face of situations that we have no control over.

The question that I often ask myself when I read the Book of Job is, What will God have to say about me? Is my life pleasing to God? Can God boast about me and ask Satan, “Have you noticed my servant ‘Debo?”

Satan had the wrong idea about Job. Even when all his possessions were taken from him, including his ten children, Job worshiped the Lord instead of blaming the Lord. May that be our approach no matter what comes our way.

Loving God, you became heartbroken because of human sin, but out of love you sacrificed your beloved Son to purchase our pardon. In the face of devastating life situations, help us to remain unwavering in our faith like Job.  Help us to be willing to endure pain and suffering as part of our devotion to you and grant us the grace to witness to the strength you alone provide. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

The Experience

We are moving toward our Sunday, July 11 sermon, “Despising the Celebration,” which will be viewable online and based on 2 Samuel 6.

Today’s Text: Colossians 3:16-17 (NLT)

By Chuck Griffin

Wednesday, we considered the importance of approaching God reverently, acknowledging his holiness and our unworthiness to be in the divine presence. Thanks to Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we are allowed to enter God’s presence despite our sins, and we find ourselves strengthened and sustained by the Holy Spirit.

So, what is the appropriate response to this remarkable turn of events? A celebration!

I think a lot of people struggle with worship because we don’t spend enough time celebrating. When we fail to celebrate in worship, we miss out on the joy of being Christian, a joy available to us regardless of our circumstances.

I know—we may not always feel like rejoicing. Poor? Sick? Lonely? Broken by sins committed? Victimized by another’s sin? Those aren’t ideal situations to be in, but our current circumstances brighten considerably when we put them in the light of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. The temporary nature of our woes becomes obvious when the Holy Spirit begins to work in us through God’s word, giving us a taste of what it means to be citizens of an eternal kingdom.

The joy of the resurrection—first, Christ’s, and later, our promised own—is something God offers us whenever we immerse ourselves in his story and praise him.

We’re told in Colossians 3:16-17, “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”

God’s word begets gratitude, and with gratitude in our hearts, we sing and direct our celebration toward our audience, God. We can rejoice in such ways during appointed worship times, at 11 a.m. on Sunday, for example.

We also can celebrate when gathered in small groups. We can celebrate in our one-on-one time with God. God calls us to such celebratory experiences whenever we stand before him in worship.

Dear Lord, particularly as we have coped with Covid-19, we possibly have forgotten what it means to rejoice in our relationship with you. Help us to celebrate this Sunday, and every day.

The Approach

We are moving toward our Sunday, July 11 sermon, which will be viewable online and based on 2 Samuel 6.

Today’s Text: Matthew 6:9-13 (NLT)


By Chuck Griffin

These devotions began in support of a larger effort to encourage traditional Methodist small groups. The group in which I participate recently revealed to me some connections between what we commonly call the “Lord’s Prayer” and this Sunday’s developing sermon on the nature of worship.

Jesus was teaching his followers how to pray, moving ultimately into an example of prayer straight from his divine lips. It’s perfectly fine to pray the prayer as is—you cannot go wrong quoting Jesus. The prayer also serves a larger purpose, however.

As a model for other prayers, his words remind us of how we are to approach God.

First, God is holy, and we need to stay rooted in that truth as we pray. By “holy,” we mean God is without fault, always perfect and the standard by which creation should be measured.

Sadly, we are sullied by our freely made poor choices. Our sins make us unholy. We need to approach God with expressions of humility and a sense of caution, what the Bible’s English translators sometimes describe as “fear.” That which is unholy historically has not survived direct experiences of God for very long.

As we pray, we also should express our deep desire to align our will with God’s will. We need to declare that we intend for our lives and the world around us to fall in line with what God wants.

That big-picture attitude creates the proper environment for praying about situations large and small. We can confidently approach our holy God as a loving God, knowing he will meet us in any moment as we call upon him with appropriate reverence.

In particular, we pray for relief from the sins tainting us, knowing we can seek forgiveness because of the work Jesus Christ performed on the cross. And we are reminded that the grace we are continually shown should be extended to others.

This all should create in us a humble demeanor that not only benefits us in daily prayer, but also prepares us for proper worship. As we will see on Friday, when properly prepared for worship, we can experience wondrous results.

Lord, keep us in awe, keep us humble, and at the same time let us know that we have many reasons to rejoice in your presence. Amen.