Tag Archives: Christ

Proclaim Something Worth Proclaiming

READ
Matthew 9:35-10:23

REFLECT
I am really bad a proclaiming the Good News – or at least making it a priority in my everyday life. I have to admit it. I become distracted and do a great job at proclaiming other things – mostly what I think about things.

We all do a good job at proclaiming what we believe about society, culture, politics, about this or that asinine things a celebrity did or said. We have our opinions on which sports team is best, who deserved or didn’t deserve the Oscar – whether Apple or Microsoft is better. Iphone or Android. You get the picture.

The reading from Matthew reminds us what we ought to be proclaiming in word and deed – The Good News. We who believe are the ones Christ is expecting to be the laborers in the ripe fields.

The next time you want to spout off (or I want to spout off) with some great life-changing, world-saving bit of wisdom about things that will pass with time take pause. Proclaim rather that which is really important and that which is eternal: Christ died for your sins so that you might be with him for eternity.

PRAY
God, by your Spirit come to me and guide my heart and my mouth to proclaim the greatness of you and the greatness you have shown to mankind in the salvation the Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to be laborers and proclaim that which truly matters, AMEN.

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Give the Gift of God’s Word

READ
John 1:1-14, Isaiah 52:7-10

REFLECT
What is Christmas all about? I am not going to get down on the whole secular Christmas deal. I love trees, lights and jingle bells as much as the next guy – so I am not going there. So the question I ask what is Christmas about? It’s Jesus birthday comes to mind. It is a time of peace. Christmas is about giving, about family. There are probably a lot we can say Christmas is about.

Ultimately Christmas is about the Word of God. That is what Jesus is: the Word of God incarnate – that is “in-the-flesh.” The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” John says.

Okay. Fine, well, and good. But what then. Well, we know that God sent his son to save us from sin, death, and the devil by His precious blood upon the cross, but what then? What do we do with the Word – not just this Word made flesh, but subsequently the written Word of God – Holy Scripture.

Isaiah tells give us an answer.

“How beautiful upon the mountains
    are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
    who announces salvation,
    who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

We often think about what we can get or what we got because of Christmas. We think of salvation (or maybe some choice Christmas presents). Isaiah refocuses us to what we are to do and not what we get. Isaiah tells us that the righteous, the blessed, the ones pleasing to God are those who bring His Good News. Jesus is the Good News and we are called to announce Him and His peace, His Good News and His Salvation, which is for us.

So this Christmas give the gift of God’s Word and continue to do this throughout the year.

PRAY
Heavenly Father help us to bring the message of peace, Good News, and salvation to all those with whom we come in contact, the same we you brought us the these things in the person of Your Son. This we pray in Jesus name. AMEN.

Sometimes it’s “Right” to be “Wrong”

READ
Matthew 1:18-25

REFLECT
People love being right. It is only natural. Even the most good-hearted person doesn’t like to be wrong – though the good-hearted person might give up being right for the sake of others. Some years ago I read a book entitled, “As a Gentleman Would Say.” It advised that it is often better to relinquish being right and save ones honor and that of others than to press one’s “right” to the detriment of all.

I think one could say that Joseph was truly a gentleman – not in the phony Victorian way based on birth but rather based on character. Joseph could have had Mary put to death, but even before the dream that assured Joseph of Mary’s purity, he chose to do the honorable and kind thing toward her.

Too often in this world people will fight to the death when they are right (or think they are) and often for the most mundane things. Bottom line is you need to – “Know when to hold ’em; know when to fold ’em.” You pick your battles. You don’t always have to be right. Sometimes the “right” thing to do is give the other person the privilege of being right even when you know they are wrong.

Joseph could easily have exercised his right to be right and saved his honor by publicly denouncing Mary for what he believed to be her infidelity. No one would have disputed it or faulted him for it. Yet, he chose not to do what was right and acceptable in the society, choosing rather to do what was right, even though to some it might have looked like the wrong things to do.

PRAY
Heavenly Father, help me to be gracious in all things, to do the right thing always, to think of others before myself, as Jesus thought of others when he gave his life to redeem us. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.

Are You a “Reed” in “Soft Robes.”

READ
Matthew 11:2-11

REFLECT
Kindness, gentleness, compassion and so forth are really great virtues. Spinelessness is not.

Western Christianity is plagued with spineless men – sadly many of them (largely in Mainstream Protestantism) are touted as church leaders. You know the sort: men who speak in breathy, emotive tones, who cry for everyone, and who will embrace any harebrained theology that comes down the pike – so long as it is not judgmental, exclusive or… Biblically based. Lest anyone think I am sexist there is plenty of spinelessness if Mainline Protestantism, in which the ladies indulge. Spinelessness (and folly) is – if nothing else – egalitarian.

Oh how I long for the day of learned churchmen like Luther, who were not afraid to call a “spade a spade” or the pope an ass, men who were not afraid to stand up for God, to proclaim Jesus Christ as savior and the only way to God, men who would not equivocate and would publicly proclaim that outside of Christ there is no salvation and no matter how “nice” you are you are damned to eternal Hell, unless you believe that Jesus died for your sins.

Much of the mess Western Christianity finds itself in does not stem from being too dogmatic, but rather from the fact that too many modern leaders were/are not dogmatic enough – they stood for little, if anything. They proclaimed nothing of value.

Jesus speaking of John gives us an idea of what people must have been saying – the misgivings they must have been having about this “wild man.” Perhaps he was too opinionated, too emphatic, too rigid, unbending in his certainty regarding the Word of God and His promise of a Messiah?

“What did you go out into the wilderness to look at,” Jesus says. “A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in the royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.”

John was a man who stood tall and unbending against the wind of conformity. He endured hardship, rather than embracing softness. This is what Jesus calls us to be – not just men but women as well. Stand up, be counted and regarding the things of God be as inflexible as John

PRAY
Mighty Lord, make me an oak rather than a reed. Help me to stand up for you and your Word and be counted among your saints who strive for your Kingdom rather than those people who keep company with the spineless who sway to and fro and who are blow like leaves along the ground – captive to the winds of the moment. In Jesus name I pray. AMEN.

Be the Outsider

READ
Matthew 3:1-12

REFLECT
Society doesn’t take very kindly to outsiders. Society would like you to conform to whatever it is that a particular society wants you to be – what it deems good and right. This is very dangerous, not only to the body but to the spirit and especially the soul.

Recently the foul and evil dictator Fidel Castro (darling of the American Left) died. I am sure (short of some miraculous conversation) he will roast in Hell. May God forgive me, but I have to say, “couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.” He and his ilk were/are all about making people conform and they went/will go to the most drastic and draconian measures to do so. Why? Because systems opposed to God and His will do whatever they can to remain in power. In essence the state becomes God and all must bow down before it.

Outsiders are important. Many of our great churchmen could be called outsiders: Martin Luther would rather conform to the Word of God rather than the concoctions of Rome, Dietrich Bonhoeffer chose to conform to Word of God rather than the religion of Nazism. Both men proclaimed greater truths than those being proclaimed by those who defined society for the masses. Notice that both of these men and other were not anarchists, iconoclasts or ideological non-conformists. The chose to conform to the greater thing.

John the Baptist was an outsider, figuratively and literally; in his dress, his habitation and his proclamation of God’s Word. John chose to conform to the Word of God  and proclaim the coming messiah rather than conforming to the society and its dominant religious view.

In a world that is increasingly becoming homogenized, pre-packaged and auto-tuned; in a world that presses people to conform to its vapid and vacuous humanism be the outsider. As Saint Paul says in Romans 12:2, “ Do not be conformed to this world,  but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect”

PRAY
O God, by the power of your Holy Spirit, strengthen me to put off the things of this world and take upon myself those things you would have me do and desire. In the world that rejects you help me to be the outsider who proclaims you boldly. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.

 

Bliss

READ
Luke 6:20-31

REFLECT
When we hear the world “beatitude” we often think of the Sermon on the Mount or the Sermon on the Plain – “Blessed are you…” etc and so forth. But what does “beatitude”  mean? Surprisingly beatitude does not necessarily refer to a thing but a state of being. Webster defines beatitude as “a state of ultimate bliss.”

So what then is Jesus saying in these sermons that contain what we call “The Beatitudes”? Simply this: those who suffer and those who are faithful in this world will experience ultimate joy (bliss) when the Kingdom of God is fully realized.

As people we often like to focus on the goodies and not the bad stuff which is why what follows the beatitudes is often problematic for us. We don’t like to think that bliss might not be ours, but rather the woe. Jesus tell us that if you are making this world your focus – if you are making yourself the focus – you might well have good stuff here but the Kingdom and its bliss is not yours. You will lose what you have. You will hunger, weep and the praises sung of you will fade. Bliss will be eternal. This world’s pleasures will pass away.

God gave us a great world with wonderful things to enjoy but we should never value them above God and above others.

PRAY
Heavenly Father, helps us to keep our enjoyment of the things of this world in perspective. Help us not to love earthly things above you and above others, rather helps us to a friend to the friendless and care for those who are forgotten and neglected. Above all move us to love you firstly. In Jesus name we pray. AMEN.

Sola Gratia

READ
Romans 3:19-28

REFLECT
“If something seems too good to be true it probably is.”

In the fallen world we live in this mantra is often valid. We are inundated with all kinds of offers that seem too good to be true. There must be some strings attached – at the least. At the worst the too-good-to-be-true offer must be a scam.

Because offers are made by people – often unscrupulous people – a wary eys is in order. However, Paul points out clearly that the offer or gift of salvation does not come from the human realm but from Heaven. Paul states clearly that no one is justified by human effort but solely by faith in Jesus Christ.

Does this mean we can do whatever we want and that there are no standards of behavior? Of course not. Grace does not negate the law but fulfills it and the law is important. It identifies sin and makes us aware of our need for a savior. It drive us to Christ where we find forgiveness when we believe in him alone.

Unfortunately a lot of Christians are still trying to win God’s favor by works rather than doing good works as a response to the gift that God has given them in Christ Jesus: do this, don’t do that; wear this don’t wear that; don’t watch this; don’t listen to that. The list goes on and on.

I am glad I do not have to win God’s favor by doing this or that. I would certainly be lost and certainly never be sure if I had done enough – given my nature I would despair because I would be sure I had not done enough. Thankfully, Christ has done enough for me and for all who believe and this same gift is available to all the world.

PRAY
Gracious God, you gave us a greater gift than we could ever imagine. Helps us to have faith in you and your gift of salvation apart from our own feeble attempts to win your favor. Helps us to do good works  as a response to your grace. In Jesus name I pray. AMEN.

One of These Things…

READ
Luke 18:9-14

REFLECT
“One of these things is not like the other. One of these things doesn’t belong. Can you tell which thing is not like the other by the time we finish our song?”

Sesame Street.

Who can remember this song that taught kids how to differentiate between things. In this case Bob and Susan were helping Grover tell the difference in the size of circles.

In the Gospel message from Luke 18, the Pharisee could quite well be singing this song because he was sure that one things (he) was not like the other (the tax collector). But just like our circles, while there may have been some outward differences, there was no substantial difference between the Pharisee and the tax collector. Both were sinners and both needed forgiveness. The major difference, however, was one knew he was sinful and humbled himself and the other did not.

In this respect there is no difference between people. All are sinful and have fallen short of the glory of God. The “saint” needs as much forgiveness as the “sinner” because in the end – as Martin Luther said – we are all simultaneously  “Saint and Sinner.” We are saints because we have been forgiven and made clean by Christ and we are sinners because we fall short of the glory of God and always need His forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

PRAY
Heavenly Father, help us to live lives of humility  and help us to recognize our sinful nature and our need for you in all things. In Jesus name we pray. AMEN.

The Squeaky Wheel.

READ
Luke 18:1-8

REFLECT
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease” or as my friend Tony likes to say, “It ain’t a problem ’til its your problem.” Truer words were never spoken.

Often in this world people do not willingly do the things that are right – usually because they take some amount of effort or they distract from what they would rather be doing. No one likes added work. In corporate and government realms no one want so upset the apple cart. People like to maintain the status quo.

By training dogs a good part of my life I have learned a lot about people. If you want to overcome the negative behavior in a dog you have to do one of two things (maybe two of two things). The negative consequence must outweigh the pleasure the dog derives from the unwanted behavior and/or what you replace that unwanted behavior with must give the dog more pleasure than the unwanted behavior. People are no different.

The judge in Luke 18 received a positive benefit from ignoring the woman who sought justice, until her nagging (which was no doubt how he saw it) overwhelmed the positive effect of ignoring her. At that point doing what was asked gave a greater benefit to the judge than ignoring her because he could get to life as he desired it.

How fortunate we are that God does not answer our prayer because He wants to shut us up. He answers them because He loves us. However, he does answer them in his way and in his time. Just like the woman in the gospel account we should continue to petition God to help us and have faith He will. The follow up is to graciously accept His answer knowing that He knows best and has our well being in mind.

PRAY
Merciful God, you are the perfect judge. You are all wise, loving and just. Hear our prayers and help us to have faith in you, to pray always and to trust in your wisdom and love. In Jesus name we pray. AMEN.

What Have You Done for Me Lately?

READ
Luke 17:11-19

REFLECT
What have you done for me lately?”

That is a phrase that brings back a lot of memories of the 80s. Yeah the Big 80s: moussed hair , Wayfarers  and Members Only jackets. Though I enjoyed that time of my life moussed hair was not my thing; I didn’t wear Wayfarers because everyone else did; I did have a Member’s Only jacket – which if still in existence is being worn by a 90-year-old guy someplace. Funny how fashion changes.

Regardless, that line brings back memories – even if I was/am not a Janet Jackson fan. I think Eddie Murphy got far better mileage out of the line in his comedy routine.

However, the line is good and fits perfectly the gospel text of Jesus Cleansing the Lepers The Lord does something miraculous and life changing for the lepers and nine of the ten do not thank him. Only one is grateful. Are we not that way? Do we really have gratitude for the way in which Jesus changes our lives, makes us clean and no longer untouchable by God? Or do we just say, “What have you done for me lately?”

PRAY
Lord Jesus, we give thanks you cleanse us daily and make us whole in the eyes of God. By the power of the Holy Spirit we come daily to the baptismal promise made by you that if we repent and ask in faith you will forgive us our sins. Help us to appreciate what you have done for us and help us to see this as more than enough so that we will never ask, “What have you done for me lately.” AMEN.