Tag Archives: Church

The Real “Never Ending Story”

READ
Matthew 28:16-20

REFLECT
The story of Christ is a hard one to tell chronologically when you try to fit it in the church year. It would be nice if we had a way to fit Jesus and the Gospel into the traditional form of a story: beginning, middle, and end. But when we hear of Jesus throughout the year it just doesn’t work that way. It’s all jumbled up.

The year begins with Advent – great. We are awaiting the birth of the King, the Messiah, Jesus. But we are also looking toward the return of Jesus – the second coming of the King. We also have John the Baptist proclaiming the Messiah – so Jesus is already born and an adult. The timeline is all out of whack here. Okay, let’s start at Christmas. We go along good for a bit: baby in the manger, but closely linked to his is the story of the Magi at Epiphany – which is really three years or so after Jesus is born.

This could be very frustrating if we are hoping to see the Gospel as a story, like some novel, but it is not. It doesn’t begin at Christmas and end at Easter. Jesus does not “ride off into the sunset” so to speak. It doesn’t end at the Ascension, because Pentecost comes and Jesus – though his earthly ministry is finish – remains with us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Be God’s grace he comes to us physically in the Lord’s Supper.

The story never ends. It is ongoing AND IT IS ONGOING IN OUR LIVES. The “book” is never closed and put back on the shelf, and we are not simply readers but participants. The Great Commission in Matthew 28 and Jesus admonition to “Go, Make, Baptize, and Teach” calls us into the story with Jesus. We are in this together.

PRAY
Lord God, by the power of your Holy Spirit help me to always remember that I am part of the Gospel story and that the Gospel is really not a story at all. It has no beginning, middle, or end – it is eternal, just as you are eternal. Help me to participate fully with Jesus in making the world know your grace and mercy. AMEN.

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What They Received, so Have You.

READ
John 20:19-23

REFLECT
Breath: without it we die. One of the life-saving measures we learned in the military was restoration of breathing. If a person could not breath it was of paramount importance to get air into their lungs less they suffer brain damage and ultimately death. It was as equally as important as stopping bleeding, covering wounds and treating for shock.

When babies are born, medical techs clean out their airways – not sure if they give them a slap on the backside – so important is it to get them breathing.

Breath is life. God breathed life and all Creation into existence.

By breathing up His Disciples – His Church – Jesus gave a different kind of life. He gave eternal life. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we have faith, and by faith we are saved.

PRAY
Lord, breathe anew your Holy Spirit into my life daily, no hourly. Not hourly, but constantly. Give my your life-saving breath so as to keep me in the true faith, with you, your Father, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

The Church Wins!

READ
John 17:1-11

REFLECT
The church has seen a lot of dark days over the past 2,000 years, in the form of persecution. We have all heard the stories of Christians being burned alive as “Nero’s Torches,” illuminating the City of Rome. We have heard (and seen in movies, at least) Christians being thrown to the lions in the Great Coliseum. Today, – though mostly ignored by the Mainstream Media and the “mainline Protestant” denominations, the most vile and violent persecution of Christians is taking place in the Middle East at the hands of the Mohammedan – nothing short of genocide. Europe has been purged ideologically of Christianity and the United States is feeling the same evil wind blowing our way as the faith is publicly mocked and marginalized and in some cases attacked in court.

It all looks rather bleak for the faith…but it is not. The one things the Mohammedan, the secularist, the Cultural Marxist, and others have forgotten, as they gloat like ravenous jackels over wounded prey, is we are not alone in the fight, and ultimately the victory belongs to God and HIS people. The individual Christian might well perish – and as a martyr enter into glory – but the church, which is the body of Christ, is eternal and under God’s protection.

This protection is a certain and sure one because it is asked for by none other than Jesus.

“Holy Father, protect them in your name, that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

The individual might die but the church lives on and ultimately the church on earth will be triumphant. The church will be vindicated and avenged, when Christ returns in his glory, his enemies are destroyed and the nations made his footstool.

In the words of Martin Luther, “Were they take our house, goods, honor, child, or spouse, though life be wrenched away, they cannot win the day. The kingdom’s ours forever.”

Do not be discouraged. Pray and be of good cheer.

PRAY
Lord Jesus Christ, we trust in you to protect your Church. Helps us, your people, to remain faithful and joyful in the face of marginalization and persecution. Help us who can speak and act on behalf of our oppressed brothers and sisters to do so. By the power of your Holy Spirit, sustain and strengthen those who suffer for the faith.  AMEN.

Proclaim Salvation!

READ
Luke 2:15-21, Luke 22:22-32

REFLECT
It is funny how people like to use words to obfuscate, to skirt around things they not like. Take this upcoming Sunday – what some like to call the “Naming of Jesus.” Pretty bland is it not? It says really little about Jesus we do not already know.

We already know he is “Emmanuel – God with Us” and Jesus or Joshua in the Hebrew means, “He saves.” Both of these names tell us who Jesus is and what he will do: God will be with us and will redeem us through His Son.

This coming Sunday was traditionally known as the “The Feast of the Circumcision of Christ.” It is a shame we downplay this in favor of the naming. Perhaps for certain segments of the church Jesus’ circumcision is “too male” and  an uncomfortable reaffirmation of Jesus masculinity.

Focusing on the circumcision has significance: it is the first instance of Jesus’ precious blood being shed. The shedding of this blood tells us two things – firstly, Jesus is fully human – affirming that Jesus is “with us” in all aspects. He fully shares our humanity. Secondly, he is (at this point through the faithfulness of his parents) obedient to the Law and the will of God.

Of equal significance and something left out of the lectionary reading for this Sunday is the witness of Simeon and his subsequent song:

“Lord, now you are letting your servant[a] depart in peace,
    according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
    that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

Simeon affirms the salvific mission of Jesus and his messianic personage. Additionally, his proclamation does not limit the redemption Jesus will bring, for he is “a light for revelation to the Gentiles.” The knowledge of God and salvation are available to all and through this salvation God will be glorified.

PRAY
Gracious and Merciful God, we give you thanks for the salvation you have brought to the whole world through your Son Jesus. We know that some will reject this gift, yet we also know we are to extend this gift to all. Help us to be givers of your Word and help us to be like Simeon so that we might boldly proclaim salvation in Jesus name – AMEN.

Remembered, Known, Loved

READ
Luke 23:33-43

REFLECT
It is nice to be remembered. Who has not felt really bad when their birthday has been forgotten? Who has felt really good when someone you haven’t seen for years remembers your face and name when passing on the street?

No one wants to be forgotten, which is probably why we have tombstones and monuments and other such things. This probably why we name things after people – not just to honor them but so who they were and what they did can be remembered.

The thief on the cross wanted Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom so that he might be with him (lot of pronouns there – but you get the idea). This is good. But what is even better is this: Jesus remembers His faithful not just in His Kingdom, not at some latter time when the Kingdom is fully realized. No matter where you are or what you have going on in your life Jesus remembers you now. He knows you now. He is with you now.

Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. As such the Word of God was with God in the beginning and through Him all things that were made were made through him. From the beginning to the end you are known and remembered and most importantly loved.

 

PRAY
Lord Jesus, I give thanks you know me and that you are my king. Keep me steadfast in your way so that I might realized, at last, eternal life and joy with You in Your kingdom and be with me all the days of my life from now until then AMEN.

Monkeys Grabbing Nuts

READ
Luke 21:5-19

REFLECT
“As for these things that you see, the day will come when not one of these stones will be left upon one another; all will be thrown down.”

Why is it that many Christians do not listen to Jesus? I am not speaking specifically about what Jesus tells us to do or not to do to be faithful to Him; I am speaking about the life lessons he gives us and how they apply to the church.

In this passage from Luke Jesus is speaking of His death and resurrection, but he is also telling us about the transient nature of the material world. All things have a beginning and an end. Everything dies. This includes church buildings and congregations. When they either outlive their purpose or for lack of desire not longer will fulfill their purpose (The Great Commission and Greatest Commandment) they will cease to exist. Yet, people will put the greatest amount of effort into keeping “the living dead” alive. Why? The reasons are varied but they usually are some variation of fear, self-centeredness and the big one LACK OF FAITH.

This reminds me of a story I heard about a monkey, a box and a nut. Whether this story is factual is not important because it is true. It goes like this: a person made a box with a hole just big enough for a monkey to slip its hand in the box. Into this box the person placed a nut. The monkey reached in to get the nut, but grasping the nut the monkey was no longer able to pull his hand through the hole and was trapped. Yet, the monkey would not let go of the nut and so he was caught.

So I ask you, the Christian out there, the congregation out there: what nut are you holding onto that has you trapped and why will you not let it go? Are you no smarter or faithful than a monkey?

PRAY
By the power of your Holy Spirit, O God, we ask that you would help us to let go of the things that keep us from doing your will. Help us to release these things from our grip so we might serve you in proclaiming the Gospel and in serving our neighbor. In Jesus name we 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.

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.