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Monday, January 6, 2014

Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7 - Good works and God's Grace go together!

Titus, my son, the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of the great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.
Good Works and God's Grace go hand-in-hand
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God has saved us through Christ to make a holy people for Himself.  We are to live sober, upright and godly lives in this world, knowing that the world has very little sobriety, uprightness or godliness. Thus, we will appear different from those around us who have no interest in righteousness.  All the time we are living this way, we await the blessed hope which is the return of Christ.  All of this makes us zealous to do good deeds.

Yet, these good deeds we do is not what saves us. Rather, it is Grace of God through Jesus Christ who saves us by the washing, regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. So we do good works but these good works don't save us. Yet, this good works act as a sort of "proof" that the Holy Spirit is alive in us. It matters how we live and what we do.

O Lord, grant to me Your Grace today. Help me to look for ways to display kindness to others, knowing such good works show the Work of the Holy Spirit in my life.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Luke 2:1-20 - God Bursts in our Ordinary Lives with the Birth of Christ!

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!"

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Shepherds Find the Christ, just as the Angel said!
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God breaks into our ordinary lives and invites us to witness His Love for us.  He gives concrete, tangible proof of His Love and our lives are never the same again.  We get to listen to the heavenly chorus sing praises to God and we can join in! God gives us Good News and that Good News is that God has dwelt among us as a Man. Taking on our flesh, He has redeemed Humanity and we can become like God in holiness.

O Lord, the Shepherds, who were humble of heart, rejoiced that Christ was born as humble as they were. The shepherds rejoiced that their dreary lives were lit up with Angelic Hosts praising God.  This day, on the eve of Christmas, may I remember that God in the Flesh is the Good News I need to hear and I should conduct myself with humility as the shepherds did. I thank you, Lord Christ, that in Your Humility, You choose to become a Man, redeeming all humanity by Your Incarnation. Amen.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mark 10:11-16 - Women and Children First!

So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.
And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.
Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them.
But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.
Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.
And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.
Sinking ship!
In Sinking ships, it's women and children first; so, too, in the Kingdom of God!
photo by Tim Lucas
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Jesus transform the society around Him. In His day, women were considered property and children could be considered a nuisance. Thus, it was okay in His day for a man to divorce his wife for any trivial reason and children were to remember that thier only importance was to be ready to grow up and take over the family business. But, Jesus knows the value of all people, even those who are considered of low status.

My attitude should that like that of Jesus Who saw that woman and children were made in the Image of God. Children, especially, are to be emulated in their humility for they always remember that they are dependent upon others, just like we should always remember that we are dependent upon God.

O Lord, grant me that humility of a child for I wish to receive the Kingdom of God. Help me to walk this day knowing that all I encounter are Image bearers and, thus, worthy of honor.  By this attitude, O Lord, may I enter the Kingdom. Amen.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Mark 16:9-20 - Believing is Seeing

young boys in Khajuraho
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 At that time, Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, and he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they sat at table; and he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."

So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen

The Resurrection accounts in the Gospels do not sit well with the modern reader. In our materialist  age where only seeing is believing and if something cannot be proved scientifically, it is hard for the modern person to accept that Jesus rose from the dead. Because, you see, He appeared in different forms so He wasn't easily recognizable. This makes it possible for atheist to say: That was not Christ resurrected; it was someone else. You were mistaken.

Why would God do this? Why would He not make it a "scientific fact" in the modern sense that He did indeed raise from the dead? The missing element is Faith. Christ berated the disciples for not believing, even after He foretold that He would raise from the dead and when "circumstantial evidence" pointed towards the Resurrection (i.e., the empty tomb,) many chose to believe that the Body was moved or stolen.  Yet, He is risen; He is risen, indeed!

O Lord, help me to approach life with faith. Faith comes first and then you reveal Yourself and Your presence is made known.  Help me, this day to put Faith ahead of everything and of even of what I see for it is by Faith that You are made known. Amen

Friday, December 13, 2013

Mark 9:33-41 - A cup of water in Christ's Name

In line
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At that time, Jesus and his disciples came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you discussing on the way?" But they were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve; and he said to them, "If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all." And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me." John said to him, "Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward."
A servant of Christ who is thirsty and then receives a cup of water from someone just because that servant belongs to Christ is an example on how the Kingdom of God is gained by humility and putting others first. Jesus told us to be like children and children know their place in the world. They look up to their elders for guidance, comfort, food and all manner of needs. Children do this in humility, knowing they are dependent upon someone else. So, too, we should receive the Kingdom of God in humility. Our works are nothing, it is only our faith and trust in He who provides all that unites us to God.

Today, I must be the servant of all, not putting my own needs first but rather seeing others as more important.  By doing this, I recieve the Kingdom of God in humility and receive the One Who sent Jesus, namely the Father, Who reveals Himself to mankind in His Son.  The smallest act of kindness I do for others- giving a glass of water- is an act of kindness I do for Christ. By receiving the least of all, I receive Christ.

O Lord, help me to embrace humility. Help me to put others first. I share a cup of water to those who bear Your Image and by doing so, I give the cup of water to You.  Lead me in paths of righteousness and accept my humble service. Amen.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Luke 21:12-19 - No need to Prepare a Speech

Cover your mouth
Keep quiet until the Spirit gives you the Words
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The Lord said to his disciples, "Beware of men who will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony. Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death; you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives."

These instructions are for those who would lay down their lives for Christ, for those who know what it is to pick up their cross, deny themselves and follow Him.  For surely, if Christ, who is our Master, has suffered betrayal, persecution and even death, then why should we, who are His followers, expect anything different? What is good for the Master, is also good for the student.

Yet, we are not alone. Christ promises that not one hair on my head will perish, even if I am killed.  By enduring this hardship, I will gain my life.  Also, I am not to worry about what I shall say to my persecutors. Christ before Pilate was silent and yet He had the Words of eternal life. I am to trust solely in His Spirit who will give me wisdom beyond myself.  

O Lord, how I long for Your Spirit. I know all too well my own weakness. Therefore, in times of persecution, I rely upon Your Spirit who will give me the words to say. I also rely upon Your Spirit to give me strength to endure till the last day.  Thank you, Lord, for showing me I am weak for then I can with full confidence rely upon You. Amen!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Luke 6:1-10 - Feed the hungry; forget about the rules.

At that time, Jesus was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, "Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath?" And Jesus answered, "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?" And he said to them, "The Son of man is lord of the sabbath." On another sabbath, when he entered the synagogue and taught, a man was there whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come and stand here." And he rose and stood there. And Jesus said to them, "I ask you, is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?" And he looked around on them all, and said to him, "Stretch out your hand." And he did so, and his hand was restored.

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It's all about the people.  In this passage in Luke we find people who are hungry and people who are in need of healing.  If we live lives that care only about rules than those who are created in the Image of God will suffer. If, like the Pharisees, we concentrate only on the law than we will miss following God's law which is to love our neighbors as ourselves. God's law is not to be ignored but, rather, fullfilled.

O Lord, help me this day to remember that those who You send in my path may need to be feed or may need healing. Help me not to care so much about rules and the proper way to do things but, rather, help me to feed my brothers and heal my brothers for surely this is the Will of God. Amen.