Monday, October 16, 2017

I AM... The Champion!

Image result for Jesus face on the coinMatthew 22:15-22

The Question about Paying Taxes

 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

Reflection

As humans we take things and put our stamp on them. We take things and make them our own by our image or perhaps by our signature. We take things and claim them as our accomplishment. We win trophies and get certificates and claim credit for our mental, physical or maybe even shear work ethic and claim it as our own accomplishment.

When I think of what Jesus said in this passage about giving to the emperor the things that are the emperor's and the things that are God's to God; I can't help but to realize that none of it belongs to the emperor or to myself or to anyone else. We fool ourselves into thinking that what we have done is a result of how great we are. Win the race... was it due to God or to me? Get rich... was it due to my hard work or a result of what skills God has given me. Win the championship game... should I point skyward and then take the cheers for myself?

In this passage of Scripture, I hear God's call to clarify to myself that what I do and say and act, in the end, has no justification for God's loving act of sending Jesus into this world to save me and all people from sin, death and the devil. I cannot take, or even stake claim, through my own efforts, for a righteous judgment of God through my actions.

All I have is a gift from God... I owe it all to God to respond in love and joy to the gift God has chosen to give to me in Jesus. It's not because I won the game, the race, the job or anything else that makes me deserving of this love from God.

I'll give what I need to give to society in order to maintain order, but I owe all I have to God.

And that's great, if you ask me! Thanks be to God!

Prayer

Lord, I see your face all over everything in this creation of your's. I see your face alone... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Stop!

Image result for stop siPhilippians 4:1-9

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
Exhortations

 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Reflection

What rich words are used in this passage. What depth of meaning and human compassion is present also in these words of encouragement and direction. Even the address... "my beloved," contains the passion of  Jesus. Here we are told to keep it up, to keep on keeping on.

In this passage Paul cheers on those Christians that are struggling. Paul lays out many truths and ways that we can deal with our wrestling both with God, with one another and with the devil. If we pause and see the joy God has surrounded and wrapped around our struggles in life we can feel how close God is with us and even beside us or even wrestling with us. God's love is present. If we stop and give thanksgiving for all that God gives to us. Stop... really stop and think about it. Forget the struggle for a moment and give thanks to God. If we but stop and look around at friends, family and those God has placed in our lives and give thanks for presence of God and of people. When we stop we see God.

Stop and wait and see. Stop and wait and taste. The meal is here. The water feels so good in the forgiveness of baptism. The sweet taste of the fruit of the wine and the joy in the actions of God in the blood of Jesus bring about resurrection and joy and everlasting like.

We don't win the fight and win the prize. The prize has been set before us through the grace of God in Christ Jesus. And as we wait... we rejoice... we see... we know of  the presence of God in all of our life journey.

Prayer

Lord, as I wrestle in this life you have given me. As I wrestle with the sins I commit. Stop me and let me realize your presence, your joy, your resurrection, your body, your blood, your encouragement; that I may rejoice in love towards you and those you give to me each day. Lead me today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, October 12, 2017

What a Feast!

Image result for a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,    of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.
Isaiah 25:1-9

Praise for Deliverance from Oppression

O Lord, you are my God;
   I will exalt you, I will praise your name;
for you have done wonderful things,
   plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
For you have made the city a heap,
   the fortified city a ruin;
the palace of aliens is a city no more,
   it will never be rebuilt.
Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
   cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
For you have been a refuge to the poor,
   a refuge to the needy in their distress,
   a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.
When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm,
   the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place,
you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds;
   the song of the ruthless was stilled.


On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
   a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,
   of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
   the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
   the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death for ever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
   and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
   for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
   Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
   This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
   let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Reflection

Protection and salvation... through the storms of life we received protection, relief and salvation.

But before the protection and the relief and the salvation... doesn't this imply that we will struggle, wrestle, deny and possibly turn our backs? God permits us to see our sin. God permits us to smell the stench of our sin. God wrestles with us and touches us and we feel the pain in our flesh. Yet God also heals us and protects us and saves us.

Yes, God leads us to the feast of life... everlasting life in and through Jesus after the cross and into the light of the resurrection.

In knowing this truth we respond in love towards God and in love towards one another. We respond in action and in prayer. We gladly jump right back into that baptismal waters to daily seek forgiveness and grace and new life to live each day in God.

Wait on it... believe and trust in God and wait on it. The feast is coming...

Prayer

Lord, I look forward to that great feast to come with all the saints. I look forward to Sunday and I look forward to the feast of your Kingdom come... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Who's in and Who's out?

Matthew 22:1-14
Image result for crowd of all types of people
The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

 ‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’

Reflection

So when I put myself into the shoes of one of the slaves that went into the streets to gather all whom they found, both good and bad, to come to the wedding feast; I have to wonder, why does the king toss one of these people out of the banquet? I kind of get it, that when the king invited guests that made up excuses not to come, that he was mad; but when the king decided to invite all the people, why didn't he stipulate only the good?

Perhaps it wasn't my duty as a slave to decide the good from the bad. Perhaps I was sent to call and offer an invitation to any and all of the people in the streets. Perhaps the duty to decide good from bad was not my decision to make, rather it was the decision of the king to make.

When I bring these thoughts home to my own life, here and now, I seem to make the connection, that I am to invite all people to the kingdom of God and to hear God's Word. I am to invite friends, enemies, people of all races, nations and religions. Perhaps God has sent me to invite and not to decide who gets an invitation and who doesn't. It seems so simple, yet in my sinfulness and rush to judge people, becomes so hard.

Perhaps I have sinned in my invitation to God's Word. Perhaps? No... I have sinned! I have sinned by what I have done and by what I haven't done. I must return to the simple message that God gives to me... just go invite! God will deal with the rest.

I see in this passage that it's not my works or my judgment or my righteousness that determines the good from the bad. I can only come to righteousness through the grace of what God has done through Jesus on my behalf. I can only come to the banquet when God places on me, the robe of Jesus life giving death and resurrection. I can't come on my own good works because I... myself... my sinful self... cannot save myself... only through Jesus can I have life eternal.

It's not my place to judge. It's not my call to determine the good from the bad. My place is to listen and do what God has called me to do in the world in which God has placed me today. And that's more that enough for a lifetime.

Prayer

Lord, forgive my judgmental attitude towards others. Help me to hear your call and respond in deed to what you have graciously given to me... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Think About the Son

Image result for Vineyard owners sonMatthew 21:33-46

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants

 ‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’

 Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:
“The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
   and it is amazing in our eyes”?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’

 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

Reflection

What about the son? The son was sent to these evil people. The son was killed!

Somehow this sounds so familiar. I don't think of myself as one who would kill but in some way I am guilty. How many times have I killed Jesus? How many times have I rejected him in public and hid my devotion to Jesus? How many times have I failed to love God and to love my neighbor? It's a common sin.

God gives us everything. Everything we have is from God. And we live in this vineyard that God has given to each one of us. We live and love and laugh and suffer and sin. But we still live by the gracious nature of God. God has given us everlasting life through the very Son he sent to us in our vineyard and we killed him.

We have another chance that God gives to us as well. We can choose to turn from this death we have inflicted upon God's Son and accept the gift of life through Jesus. And just as the thief on the cross we can live in paradise with the Son.

This is God's world. Our life belongs to God not to us and our selfish desires to rule and overpower those God has given to us.

Prayer
Lord, heal me from my selfish desires to own my life, my land, my will, my way and my people. Give me a humble heart that I may give all of this up and do your will and follow your call in my life... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Teach me Lord!

Image result for teach me o godPsalm 25:1-9
Prayer for Guidance and for Deliverance

Of David.
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. 
O my God, in you I trust;
   do not let me be put to shame;
   do not let my enemies exult over me. 
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
   let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. 


Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
   teach me your paths. 
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
   for you are the God of my salvation;
   for you I wait all day long. 


Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
   for they have been from of old. 
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
   according to your steadfast love remember me,
   for your goodness’ sake, O Lord! 


Good and upright is the Lord;
   therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 
He leads the humble in what is right,
   and teaches the humble his way.

Reflection

This portion of psalm reminds me to trust in God and to seek his guidance and teachings all through my life. It reminds me that I am a sinner and in need of God's mercy and forgiveness. This psalm reminds me that my life is not about me, or only for me, but is also for God and those God gives to me in life daily.

This psalm reminds me that God will show me the way that I am to act out God's love towards God and towards my neighbor. 

In my sinful nature God comes to me as a teacher I can trust and learn from. God opens up to me the lives of so many people from the Old Testament thru the New Testament that are examples of God's hand in the lives of his sinful people as they attempt to do God's will, learn God's teaching and seek to understand God's salvation.

I think God also makes a story out of my life and the lives of so many people that I am personally familiar with, that shows me God's action of love in their lives and God's direction towards salvation.

Prayer

Lord, as I trust you in this life you have given me, may I do your will and walk in your way as you desire for me to do with all of the people you give to me day after day. Create a life in me that has it's own unique story of the glory you deserve. Forgive me when I fail and teach me in my wrongs all along the way... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, September 28, 2017

It's Just Not Fair!

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, "The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge"? 3 As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. 4 Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

25 Yet you say, "The way of the Lord is unfair." Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? 26 When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. 27 Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. 28 Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, "The way of the Lord is unfair." O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.

Reflection

It's just not fair! I've heard this before. I've probably said this before. But wait! What is fair?

The only thing that is fair in life are the meadows and the woodlands. (That's a joke)

If I think of life from my perspective; sure things are not fair. But who promised that things would be fair? I don't remember this being a promise by anyone. If I think of life from God's perspective (which I can't really do... but let's just pretend a minute), things aren't fair either. God created me and you and all that exists. God gave all to us. And I ruined it, you ruined it and so did everyone else. So, God sent Jesus into this world in flesh and blood to clean up the mess I made and to save me from my sinful self. That's not fair.

Really we all deserve eternal damnation and hell for our turning from God's perfectly fair ways towards our sinful unfair and selfish ways.

I cant' point my finger at you or anyone and say that all of this unfairness is due to you. I'm the one that sinned. It's not fair because of me. Likewise, you can't point your finger at me or anyone who lived before me or after me and blame the unfairness on me or them. I must take responsibility for my own sin and confess and repent before God.

But, thanks be to God that God is gracious and loving and merciful and wants me to have a new heart and a new spirit. So loving is God that Jesus came to take on my sinfulness that I am responsible for and saved me... you... and all of us.

Prayer

Lord, you are more than fair. Forgive my sin and create in me a new heart and a new spirit... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen