Monday, February 28, 2011

February 28th - Reflection

Deuteronomy 32:1-14 (NRSV)

God's care for the chosen people
Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak;
let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
May my teaching drop like the rain,
my speech condense like the dew;
like gentle rain on grass,
like showers on new growth.
For I will proclaim the name of the Lord;
ascribe greatness to our God!

The Rock, his work is perfect,
and all his ways are just.
A faithful God, without deceit,
just and upright is he;
yet his degenerate children have dealt falsely with him,
a perverse and crooked generation.
Do you thus repay the Lord,
O foolish and senseless people?
Is not he your father, who created you,
who made you and established you?
Remember the days of old,
consider the years long past;
ask your father, and he will inform you;
your elders, and they will tell you.
When the Most High apportioned the nations,
when he divided humankind,
he fixed the boundaries of the peoples
according to the number of the gods;
the Lord's own portion was his people,

Jacob his allotted share.

He sustained him in a desert land,
in a howling wilderness waste;
he shielded him, cared for him,
guarded him as the apple of his eye.
As an eagle stirs up its nest,
and hovers over its young;
as it spreads its wings, takes them up,
and bears them aloft on its pinions,
the Lord alone guided him;
no foreign god was with him.
He set him atop the heights of the land,
and fed him with produce of the field;
he nursed him with honey from the crags,
with oil from flinty rock;
curds from the herd, and milk from the flock,
with fat of lambs and rams;
Bashan bulls and goats,
together with the choicest wheat
you drank fine wine from the blood of grapes.
This is a reflection of how God takes care of the Israelites. As the Israelites are poised just outside of the promised land, Moses sang this song to the Lord. God takes care of his people. God feeds them, protects them and gives them a call. Rejoice in our life with God. Rejoice in the blessings. Reflect upon the hard times and know that God is present in and through the hard times at your side.

As we walk through life, stop every once and a while and realize how God has been active in your life. Give thanks to God and go to the Lord and seek him and his direction and way. Don't let your arrogance, selfishness, pride or greed separate you from God. God has chosen you to be his. Even though broken, God wants and needs you to be his pupil and disciple in his Kingdom. Thanks be to God!

Dear Lord, when I'm in the midst of the wilderness, forgive my pride and selfish attitude that I can leave you and your people for my own way. Lead me and teach me the love of compassion. Teach me the love of forgiveness. Teach me the love of pitching in together as you guide us through your Kingdom day by day. You are God and greatly to be praised. --- Amen

Sunday, February 27, 2011

February 27th - Reflection

Eighth Sunday After Epiphany
Matthew 6:24-34 (NRSV)

The teaching of Christ: trust in God
"No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

"So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today.

In the wilderness the Israelites worried about food and God provided manna. Manna means very basically, what is it? A closely spelled and often confused with word is mammon. Mammon is riches or wealth. The two do relate however in a sense. Manna was provided, and when used, only a portion came six days a week. One day's amount was supplied at a time, except on the sixth day and a double portion was gathered. You only had enough for the day at hand. In an attempt to stockpile, the manna would spoil. Manna was bread from heaven.

Mammon on the other hand is riches or wealth. We tend to attempt to build our riches and wealth throughout life. This is not meant to be bad. Sometimes in our attempt to do this we begin to think that we can take care of all of our own needs and are self-sufficient. Suddenly our focus draws to the mammon in our lives and we lose focus on the source of life.

God showed the Israelites that their source of life was himself...I AM. God provided what was needed in the wilderness, bread from heaven. God provided "Daily Bread" --- all that we need to live.

Likewise today God provides to each one of us "Bread from Heaven." God sent Jesus into our world and into our lives. When we place all of our focus, our love, our hope in Jesus we receive all that we need. When we receive Jesus, whom God has freely provided, God has provided for all that we need.

So strive first for the kingdom of God, not mammon, and God freely gives the manna, the Bread from Heaven, that we need. Thanks be to God!

Lord may I always strive for your Kingdom, in which you freely give Bread from Heaven. --- Amen

Saturday, February 26, 2011

February 26th - Reflection

Psalm 131 (NRSV)
A child upon its mother's breast
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time on and forevermore.

Sin humiliates us and forgiveness humbles us. As we see the impact of our sin and as we smell the stench of our sin; God's forgiveness takes on such wide and deep meaning when we humbly repent. It's a love that goes deep. Deep into the spirit. It's a love that brings everlasting love from the sinner. Our hope is in God now and forever. Thanks be to God!

Lord, as I sit in silence and reflect on your love, I realize that all my hope is in you. And for this, I give eternal thanks. You are God! --- Amen

Friday, February 25, 2011

February 25th - Reflection

Philippians 2:25-30 (NRSV)
Paul overcomes anxiety
Still, I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and co worker and fellow soldier, your messenger and minister to my need; for he has been longing for all of you, and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. He was indeed so ill that he nearly died. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, so that I would not have one sorrow after another. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, in order that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. Welcome him then in the Lord with all joy, and honor such people, because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for those services that you could not give me.
Epaphroditus meant so much to Paul. This was not an easy thing to do. Sending Epaphroditus back home was a very unselfish act on Paul's part. But Epaphroditus had become very ill and even he desired to return home. Not only was Paul giving up his dear friend and brother in Christ, he was caring and loving so much that he knew what Epaphroditus needed and what the Philippians needed in Epaphroditus. So Paul does the unselfish act. Paul does the Christlike act and for the benefits of love for others he sends Epaphroditus along. And sends him along with a blessing and recommendation. Sends him along with heartfelt thanks.

People are blessings in our lives. Look around today and see the people God has sent to be in your life. Look at the blessings they have brought into your life. Also, don't be afraid to be a blessing for those God gives to you each day. Walk in the same love and compassion that Jesus and Paul walked. Give up selfish ambitions to the compassion's of another person to go, be sent, or to send someone in love to meet and greet those God sets before you this day. What blessings we receive! Thanks be to God!

Lord, thank you for those loving people you have sent into my life. Thank you for those who send them. Make me a blessing for another person in this world, that they may see your light shining brightly in the darkness, that all glory, praise and honor point straight to you. --- Amen

Thursday, February 24, 2011

February 24th - Reflection

Philippians 2:19-24 (NRSV)
Timothy's worth
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be cheered by news of you. I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. All of them are seeking their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But Timothy's worth you know, how like a son with a father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope therefore to send him as soon as I see how things go with me; and I trust in the Lord that I will also come soon.

Putting Christ first in your life is so important. And when Christ is first, your neighbor's welfare isn't far behind. Once you see and come to know the love of Christ, you become anxious for the Holy Spirit to fill your life with that same love and purpose to love other's like Christ has loved you.

It seems to be that you need to realize your own brokenness to begin to know just the tip of the depth of love God has for you in and through Jesus. Seeking your own interests looks like a petty, silly venture into your own ego at this time. Once you see the love of Jesus, your ego takes a back seat, and your neighbor, your friend, and even your enemy move forward and your love and prayers go out to them in earnest.

What a blessing to my life have been those "Timothys" that have been sent to me. Look for the "Timothys" in your life and give thanks to them and God for their presence. Likewise, open up your heart to be a "Timothy" to those God places in your life daily. Thanks be to God!

Lord, I give you thanks for those people you have put themselves aside to bring blessing, teach, preach, pray and serve in my need. Teach me your gracious love that I may do likewise to those you present to me this day. --- Amen

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

February 23rd - Reflection

Luke 18:18-30 (NRSV)
The rich young ruler
"Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.' But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.' He said, 'Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house for I have five brothers that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.' Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.' He said, 'No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'

Money and power blinded this rich ruler in life and on into death. He never did get it. I'm not sure he even got it after Abraham spoke with him. The rich ruler continued to act as if Lazarus was his servant even in death, ordering him around to help him out.

This great chasm of understanding is present even today, sometimes for you and me. A wide gap of selfish attitudes that bring about a lifetime of seeking money and power and self dependence. We can do this all on our own. Who needs Abraham or Jesus? I'm supposed to succeed through my own hard work, understanding, wisdom, education...

But at some point, hopefully in life we are humbled by some situation, some disease, some way of thinking, even some sin. We are humbled enough to know that we are all beggars. We all need someone else to help us. We can't do this on our own. For sure we need a Savior in Jesus.

So hear the message of Lazarus and the rich ruler now. Know that it's not all about you or me. Know that we need a Savior. Know that God sent Jesus for this very reason. Humble your heart and turn to God.

Lord, I give you thanks that you sent Jesus to save me from my poor estate. I give you thanks for the multitude of people who have served in your name and helped me along the way. I can't do this on my own. I need you and I need the help of those you send to me. Likewise, use me to help another as you see fit. I'm anxious to serve you in your Kingdom, today...tomorrow and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

February 22nd - Reflection

Genesis 31:1-3, 17-50 (NRSV)
Laban and Jacob reconcile
Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, "Jacob has taken all that was our father's; he has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father." And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him as favorably as he did before. Then the Lord said to Jacob, "Return to the land of your ancestors and to your kindred, and I will be with you." ...

So Jacob arose, and set his children and his wives on camels; and he drove away all his livestock, all the property that he had gained, the livestock in his possession that he had acquired in Paddan aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.

Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole her father's household gods. And Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean, in that he did not tell him that he intended to flee. So he fled with all that he had; starting out he crossed the Euphrates, and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead.

On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled. So he took his kinsfolk with him and pursued him for seven days until he caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. But God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night, and said to him, "Take heed that you say not a word to Jacob, either good or bad."

Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsfolk camped in the hill country of Gilead. Laban said to Jacob, "What have you done? You have deceived me, and carried away my daughters like captives of the sword. Why did you flee secretly and deceive me and not tell me? I would have sent you away with mirth and songs, with tambourine and lyre. And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters farewell? What you have done is foolish. It is in my power to do you harm; but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, 'Take heed that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad.' Even though you had to go because you longed greatly for your father's house, why did you steal my gods?" Jacob answered Laban, "Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force. But anyone with whom you find your gods shall not live. In the presence of our kinsfolk, point out what I have that is yours, and take it." Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods.

So Laban went into Jacob's tent, and into Leah's tent, and into the tent of the two maids, but he did not find them. And he went out of Leah's tent, and entered Rachel's. Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them in the camel's saddle, and sat on them. Laban felt all about in the tent, but did not find them. And she said to her father, "Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for the way of women is upon me." So he searched, but did not find the household gods.

Then Jacob became angry, and upbraided Laban. Jacob said to Laban, "What is my offense? What is my sin, that you have hotly pursued me? Although you have felt about through all my goods, what have you found of all your household goods? Set it here before my kinsfolk and your kinsfolk, so that they may decide between us two. These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried, and I have not eaten the rams of your flocks. That which was torn by wild beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it myself; of my hand you required it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. It was like this with me: by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes. These twenty years I have been in your house; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times. If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty handed. God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you last night."

Then Laban answered and said to Jacob, "The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about their children whom they have borne? Come now, let us make a covenant, you and I; and let it be a witness between you and me." So Jacob took a stone, and set it up as a pillar. And Jacob said to his kinsfolk, "Gather stones," and they took stones, and made a heap; and they ate there by the heap. Laban called it Jegar sahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed. Laban said, "This heap is a witness between you and me today." Therefore he called it Galeed, and the pillar Mizpah, for he said, "The Lord watch between you and me, when we are absent one from the other. If you ill treat my daughters, or if you take wives in addition to my daughters, though no one else is with us, remember that God is witness between you and me."

Jacob was a hard worker, taking what would be rejected by Laban and putting it all to good use and growing the flocks. But as Jacob worked hard Laban's sons became jealous of Jacob. Sometimes family can make life miserable. So the Lord told Jacob to go back to his father's land. God assured Jacob that he would be with Jacob on the journey.

So Jacob goes. Goes unannounced to his land. Laban runs after Jacob. Having grandchildren and daughters myself, I could see why. Laban wanted a chance to say goodbye. It's interesting that God was sort of a mediator in the argument between Jacob and Laban. God loves both men and wants a relationship with both men and the men to have a relationship with one another. Relationships based on love not suspicion.

But Laban was still suspicious. His failed inspection proved him wrong. But he really wasn't wrong, just a bad inspection. So here we have come flawed people together, who finally agree to live in peace with one another. They sort of agree to disagree on some issues and take God as their witness.

God uses us sinful people to unfold his plan in our lives. God is active in the lives of each one of us individually and all of us corporately. God has a way of taking the flawed people of his and making miracles. God has a way about it.

Learn to love and trust God and obey. Learn to love your neighbor and trust that God will make all things right. Thanks be to God!

Lord, when I think of how you move through my life and the lives of those around me, I'm amazed. You bring us together at the time we are pulling apart and unite us in your love and grace. Teach us this love that we may live with one another in harmony, peace and forever. --- Amen

Monday, February 21, 2011

February 21st - Reflection

Proverbs 25:11-22 (NRSV)
Caring for the enemy
A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold
is a wise rebuke to a listening ear.
Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest
are faithful messengers to those who send them;
they refresh the spirit of their masters.
Like clouds and wind without rain
is one who boasts of a gift never given.
With patience a ruler may be persuaded,
and a soft tongue can break bones.
If you have found honey, eat only enough for you,
or else, having too much, you will vomit it.
Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor's house,
otherwise the neighbor will become weary of you and hate you.
Like a war club, a sword, or a sharp arrow
is one who bears false witness against a neighbor.
Like a bad tooth or a lame foot
is trust in a faithless person in time of trouble.
Like vinegar on a wound
is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.
Like a moth in clothing or a worm in wood,
sorrow gnaws at the human heart.
If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;
and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink;
for you will heap coals of fire on their heads,
and the Lord will reward you.
A tall task was given in the gospel lesson yesterday to love our enemies, however this passage provides a listing of ideas on how to change your thinking into doing.
Give your enemy something to eat and drink.
Don't strike back with evil words.
Speak kind of your neighbor and explain their actions in the kindest way.
Be soft spoken with your enemy.

So here we have a beginning list of ways to treat your enemy. God sees a person to be accepted and loved in your enemy. Who knows, maybe he will change his mind and turn from sin and see God. And if not, God will worry about the punishment. You and I have enough troubles of our own to solve.

As you teach me how to love my enemies, may I go out and do just that. It's time to put it into action. Walk with me and guide me as I go. --- Amen

Sunday, February 20, 2011

February 20th - Reflection

Seventh Sunday After Epiphany
Matthew 5:38-48 (NRSV)

The teaching of Christ: love
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

God loves all of us, the righteous and the unrighteous. God wants that loving relationship with each one of us. This passage appears to be such a tall order for humans, but for God it's his way of love. God loves all of us. Will we love God and one another likewise?

Or will we separate ourselves from one another because of our differences? God loves all his creation. God loves all variety of people of all types of opinions, talents and appearances. But we tend to love those of only like mind, look and position.

Here God shows not only the deepness of his love for all, but also shows a desire that we would love one another likewise. Love the enemy, the unrighteous, the brother or sister that thinks differently from yourself. God teaches us grace in this passage. A love that springs from the very source of love in Jesus Christ.

It's a tall order for sure. But it's a life worth following in the love of Christ. Thanks be to God!

Lord, you teach grace. Send me out in that same love you have given me, to live out that grace with all those you present to me this day. --- Amen

Saturday, February 19, 2011

February 19th - Reflection

Psalm 119:33-40 (NRSV)
Walking in the path of the law

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes,
and I will observe it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
Turn my heart to your decrees,
and not to selfish gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities;
give me life in your ways.
Confirm to your servant your promise,
which is for those who fear you.
Turn away the disgrace that I dread,
for your ordinances are good.
See, I have longed for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me life.

To take in the entire law throughout your entire life with all of your heart will lead you to pleasure. Not pleasure in your ability to keep the law, but pleasure in the relationship with a God that loves you in spite of the law. It leads you to pleasure when you give up your pathway to obey the entire law and follow the pathway of a Savior who has come to love you in spite of the law.

We gain a focus in and through the law. That focus must lead us away from our selfish pride and witness a God in Jesus Christ that displays the intense focus on love for his creation. A love that takes us beyond the law. A love that teaches a humble, giving love that doesn't depend on human accomplishment. And in this awesome love of Jesus, we follow in love of God and neighbor in action.

The law leads us to Christ and our own testimony of his love we see and follow and give to the world.

Lord, you have shown deep and complete love. As I follow you in that love teach me to do likewise to my neighbor. --- Amen

Friday, February 18, 2011

February 18th - Reflection

Galatians 5:2-6 (NRSV)
Faith working through love
Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.
Here we go with the goody goody. They are sickening Christians that go on and on about how they did this and that and paint a picture of what wonderful people they must be. Yuck! As if God must be so honored to have you set foot in church and grace him with your presence. Double Yuck!

Salvation does not come from Jesus plus the law. The law points us to our sin. Salvation comes only through Jesus. The goody goody misses the entire point if the assumption is that through their good works then God saves. It's not our acts of righteousness that save us, it's Jesus final act of salvation.

Don't cheapen the price Jesus paid for your sin by petty little goody goody acts that are usually self-serving acts of kindness at your own convenience directed towards being righteous. Look at the Law and you will see...You deserve nothing but death and damnation and hell!

Again the law points us to sin. The law stuffs our nose into the stench of our sin and makes it obvious. We need Jesus! We need a Savior! And, thanks be to God, we have Jesus! Salvation comes only through Jesus. Once we realize this, the only thing that counts is faith working through love. And this is because, now that we have smelled the odor of our own sin, we can also smell the sweet perfume of God's grace through that loving act of Jesus life, suffering, death and resurrection for you and for me. Thanks be to God!

Thank you Father for sending Jesus to save me from my sin. Send now your Holy Spirit, I pray, that I may live the life you would have me live. --- Amen

Thursday, February 17, 2011

February 17th - Reflection

1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1 (NRSV)
Do not seek your own advantage
"All things are lawful," but not all things are beneficial. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up. Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience, for "the earth and its fullness are the Lord's." If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, out of consideration for the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience I mean the other's conscience, not your own. For why should my liberty be subject to the judgment of someone else's conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why should I be denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

It's not about me. It's about God and my neighbor. Jesus paid a great price to free me from the bondage of sin. In that sin, I failed to uphold the law. But now I live in the glory of Jesus and live to bring glory to God. As I live in the glory of God, I in turn, show God's glory by loving my neighbor as God has loved me.

Now all things are lawful and to be used to build up my neighbor and enrich them with the love of Christ. And to do this, I imitate Christ, giving up myself to my neighbor. Way easier said than done. So, don't twist this to put forth an arrogant, judgmental position. Take it as it is...a humble, serving, loving, caring position. Love your neighbor.

Lord, you paid a great price for my sin. May I not cheapen it by twisting your love into some arrogance over another sinner. But may I humbly love my brother, my sister, my neighbor, as you have loved me. --- Amen

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

February 16th - Reflection

Matthew 19:1-12 (NRSV)
Jesus teaches about divorce
When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he cured them there.

Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?" He answered, "Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." They said to him, "Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?" He said to them, "It was because you were so hard hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery."

His disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry." But he said to them, "Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can."

God set in place a perfect plan for us to be together. However, we defiled that plan and sinned. We sinned thinking we had our own way of doing things. So here we are, now unable to uphold the perfect plan. But God continues to lead and guide us. Even in our sin, our selfishness and our evil ways; God finds ways to bring us back together in that perfect love for God and for each other. And through this love made flesh in Christ we unite once again. Thanks be to God!

Lord, as I reflect on your law, may I see the love of Jesus on that cross taking on my sin and lawless nature. As I reflect on your law may I also love you and those you give to me in the manner of Jesus. --- Amen

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February 15th - Reflection

Deuteronomy 23:21-24:4, 10-15 (NRSV)
Israel's communal laws
If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not postpone fulfilling it; for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and you would incur guilt. But if you refrain from vowing, you will not incur guilt. Whatever your lips utter you must diligently perform, just as you have freely vowed to the Lord your God with your own mouth.

If you go into your neighbor's vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, as many as you wish, but you shall not put any in a container.

If you go into your neighbor's standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbor's standing grain.

Suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, and so he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house; she then leaves his house and goes off to become another man's wife. Then suppose the second man dislikes her, writes her a bill of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house (or the second man who married her dies); her first husband, who sent her away, is not permitted to take her again to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that would be abhorrent to the Lord, and you shall not bring guilt on the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession. ...

When you make your neighbor a loan of any kind, you shall not go into the house to take the pledge. You shall wait outside, while the person to whom you are making the loan brings the pledge out to you. If the person is poor, you shall not sleep in the garment given you as the pledge. You shall give the pledge back by sunset, so that your neighbor may sleep in the cloak and bless you; and it will be to your credit before the Lord your God.

You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns. You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them; otherwise they might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt.

Laws, laws and more laws. Laws set up so that we can get along with each other. Laws set up so that we love and respect one another. Laws set up so that we can live together as a group of people upon agreed upon standards. We need instruction and laws to abide by and honor. As we live by the laws we are able not to so much have to focus on the "right" and "wrong" of how we live together, but we are able to focus on each other. We focus on our relationships with one another as children of God. And we focus on our relationship with God. Laws bind yet laws free us to love one another. Thanks be to God!

Teach me to live your law that I may live in peace with my brothers and sisters. Teach me to live your law that all my focus can be on love of you and love of my sisters and brothers. --- Amen

Monday, February 14, 2011

February 14th - Reflection

Exodus 20:1-21 (NRSV)
The ten commandments

Then God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, "You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die." Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin." Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

It's all so negative! And God spoke all these words. So God makes it clear with negative terms that he hates sin. Sin that comes into the midst of his children. God hates sin and is negative about it. Yet these people, including you and I are amongst those that he saved.

God's negative terms for sin become a gift of life for his children. A gift that speaks to our relationship with God and with one another. And God addresses us corporately as his children yet individually. "You shall not..." God cares about you! God cares enough about you that he gave us his Word.

God gave us his commandments to help and guide us and he gave us his Word, in flesh to save us.

It seems so negative, and it is. But we see God's hatred for sin and his love for you and me. Both in Word. Thanks be to God!

Lord, as I ponder the commandments, guide me in hating that sin. May I be disgusted with the smell of the stench of my sin and turn to you. Turn to your sweet fragrance of grace through Jesus Christ. --- Amen

Sunday, February 13, 2011

February 13th - Reflection

Sixth Sunday After Epiphany
Matthew 5:21-37 (NRSV)
The teaching of Christ: forgiveness

"You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder'; and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

"It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

"Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.' But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be 'Yes, Yes' or 'No, No'; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

We have a need to offer a sacrifice for our sins not only to God but also to one another. This passage deals with our relationships with one another. Jesus wants us to go to one another when we have sinned.

As I reflect and repent to God of my sin, I also must reflect and go to the one I have sinned against and repent. This is one of those difficult passages to live by. It's not easy to go to one you have sinned against and confess that sin and request forgiveness. Forgiveness may not be granted. But it's one of those things that you have to face into and take the step.

Confessing sin is not all that easy. Yet again, when you have confessed the sin there is a relief. The relief doesn't mean that your life will now be easy. The consequences of sin are still in place and you will still face those consequences.

With the love of our Savior and the price that he paid for our sin, we can see how precious and valuable this act for you and for me truly was. As Jesus became the offering and the sacrifice for our sin, we truly respond...Thanks be to God!

Lord, as I come to you in prayer this day, make me aware of those people I have hurt. Heal our relationships with one another as we confess our sin and revel in the glory of Jesus act of love in our stead. --- Amen

Saturday, February 12, 2011

February 12th - Reflection

Psalm 119:1-8 (NRSV)
Happy are those who walk in the law

Happy are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord.
Happy are those who keep his decrees,
who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways.
You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
O that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!
Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.

I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous ordinances.
I will observe your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me.

God gives us the law and the commandments to help and guide us. As we daily search the Word and listen to the voice of God, we go back and see the love God has granted to us and to his people through the gift of the law of love given through Jesus.

God frees us from the bondage of the law and enables us to freely abide by the law. Instead of the law becoming the means to salvation, of which we could never attain, God sent Jesus to us. Salvation is not through the law but through Jesus. Our awareness of this need of salvation through Jesus comes to us through the law.

At some point the realization hits. I and you can't keep the law. We sin. We turn to God and repent. And God forgives. In our freedom we now rejoice to turn from our sin and respond by going back to the law. We want to make our Father happy. And we can rest assured that even in our sin, with our hearts right with God, our Father rejoices to use us in the coming of his Kingdom. God will not forsake you or me. And we will delightfully go back to the law to learn God's righteous ordinances. Thanks be to God!

Lord, forgive my sin. As I turn to you, teach me your law and your forever. --- Amen

Friday, February 11, 2011

February 11th - Reflection

1 John 2:7 -17 (NRSV)
Old and new commandments

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says, "I am in the light," while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness.
I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young people,
because you have conquered the evil one.
I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young people,
because you are strong
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.

John writes about love. "Do not love the world or the things in the world."  But, what about, "For God so loved the world...?" God's love is a saving love for all people. The love that John mentions is a selfish love for one or I. We are not to love the world in such a way that we are absorbed into the things or interests of this world. We are to love this world for the lives of those God has placed with us in our relationship with God and one another. God loved this world in order to save us. God loved his creation because it was good.

Our relationship with God and one another is absorbed into each other. God is in us and we are in God, fathers, young people, children, and all of God's people. We were absorbed into the life of Jesus through his life, death and resurrection for our sin. Jesus was absorbed into our life when we fell at the foot of the cross and believed.

In this way, with Jesus, we passed through the darkness of the tomb to the light of a new life in Christ. In this new life we are to replace our hate with love. In this new life we are to go to our neighbor, our family and confess our sin and reunite in the light of Christ. In this new life we are to live in the love and light of Christ. Thanks be to God!

Lord, teach me the love you have for this world. Teach me how to live this love and act out this love. Where I need to seek forgiveness, may I do just that. Where I need to repent, may I do just that. Show me when to encourage. Show me when to act. Show me how to blend this love you have shown into my life with those you give to me day by day. --- Amen

Thursday, February 10, 2011

February 10th - Reflection

James 1:12-16 (NRSV)
God tempts no one

Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. No one, when tempted, should say, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one's own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved.

This reminds me of the Lord's Prayer. The sixth petition is --- Lead us not into temptation. Luther further explains that God leads no one into temptation, but we pray that we may not fall to temptation. We pray that God would preserve and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great and shameful sins, and that, although we may be attacked by them, we may prevail and gain the victory.

In life we have affliction from the outside that must be endured. In addition we have inner temptation that must be resisted. We will be tempted, but we stand in the realization and hope that we have a Savior that overcame sin, death, the devil and selfishness for us. If God were to tempt us, he would be nullifying the work in and through Jesus. God tempts no one.

Turn to Jesus and see what was given for you. Go to Jesus in your temptation and seek the Spirit that you may endure the affliction and resist the temptation. Jesus gave his very life for no less than this. Thanks be to God!

Lord, help me and speak to me when I am being tempted by my own desires. Help me and speak to me when I am being tempted by my own selfish actions. Help me and speak to me when evil attempts to be born in me through deception. Lord, help me and speak to me when I struggle with sin. --- Amen

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

February 9th - Reflection

John 8:12-30 (NRSV)
Christ the light of the world

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." Then the Pharisees said to him, "You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid." Jesus answered, "Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf." Then they said to him, "Where is your Father?" Jesus answered, "You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also." He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

Again he said to them, "I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come." Then the Jews said, "Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, 'Where I am going, you cannot come'?" He said to them, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he." They said to him, "Who are you?" Jesus said to them, "Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him." They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him." As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

Jesus knew himself. Jesus knew that he was God. Jesus knew that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were all the I AM. Jesus had a plan from above, a divine vision that we just can't understand. We seem to get a clue about it when we see Jesus crucified, but we just don't get the full meaning. Try as we may, we need to die also. Die to ourselves to see that love that Jesus demonstrated for us on that cross. Jesus gave himself for us that we may believe in him, the great I AM.

Jesus has no reason to judge us. We are already guilty of sin. But we do have a chance in all this. We have the hope of love and eternal life here in front of us.

Who are you? Jesus is the one sent from the Father to be lifted up and crucified before our very eyes. Jesus is the one to take away the sin of this world. Jesus is our hope for eternal life in him. Jesus is God! Jesus is Light! Jesus is life! Thanks be to God!

Lord, as you come into my presence, I am humble, yet honored. Show me how to love. Show me how to act out compassion. Show me how to be a light that leads to life in you. Open my mouth that my words may proclaim your forever. --- Amen


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

February 8th - Reflection

2 Kings 23:1-8, 21-25 (NRSV)
King Josiah keeps the law

Then the king directed that all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem should be gathered to him. The king went up to the house of the Lord, and with him went all the people of Judah, all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests, the prophets, and all the people, both small and great; he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord. The king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord, keeping his commandments, his decrees, and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. All the people joined in the covenant.

The king commanded the high priest Hilkiah, the priests of the second order, and the guardians of the threshold, to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel. He deposed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to make offerings in the high places at the cities of Judah and around Jerusalem; those also who made offerings to Baal, to the sun, the moon, the constellations, and all the host of the heavens. He brought out the image of Asherah from the house of the Lord, outside Jerusalem, to the Wadi Kidron, burned it at the Wadi Kidron, beat it to dust and threw the dust of it upon the graves of the common people. He broke down the houses of the male temple prostitutes that were in the house of the Lord, where the women did weaving for Asherah. He brought all the priests out of the towns of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had made offerings, from Geba to Beer sheba; he broke down the high places of the gates that were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on the left at the gate of the city. ...

The king commanded all the people, "Keep the passover to the Lord your God as prescribed in this book of the covenant." No such passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah; but in the eighteenth year of King Josiah this passover was kept to the Lord in Jerusalem.

Moreover Josiah put away the mediums, wizards, teraphim, idols, and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, so that he established the words of the law that were written in the book that the priest Hilkiah had found in the house of the Lord. Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.

When the Bible opens up and  the great Light of God shines forth from the pages in fanning and moving rays through your face to the heavens, your life will change. God permits us to join in relationship with him through the Word made flesh exposed in the words of the Bible. In relationship with Jesus, even the words of the Old Testament take on meaning. You will change.

Josiah changed his ways once the word shone upon him. He destroyed all of the cult places and their objects. And celebrated this change by God with the Passover.

Change and the we move from one way of life to a new way of life. Change and a new relationship. Turn from sin...see the radiance spring forth from the pages of the Bible...join in relationship with Jesus. Thanks be to God!

Lord, as you come to me this I open the Bible...enlighten me with relationship with you...send me changed into a world where my words can bring forth glory to you. I know you and you teach me daily. --- Amen

Monday, February 07, 2011

February 7th - Reflection

2 Kings 22:3-20 (NRSV)
Huldah urges Josiah to keep the law

In the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent Shaphan son of Azaliah, son of Meshullam, the secretary, to the house of the Lord, saying, "Go up to the high priest Hilkiah, and have him count the entire sum of the money that has been brought into the house of the Lord, which the keepers of the threshold have collected from the people; let it be given into the hand of the workers who have the oversight of the house of the Lord; let them give it to the workers who are at the house of the Lord, repairing the house, that is, to the carpenters, to the builders, to the masons; and let them use it to buy timber and quarried stone to repair the house. But no accounting shall be asked from them for the money that is delivered into their hand, for they deal honestly."

The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, "I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord." When Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, he read it. Then Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, "Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of the workers who have oversight of the house of the Lord." Shaphan the secretary informed the king, "The priest Hilkiah has given me a book." Shaphan then read it aloud to the king.

When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary, and the king's servant Asaiah, saying, "Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our ancestors did not obey the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us."

So the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to the prophetess Huldah the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; she resided in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter, where they consulted her. She declared to them, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Tell the man who sent you to me, Thus says the Lord, I will indeed bring disaster on this place and on its inhabitants all the words of the book that the king of Judah has read. Because they have abandoned me and have made offerings to other gods, so that they have provoked me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched. But as to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard how I spoke against this place, and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and because you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, says the Lord. Therefore, I will gather you to your ancestors, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring on this place." They took the message back to the king.

In making repairs to the temple they found the book of the law. The book was read publicly two times all in the same day. The priest went to the prophetess Huldah for consultation. Since at this time both Jeremiah and Zephaniah were active, going to a female was a bold move. How instrumental women seem to be in the Bible and throughout the life of the church. In most cases something outstanding is taking place.

Upon the reading of the book of the law, the king humbles himself as a man. Many times in this period of time kings were right up there with deity.  God takes into account the humble acts of the king upon realization of how he and the people have provoked God to anger.

In hearing and finding out about a sin I commit, it's important to stop and think. It's important to stop and smell the stench of the sin. It's important to realize how I have angered God. It's important to repent of that sin. It's important to go to Jesus and pray for guidance and direction. It's important to turn from the sin and turn towards Jesus.

Jesus came into this world of mine to live, teach, heal, and die for my sin. Jesus came into this world of mine to defeat sin through his resurrection from death. Jesus died for my sin and I need to turn to Jesus in prayer and thanksgiving and humbly confess sin and seek forgiveness.

It's not about how important I may be to other people in this world. It's not about my ego. It's all about the glory of God through Jesus. So I humble myself. Humbled, I turn to my Savior. In the forgiveness of sin, I turn from sin and rejoice in the wisdom of the law, to keep the commandments that God has given. All to the glory of God and in my relationship with God I shine that forgiving light to all I meet.

Lord, stop me and show me the errors and sins I commit. I gladly turn to you for help and guidance to change. As you change me, I repent of those sins and reach out to you in the hope of salvation to a new life dedicated to your forever. --- Amen


Sunday, February 06, 2011

February 6th - Reflection

Fifth Sunday After Epiphany
Matthew 5:13-20 (NRSV)
The teaching of Christ: salt and light

"You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

"You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

We're talking about a new relationship with God. Now we have Jesus. Before it was only the law. Now we are in relationship with Jesus. Jesus, the one sent to fulfill the law. In and through Jesus we are brought into the presence of God.

Salt is more than a preservative. To the Rabbis it also meant wisdom. The wisdom, or salt had to come in contact. And Jesus has come in contact with you and me, in a close way. Jesus relationship with you and me is so close that we take him in and he becomes part of us. Just as in Holy Communion, Jesus came into this world as flesh and blood to be in contact with the people. Jesus came to heal, touch, teach and live with us. Jesus came to form a relationship with us. Jesus came to be us and to take on sin in a close way. Jesus took on sin and came in contact with sin.

Likewise we are sent into this world to contact and let Jesus' light shine to a world of darkness. We are sent to show and tell of a Savior that is close and personal yet corporate for all.

What about the law? Jesus in contact with the law, and in the wisdom of God, teaches us that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. We love the Lord with all our heart, mind and spirit. Jesus loves you and me likewise. As we fail the law...Jesus overcomes the we die...Jesus brings life through his death and resurrection.

The law? Jesus teaches and demonstrates a new power and depth and love to the law. Thanks be to God!

Lord, shed you light and wisdom on the law that I may be one with you. Lead me in you to that new depth of love, for you and for all those you give to and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, February 05, 2011

February 5th - Reflection

Psalm 112:1-9 (NRSV)

Light shines in the darkness

Praise the Lord!
Happy are those who fear the Lord,
who greatly delight in his commandments.
Their descendants will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses,
and their righteousness endures forever.
They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright;
they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.
It is well with those who deal generously and lend,
who conduct their affairs with justice.
For the righteous will never be moved;
they will be remembered forever.
They are not afraid of evil tidings;
their hearts are firm, secure in the Lord.
Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever;
their horn is exalted in honor.

Although God's commandments are challenging, sometimes frightful, and impossible to keep; as we turn this love of Christ just a little and notice what Jesus has done for us, we are wonderfully pleased and delighted with the commandments of God.

We would do anything to please God. Just as a child wants to make their parents happy and proud of them, we want God to be happy with us and proud of us. We want God and need God's love. And after witnessing what Jesus has done by living, teaching, healing, loving, suffering, dying and raising from the dead, just for us...we love to obey God!

This act of love in and through Jesus keeps our heart steady and our path straight. We are disciples of Jesus, following him where he leads us. God's commandments are so much more than what we see in the Old Testament, they are now to love God and love others too. What a joy we have in the triumph that Jesus has won for us over sin and death.

Now our vision is clear. It's not about us, it's all about following Jesus. Out of trust, faith and hope in Jesus our Savior we are cheerfully committed. Thanks be to God!

Lord, you have be trying so hard with me. Help me to obey your commandments. Show me my error. Hear my penitential cry and forgive me. Lead me in joy to follow you. --- Amen

Friday, February 04, 2011

February 4th - Reflection

James 3:13-18 (NRSV)
A gentle life born of wisdom

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Here we see wisdom as in the wisdom God chooses for us to take on. Not so much a wisdom of knowledge, but more a wisdom of mercy. The result of faith is action in mercy. The result of wisdom from God is action  brought on by compassion. Compassion that becomes active and bears good fruit.

So, you can't just go about sounding all wise and good. Without the wisdom of the heart the wisdom of the head is just noise. Noise because it's not backed up by action. Noise, because it's selfish ego building. Noise, because it bears no fruit.

So much in the same way that faith without works is dead; wisdom without active acts of compassion is foolishness.

Lord, teach me and be with me in the action of your wisdom. Actions that are full of mercy, compassion. Actions that are peaceable, gentle, and willing to yield. Action that is full of mercy and good fruits. Action without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. Action that is sown in peace. --- Amen

Thursday, February 03, 2011

February 3rd - Reflection

1 John 5:1-5 (NRSV)
God's children obey God's commandments

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Such a subtle yet monumental switch in viewpoint. We once thought that keeping the law would bring us closer to God. Yet that's not what really happened. We actually became huge failures at keeping the law. A victory here for today and five failures. Our approach to God became a slippery slop in the opposite direction.

But then God come to us through Jesus. God came to us in Jesus and was sinless. Sinless to the point that he took on our sin on that cross and died in our sin to rise again to new life three days later. Jesus put our sin to death and lived.

In comes the switch in viewpoint. For those who struggle with what Jesus has done. And for those who believe who believe that Jesus is God. Then the law becomes something we, out of joy and thanksgiving, are happy to obey. We rejoice in the law of God. We are happy to please God because God has brought us endless joy in the life, action, death and resurrection of Jesus. We are free from sin, so we no longer are tied to our sin. We are tied to life in Jesus. The victory comes to us because we believe Jesus is the son of God! Thanks be to God!

Lord, thanks for shining through into my life. For coming to me in the faith of another. For making it clear that you are my Savior. And for making it a close and loving relationship. --- Amen

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

February 2nd - Reflection

Luke 6:17-26 (NRSV)
The beatitudes in Luke's gospel

He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.
Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
"Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
"Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
"Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.

"Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
"But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
"Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
"Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
"Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

Are you happy? Are you happy and all of your desires met? I think very few people are ever completely happy. But even with that, it seems there are a couple of paths towards this happiness that people tend to take.

One path is for people who attempt to fulfill their happiness with satisfaction for material goods and for a good reputation in life. To some people this path leads to happiness. A good house, car, boat, and a good job that brings satisfaction and notoriety.

Another path for people is to place their longings in the kingdom of God. A path that is more on a spiritual realm. This world alone can not bring happiness to these people. Only God can bring happiness to these. Reputation won't bring happiness nor all the material goods of this earth can bring happiness.

Jesus speaks to two kinds of people here. And Jesus reminds us that happiness does not come in the materials or reputations alone. Happiness comes through our cry to God to be in our lives. Happiness comes in the journey and relationship we have with our God and Savior as we live and grow in his kingdom. Happiness is when we are with God.

Lord, some days are a struggle. Some days the pain is so great I'm not sure if I'll make it through. Some days I think happiness would be a day pain free. But that's not it either. Happiness is in that day I'm with you and your with me in the pain. Happiness is when you're by my side through it all. Thanks for your gift of happiness. --- Amen