Monday, October 31, 2011

October 31st - Reflection

Reformation Day
Romans 3:19-28 (NRSV)

Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For "no human being will be justified in his sight" by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.
Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.
We could never be justified by keeping the law. We won't get there that way. We can't. No one but One has been able to keep the Law. Only one Jew has been able to do this. And I'm not even a Jew. What chance would I even begin to have.

But there is a way. When I place all of my faith in Jesus I have come to Jesus and realized that my life is only through him that I may live. The law is not thrown away. The law is still valid. With this I now live my life in fuller harmony with the law because I realize that faith in Jesus brings life.

Faith in the law will not bring life. Faith in the law will only point out my failure to keep it. But faith in Jesus will bring life from death and a will to uphold the law. In this the law is established and salvation is given through faith in Jesus. Thanks be to God!

Lord, it's easy to fall into the goody goody trap. Show me your life and your will and your way that my faith increases and becomes rock solid strong. Then and only then can I even begin to uphold the law through your gracious saving acts. --- Amen

Sunday, October 30, 2011

October 30th - Reflection

20th Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 23:1-12 (NRSV)

Humble yourselves

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Look to the teacher who can teach and practice. They may not be able to practice to perfection but at least they have a deep desire to practice what they preach. Make sure there is a lab involved with the teaching. Those are the real teachers. Thanks be to God!

Jesus, as I look at your life, you acted out what you taught. Teach me likewise, that I may learn in the lab to do what you have taught... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, October 29, 2011

October 29th - Reflection

Psalm 43 (NRSV)
Send out your light and truth
Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
against an ungodly people;
from those who are deceitful and unjust
deliver me!
For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
why have you cast me off?
Why must I walk about mournfully
because of the oppression of the enemy?

O send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy;
and I will praise you with the harp,
O God, my God.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.

We have a deep desire to be led by God and to God. We want a relationship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

As we step through life we look for God to find God and follow. We look, we listen, and we cling to God.

As I step out to follow you this day, I want to cling to you. I want to be taught by you. I want your love. Teach me this love so that I may love all those you give to me each day. --- Amen

Friday, October 28, 2011

October 28th - Reflection

2 Peter 2:1-3 (NRSV)
False prophets and their punishment
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions. They will even deny the Master who bought them bringing swift destruction on themselves. Even so, many will follow their licentious ways, and because of these teachers the way of truth will be maligned. And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced against them long ago, has not been idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

The false prophets bring three dangers at least. They lose life because they deny life, they get others to follow them in this same pattern, and they make their money from believers falling for it all.

Sometimes we get trapped in our emotions for self and we fall for teaching that pretends to bring us an answer to all of our pain and suffering. Instead of turning to God we turn to human people and methods that lead us astray.

It's best to bounce your suspicions off of the Word of God, Prayer, the Church and other Christians and leaders. Give the Holy Spirit time to lead and guide you. Take time to listen to God. Center your thoughts and spirit on God, knowing that God is your Master.

Lord, as I look to you, lead me, guide me, and permit me to faithfully follow you in all you would have me do... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, October 27, 2011

October 27th - Reflection

Romans 2:17-29 (NRSV)
Real circumcision a matter of the heart
But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law, and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? For, as it is written, "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."

Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God.

Seems to apply to all of us, not only the Jews. If we claim to be Christians, why do we teach obedience yet act disobediently? Who hasn't sinned? Who is there that is left to teach then?

But it's not the obedience to the law that precedes the trust and hope in Jesus life, teaching, ministry, calling, suffering, death and resurrection. We know we sin and fall short. We know that it's only through Jesus that we have life. Jesus took our sin upon himself. Jesus died in our sin.

So, through Jesus, is our sin. Jesus must come first in our teaching. As we respond to Jesus, we look to the law to obey the law. We will still fall short of this law. So we turn daily to Jesus, to drown the ol man and arise anew to new life in Jesus. We relive our baptism each and every day in full dependence of what Jesus has done for us.

And God sends the Spirit upon us to lead and guide and fill us with the gifts we need to complete each day as a Christian.

It makes a difference. We don't go out to sin. We go out each day with no fear of sin. We go out into the Kingdom of God to do God's will and way and love God and our neighbor. God takes the imperfect and says good enough my child, keep working with me. In sin or out of sin, God will use you, God will correct you, God will love through you and love you. Wonderful! Thanks be to God!

Lord, I can't help but delight in the way you have called and chosen your servants past, present and future who are flawed people to teach us your love and your will in our lives. Use me this day to do your will as you would have it done. --- Amen

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

October 26th - Reflection

Matthew 19:16-22 (NRSV)
Keeping the commandments
Then someone came to him and said, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." He said to him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." The young man said to him, "I have kept all these; what do I still lack?" Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

A question to Jesus, our Teacher, about eternal life. This guy thinks he has done most everything to obtain eternal life. However, I wonder if Jesus is speaking to this man on his own terms. Is Jesus trying to point out that the way to eternal life is not through the perfect obedience to the law but through Jesus?

It seems Jesus easily finds this man's weak point. But how do we know that the man didn't after a few days of thought go out and do what Jesus commanded? Even if he did, the Teacher taught a teaching of sacrifice and love and a joyful desire to follow the law.

Sure, we aim towards perfection. But we only see perfection in Jesus. And that's plenty for me to keep my sights on the one I need to sight. Thanks be to God!

Lord, keep my focus on your life, your grace, you acts of love and your teachings that I may please you each day. Show me how and when to love my neighbor throughout this day. --- Amen

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

October 25th - Reflection

Deuteronomy 10:10-22 (NRSV)
Moses urges the people to obey
I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights, as I had done the first time. And once again the Lord listened to me. The Lord was unwilling to destroy you. The Lord said to me, "Get up, go on your journey at the head of the people, that they may go in and occupy the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them."

So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well being. Although heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to the Lord your God, the earth with all that is in it, yet the Lord set his heart in love on your ancestors alone and chose you, their descendants after them, out of all the peoples, as it is today. Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen. Your ancestors went down to Egypt seventy persons; and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in heaven.

God chose the Israelites as a special people. This God that created all the universes, all the stars, all the atoms and electrons and everything that exists; chose the Israelites to be a special people to him. What an honor! God chose Israel above all peoples. The one and only God.

God also gave the Israelites the law. One of which was for the Israelites to enter into a close relationship with the ones who wander or the sojourner. This is a reminder of God's love as Israel was captive to the Egyptians. Wanderers don't have a place or a land, some don't even have a family. Yet Israel was to love the alien.

God chose the Israelites and commanded them to love the alien. I am one of those aliens, loved by God. Loved enough to be included in the choosing. I am loved to be the neighbor to be loved. I likewise, because of this gracious act of God love my neighbor.

The greatest commandment...Love the Lord you God with all you mind, heart and soul and love your neighbor as yourself. Thanks be to God!

Lord, may all your people look and listen to your priority in life that we love God and one another. Thanks for choosing all of us... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- amen

Monday, October 24, 2011

October 24th - Reflection

Deuteronomy 6:1-9, 20-25 (NRSV)
The great commandment

Now this is the commandment -- the statutes and the ordinances -- that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children's children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. ...

When your children ask you in time to come, "What is the meaning of the decrees and the statutes and the ordinances that the Lord our God has commanded you?" then you shall say to your children, "We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. The Lord displayed before our eyes great and awesome signs and wonders against Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household. He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land that he promised on oath to our ancestors. Then the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our lasting good, so as to keep us alive, as is now the case. If we diligently observe this entire commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, we will be in the right."

A love of the law taught by both oral tradition and written word. Taught throughout the generations from one to another. The exhortation to remember what had happened when the Israelites escape Egypt as slaves to begin a new life. A new life first wandering in the wilderness and then living in the Promised Land. Finally after years of disobedience from God's commands they were exiled in the north to Assyria and in the south to Babylon. Only later to return once again and rebuild until the coming of Jesus.

We learn from our life story and our lessons from the past. We learn that God is with us in the good and the bad. We learn that God is patient with us and loves us enough to call us back or even to come to us and rescue us. We learn, we remember, we respond to God in deep love for God and in deep love for one another.

God has shown us love in action. God has shown himself in love in Jesus. What more could we want to delight in the law and to be tied to the law in love for God. Wear the law and the Word made flesh every day. It is God's Love and Truth given for me and for you. Thanks be to God!

Lord, as I read your tough law that I haven't a chance to completely fulfill, I learn to love every letter of the law. Knowing that Jesus came in flesh and lived all of this law for me, to redeem me brings eternal hope, comfort and joy. Teach me each day something new that you would change in me that I may walk in your will and your way ...tomorrow ...and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, October 23, 2011

October 23rd - Reflection

19th Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 22:34-46 (NRSV)

Loving God and neighbor
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: "What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?" They said to him, "The son of David." He said to them, "How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
'The Lord said to my Lord,
"Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet"'?

If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?" No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

So here is the test. A test of questioning. The Pharisees were out to test Jesus, most likely to defeat him and put Jesus away. Who is the Messiah? The Pharisees intended to use the Old Testament to test Jesus. But Jesus shows that the intent of the Old Testament passages was love at the heart of it all.

We are called to love God and one another. Old Testament or New Testament we are called to love. We are called to step out into the Kingdom of God and live in love. We follow Jesus example and life and teachings in this call. As we walk with Jesus in this world we have been given we are shown many ways to walk this love with family and friends in action. But we also need times to draw away with the Word and the Sacraments and the Church to guide and direct our steps with Jesus. So as we study the Word, as we partake of the Sacraments, as we listen to the Word spoken through pastors, friends and many and various ways in life, may we learn the love we are to act out.

This is not a test. This is not a test of the emergency broadcast system. This love, is a way of life in Jesus.

But for now and in this passage, the questioning has ended. The Pharisees will next appear with force. May we expect likewise sometimes in our life of love. Thanks be to God!

Lord Jesus, your bold example of love and compassion goes beyond anything I can imagine. Teach me to have this same focus on love. Teach me to be bold, even in the face of death. Teach me to love another. Lord, you have called me to tasks greater than what I can handle. But I know I walk with you and you will lead... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, October 22, 2011

October 22nd - Reflection

Psalm 1 (NRSV)
Their delight is in the law
Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.

The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Even though I stand in the midst of the sinful, and am one of the greatest of the sinful; I delight in the law of God. The Word points out my sin and turns me back to God. This is when the real teaching takes place. I am a living, breathing, example of God's grace at work in my body and spirit as God continues, day after day, to turn me, mold me and shape me into what God wants me to be.

What a joy and pleasure this is. It's not to say that all that molding and shaping is all painless and fun. It hurts, it's painful, but it's needed. The change is the joy. The following and learning the direction God chooses to take me is the joy. The graceful act of Jesus brings a joy in the knowledge and hope that there is something God chooses to like about me.

I know I am unique and loved in the eyes of God. What more joy could one ask? Thanks be to God!

Lord, I delight in your law and your teaching and your grace... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, October 21, 2011

October 21st - Reflection

Titus 2:7-8, 11-15 (NRSV)
A life devoted to good works

Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured; then any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us. ...

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one look down on you.


Wow! Tough words to live by. Sometimes it's hard to show yourself as a model when you are attacked by slander and error. Sometimes it's difficult not to fall into this same tactic when you are on the defensive.

But this passage exhorts me to be a model of good living. I'm a sinner after all. I've already destroyed the model of sinlessness.

But this is a model of good living. Does good living include forgiveness, repentance, the knowledge of error and sin and the acting out of good? Does good living include the decision to follow Jesus as his disciple, learning and living and reaching out to him?

I think so. I think good living also includes the understanding that I am not God and cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and kept me in true faith. In the same way he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it united with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church day after day he fully forgives my sins and the sins of all believers. On the last day he will raise me and all the dead and give me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true (Luther's explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles Creed - Small catechism).

I should also expect attacks from those who oppose the truth, who aim to slander my actions and words and to try to propagate error. I should expect some to hate me for my belief and life I live.

But I can rest assured that even under attack; the grace of God has appeared through Jesus Christ. Jesus is busy saving all people. In this salvation I can and will change as I follow Jesus. Christ died for my sin and has shown me a new way of living.

I gladly and joyfully follow in Jesus' call. I gladly and joyfully live by the gifts of the Spirit. I gladly and joyfully stand up for my Savior and my God. I gladly and joyfully proclaim God's glory forever.

And I gladly and joyfully look to the transformed living that is possible because I know God and Jesus as my Savior. Thanks be to God!

Lord, teach me to stand for the faith and belief you have placed in me. When it's time to stand, may I stand and speak boldly the truth you have to offer. Forgive me when I fall into sin and fall to my own defenses. For you alone are all the defense I would ever need. --- Amen

Thursday, October 20, 2011

October 20th - Reflection

Titus 1:5-16 (NRSV)
Troublemakers deny God
I left you behind in Crete for this reason, so that you should put in order what remained to be done, and should appoint elders in every town, as I directed you: someone who is blameless, married only once, whose children are believers, not accused of debauchery and not rebellious. For a bishop, as God's steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain; but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self controlled. He must have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that he may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it.

There are also many rebellious people, idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision; they must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for sordid gain what it is not right to teach. It was one of them, their very own prophet, who said,
"Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons."

That testimony is true. For this reason rebuke them sharply, so that they may become sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths or to commandments of those who reject the truth. To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure. Their very minds and consciences are corrupted. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their actions. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

Rebuke their actions sharply. Strong words come into play in important situations. Situations that matter to the body and soul. A parent would always strongly discipline a child about to run in front of a car. We strongly rebuke because we have a love for a person that has reached a tilting point. An action can lead to consequences unwanted and unsafe in any regard. Yet if that action is stopped, a life is saved and a new life can begin.

Actions lead to the source of the faith. In our actions we show our faith. Even because we are sinful, it is a gracious gift when an error is pointed out and we stand corrected and our path is changed. This loving act comes from one who knows the importance of faith and love in Christ. This loving act comes from one who knows the rich love of Jesus and the suffering, death and resurrection; that this sister in Christ would boldly come forth in action to rebuke the actions of another sharply that has strayed. It is the time to take a stand. This has gone on throughout history in so many small ways but also in large ways that changed the course of humankind.

Lord, make my mind, my soul, my faith strong in your will and your way. Show me those times that I need to speak softly, strongly, or to even take a stand, for the love you have shown to me. Pull me aside when I need to be pulled aside. Help me know when to be silent. And always lead me in the way you wish for me to go... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October 19th - Reflection

Matthew 17:22-27 (NRSV)
Jesus pays the temple tax
As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised." And they were greatly distressed.

When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, "Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?" He said, "Yes, he does." And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?" When Peter said, "From others," Jesus said to him, "Then the children are free. However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me."

A perplexing passage to me. The passage is opened with Jesus focus on his mission. Jesus confessed the betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection. Just sort of blurted it out it seems. Some fantastic things had just taken place prior to this passage. One of which was the Transfiguration, Jesus appearing with Moses and Elijah. A high point spiritually and physically for Jesus and the disciples. But as we continue it becomes obvious that the ministry of Jesus is now one of withdrawal from the people. Jesus returns from the high point to the people in suffering. So we top it off with a Temple Tax that Jesus really didn't even owe.

But this wasn't about a tax. This was about the questions of the leaders of who Jesus was. Jesus was a loyal Jew. He worshipped with the Jews and studied with them even as a child. But the Roman government was looking for taxes. So Jesus was willing to identify himself with his people. So Jesus followed with a miracle of the coin from the fish in order not to offend anyone.

It's still a perplexing passage to me. The fit into my life is somewhat peculiar. But this is one of those passages that pick up meaning the more I reflect upon it and open my ears and eyes to God's Word spoken through others and through life. Thanks be to God!

Lord, sometimes life is perplexing. I know the law yet don't understand all of it's meaning in my life. Help me to be obey the government laws for the good of all people in order that I do not offend anyone. Help me to stand up for our government and the laws for the good of all people. When I need to be involved in change use me as a spokesperson for change. When I need to be involved with the enforcement of the law, use me to enforce the law. Lead me in your will and your way... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October 18th - Reflection

Daniel 3:19-30 (NRSV)
God saves three men in the furnace
Then Nebuchadnezzar was so filled with rage against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face was distorted. He ordered the furnace heated up seven times more than was customary, and ordered some of the strongest guards in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. So the men were bound, still wearing their tunics, their trousers, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the furnace of blazing fire. Because the king's command was urgent and the furnace was so overheated, the raging flames killed the men who lifted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But the three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up quickly. He said to his counselors, "Was it not three men that we threw bound into the fire?" They answered the king, "True, O king." He replied, "But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god." Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire and said, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!" So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king's counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men; the hair of their heads was not singed, their tunics were not harmed, and not even the smell of fire came from them. Nebuchadnezzar said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him. They disobeyed the king's command and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that utters blasphemy against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins; for there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way." Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

Give to Caesar... these guys gave to Caeser what was his, they refused to worship the idol set up and gave it back to the king. The king can worship this idol but this is not theirs to worship. What they did give to God was themselves. They gave back to God their lives and God gave them life in return.

Sounds pretty much like what Jesus has done for us. He gave his life for us. As we give our lives to God we receive new life in Christ. It's an awesome exchange we could never deserve but have been graciously given. Thanks be to God!

Lord, thank you for the lives of these men that have displayed your power and glory to all who read and feel this even. I give my life to you and ask you to make me into what you would have me be... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, October 17, 2011

October 17th - Reflection

Daniel 3:1-18 (NRSV)
Three disobey Nebuchadnezzar
King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden statue whose height was sixty cubits and whose width was six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent for the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to assemble and come to the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. So the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. When they were standing before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, the herald proclaimed aloud, "You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, you are to fall down and worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire." Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Accordingly, at this time certain Chaldeans came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, "O king, live forever! You, O king, have made a decree, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, shall fall down and worship the golden statue, and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These pay no heed to you, O King. They do not serve your gods and they do not worship the golden statue that you have set up."

Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought in; so they brought those men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar said to them, "Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods and you do not worship the golden statue that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?"

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up."

No matter how well an idol is displayed or promoted, it can't be worshipped. A sinful person can't be worshipped. Our worship is only towards God. God is the center of all of our attention. So the Father settled it with the Son and gave us a human to worship. Awesome way to bring out the Spirit which was always with the Father and the Son to nourish and sustain us through life.

God wraps into our lives and gives us all we need to survive. Through the tough times, while evil knocks at our door, and through the good times; we can rest assured that God is always with us and God is closer than we could ever imagine.

We worship God and nothing else for such obvious reasons. Thanks be to God!

Lord, as you come to my door this day, I'm thrilled and full of joy to come out and play in your Kingdom. You are my Savior! --- Amen

Sunday, October 16, 2011

October 16th - Reflection

18th Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 22:15-22 (NRSV)

A teaching about the emperor and God

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.
Give to the government what belongs to the government but give to God what belongs to God. The coin bears the image of Caesar...give it to Caesar. Caesar bears the image of God...give Caesar to God. God has no use for the money. All that we have and all that we are comes from God. God has no use for the things we create. God can create just fine. What God wants is his creation.

So we give ourselves to God. Sounds backwards to me. But that's all we have to offer. We belong to God after all anyway. But God graciously gives us free will. And I want God's love and I'm so glad that God wants mine. Thanks be to God!

Nothing like a loving Father. You love me and I love you. You gave your life for mine and I gladly would do anything for life in forever. --- Amen

Saturday, October 15, 2011

October 15th - Reflection

Psalm 96:1-9 [10-13] (NRSV)
God's glory among the nations

O sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be revered above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Honor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in holy splendor;
tremble before him, all the earth.

( Say among the nations, "The Lord is king!
The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
He will judge the peoples with equity."
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord; for he is coming,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with his truth.)

The Lord is King. Creator of the universe. Any other gods just aren't real. So all people should feel compelled to offer praise, offering and prayer to God. We must realize that God is King and look around and see all that is done in the universe.

Open my eyes this day to see you in the lives of so many people. You are King of all creation and are involved in all aspects of life. Send me out this day to testify to your active love and grace in my life. --- Amen

Friday, October 14, 2011

October 14th - Reflection

1 Peter 5:1-5 (NRSV)
Exemplary leadership

Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away. In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for
"God opposes the proud,
but gives grace to the humble."

What have we been given? We have been given new life! We have been given everlasting life. Life that is to be sweet and wonderful to ignore. We have been given life in Christ Jesus!

It seems that too many take this new life, say they believe it, but their lives don't demonstrate it. Is that because of these temporary pains that we are enduring in this life?

If you think about it, as compared to eternity, the pains of this life are very brief and even fleeting. In this respect, we better pay attention to the life we now live. It is a breath or two and that's it. So why not appreciate with great joy this new life we have been given in Christ?

Why wouldn't we be shouting the message of Jesus from every rooftop or place where we meet another person? Why not even to those we love? Where is the joy in this new life? Or, don't we really believe it? Are we just saying we believe but living in unbelief? Think about it.

If you believe in into eternity. What great joy...even in this life. Thanks be to God!

Lord, I'm a witness to your life too. For you have been with me from before I was born. May I tell of your grace and love with passion and joy day after day. May I live each moment knowing and trusting in all you have in store... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, October 13, 2011

October 13th - Reflection

3 John 9-12 (NRSV)
Imitate what is good

I have written something to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing in spreading false charges against us. And not content with those charges, he refuses to welcome the friends, and even prevents those who want to do so and expels them from the church.

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. Everyone has testified favorably about Demetrius, and so has the truth itself. We also testify for him, and you know that our testimony is true.

Our actions do speak about us. Even though we are sinners, our actions speak. But as sinners who listen and follow, we fall to our knees in repentence and confession. We know that our actions don't match our desires and we run to God. So, for the most part, our actions reflect the love of God in Christ Jesus. Not because of what we have done, but because of what God did through Jesus.

The unrepentant sinner however produces actions that remain consistant with sin. There is no need felt to come to God humbly and repent. The actions meet and combine with the sin.

Therefore this passage compels us and convinces us not it imitate evil but to imitate good. In this we humbly unite with God in repentance and grace and love for God and each other. Thanks be to God!

Lord, as I look to a new day, I ask that you would lead me and guide my actions to be pleasing to you. And at the end of the day remind me of those actions that were not pleasing. I confess I am a sinner in need of your grace and forgiveness. Forgive me and make me new day by day that I may please you more and more each day. --- Amen

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

October 12th - Reflection

John 6:25-35 (NRSV)
God will feed the believer

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal." Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." So they said to him, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Then Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Don't you get it? Jesus is material or flesh, but Jesus is also Spirit. This question goes beyond the material world that I can easily relate to. The questions leads us to the spiritual world. It's great how Jesus does this!

I think of bringing home the bread. Bringing home the money that provides for our worldly needs. Moses satisfied the worldly needs of the Israelite's in the desert with manna. But Moses didn't really do this. God did this. Moses was just the worldly vessel and the manna was the worldly representation of the heavenly act of love that God gave to his children.

Children that didn't have to do anything to earn the manna. All they had to do was receive the manna from heaven. And I too only have to receive the bread from heaven. The worldly bread is the heavenly Jesus. I don't have to work to earn it. All I have to do is believe that this bread is also Jesus. I receive Jesus not through my deeds, but through the gift from God and the heavenly act of love that God gave to his children.

Jesus right before us. Dispel the materialistic idea that we have to earn this to receive this. We have to believe this to accept this. That's it! Coming to Jesus and believing in Jesus are the same as securing spiritual satisfaction. The spiritual and the earthly elements meet in an act of love and a promise from God. Thanks be to God!

How wonderful it is that you have come to me in ways that I can begin to understand it just a little. How wonderful it is that you come to me, I believe it and you change me. Make me into what you would have me be. Guide me that I too may demonstrate that act of love and a promise through earthly elements for another person you give to me this day. --- Amen

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October 11th - Reflection

Amos 9:5-15 (NRSV)
Sweet wine from the mountains

The Lord, God of hosts,
he who touches the earth and it melts,
and all who live in it mourn,
and all of it rises like the Nile,
and sinks again, like the Nile of Egypt;
who builds his upper chambers in the heavens,
and founds his vault upon the earth;
who calls for the waters of the sea,
and pours them out upon the surface of the earth --
the Lord is his name.

Are you not like the Ethiopians to me,
O people of Israel? says the Lord.
Did I not bring Israel up from the land of Egypt,
and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?
The eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom,
and I will destroy it from the face of the earth
-- except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,

says the Lord.

For lo, I will command,
and shake the house of Israel among all the nations
as one shakes with a sieve,
but no pebble shall fall to the ground.
All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword,
who say, "Evil shall not overtake or meet us."

On that day I will raise up
the booth of David that is fallen,
and repair its breaches,
and raise up its ruins,
and rebuild it as in the days of old;
in order that they may possess the remnant of Edom
and all the nations who are called by my name,
says the Lord who does this.

The time is surely coming, says the Lord,
when the one who plows shall overtake the one who reaps,
and the treader of grapes the one who sows the seed;
the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
and all the hills shall flow with it.
I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,
and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,
and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.
I will plant them upon their land,
and they shall never again be plucked up
out of the land that I have given them,

says the Lord your God.

We come before God as sinful beings. We come before God knowing that we deserve nothing but death and damnation.

It is a privilege to come before God in the first place. A God so powerful and awesome that even a touch to the earth could melt all that is physical like wax melting from a candle. God sees our sinfulness but is looking for holiness.

But God will not let evil overtake us. We are all sinners this is for sure. But do we mourn over our sin?

God looks at the sinful and cannot tolerate the one who believes that sin is an way of life.

But there is a reversal to the effects of sin. It is our sin that has destroyed our earth and our way of life. But it is God alone who can reverse our sin and bring about life. God will redeem us through Jesus. As we humbly turn to God and appeal to God based on our sinfulness, God chose to give us life through Jesus and build us up.

Save us and give us life. Life that overtakes the one who sows the seed. Life that continues on in ceaseless praise to what God has done for us. Life eternal through God's own act of love and grace. Thanks be to God!

Lord, here I am, humble and once again in your presence. Forgive my sin and take me and make me into what you would have me be. Teach me to do what you would have me do. Change me into what you want, that I may live with you today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, October 10, 2011

October 10th - Reflection

Exodus 19:7-20 (NRSV)
God meets Moses on the mountain
So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. The people all answered as one: "Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do." Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord. Then the Lord said to Moses, "I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after."

When Moses had told the words of the people to the Lord, the Lord said to Moses: "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and prepare for the third day, because on the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. You shall set limits for the people all around, saying, 'Be careful not to go up the mountain or to touch the edge of it. Any who touch the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch them, but they shall be stoned or shot with arrows; whether animal or human being, they shall not live.' When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they may go up on the mountain." So Moses went down from the mountain to the people. He consecrated the people, and they washed their clothes. And he said to the people, "Prepare for the third day; do not go near a woman."

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain, and a blast of a trumpet so loud that all the people who were in the camp trembled. Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God. They took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently. As the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder. When the Lord descended upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, the Lord summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

Here the people come in preparation to meet God. They are here to see God. This is the time that law and grace meet. This is not a stopping place or the goal of the journey, it is the place we come together with God. And we prepare ourselves for this meeting. We clean up and get ready.

God will present the law. The law is not a method for meeting God; it is not a merit system that we work our way through. The law becomes our pattern of life that we learn to live in the presence of God. So we prepare to hear the voice of God.

No need to go near the mountain where God will reside. We will hear the voice and the Word and know that this is God. We don't need to touch. We need to listen and understand this voice that is external and not some mere thought or imagination. God is real. God is present. And the people are ready. Thanks be to God!

Lord, permit me to draw near but not too near. For your Word is all I need. I know you are here and present. As I stop to listen, I come prepared to live the life you would have me live. Lead me, guide me and bring me to everlasting life. --- Amen

Sunday, October 09, 2011

October 9th - Reflection

17th Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 22:1-14 (NRSV)

The parable of the unwelcome guest
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, mistreated 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."

So what's the deal with this wedding garment? You invited me off the street, what's the deal? I wouldn't have set foot inside this place if I knew you were going to make such a big deal about what I was wearing. And to bind me and throw me back out on the street! How could you?

We come into the presence of God in our dirty, smelly, clothing of sin. God knows this. God doesn't expect us to be clean and well clothed when we come to him. If we even believe we are clean and well clothed we are suspect. Maybe we don't understand that it isn't myself or anyone else that makes me clean and well clothed, but it is God that does this.

Why did you or I come to this wedding feast of God? Did we come for the fun of it? Did we come because we thought it would be a free meal and a fun time? Or did we come because we were invited?

We have been invited to a special feast. We come filthy yet humble and penitent. We come, knowing that we don't deserve to be in attendance, but that God has invited us in. Not because of how we looked or acted, but because he has loved us and invited us.

This attitude of love and thanksgiving in humility is the wedding garment that God expects us to be clothed in.

Some of the first invited were just too busy to come to the feast or there were so many more important events to attend. God doesn't want us to come in wedding garments such as these. God wants us to wear the wedding garment of pardon and the wedding garment of a new life in Christ. A life that we come to in humility, thanksgiving, praise and honor to the God who loves us with all his heart.

That's the garment to wear. Thanks be to God!

Lord, thanks for the invitation. I didn't deserve it. I come as I am, humble and asking forgiveness for my sin. I come filthy and dirty and smelly. I come knowing that only you can make me clean. Thanks for the invitation... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, October 08, 2011

October 8th - Reflection

Psalm 23 (NRSV)
You spread a table before me
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff --
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
Everything is focused on God. God takes care of us, watches over us and is always present. It's all focused on God, as it should be.

Focus on God inside and outside. Focus on God in danger and in peace. Focus on God in  the presence of good and the presence of evil. Focus on God when times are good and when times are bad. Focus on God when we need to follow and when we need to stop and rest and listen. Everything is focused on God.

God is our guide through life. Picture the shepherd guiding the sheep. God is loving and giving and benevolent. Everything is focused on God.

Yet as we focus on God, we notice... God is focused on us. God is focused on us as a group and as individual.

God's loved focused so intent that Jesus came to earth, lived, ministered, suffered, and died for each and all our sin. Lived in a focus on you and me and all people in a love that penetrates all things earthly and heavenly.

As we focus on God and see Jesus and the Spirit moving in and through us; we know that God has focused on us. Let the feast begin... let the cup overflow with the love that God has given through Jesus to all the world and to you and to me.

Lord, I give you thanks for focus. Focus my life and actions on you and your love that I may love all people ... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, October 07, 2011

October 7th - Reflection

James 4:4-10 (NRSV)
Humble yourselves before God
Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, "God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says,
"God opposes the proud,
but gives grace to the humble."

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

We are unfaithful creatures. At some point or another we have been unfaithful to God. And in this we are encouraged to look to the spirit that God has set within us. God desires that the spirit God has given us will come forth in love for God and for all others. God has given us a spirit of love and life.

So in our unfaithfulness, may we sense the spirit of love and life and resist the devil and let God's spirit flow through pure hands and pure hearts in a laughter and joy only present with the grace that God has given us through Jesus.

Lord, forgive my unfaithfulness and turn me back to you. May your spirit shine through me this day. Lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil. I know that you tempt no one to sin. But I ask in this prayer that you would watch over me and keep me so that the devil, the world, and my sinful self may not deceive me and draw me into false belief, despair, and other great and shameful sins. --- Amen

Thursday, October 06, 2011

October 6th - Reflection

1 Peter 5:1-5, 12-14 (NRSV)
Stand fast, the chief shepherd is coming

Each and every day we are given some of God's creation to care for and to nourish and to be blessed by and through. We may meet special friends, or work mates, we may have gardens to tend or even pets to care for. We may nurture words or send letters or prayers for another child of God. We may tend to the care of machinery or preserve the environment. We may provide service to many people in many and various ways.

Each day we are given something to pastor and care and shepherd with the love God has shown to us. And as we reflect the love of Christ, we are to take seriously all of our actions and works, working for the other as if we are working for God. For this is the truth. As we work for others and care for the world God has placed us within we work for God.

Lord take may actions, words, prayers and all I do this day, that I may humbly give to you and those you give to me, the love you have shown through Jesus Christ my Savior and Lord. --- Amen
Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it -- not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away. In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for
"God opposes the proud,
but gives grace to the humble." ...

Through Silvanus, whom I consider a faithful brother, I have written this short letter to encourage you and to testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. Your sister church in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings; and so does my son Mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love.

Peace to all of you who are in Christ.


Wednesday, October 05, 2011

October 5th - Reflection

John 11:45-57 (NRSV)
Critics plan to silence Jesus

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, "What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation." But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed." He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death.

Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples.

Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, "What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?" Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.
"Here's your sign!"

Jesus was giving signs. In fact Jesus was a sign. Jesus was here to gather all the scattered Children of God. Jesus would gather all the faithful. Jesus would give his life for the children. Jesus would be the vine that all would feed from and grow from in all places throughout all time.

Some would fear the signs of Jesus. Some would fear losing power or money or prestige. But Jesus sign had nothing to do with any of these. Jesus sign would demonstrate God's love for all the world.

Lord, may I be a sign for you. And may I read all the signs you have to give as I follow you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

October 4th - Reflection

Isaiah 27:1-6 (NRSV)
God will save Israel the vine

On that day the Lord with his cruel and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will kill the dragon that is in the sea.

On that day:
A pleasant vineyard, sing about it!
I, the Lord, am its keeper;
every moment I water it.
I guard it night and day
so that no one can harm it;
I have no wrath.
If it gives me thorns and briers,
I will march to battle against it.
I will burn it up.
Or else let it cling to me for protection,
let it make peace with me,
let it make peace with me.

In days to come Jacob shall take root,
Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots,
and fill the whole world with fruit.

God's anger is with those thorns that overtake his children, persuade them to abandon God, and those nations that would reconcile with his children in order to take them from God.

Our God is a jealous God. Jesus gave his life in order that we may have life. God will defend his people and protect them that are faithful. He will care for us and bring forth wonderful blossoms and fruit that his people may flourish.

Sing about it!

Lord, I give thanks for your justice and faithfulness to my growth and the growth of your children. Tend to me that my faith may grow and I may serve you faithfully in love for you and for all... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, October 03, 2011

October 3rd - Reflection

Ezekiel 19:10-14 (NRSV)
A lament for Israel the vine

Your mother was like a vine in a vineyard
transplanted by the water,
fruitful and full of branches
from abundant water.
Its strongest stem became
a ruler's scepter;
it towered aloft
among the thick boughs;
it stood out in its height
with its mass of branches.
But it was plucked up in fury,
cast down to the ground;
the east wind dried it up;
its fruit was stripped off,
its strong stem was withered;
the fire consumed it.
Now it is transplanted into the wilderness,
into a dry and thirsty land.
And fire has gone out from its stem,
has consumed its branches and fruit,
so that there remains in it no strong stem,
no scepter for ruling.

This is a lamentation, and it is used as a lamentation.

What would have happened if Zedekiah had submitted to the Babylonians? Would he have been spared? But as we see, Israel was sent into exile. A people and nation uprooted and taken to a different land.

If we lose the fire that is from the stem, that passion, that love for Christ, won't we be uprooted also? Won't we be lost in a different land? I think so. If I fail to take care of my relationship with God and ignore God's efforts to restore that relationship with me, I will be uprooted and lost.

Lord, I turn back to you. I have abandoned you at times and I seek your forgiveness. Fill me with that awesome and passionate fire that I may be filled with your love... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, October 02, 2011

October 2nd - Reflection

16th Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 21:33-46 (NRSV)

The parable of the vineyard owner's son

"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 watchtower. 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.

The kingdom of God will be given to a people that God makes up brought together on a spiritual basis. People that produce the fruits of the kingdom.

I am reminded of the spiritual fruits and how they will be developed in the children of God through the Holy Spirit. Spiritual fruits given and cultivated by God and put to use in the Church of Christ for the love of God and all people.

Fruits by which we will be joyful at the harvest to share in full with all people. Fruit not to be hoarded and kept aside but to be shared one with another. Fruit of the vine of Christ our Lord and Savior.

Lord, help us to share the harvest of love you have cultivated with all the children. --- Amen

Saturday, October 01, 2011

October 1st - Reflection

Psalm 80:7-15 (NRSV)
Look down from heaven, O God
Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.

You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it;
it took deep root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches;
it sent out its branches to the sea,
and its shoots to the River.
Why then have you broken down its walls,

so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
The boar from the forest ravages it,
and all that move in the field feed on it.

Turn again, O God of hosts;
look down from heaven, and see;
have regard for this vine,
the stock that your right hand planted.

A vine taken and transplanted from Egypt that grows and flourishes under the rules of David and Solomon. But the vine is deserted because it was invaded by Gentiles. The vine is in need and cries out for rescue.

Just like the Israelites sometimes we fall in need due to our neglect of communion with God. We find out that we are in need and cry out to God to come to us and save us. And in our cry we begin to realize that we were the ones that neglected God. Forgive us and restore us to your favor O Lord.

Lord, the times I fall away and turn from you and neglect you, are lonely times. I feel the need of communion with you but am lazy. Forgive me and restore me to your presence. --- Amen