The Father’s will

Matthew 21:23-32

In the parable, Jesus said “A man had two sons.” Both of these sons were given direction to work in their father’s vineyard. One said no, but later went. The other said yes, but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father? According to the Pharisees, it was the son who said no, but changed his mind.

Have you ever noticed in this parable, Jesus doesn’t tell them that they are correct? Did the Pharisees get it right? The truth is, both sons at one point fell short of the father’s expectations. Both sons needed a change of heart.

How often have you heard God’s Word and said “No, I will not go” but later went? How many other times have you said, “Yes, I will go” but failed to do so? In each case we fall short of God’s glory and need a change of heart. Thankfully, through Christ we are afforded God’s mercy and grace. All we need to do is ask, and God will provide the will and means necessary to do that which he calls us to do. For the will of the Father is that we believe in his Son.  Today, as in all days, God calls you to work in his vineyard. How will you respond?

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, strengthen me in faith, that when you call, I may do your will. Amen.

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Love your neighbor

Luke 10:25-37, 1 John 3:14–18

As John writes in his first epistle letter, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” Reading this passage, two things came to mind. First, is that love is the exact opposite of murder. When we fail to love our neighbor, it doesn’t necessarily mean we hate them, it’s worse. It means we do not care at all. We don’t notice them, we don’t show any concern for them; basically, they are transparent to us. We may not cross to the other side as the two did in the parable of the Good Samaritan, but we ignore them nonetheless. Hate at least comes with emotions toward the other, ambivalence has no connection whatsoever.

The second thing that came to mind was Luther’s explanation to the 5th commandment. The commandment states, “You shall not murder.” Luther explains the command from the perspective of love. According to Luther, “we should fear and love God that we may not hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need.” When we truly love our neighbor according to Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, we not only show compassion, but we help them in every way possible, even to the point of great personal expense. Such is the example of Christ, who gave his life for the sake of his neighbors, that we might live with God forever.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to truly love my neighbor as you taught, no matter the cost. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Accepting truth

Luke 18:31-43

Jesus told them plainly; once they reached Jerusalem, he would be turned over to the Gentiles, be beaten and then killed. Yet on the third day, God would raise him from the grave. Even as we know this to be true, the disciples had difficulty accepting Jesus’ words. The prophets foretold of it; Jesus affirmed it, but the disciples simply couldn’t face the truth that all Jesus said would certainly be accomplished.

Sometimes, when presented with the truth, we have difficulty accepting it. An adverse diagnosis, news of a tragedy, financial woes, or simply owning up to our own failures; each of these can cause us to discount the present reality. Too often, denial leads to disbelief. Even as we know the truth, we are apt to turn a blind eye hoping everything will pass.

As Jesus drew near to Jericho, a blind man called out to him. Those lining the streets tried to stifle his voice, yet he called out all the more. Though blind, he had vision; he knew Jesus was the Christ, the one promised from God, the one who would redeem Israel, the one who had the power to restore his sight. Facing the truth, he called upon the Son of David, and his sight was restored. The truth remains today, Jesus, the Son of David is the one who has mercy and restores the people of God.

Prayer: O Christ, restore our sight, so that we may accept the truth of your grace. Amen.

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Rest

Mark 6:30-46

The world is a busy place. Schedules and agendas are packed so tightly that, if left unchecked, they will do their best to consume people. Once a task is completed or an experience had, there is always something else waiting in line; one more thing to do. It is little wonder that by the end of the day, so many people feel emotionally, physically, and spiritually drained.

When Jesus’ twelve disciples completed their mission of the gospel, they returned to their Lord filled with excitement, but none the less for wear. Wearied from their work, Jesus invited them to come away to a desolate place to rest. There, they might hope to reflect on all they accomplished while getting some much-needed rest.

It is the same for today’s disciple. To rest with the Lord and Savior means to be refreshed by his Word, to be fed with his supper, and to enjoy the closeness of God our Father. This is the benefit of worship and prayer. To rest is to take advantage of each opportunity to draw close to God and hear his Word. In this way, we are refreshed in mind, body and spirit. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: Let us rest in you, O Lord, that we may be ready and able to do the work of your gospel. Amen.

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Peace

Mark 4:35-41

While the storm was raging, Jesus was in the back of the boat. The twelve were frantic, thinking that at any given moment all would be lost. Finally, overcome by fear they call out to Jesus; “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Hearing this, Jesus stood up, calmed the storm and delivered them from chaos. In that one moment, upon the calm waters the disciples experienced peace.

How much are we like the twelve? How often are we overcome with doubt and fear and forget that our Lord is with us? As the people of God face each day, we do so living in the midst of disappointment and uncertainty about the future. We are confronted with broken relationships, hurt by the actions of others or hurting those whom we love through ours. People in all walks of life must deal with sickness, addiction, loneliness and depression. We can safely say the waters of the storm are raging all around us and our boat is in peril.  Thankfully, Jesus is with us.

Remembering the life of our Lord and Savior, we also recall that he is the one who heals the sick, brings comfort to those who are hurting and restores relationships broken by the power of sin. In the midst of the storm, Jesus stands with us and says, “Peace! Be still.” When we call upon the Lord we realize the power of his love. When we realize the power of his love, the raging storm loses its power and the peace of Christ prevails.

Prayer: Calm my fears, O God, and give me peace. Amen.

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Who is Jesus?

Mark 8:27-38

Who do you say Jesus is? Messiah? Lord? What about Savior or Lamb of God? There are many other attributes for Jesus that could be written, but what do all these things mean? When asked by a non-believer, can Christians fully define who Jesus is?

When Jesus asks, “Who do the people say I am” the disciples provide several responses but none are correct. Then Jesus asks, “Who do you say I am?” Peter declares he is the Christ, the Son of God. Following Peter’s confession, Jesus explains more concerning the Son of Man. He must be handed over and suffer. He must be put to death then rise again. And any who would follow him must deny themselves and follow his example of love and service toward neighbor. That’s the answer to yet one more question; “Who do you say you are?”

Claimed by God in baptism, you are a precious child of God. You are one whose sins are forgiven. You are one who has received the promise of eternal life. We proclaim Jesus as the risen Christ through the love we are called to show our neighbor and by the deeds we perform addressing the needs of those whom God has placed within our midst.

Who is Jesus? He is the Christ, God incarnate. Through him only are people saved.  Understanding this, the question remains, “Who do you say that YOU are?” The answer to this question can only be revealed as we give thanks to God for his grace through Christ Jesus, and serve the God we cannot see by loving and serving the neighbor we can see.

Prayer: Gracious God, lead us by the example of your Son, that we may be reflections of his love. In Christ we pray. Amen.

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Burning bushes

Exodus 3:1-12

As you begin reading this post, consider a few questions. When was the last time that you heard God speaking to you? When was the last time you actually became still so you could listen? And what was your response the last time you felt God tugging at your arm, inviting you to a place that you really didn’t care to go? Truly, one need only to listen for God’s voice. He speaks to His people continually.

Invading our everyday lives, God captures our attention in significant ways, inviting us to a life filled with the extraordinary gift of His grace. Even as He comes to us through what seem to be ordinary means, our heavenly Father draws us in, promising the gift of His presence will be nothing short of miraculous.

With Moses, God used a simple bush set ablaze, yet it was not consumed by the flames. The bush caught Moses’ eye, made him pause and contemplate what forces might be at work. God could have used much more powerful means to get Moses’ attention. The burning bush was enough to cause Moses to take notice of God’s presence.

Each day, God puts burning bushes in our path. A woman sitting at a bus stop, a homeless person staking claim to a park bench. Yes, they are ordinary occurrences, but could they be more? Could they be means by which God is getting your attention? Most certainly! Tune in. Pay attention. Turn aside as Moses did and listen for God’s voice as he calls you.

Prayer: O Lord speak to me your Word, for your servant is listening. Amen.

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