Grace without limit

1 John 1:1-10

The speed limit sign says 40, but everyone knows you can go a little faster without being pulled over. The blue lights flashing in your mirror suggest otherwise and you can’t argue with the person wearing the uniform. The truth is you’re guilty. Thankfully, the officer has authority to extend grace and let you off with a warning.

How much is our earthly life like that of exceeding the speed limit? Bending the rules, pushing the limits or those little white lies we tell seem harmless at first glance. But when we go too far the burden hardly seems worth it. As sinners, we have to face the fact that we do not always do as we should. Neither can we hide our shortcomings from the one who calls us to obedience. We’re guilty and God sees it all. Yet, there is grace.

As John writes, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” God’s law is the authority that convicts us. We can’t argue; we know we are guilty. Even so, through faith in Christ, the law also drives us to the cross where we confess our sin. God’s grace is more than a warning; it is the promise of forgiveness and life through Christ Jesus.

Prayer: Forgive me Lord, pour out your mercy and grace upon me. Amen.

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Hear our prayer

Mark 9:14-29

There is one thing that is fairly certain, we all, at one time or another, ask people to keep us in their prayers. Another thing that is certain is that others have asked us to do the same. Prayer is a central part of Christian living. We pray for healing, comfort, peace and happiness. We pray for so many things, but what happens when we do not immediately recognize God’s answer?

Some, although they believe, begin to have doubts. The man, whose son was possessed, believed one of Jesus’ followers could cast out the demon. When this did not happen, doubt crept into the situation. The word “if” is pursed upon his lips; “If you can…help us.”

Jesus teaches us the power of prayer. “Ask and it will be given. Seek and you will find” (Mt. 7:7-8). Our Lord teaches that as you pray, do so believing that you have already received that for which you pray. It is no small task; because of doubt, we often need visible proof that our prayers are truly answered. Still, God is faithful. As we pray in faith, the Holy Spirit provides us with confidence that that God indeed hears our prayers and provides all we need.

Prayer: Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.  Amen.

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Listen, hear, understand

Parable of the Sower

Matthew 13:18-23, 1 Timothy 2:1-6, Leviticus 26:1-20

I am amazed by people who solve math problems with relative ease. Math is not my forte; I do not have a head for numbers. In the classroom, I needed to concentrate on every word from my teacher’s lips, yet solving equations still came with difficulty. I simply didn’t understand the concepts. Those who perform well in math do so because they not only understand, they can visualize the steps in determining the solution. But solving the problem is not always enough. At some point, one must put what is learned into practice.

Our lessons today have to do with hearing and understanding. In Leviticus, God calls the Israelites to hear his commands and understand them as the parameters of godly living. Paul teaches the church in 1 Timothy that loving, caring and praying for one another leads to a peaceful and blessed life. In Matthew, Jesus says those who receive God’s Word and understand it are those who hold fast to all Christ commanded.

In a world where everything seems to be changing at warp speed, it is imperative that Christians take time each day to read their Bible. Only when we dwell within the Word, reading and studying it together, can we gain further understanding of what God intends for his people. Only then can we put what we have learned into practice.

Prayer: Lord, fill me with your Spirit, that I may hear, understand and live according to your Word. Amen.

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Friendship

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

We all have friends with whom we lost contact. Friendship is not just a relationship between people; it is also something that takes time and great effort to maintain. Quality friendships endure because those in such relationships have a genuine interest in the life of the other.

The apostle Paul formed many friendships throughout his journeys. These relationships were important to Paul, so he was sure to strengthen them through daily prayer. Rooting his caring and close relationships between God’s people.

Christians are not unlike others in the world in that we often become nostalgic thinking of distant friends. Many of our friends are those we have lost touch with through the years. Sometimes we feel reluctant to reconnect, seemingly embarrassed by our lack of communication. Maybe they’ve forgotten us? Perhaps they too have moved on? Sadly, rationalizing distant friendships in this way leads to even further separation. So, do we simply forget those friends from our past? Certainly not!

The memories of our friends are their memories as well. Not only do we reminisce about past friendships, but the friends from our past most likely remember us fondly too. Praying and thanking God for the gift of friendship helps keep those relationships alive. Through prayer, we can offer thanks to God and once again feel the joy of being a friend to someone whom we love.

Prayer: Thank you Lord, for the friendships we share with others, for they truly are a blessing from you. Amen.

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Let your light shine

Matthew 5:13-16

Jesus said to his disciples, “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket.” God blesses the Church with the most precious treasure there is, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every Christian is therefore filled with the light of Christ and called to give witness to the wonders of God’s mercy and grace.

Often, it is said to the newly baptized person, “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Our light shines when we love God with all our heart, and love our neighbor as ourselves. Shining our light, we share the love of Christ Jesus with all whom we meet.

Jesus of Nazareth is light and life for the world. Baptized into his death and resurrection, the light of Christ dwells within God’s people. May you always feel the presence and power of our Lord Jesus. And may your light shine through the darkness of this world, that those within your midst may finally see the glory of the Father and enter the gates of our eternal home.

Prayer: Shine the light of your love, O Lord, and fill me with the power of your love. Amen.

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Worship the one who saves

Mark 14_3

Mark 14:1-11

The chief priests and the scribes supposed him a threat, so they conspired to arrest him and have him killed. Judas Iscariot turned traitor and made arrangements to betray him, receiving a handsome reward for his dubious effort. Such is the backdrop of today’s text; Jesus will soon be handed over and crucified. Yet, one person stands out, showing her love and devotion for her Lord.

Rising above the stench of sin, the sweet fragrance of perfume danced through the air as she anointed the one who came to save her. Her devotion is unmistakable. She lives, as we do, in the midst of a world refusing God’s mercy and grace. Such a world does not stop to acknowledge the Creator of all that is seen and unseen. It does not receive the one through whom salvation comes. Yet, like the woman who anoints Jesus’ feet, even today, the Church offers Christ the sweet fragrance of her worship and thanksgiving.

Sing praises to the one who gives his life for you. Bow down and worship the God of your salvation. For in the midst of a fallen and sinful world, he continues to offer his mercy and grace.

May the worship we offer be pleasing in your sight O Lord, for through you only do we have life everlasting. Amen.

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Be content

1 Timothy 6_9

1 Timothy 6:1-10

Songwriter Harry Chapin spun a tale of a man named Mr. Tanner, a dry cleaner who was very good at his work. He was content with his chosen profession and loved his customers. Tanner was also a baritone who loved singing. Chapin said of Tanner, “He did not know how well he sang, it just made him whole.”

As the song goes, Tanner’s friends convinced him he should give up dry cleaning and pursue fame and glory. He would be able to leave his business behind, become famous and enjoy a prosperous life. Yet, it was not to be; his debut proved that public performance was not his calling. Dejected, Tanner gave up singing and his life was not the same.

God blesses his people with many gifts and talents. Used for God’s purposes, they bring much joy. Humbly sharing our gifts for the sake of others glorifies God through whom such gifts come. Of course, there is always the temptation to seek glory, fame and fortune for ourselves, especially when swayed by others.

Just as Jesus teaches there are people of the world who would lead us astray, so too Paul teaches us that we are to be content with all God’s provides. Worldly influences may tempt us to seek glory for ourselves, but loving God and using our gifts to his glory brings joy and makes us whole.

Holy God, make us content with all you have provided, that it may be our joy to serve others. Amen.

“Mr. Tanner” by Harry Chapin, 1974. Album; Short Stories.

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Grace defined

Ezekiel 33:1–11; 1 John 1:1–10; Matthew 9:27–34

Today it seems fashionable to redefine most anything. It has become socially acceptable to order daily life according to personal thoughts and experiences. Yet, the truth remains that we humans do not have the power or authority to redefine that which God defines. We cannot deem acceptable that which God declares sinful.

Ezekiel warns the people of God to be on guard against sin. Those who fail to recognize evil will certainly fall victim. John says that those who deny their sin continue to walk in darkness, severing their fellowship with God and his people.

Attempting to redefine what God has ordained, the world lives in darkness and denies its sin. In this, humanity remains blind to worldly disobedience, breaking fellowship with God and walking under the veil of darkness. Yet God does have mercy upon those who confess their sin.

Jesus asked the two blind men seeking restoration, “Do you believe I am able to do this?” In faith they responded, “Yes Lord.” Just as Christ lifted the veil of darkness from these men, so too does Christ forgive sins and restore fellowship to those who confess and believe he is Lord and Savior. This is the definition of grace, and it belongs to our God.

Prayer: Merciful God, hear our confession and remove the stain of our sin through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Rely on God

Matthew 6:25-34

How often do you wake up today and you are already worried about tomorrow? If that is the case, it is likely you went to bed already feeling the pressure of a certain circumstance or the ill effects of something you perceive to be a looming problem. And so it goes for so many in our world.

Our Lord Jesus teaches us that we should not worry. We should not worry about clothing, food, drink or anything else under the sun. When we worry or become anxious about things we have or don’t have, we rely upon ourselves to alleviate the problem. Yet, truthfully, we are to put our trust in God who provides all we will ever need for life. As our Lord Jesus says, it is the father’s good pleasure to give us his kingdom.

Worrying about tomorrow’s problems today only causes them to become stumbling blocks for today’s opportunities. Lift up your worries and cares to God in prayer. Commend them to the Lord. As you do, you will soon realize his presence in your life each day, and the anxiousness for tomorrow will be replaced with the joy of Christ today.

Prayer: Lord, I put my trust in you, knowing you will provide all I need. Amen.

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Lord, have mercy

Matthew 26:57-68, Romans 14:13-23

Confronted by our sin against others, sometimes all we can do is remain silent. Our shame is too great for words; the hurt we have caused cannot be erased by speaking. We all suffer from the same condition. Ever since Adam and Eve took a bite of the forbidden fruit, humans have struggled under the weight of sin and disobedience. We continually find ourselves at odds with one another, leading people astray with our lies, and cheating others because of selfishness. Paul reminds us that we are never to put a stumbling block or a hindrance in the way of our neighbor. When faced with the realization that we are indeed guilty, there is nothing left that we can say except, “Lord, have mercy.”

Jesus stood before Caiaphas, as Isaiah prophesied, “like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isa 53:7). He did not remain silent because of guilt, but because his actions would speak louder than any words uttered by human lips. Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world remained silent before false testimony so that he might save even those who accused him wrongly. Living without sin, the Son of God offered his life and died the death we deserved.  Through him, God’s mercy is ours for the asking.

Prayer: We give you thanks O Lord our God, for your mercy and grace that is through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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