Rejoice

Philippians 4:1-9

There was a song released in 1988 imploring its hearers to put away the worries of the world and simply enjoy life. Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is certainly a nice little tune that might make us feel better for a while, but in the end simply being happy does nothing to address the true consequences facing humanity. Happiness is fleeting at best; what humans truly need is joy.

Certainly, the reality of our fallen world has much to say about happiness. Like others, Christians face the issues and concerns pointed out by McFerrin’s lyrics. Economic hardship, sickness, unemployment and failed relationships take their toll on happiness. However, by God’s grace through faith in Christ, Christians have a much different realization.

Paul exhorts God’s people to rejoice in all things, for the Lord is at hand. The sure and certain hope we have in Christ Jesus is cause to spurn the ugliness of a sinful world and live in the joy of God’s promise for salvation. There is joy in knowing that God knows our needs. As we make our requests known, the promise of God’s love in Christ Jesus brings gladness to troubled hearts and minds.

Prayer: Lord God, in the midst of worldly concerns, hear our prayers and fill our hearts with joy in Christ. Amen.

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Vessels of Grace

John 2:1-11

The miracle of Jesus turning water into wine gives us a glimpse of God’s redeeming power. When we hear this account of one of Jesus’ first signs, we are drawn to the water itself, that which became wine. One thing we often overlook is the vessels in which the water was poured. These clay jars, large as they may be, had one purpose, to contain water used for purification before sitting down for a meal. Simply put, they were used to hold water to wash one’s hands and feet. Upon the water’s transformation into wine, these vessels had a much different purpose; to hold and pour out that which God has made to reveal his glory.

In the beginning, our earthly bodies, these vessels of clay, had one intended purpose, to glorify God. Yet, through humanity’s fall into sin, our earthly bodies have become less that what God intended. Through Christ, we are redeemed, transformed and made new. As we are washed in the waters of Holy Baptism, we become vessels with a purpose; to glorify God. The power of the risen Christ is the power that saves and transforms. Through Christ Jesus, God redeems us, transforms us and calls us to pour out the good news of his grace.

Prayer: Redeeming God, through Christ you make all things new.  Make us vessels of your grace and cause us to share the power of your love.  Amen.

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Follow Jesus

Mark 3:7-19

As more people heard Jesus’ teaching, the crowds following him quickly grew larger. Within these crowds were people with great need. There were also people who were curious, and still others who questioned Jesus’ authority. Of these followers, Jesus called out twelve, setting them apart from the rest in order to prepare them for the task of establishing Christ’s Church on earth.

God continues to call people out of the crowds and separate them for the sake of the gospel. In many instances, Christ calls from the crowds those least expected to do extraordinary things for the sake of others. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God equips them with gifts, enabling them to preach, teach, and care for those whom God places within their midst.

The crowd that followed Jesus is the same crowd that gathers in churches and wherever the gospel is proclaimed. Pews, chairs and halls are filled with the marginalized, the needy, those who desire to learn more of the mysteries of heaven, and even some who would challenge the shepherd’s authority. How has God called you to share the gospel in the midst of the crowd? How has he equipped you to minister to the neediest among us? Surely, as Christ set apart the twelve, so too has he called all his people to be disciples engaged in the mission of God.

Prayer: O Lord Jesus, strengthen my will and desire to follow you in the work of your gospel. Amen.

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The Word was God

John 1:1-18

As John so aptly puts it, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” There has never been a time when the Son of God was not with God, nor has there ever been an instance when the Son of God was not God.

As we are in the midst of January, we are not that far removed from the observance of Advent, the celebration of Christmas, and the Epiphany. The retelling of man’s fall into sin, the promise of a Savior, and the birth of Emmanuel (God with us) is still fresh in our collective memory. Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise we cling to, and the hope for our salvation.

In the beginning was the Word, but Jesus is not simply the Word which we hear and follow; he is the Logos of God. In earthly terms, logos means the logic supporting the argument. Jesus is the living Word, God’s Word made flesh. He is the living, healing, compassionate, and forgiving logic supporting God’s promise to save people from their sin. In Christ, we have God’s Word of hope. By God’s grace through faith in Christ we are saved. This has always been the case, for the Son of God has always been, and he always will be the Word of God.

Prayer: Thank you heavenly Father, so your saving Word, who is Christ the Lord. Amen.

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To bear much fruit

John 15:1-8

A friend of mine is the keeper of a peach orchard. One thing about peach trees that I have learned is that they must be tended to year round. In these winter months, the beginning of the yearly pruning is about to take place. If the trees are not pruned in the winter, they will become bushy, growing in upon themselves, blocking their blossoms from much needed sunlight. In this instance, the trees won’t produce the high quality fruit expected in summer. The same can be said of disciples following our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus says, “Every branch that does bear fruit [God] prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:2. It goes without saying that the trappings of this world often entangle us and cause us to grow in upon ourselves. Without daily repentance, we will certainly become like a bushy vine or tree with tangles and snarls that attempt to rob us of the light of Christ.

As we strive to remain faithful, reading scripture each day, spending time in prayer, and confessing those instances where we have fallen short of God’s expectation, we submit ourselves to the pruner’s shears. These steps toward daily repentance will certainly help us grow in faith and enable us to bear fruit for God’s kingdom. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: O God, shine your light upon us, that we may bear fruit for your kingdom. Amen.

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Seeking things above

Isaiah 55:3-9; Colossians 3:1-17; John 14:6-14

The past few days have brought with them plenty of sunshine. Have you ever noticed how sunny days lift peoples’ spirits? Smiles seem more prevalent and people more cheerful, especially when the sunshine is so bright.

This morning, daybreak brought with it heavy dark clouds and few breaks in the otherwise grey skies. Already, having met with a few people, I have noticed a change in the sunny disposition. Life seems a little more difficult, a bit more serious perhaps. What happened? Is it because the world all of a sudden became more sullen? Or could it be that people just seem to enjoy light over darkness?

The same thing happens to the people of God. As we continue living in the light of God’s grace, we see the world differently. With our eyes fixed on God’s love, we cannot help but reflect the light of Christ. Sharing the love of God and sharing our faith becomes second nature yet, just as the weather changes, so also our focus on Christ.

Earthly distractions beg our attention and often lead in a direction opposite from God’s desires. Joy is often overshadowed by the worries of the world. For this reason, the apostle Paul reminds the people of God to fix their eyes upon heavenly things; the compassion of Christ and the peace of the Holy Spirit. With our attention fixed heavenward, the people of God never lose sight of the promise of God’s mercy and grace, and we continue to live in the joy of our salvation.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, shine the light of your love upon me, that I may live in your peace each day. Amen.

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Behold

John 1:29-34

John’s account of Jesus’ baptism is much different than that of the synoptic gospels. Each of those writers records Jesus coming to the Jordan to be baptized. They tell of the Holy Spirit’s descent in the form of the dove. They share the message of the heavenly voice. John’s gospel is different. He does not include such details. Instead, allows the testimony of John the Baptizer to speak this truth.

In this telling, John the Baptizer testifies to what he has seen and heard, and how it was foretold in the scriptures. That may be a point often overlooked in this story. When it comes to our relationship with Jesus, our primary job is to see, and then share what we saw. That’s what John the Baptizer does here. He witnessed for himself the dove descending upon Jesus. He heard God’s voice from heaven. He then told others what he had seen and heard.

Could the work of evangelism be that simple? It is! At its heart, evangelism is nothing more than noticing God’s saving activity in our lives, sharing that with others, and inviting them to come and see for themselves.

Prayer: Give me the will to witness to your saving grace, O God, that I may point others to the Lamb who takes away sin. Amen.

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