What do you want to be when you grow up? That’s a question that we all faced at one time or another. Some probably wanted to be doctors or nurses. Some perhaps wanted to be a professional athlete. Still someone might have wanted to be an actor or singer. Have you ever noticed few children, if any, say they want to be a garbage collector? Fewer still might say they want to be the school custodian, or the person who makes up the beds in a hotel. When we are young, we want to stand out; we often dream of making it big. We have dreams for our future.
Jesus never asks his disciples about their vision of what their lives might be like once he is departed. Instead, he leads the twelve on a journey of humility and service. Jesus leads and they follow. Our Lord teaches the twelve and us that in order to be counted first in God’s kingdom; we must become last of all and servant of all.
Certainly we dream about the future. Yet, no matter your vocation or station in life, blessed is the one who puts the needs of others above their own. Truly this one is counted first in heaven.
Prayer: Holy God, give us the will to follow Christ, becoming as servants of others and inheritors of your kingdom. Amen.
Like so many others, my father worked very hard to ensure our family had everything we needed. I remember hearing him in the morning, leaving for work for work while it was still dark. At the completion of the long day, he would reappear with the evening light, tired and ready for rest. As I recall, my father did a great job being our provider, teacher and yes, friend. Also, as it is with many fathers, myself included, he would admit that he wished he could have done more.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus spent a generous amount of time telling people about the Father. Our Lord teaches us just how valuable and loved we are by our Father in heaven. God, who is the perfect outpouring of love, creates and sustains all that is found in heaven and on earth. God is all knowing, all seeing, all compassionate and forgiving of all our sins. Even as we are not worthy to call upon God in times of need, Christ makes us worthy through his sacrificial life and death. We need not worry; God provides all that is needed. Certainly no one could ever do more. So, as our Lord Jesus taught us we are bold to pray; “Our Father.”
Prayer: Father in heaven, we thank you for hearing our prayers and providing all that is needed so that we may live in the comfort of your mercy and grace. Amen.
Luke 13:31-35, Philippians 3:17-4:1
Lent is that time for us to take a serious look at how we live. Do our values reflect the teaching of Jesus, or are they more reflective of a world turned inward upon itself? Our Lord Jesus calls us to focus on the things from above, and to pay much less attention to what Paul calls the things of the belly. Truth be told, the devil and all the powers that defy God would rather we did not spend our time in such reflection.
The powers that defy God would rather have us look only at what he places in front of us. The tempter entices Christians by placing stumbling blocks along our path so that, left on our own, we would more often choose the way of the world over the way of Christ. The devil takes great delight in leading a child of God into a life filled with the empty promises of this world.
And so, especially during the season of Lent, the Church turns to Christ, in order that we might meet him at the cross and worship him. Not to simply worship him with the words that come from out of our mouths, but to worship him in the way in which we live.
Prayer: Most holy God, fill us with your Spirit, that we may conform our lives to Christ our Lord. Amen.
Jacob, having tricked his father Isaac into blessing him over and above his brother Esau, is now on the run. He is in fear for his life as his brother has vowed to kill him for what he had done. Alone and afraid, Jacob travels through the wilderness. He is not seeking an encounter with God, nor is he searching for some deeply religious explanation of his life. Jacob is between places, the place of his father which is his home, and the place to which he is traveling where he hopes to find a new life. Yet, through a dream, God makes his presence known and the gospel, the good news of God’s deliverance comes to Jacob. “Behold, I am with you!”
Jacob’s vision of a ladder reaching from earth into heaven teaches us that the world is not a place absent of God’s presence. Rather, there is intersection between the realm of earthly life and God’s kingdom. Angels, messengers of God, travel to and from bringing tidings of good news and God’s divine protection to those who live within the family of faith. God’s children are not alone; there is someone who walks with us, powerful enough to take on our troubles and wash away our shame. Because God loved the world so much, we have a Savior who says, “Behold, I am with you!”
How often do we wander in the wilderness? When are those instances when we search for God, yet He seems distant? These are the times to become quiet and still, to open our hearts and minds to the presence of our Lord Jesus. For the words of his promise are sure, “Behold, I am with you.”
Prayer: Holy God, guide us by your Holy Spirit and guard us with your angels. Help us to see always, your power and presence in our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Have you ever noticed how fair weather and sunny skies lift the attitude among people? Smiles seem more prevalent and people seem to have a more positive outlook. Life is cheerful when the skies are clear, but such days don’t last forever. Eventually, dark clouds appear and sunny dispositions turn gloomy. Certainly, there is a preference for the light and warmth of fair weather.
The same can be said for the people of God. As we live in the light of God’s grace, we see the world differently. With our minds fixed on God’s love, Christians cannot help but live in the peace and joy of Christ. Yet, sin causes us to focus our attention away from God’s kingdom above. Its darkness casts a shadow over us. For this reason, the apostle Paul reminds the people of God to fix their eyes upon heavenly things seeking the love of God, the compassion of Christ and the communion of the Holy Spirit.
The dark clouds and threatening skies of earthly life will come, and bring with them the probability of storms. Still, it is the light of Christ that continues to conquer the darkness. Through him we have life. As we seek the things from above where Christ is seated, we continue to live in the joy of his grace.
Heavenly Father, keep me in your Spirit, that I may seek your light and your love. Amen.
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.
Posted in Discipleship
Tagged Christianity, Discipleship, Faith, Following Jesus, Holy Scripture, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Love your neighbor, Repentance, Salvation, Spirituality, Word of God
1 John 1:5-10
Early in his first epistle, John states clearly to the Church that, although through Christ our sins are forgiven, no Christian lives without sin. Salvation is not found through moral perfection, but through the sacrifice of God’s only Son. This truth is realized when the children of God strive to walk in the light of Christ.
Sometimes we bear grudges. We remember the sins committed against us and are wary of the sinner lest they repeat the offense. Other times we fail to realize how our actions hurt someone else. John teaches us that people who practice such behavior really do not understand the concept of grace. If we claim forgiveness through Jesus, but cannot forgive others or confess our sin, we are not walking in the light of Christ. The best we can do is stumble in the darkness.
John reminds us who we are, people who have known the Father. Knowing the Father means knowing the Son, through whom we are forgiven. So too are we to forgive as we have been forgiven. This is the truth that is in us.
Prayer: Holy God, help us to live in the light of Christ, forgiving others as you forgive us. Amen.