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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Teaching the faith

James 3:1-13

From the earliest of ages, even the most prolific pastors, theologians and Christian authors were first taught the faith by others. Parents, grandparents taught the faith in their homes. In churches, it is volunteer Sunday school teachers who engage in the faith formation of our youngest Christians. In my formative years, it was a teacher nurtured my faith and convinced me I should explore a career in ministry. Certainly, there is power and influence in the words of teachers.

James warns teachers concerning the power of words. Like the small rudder of a ship, the tongue has the power to steer the course of peoples’ lives. Especially in Church, the tongue can do insurmountable damage. A word misspoken from the pulpit can lead a congregation down the wrong path. Words spoken in confidence can wreak havoc if shared with others. Even words meant for encouragement can be misunderstood if spoken carelessly.

It goes without saying, even teachers of faith have their shortcomings; we are all sinners in need of God’s grace. All Christians, especially pastors and people in lay ministry are called to speak the truth concerning our lives as God’s children. Again, we all sin and fall short of God’s glory. Therefore, we must pray that our words remain true and that we speak this truth in love.

Prayer: God of mercy and grace; bless the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, that they may be fruitful in your sight. Amen.

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Come and rest

Mark 6_31

Mark 6:7-13, 30-33

The disciples returned from the mission from which Jesus sent them filled with excitement. They couldn’t wait to report to their teacher the many things they had done in his name. Pairing up and traveling from place to place, the disciples preached the message of repentance to all who would hear, cast out demons and healed the sick. Certainly there was plenty to discuss, but understanding their needs, Jesus invited them to come away to a place of rest.

Life as a disciple of Christ is much the same today. Those who are engaged in ministering to the sick, hungry, homeless and lost find that there is seemingly no end to such mission. Even the people of God who come weekly to worship often lean heavily upon those called to ministry. Even still, the passion and excitement displayed by the twelve is paralleled by today’s disciple. Similarly, just as with the twelve, seldom is there a day when such a disciple may take full advantage of finding a desolate place to rest. Even in that desolate place, the disciple loves those whom God has placed in his charge; he cares for the sick, tends to the needy and prays for the flock. The notion of rest seems unattainable, yet Jesus realizes and understands their needs.

Following the boat that carried Jesus and the twelve to that “desolate” place was a great crowd. When Jesus saw them, he had compassion and called his disciples to give them something to eat. What followed was perhaps one of Jesus’ most powerful miracles. Not only did Jesus feed the multitude, he fed the twelve. As we continue to trust and follow our Lord, Jesus continues to feed us with the truth of the gospel, the compassion of God’s love and with food from heaven provided in abundance. The blessing of being in ministry and service in the name of Christ is such that as the disciple grows tired, Jesus fills them with power, even when the desolate place is not so peaceful.

Prayer: Dearest Jesus, bless us in our work of the gospel, and grant us rest in you. Amen.

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Who is Jesus?

Mark 8_29Mark 8:27-38

Who do you say Jesus is? If you took a piece of paper and a pencil to write down an answer, what would you write? Most certainly, many would write down the word Messiah. Others would write the word Savior on their paper. A few might write Lord and some might write 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?

In our text for today, Jesus asks, “Who do the people say I am?” The disciples respond with several answers, 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?”

Saved by the innocent blood of Christ and 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. The way we proclaim Jesus as the risen Christ is 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. He is the one whom, as the Apostle Paul said, “God made to be sin, he who had no sin.” This Jesus bought and redeemed us, not with silver or gold, but with his own precious blood. Through him only are God’s people saved.

Understanding this, the question remains, people of God, “Who do you say that YOU are?” The answer cannot simply be written on a slip of paper. 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. Amen.

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Together in faith

1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:5

Christians today certainly face doubts and fears. So, like many in the early church, Christians today benefit from the encouragement of other believers. When left on their own, even the faithful risk becoming distant and inactive in matters of worship and fellowship. The world offers too many alternatives to living a life patterned after the example of our Lord Jesus.

At every turn, the powers that defy God lay in wait to snatch the believer from the community of faith. Worldly temptations meant to lure believers away from heavenly things become stumbling blocks. Relying on the self only, even the most devout can set their minds on earthly things rather than seeking God’s kingdom first. This is the great challenge to the faithful while living in a world fallen in upon itself. In such a world, we often rely on the faith of others.

The church certainly faces issues of complacency; many are not as active as we ought to be. Others become lukewarm in their faith. Yet, living in a community of faith, the Holy Spirit strengthens God’s people through their hearing the gospel. The epistles of Paul, along with the other biblical authors continue to encourage Christians throughout the world. We are strengthened by their words, for theirs are the Word of God.

Prayer: Strengthen your church, O Lord; bless the community of those who call upon your name. Amen.

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