Daily Bible Reflections

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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Mon Mar 30, 2015 11:27 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Monday (March 30): Extravagant love for Jesus

Gospel Reading: John 12:1-11

1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said, 5 "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, "Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. 8 The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me." 9 When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus also to death, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. 12 The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 42:1-7

1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. 5 Thus says God,the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: 6 "I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations,7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.

Meditation: Do you know the love that knows no bounds? As Jesus dines with his beloved friends, Mary does something which only love can do. She took the most precious thing she had and spent it all on Jesus. Her love was not calculated but extravagant. Mary's action was motivated by one thing, and one thing only, namely, her love for Jesus and her gratitude for God’s mercy. She did something, however, a Jewish woman would never do in public. She loosed her hair and anointed Jesus with her tears. It was customary for a woman on her wedding day to bound her hair. For a married woman to loosen her hair in public was a sign of grave immodesty. Mary was oblivious to all around her, except for Jesus. She took no thought for what others would think, but what would please her Lord. In humility she stooped to anoint Jesus' feet and to dry them with her hair. How do you anoint the Lord's feet and show him your love and gratitude?

The gospel records that the whole house was filled with the perfume of the ointment. What Mary had done brought sweetness not only in the physical sense, but the spiritual sense as well. Her lovely deed shows the extravagance of love - a love that we cannot outmatch. The Lord Jesus showed us the extravagance of his love in giving the best he had by pouring out his own blood for our sake and by anointing us with his Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul says that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:39). Do you allow the love of Christ to rule in all your thoughts and intentions, and in all your words and deeds?

Why was Judas critical of Mary's lovely deed? Judas viewed her act as extravagant wastefulness because of greed. A person views things according to what it inside the heart and soul. Judas was an embittered man and had a warped sense of what was precious and valuable, especially to God. Jesus had put Judas in charge of their common purse, no doubt because he was gifted in financial matters. The greatest temptation we can face will often come in the area of our greatest strength or gifting. Judas used money entrusted to him for wrong and hurtful purposes. He allowed greed and personal gain to corrupt his heart and to warp his view of things. He was critical towards Mary because he imputed unworthy motives. Do you examine your heart correctly when you impute wrong or unworthy motives towards others?

"Give us, Lord, a lively faith, a firm hope, a fervent charity, a love of you. Take from us all lukewarmness in meditation, dullness in prayer. Give us fervor and delight in thinking of you and your grace, your tender compassion towards me. The things we pray for, good Lord, give us grace to labor for: through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Prayer of Sir Thomas More, 16th century)

Psalm 27:1-3,13-14

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evildoers assail me, uttering slanders against me, my adversaries and foes, they shall stumble and fall.
3 Though a host encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.
13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD!

A Daily Quote for Lent: God first loved us, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

"Fulfill the commandments out of love. Could anyone refuse to love our God, so abounding in mercy, so just in all His ways? Could anyone deny love to Him Who first loved us despite all our injustice and all our pride? Could anyone refuse to love God Who so loved us as to send His only Son not only to live among human beings but also to be put to death for their sake and at their own hands?." (excerpt from Catechetical Instructions 39)

http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/mar30.htm
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Mon Mar 30, 2015 11:28 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Tuesday (March 31): Betrayal and faltering loyalty to Jesus

Gospel Reading: John 13:21-33,36-38

21 When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, "Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus; 24 so Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, "Tell us who it is of whom he speaks." 25 So lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to him, "Lord, who is it?" 26 Jesus answered, "It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it." So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly." 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we need for the feast"; or, that he should give something to the poor.30 So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night.

31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; 32 if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going you cannot come.' 36 Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered, "Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward." 37 Peter said to him, "Lord, why cannot I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." 38 Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied me three times.

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 49:1-6

1 Listen to me, O coastlands, and hearken, you peoples from afar. The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. 2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. 3 And he said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified." 4 But I said, "I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God." 5 And now the LORD says, who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength -- 6 he says: "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."

Meditation: Jesus' disciples were put to the test as Jesus prepared to make the final and ultimate sacrifice of his own life for their sake and for all the world. What was different between Peter and Judas? Judas deliberately betrayed his Master while Peter, in a moment of weakness, denied him with an oath and a curse. Judas' act was cold and calculated. Peter, however, never meant to do what he did. He acted impulsively, out of weakness and cowardice. Jesus knew both the strength of Peter's loyalty and the weakness of his resolution. He had a habit of speaking with his heart without thinking through the implications of what he was saying.

The treachery of Judas, however, is seen at its worst when Jesus makes his appeal by showing special affection to him at his last supper. John says that Satan entered into Judas when he rejected Jesus and left to pursue his evil course. Satan can twist love and turn it into hate. He can turn holiness into pride, discipline into cruelty, affection into complacency. We must be on our guard lest Satan turn us from the love of God and the path which God has chosen for us.

The Holy Spirit will give us grace and strength in our time of testing. If we submit to Jesus we will walk in the light of his truth and love. If we turn our backs on him we will stumble and fall in the ways of sin and darkness. Are you ready to follow Jesus in his way of the cross?

"Give me, O Lord, a steadfast heart which no unworthy thought can drag downwards; an unconquered heart which no tribulation can wear out; an upright heart which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Bestow upon me also, O Lord my God, understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, and a faithfulness that may finally embrace you; through Jesus Christ, our Lord." (Prayer of Thomas Aquinas)

Psalm 71:1-6,15,17

1 In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame!
2 In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me!
3 Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
4 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
5 For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
6 Upon you I have leaned from my birth; you are he who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of you.
15 My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.
17 O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.

A Daily Quote for Lent: Fight sin and put up with trials, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

"Your first task is to be dissatisfied with yourself, fight sin, and transform yourself into something better. Your second task is to put up with the trials and temptations of this world that will be brought on by the change in your life and to persevere to the very end in the midst of these things." (excerpt from Commentary on Psalm 59,5)

http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/mar31.htm
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Sat Apr 04, 2015 8:34 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Holy Saturday (April 4): "They laid him in a rock-hewn tomb"

Gospel Reading: Luke 23:50-56 [reading for the Easter Vigil: Matthew 28:1-10]

50 Now there was a man named Joseph from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, 51 who had not consented to their purpose and deed, and he was looking for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud, and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb, where no one had ever yet been laid. 54 It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. 55 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and saw the tomb, and how his body was laid; 56 then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Meditation: Jesus not only died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3); he also, by the grace of God, tasted death for every one (Hebrews 2:9). It was a real death that put an end to his earthly human existence. Jesus died in mid afternoon and the Sabbath began at 6:00 pm. Since the Jewish law permitted no work on the Sabbath, the body had to be buried quickly. Someone brave enough would have to get permission from the Roman authorities to take the body and bury it. The bodies of executed criminals were usually left unburied as carion for the vultures and dogs. Jesus was spared this indignity through the gracious intervention of Joseph of Arimethea.
Who was this admirer and secret disciple of Jesus? Luke tells us that Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish council that condemned Jesus. We are told that he did not agree with their verdict. He was either absent from their meeting or silent when they tried Jesus. What kind of man was Joseph? Luke tells us that he was "good and righteous" and "looking for the kingdom of God". Although he did not stand up for Jesus at his trial, he nonetheless, sought to honor him in his death by giving him a proper burial. This was to fulfill what the prophet Isaiah had foretold: "He was cut off out of the land of the living ..and they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth" (Isaiah 53:8-9).

In the Book of Revelation, the Lord Jesus speaks: "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one: I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades" (Revelation 1:17-18). No tomb in the world could contain the Lord Jesus for long. His death on the cross purchased our redemption and his triumph over the grave on Easter morning defeated death. What preserved the Lord Jesus from corruption? He was kept from decay and he rose from the dead by divine power. "My flesh will dwell in hope. For you will not let your Holy One see corruption" (Psalm 16:9-10). The mystery of Christ's lying in the tomb on the sabbath reveals the great sabbath rest of God after the fulfillment of our salvation which brings peace to the whole world (Colossians 1:18-20). Is your hope in this life only, or is it well founded in the resurrection of Christ and his promise that those who believe in him will live forever?

"Lord Jesus, you died that I might live forever in your kingdom of peace and righteousness. Strengthen my faith that I may I know the power of your resurrection and live in the hope of seeing you face to face for ever."

Psalm 16:1; 8-11

1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
8 I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure.
10 For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your godly one see the Pit.
11 You show me the path of life; in your presence there is fulness of joy, in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/apr4.htm
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Sat Apr 04, 2015 8:35 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Easter Sunday (April 5): "John saw the empty tomb and believed"

Scripture: John 20:1-9 [alternate readings for Easter: Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:13-35]

1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." 3 Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. 4 They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; 5 and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, 7 and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

Meditation: What was it like for the disciple who had stood at the cross of Jesus and then laid him in a tomb on Good Friday, to come back three days later and discover that the sealed tomb was now empty? John, along with Peter, was the first apostle to reach the tomb of Jesus on Easter Sunday morning. Like Mary Magdalene and the other disciples, John was not ready to see an empty tomb and to hear the angel's message, Why do you seek the living among the dead (Luke 24:5)? What did John see in the tomb that led him to believe in the resurrection of Jesus? It was certainly not a dead body. The dead body of Jesus would have disproven the resurrection and made his death a tragic conclusion to a glorious career as a great teacher and miracle worker. When John saw the empty tomb he must have recalled Jesus' prophecy that he would rise again after three days. Through the gift of faith John realized that no tomb on earth could contain the Lord and giver of life. John saw and believed (John 20:8).

John had to first deal with the empty tomb before he could meet the risen Lord later that evening along with the other apostles who had locked themselves in the upper room out of fear of the Jewish authorities (John 20:19-23). John testified as an eye-witness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ: What we have seen, heard, and touched we proclaim as the eternal word of life which existed from the beginning (1 John 1:1-4). John bears witness to what has existed from all eternity. This "word of life" is Jesus the word incarnate, but also Jesus as the word announced by the prophets and Jesus the word now preached throughout the Christian church for all ages to come.

One thing is certain, if Jesus had not risen from the dead and appeared to his disciples, we would never have heard of him. Nothing else could have changed sad and despairing men and women into people radiant with joy and courage. The reality of the resurrection is the central fact of the Christian faith. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Lord gives us "eyes of faith" to know him and the power of his resurrection. The greatest joy we can have is to encounter the living Christ and to know him personally as our Lord and Savior. Do you accept the good news of Jesus' death and resurrection with skeptical doubt and disbelief or with trusting faith and joyful wonderment?

"Lord Jesus Christ, you have triumphed over the grave and you have won for us new life and resurrection power. Give me the eyes of faith to see you in your glory. Help me to draw near to you and to grow in the knowledge of your great love for us and your great victory over sin and death."

Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17,22-23

1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever!
2 Let Israel say, "His steadfast love endures for ever."
16 the right hand of the LORD is exalted, the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!"
17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.
22 The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.
23 This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

A Daily Quote for the Easter season: Christ destroyed death to bring us life, from a sermon by Leo the Great, 400-461 A.D.

"God's compassion for us is all the more wonderful because Christ died, not for the righteous or the holy but for the wicked and the sinful, and, though the divine nature could not be touched by the sting of death, he took to himself, through his birth as one of us, something he could offer on our behalf. The power of his death once confronted our death. In the words of Hosea the prophet: Death, I shall be your death; grave, I shall swallow you up. By dying he submitted to the laws of the underworld; by rising again he destroyed them. He did away with the everlasting character of death so as to make death a thing of time, not of eternity. As all die in Adam, so all will be brought to life in Christ."

http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/apr5.htm
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Tue Apr 28, 2015 8:50 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Tuesday (April 28) "My sheep hear my voice"

Scripture: John 10:22-30

22 It was the feast of the Dedication at Jerusalem; 23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered round him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." 25 Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; 28 and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one."

Meditation: How secure is your faith and trust in God? Scripture describes God’s word as a "lamp for our feet and a light for our steps"(Psalm 119:105). The Jewish Feast of the Dedication is also called the Festival of Lights or Hanakkuh. This feast was held in late December, near the time when Christians celebrate the feast of Christmas. This is the time of year when the day is shortest and the night longest. Jesus used this occasion to declare that he is the true light of the world (John 8:12). In his light we can see who God truly is and we can find the true path to heaven.

Jesus speaks of the tremendous trust he has in God his Father and the tremendous trust we ought to have in him because he is our good shepherd (John 10:11). Sheep without a shepherd are defenseless against prey, such as wolves, and often get lost and bewildered without a guide. That is why shepherds literally live with their sheep out in the open field and mountain sides. The shepherd guards his sheep from the dangers of storms, floods, and beasts of prey. The shepherd leads his sheep to the best places for feeding and the best streams for drinking. He finds the best place for their rest and safety at night. The sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd and heed his call when he leads them to safe pasture and rest.

We are very much like sheep who stray, we become easy prey to forces which can destroy us - sin, Satan, and a world in opposition to God and his people. The Lord Jesus came not only to free us from Satan's snares and the grip of sin, he came to personally lead us to the best of places where we can feed on his "word of life" and drink from the "living waters" of his Holy Spirit. The sheep who heed the voice of Jesus, the good shepherd, have no fear. He leads them to the best of places - everlasting peace, joy, and fellowship with God and his people.

In this present life we will encounter trials, difficulties, and persecution. We can face them alone or we can follow Jesus, the true shepherd, who will bring us safely through every difficulty to the place of peace and security with God. Do you listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd and heed his commands?

"Lord Jesus, you are the Good Shepherd who secures what is best for us. I place all my hope and trust in you. Open my ears to hear your voice today and to follow your commands."

Psalm 87:1-7

1 On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
2 the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
3 Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God. [Selah]
4 Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon; behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Ethiopia -- "This one was born there," they say.
5 And of Zion it shall be said, "This one and that one were born in her"; for the Most High himself will establish her.
6 The LORD records as he registers the peoples, "This one was born there." [Selah]
7 Singers and dancers alike say, "All my springs are in you."

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The Great might of Christ's hand, by Clement of Alexandria, 150-215 A.D.

"The faithful also have the help of Christ, and the devil is not able to snatch them. Those who have an endless enjoyment of good things remain in Christ's hand, no one thereafter snatching them away from the bliss that is given to them. [No one can throw them] into punishment or torments. For it is not possible that those who are in Christ's hand should be snatched away to be punished because of the great might Christ has. For 'the hand' in the divine Scripture signifies 'the power'” It cannot be doubted therefore that the hand of Christ is unconquerable and mighty to all things." (excerpt from the COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 7.1)

http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/apr28.htm
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Tue Apr 28, 2015 8:54 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Wednesday (April 29): "Believe.. that you may not remain in darkness"

Scripture: John 12:44-50

44 And Jesus cried out and said, "He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And he who sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 If any one hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has bidden me."

Meditation: What kind of darkness does Jesus warn us to avoid? It is the darkness of unbelief and rejection - not only of the Son who came into the world to save it - but rejection of the Father who offers us healing and reconciliation through his Son, Jesus Christ. In Jesus' last public discourse before his death and resurrection (according to John's Gospel), Jesus speaks of himself as the light of the world. In the scriptures light is associated with God's truth and life. Psalm 27 exclaims, The Lord is my light and my salvation.

Just as natural light exposes the darkness and reveals what is hidden, so God's word enables those with eyes of faith to perceive the hidden truths of God's kingdom. Our universe could not exist without light - and no living thing could be sustained without it. Just as natural light produces warmth and energy - enabling seed to sprout and living things to grow - in like manner, God's light and truth enables us to grow in the abundant life which only he can offer us. Jesus' words produce life - the very life of God - within those who receive it with faith.

To see Jesus, the Word of God who became flesh for our sake (John 1), is to see God in visible form. To hear the words of Jesus is to hear the voice of God. He is the very light of God that has power to overcome the darkness of sin, ignorance, and unbelief. God's light and truth brings healing, pardon, and transformation. This light is not only for the chosen people of Israel, but for the whole world as well. Jesus warns that if we refuse to listen to his word, if we choose to ignore it or to take it very lightly, then we choose to remain in spiritual darkness.

Jesus made it clear that he did not come to condemn us, but rather to bring abundant life and freedom from the oppression of sin, Satan, and a world in opposition to God's truth and goodness. We condemn ourselves when we reject God's word of truth, life, and wisdom. It is one thing to live in ignorance due to lack of knowledge and understanding, but another thing to disdain the very source of truth who is Christ Jesus, the Word of God sent from the Father. Jesus says that his word - which comes from the Father and which produces eternal life in us - will be our judge. Do you believe that God's word has power to set you free from sin and ignorance and to transform your life in his way of holiness?

Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) summed up our need for God's help in the following prayer he wrote: "God our Father, we find it difficult to come to you, because our knowledge of you is imperfect. In our ignorance we have imagined you to be our enemy; we have wrongly thought that you take pleasure in punishing our sins; and we have foolishly conceived you to be a tyrant over human life. But since Jesus came among us, he has shown that you are loving, and that our resentment against you was groundless."

God does not wish to leave us in spiritual darkness - in our ignorance and unbelief. He is always ready to give his light, wisdom, and truth to all who seek him and who hunger for his word. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit he helps us to grow each and every day in faith, knowledge, and understanding of his life-giving word. Do you want to know more of God and grow in his transforming love? Look to Jesus, the Light of God, and in his truth you will find joy, freedom, and wholeness of body, mind, heart, and soul.

"Lord Jesus, in your word I find life, truth, and freedom. May I never doubt your word nor forget your commandments. Increase my love for your truth that I may embrace it fully and live according to it."

Psalm 67:1-7

1May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,
2 that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. [Selah] 5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
6 The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us.
7 God has blessed us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Whoever sees Jesus sees the Father, by Cyril of Alexandria, 375-444 A.D.

"[Our Lord] gradually accustoms their minds to penetrate the depth of the mysteries concerning himself, [leading them] not to the human person but to that which was of the divine essence. He does this inasmuch as the Godhead is apprehended completely in the person of God the Father, for he has in himself the Son and the Spirit. With exceeding wisdom he carries them onward, ... for he does not exclude himself from being believed on by us because he is God by nature and has shone forth from God the Father. But skillfully (as has been said) he handles the mind of the weak to mold them to godliness in order that you might understand him to say something like this: 'When you believe on me - I who, for your sakes, am a man like yourselves, but who also am God by reason of my own nature and because of the Father from whom I exist - do not suppose that it is on a man you are setting your faith. For I am by nature God, notwithstanding that I appear like one of yourselves, and I have within myself him who begat me. Forasmuch therefore as I am consubstantial with him that has begotten me, your faith will assuredly pass on also to the Father himself.' As we said therefore, the Lord, gradually trains them to something better and profitably interweaves the human with what is God-befitting." (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 8.7)

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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Fri May 08, 2015 1:22 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Friday (May 8): "I have called you friends"

Scripture: John 15:12-17

12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 This I command you, to love one another.

Meditation: What is the greatest act of love which one can give for the sake of another? Jesus defines friendship - the mutual bond of trust and affection which people choose to have for one another - as the willingness to give totally of oneself - even to the point of laying down one's life for a friend. How is such love possible or even desirable? God made us in love for love. That is our reason for being, our purpose for living, and our goal in dying.

God is love
Scripture tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8) - and everything he does flows from his immense love for us. He loved us so much - far beyond what we could ever expect or deserve - that he was willing to pay any price to redeem us from our slavery to sin and death. That is why the Father sent us his beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up his life as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. In this great exchange - the Father giving up his Son to death on the cross in order to give us abundant everlasting life and adopt us as his beloved sons and daughters in Christ (Romans 8:14-17).

It is for this reason that we can take hold of a hope that does not fade and a joy that does not diminish because God has poured his love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:5). God's love is not limited or subject to changing circumstances. It is an enduring love that has power to change and transform us to be like him - merciful, gracious, kind, forgiving, and steadfast in showing love not only for our friends, but for our enemies as well. God's love is boundless because he is the source of abundant life, perfect peace, and immeasurable joy for all who open their hearts to him. That is why Jesus came to give us abundant life through the gift and working of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment - a new way of loving and serving one another. Jesus' love was wholly directed toward the good of others. He love them for their sake and for their welfare. That is why he willingly laid down his own life for us to free us from sin, death, fear, and everything that could separate us from the love of God. Our love for God and our willingness to lay down our life for others is a response to the exceeding love God has given us in Christ. Paul the Apostle states,

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?... For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:35,38-39).
Friendship with God
Jesus calls his disciples his friends. Jesus not only showed his disciples that he personally cared for them and sought their welfare. He personally enjoyed their company and wanted to be with them. He ate with them, shared everything he had with them - even his inmost heart and thoughts. And he spent himself doing good for them. To know Jesus personally is to know God and the love and friendship he offers to each one of us.
One of the special marks of favor shown in the Scriptures is to be called the friend of God. Abraham is called the friend of God (Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23). God spoke with Moses as a man speaks with his friend (Exodus 33:11). Jesus, the Lord and Master, calls the disciples his friends rather than his servants.

What does it mean to be a friend of God? Friendship with God certainly entails a loving relationship which goes beyond mere duty and obedience. Jesus' discourse on friendship and brotherly love echoes the words of Proverbs: A friend loves at all times; and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17). The distinctive feature of Jesus' relationship with his disciples was his personal love for them. He loved his own to the end (John 13:1). His love was unconditional and wholly directed to the good of others. His love was also sacrificial. He gave the best he had and all that he had. He gave his very life for those he loved in order to secure for them everlasting life with the Father.

Love to the death
The Lord Jesus gives his followers a new commandment - a new way of love that goes beyond giving only what is required or what we think others might deserve. What is the essence of Jesus' new commandment of love? It is a love to the death - a purifying love that overcomes selfishness, fear, and pride. It is a total giving of oneself for the sake of others - a selfless and self-giving love that is oriented towards putting the welfare of others ahead of myself.

Jesus says that there is no greater proof in love than the sacrifice of one's life for the sake of another. Jesus proved his love by giving his life for us on the cross of Calvary. Through the shedding of his blood for our sake, our sins are not only washed clean, but new life is poured out for us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. We prove our love for God and for one another when we embrace the way of the cross. What is the cross in my life? When my will crosses with God's will, then God's will must be done. Do you know the peace and joy of a life fully surrendered to God and consumed with his love?

The Lord Jesus tells us that he is our friend and he loves us wholeheartedly and unconditionally. He wants us to love one another just as he loves us, wholeheartedly and without reserve. His love fills our hearts and transforms our minds and frees us to give ourselves in loving service to others. If we open our hearts to his love and obey his command to love our neighbor, then we will bear much fruit in our lives, fruit that will last for eternity. Do you wish to be fruitful and to abound in the love of God?

"Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Prayer of Ignatius Loyola)

Psalm 57:7-11

7 My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody!
8 Awake, my soul! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!
9 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.
10 For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Love encompasses the other commandments, by Ephrem the Syrian (306-373 AD

"This is my commandment." Have you then only one precept? This is sufficient, even if it is unique and so great. Nevertheless he also said, "Do not kill" (Matthew 19:18) because the one who loves does not kill. He said, "Do not steal," because the one who loves does even more—he gives. He said, "Do not lie," for the one who loves speaks the truth, against falsehood. "I give you a new commandment" (John 13:14). If you have not understood what "This is my commandment" means, let the apostle be summoned as interpreter and say, "The goal of his commandment is love" (1 Timothy 1:5). What is its binding force? It is that of which [the Lord] spoke, "Whatever you want others to do to you, you should do also" (Matthew 7:12)."Love one another" in accordance with this measure, "as I have loved you." That is not possible, for you are our Lord who loves your servants. But we who are equals, how can we love one another as you have loved us? Nevertheless, he has said it... His love is that he has called us his friends. If we were to give our life for you, would our love be equal to yours?... How then can what he said be explained, "As I have loved you"? "Let us die for each other," he said. As for us, we do not even want to live for one another! "If I, who am your Lord and God, die for you, how much more should you die for one another." (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON TATIAN'S DIATESSARON 19.13)

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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Fri May 08, 2015 1:23 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Saturday (May 9): "You are not of the world"

Scripture: John 15:18-21

18 "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, `A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me.

Meditation: What does Jesus mean when he says "you are not of this world"? The world in Scripture refers to that society of people who are hostile towards God and opposed to his will. The world rejected the Lord Jesus and treated him with contempt, and his disciples can expect the same treatment. The Lord Jesus leaves no middle ground for his followers. We are either for him or against him, for his kingdom of light and truth or for the kingdom of darkness and deception. The prophet Isaiah warned that people who separate themselves from God because of their rebellion and spiritual blindness would end up calling evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20).

If we want to live in the light of God's truth, how can we rightly distinguish good from evil and truth from deception? True love of God and his ways draw us to all that is lovely, truthful and good. If we truly love God then we will submit to his truth and obey his word. A friend of God cannot expect to be a friend of the world because the world is opposed to God's truth and way of righteousness.

Jesus' demand is unequivocal and without compromise. Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15). We must make a choice either for or against God. Do you seek to please God in all your intentions, actions, and relationships? Let the Holy Spirit fill your heart and mind with the love and truth of God (Romans 5:5).

"Lord Jesus, may the fire of your love fill my heart with an eagerness to please you in all things. May there be no rivals to my love and devotion to you who are my all."

Psalm 100:1-5

1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the lands!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the LORD is God! It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him, bless his name!
5 For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures for ever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Those who suffer with Christ reign with Christ, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

"It is just as if Jesus said, 'I, the creator of the universe, who have everything under my hand, both in heaven and on earth, did not bridle their rage or restrain ... their inclinations. Rather, I let each one choose their own course and permitted all to do what they wanted. Therefore, when I was persecuted, I endured it even though I had the power of preventing it. When you too follow in my wake and pursue the same course I did, you also will be persecuted. You're going to have to momentarily endure the aversion of those who hate you without being overly troubled by the ingratitude of those whom you benefit. This is how you attain my glory, for those who suffer with me shall also reign with me.'" (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 10.2)

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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Tue May 12, 2015 9:14 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Tuesday (May 12): "I will send the Counselor to you"

Scripture: John 16:5-11

5 But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, `Where are you going?' 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

Meditation: Why does God seem far from us at times? Separation and loss of relationship often lead to grief and pain. The apostles were filled with sorrow when Jesus spoke about his imminent departure. Jesus explained that it was for their sake that he must leave them and return to his Father. He promised, however, that they would never be left alone. He will send in his place the best of friends, the Holy Spirit.

Paul reminds us that "nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:39). By sending the Holy Spirit to his followers, the Lord Jesus makes his presence known to us in a new and on-going way. We are not left as orphans, but the Lord himself dwells within us through the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 4:9; 6:16b).

The work of the Holy Spirit
Jesus tells his disciples three very important things about the work of the Holy Spirit - to convince the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment. The original word for convince also means convict. The Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier. He makes us holy as God is holy. He does this first by convicting us of our unbelief and sin and by bringing us humbly to the foot of the Cross. The Spirit convinces us of God's love and forgiveness and of our utter dependence on God for his mercy and grace. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to lead us from the error of our unbelief and sinful ways and to show us the way of love and truth.

The Jews who had condemned Jesus as a blasphemer and false messiah thought they were serving God rather than sinning when they crucified Jesus. When the Gospel was later preached on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:37), many were pricked in their heart and convicted of their sin. What made them change their mind about Jesus? The Holy Spirit opened their hearts to recognize Jesus as the true Messiah sent by the Father in heaven.

It is the work of the Holy Spirit to both convict us of our unbelief and wrongdoing and to convince us of God's truth. The Spirit convinces us of the righteousness (moral truth and goodness) of Christ, backed by the fact that Jesus rose again and went to his Father. The Holy Spirit also convicts us of judgment. The Spirit gives us the inner and unshakable conviction that we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. God's judgments are just and good. He not only forgives those who repent of their wrongdoing, he also vindicates the innocent who have been unjustly treated and restores their rights and he rewards those who have done what is just and good. When we heed his judgments we find true peace, joy and reconciliation with God. Do you allow the Holy Spirit free reign in your life that he may set you free from the grip of sin and set you ablaze with the fire of God's love?

"Come Holy Spirit, and let the fire of your love burn in my heart. Let me desire only what is pure, lovely, holy and good and in accord with the will of God and give me the courage to put away all that is not pleasing in your sight."

Psalm 138:1-3,7-8

1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the angels I sing your praise;
2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted above everything your name and your word.
3 On the day I called, you answered me, my strength of soul you increased.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.
8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures for ever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Whatever is not of faith is sin, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

"When the Lord said of the Holy Spirit, 'He shall convict the world of sin,' he meant unbelief. For this is what he meant when he said, “Of sin because they believed not on me.' And he means the same when he says, 'If I had not come and spoken to them, they should not have sin.' (John 15:22). He was not talking about [a time] before they had no sin. Rather, he wanted to indicate that very lack of faith by which they did not believe him even when he was present to them and speaking to them. These were the people who belonged to 'the prince of the power of the air, who now works in the children of unbelief' (Ephesians 2:2). Therefore those in whom there is no faith are the children of the devil because they have nothing in their inner being that would cause them to be forgiven for whatever is committed either by human infirmity, ignorance or any evil will whatever. But the children of God are those who certainly, if they should 'say that they have no sin, deceive themselves, and the truth is not in them,' but immediately (as it continues) 'when they confess their sins' (which the children of the devil do not do, or do not do according to the faith which is peculiar to the children of God), 'he is faithful and just to forgive them their sins and to cleanse them from all unrighteousness'" (1 John 1:9). (excerpt from AGAINST TWO LETTERS OF THE PELAGIANS 3.4)
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Sun Jun 07, 2015 6:27 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Sunday (June 7): "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many"

Scripture: Mark 14:12-16,22-26 [Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ] (alternate reading: Mark 3:20-35)

12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the passover lamb, his disciples said to him, "Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the passover?" 13 And he sent two of his disciples, and said to them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the householder, `The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I am to eat the passover with my disciples?' 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us." 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city, and found it as he had told them; and they prepared the passover. 22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body." 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." 26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Meditation: Why did Jesus offer himself as "food and drink" to his disciples? Jesus chose the time of Passover to fulfill what he had announced earlier at Capernaum - giving his disciples his body and his blood (John 6:51-58). Jesus' passing over to his Father by his death and resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Last Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist or Lord's Supper, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the church in the glory of God’s kingdom.

This is the most significant meal of Jesus and the most important occasion of his breaking of bread. In this meal Jesus identifies the bread as his body and the cup as his blood. When the Lord Jesus commands his disciples to eat his flesh and drink his blood, he invites us to take his life into the very center of our being (John 6:53). That life which he offers is the very life of God himself. Jesus' death on the cross, his gift of his body and blood in the Supper, and his promise to dine again with his disciples when the kingdom of God comes in all its fulness are inseparably linked.
Jesus instructed his disciples to "do this in remembrance of me". These words establish every Lord's Supper or Eucharist as a "remembrance" of Jesus' atoning death, his resurrection, and his promise to return again. "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26). Our celebration of the Lord's Supper anticipates the final day when the Lord Jesus will feast anew with his disciples in the heavenly marriage feast of the Lamb and his Bride. Do you know the joy of the drinking Christ's cup and tasting the bread of his Table in sincerity?

Mark ties the last supper meal with Jesus' death and the coming of God's kingdom. Jesus transforms the passover of the old covenant into the meal of the "new covenant in my blood".
In the Old Covenant bread and wine were offered in a thanksgiving sacrifice as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to the Creator as the giver and sustainer of life. Melchizedek, who was both a priest and king (Genesis 14:18; Hebrews 7:1-4), offered a sacrifice of bread and wine. His offering prefigured the offering made by Jesus, our high priest and king (Hebrews 7:26; 9:11; 10:12). The remembrance of the manna in the wilderness recalled to the people of Israel that they live - not by earthly bread alone - but by the bread of the Word of God (Deuteronomy 8:3).

The unleavened bread at Passover and the miraculous manna in the desert are the pledge of God's faithfulness to his promises. The "cup of blessing" at the end of the Jewish passover meal points to the messianic expectation of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Jesus gave a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup when he instituted the "Lord's Supper" or "Eucharist". He speaks of the presence of his body and blood in this new meal. When at the Last Supper Jesus described his blood “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28), he was explaining his coming crucifixion as a sacrifice for sins. His death on the cross fulfilled the sacrifice of the paschal lamb. That is why John the Baptist called him the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Jesus made himself an offering and sacrifice, a gift that was truly pleasing to the Father. He “offered himself without blemish to God” (Hebrews 9:14) and “gave himself as a sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2). This meal was a memorial of his death and resurrection.

When we receive from the Lord’s table we unite ourselves to Jesus Christ, who makes us sharers in his body and blood. Ignatius of Antioch (35-107 A.D.) calls it the "one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ" (Ad Eph. 20,2). This supernatural food is healing for both body and soul and strength for our journey heavenward. When you approach the Table of the Lord, what do you expect to receive? Healing, pardon, comfort, and rest for your soul? The Lord has much more for us, more than we can ask or imagine. The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist is an intimate union with Christ. As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens us in charity and enables us to break with disordered attachments to creatures and to be more firmly rooted in the love of Christ. Do you hunger for the "bread of life"?

"Lord Jesus, you nourish and sustain us with your very own presence and life. You are the "Bread of Life" and the "Cup of Salvation". May I always hunger for you and be satisfied in you alone."

Psalm 116:12-18

12 What shall I render to the LORD for all his bounty to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,
14 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
16 O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your handmaid. You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.
18 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Your Word will enlighten and save me, by Clement of Alexandria, 150-215 A.D.

"The commandment of the Lord shines clearly, enlightening the eyes. Receive Christ, receive power to see, receive your light, that you may plainly recognize both God and man. More delightful than gold and precious stones, more desirable than honey and the honeycomb is the Word that has enlightened us (Psalm 19:10). How could he not be desirable, who illumined minds buried in darkness, and endowed with clear vision 'the light-bearing eyes' of the soul? ... Sing his praises, then, Lord, and make known to me your Father, who is God. Your Word will save me, your song instruct me. I have gone astray in my search for God; but now that you light my path, Lord, I find God through you, and receive the Father from you, I become co-heir with you, since you were not ashamed to own me as your brother. Let us, then, shake off forgetfulness of truth, shake off the mist of ignorance and darkness that dims our eyes, and contemplate the true God, after first raising this song of praise to him: 'All hail, O light!' For upon us buried in darkness, imprisoned in the shadow of death, a heavenly light has shone, a light of a clarity surpassing the sun's, and of a sweetness exceeding any this earthly life can offer." (excerpt from EXHORTATION TO THE GREEKS 11.8)

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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Sun Jun 07, 2015 6:28 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Monday (June 8): "Blessed are the poor in spirit"

Scripture: Matthew 5:1-12a

1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. 8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven

Meditation: What is the good life which God intends for us? And how is it related with the ultimate end or purpose of life? Is it not our desire and longing for true happiness, which is none other than the complete good, the sum of all goods, leaving nothing more to be desired? Jesus addresses this question in his sermon on the mount. The heart of Jesus' message is that we can live a very happy life. The call to holiness, to be saints who joyfully pursue God's will for their lives, can be found in these eight beatitudes. Jesus' beatitudes sum up our calling or vocation - to live a life of the beatitudes. The word beatitude literally means "happiness" or "blessedness".

What is the significance of Jesus' beatitudes, and why are they so central to his teaching? The beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness that God has placed in every heart. They teach us the final end to which God calls us, namely the coming of God's kingdom (Matthew 4:17), the vision of God (Matthew 5:8; 1 John 2;1), entering into the joy of the Lord (Matthew 25:21-23) and into his rest (Hebrews 4:7-11).

Jesus' beatitudes also confront us with decisive choices concerning the life we pursue here on earth and the use we make of the goods he puts at our disposal. God alone satisfies. Teresa of Avila's (1515-1582) prayer book contained a bookmark which she wrote: "Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you; All things pass: God never changes. Patience achieves all it strives for. Whoever has God lacks nothing, God alone suffices." Is God enough for you? God offers us the greatest good possible - abundant life in Jesus Christ (John 10:10) and the promise of unending joy and happiness with God. Do you seek the highest good, the total good, which is above all else?

The beatitudes which Jesus offers us are a sign of contradiction to the world's understanding of happiness and joy. How can one possibly find happiness in poverty, hunger, mourning, and persecution? Poverty of spirit finds ample room and joy in possessing God as the greatest treasure possible. Hunger of the spirit seeks nourishment and strength in God's word and Spirit. Sorrow and mourning over wasted life and sin leads to joyful freedom from the burden of guilt and spiritual oppression. God reveals to the humble of heart the true source of abundant life and happiness.

Jesus promises his disciples that the joys of heaven will more than compensate for the troubles and hardships they can expect in this world. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) said: "No one can live without joy. That is why a person deprived of spiritual joy goes after carnal pleasures." Do you know the happiness of hungering and thirsting for God alone?

"Lord Jesus, increase my hunger for you and show me the way that leads to everlasting peace and happiness. May I desire you above all else and find perfect joy in doing your will."

Psalm 34:2-9

2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and be glad.
3 O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 O taste and see that the LORD is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in him!

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Perfect blessedness is humility of spirit, by Hilary of Poitiers, 315-367 A.D.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The Lord taught by way of example that the glory of human ambition must be left behind when he said, The Lord your God shall you adore and him only shall you serve (Matthew 4:10). And when he announced through the prophets that he would choose a people humble and in awe of his words (Isaiah 66:2), he introduced the perfect Beatitude as humility of spirit. Therefore he defines those who are inspired as people aware that they are in possession of the heavenly kingdom... Nothing belongs to anyone as being properly one’s own, but all have the same things by the gift of a single parent. They have been given the first things needed to come into life and have been supplied with the means to use them. (excerpt from ON MATTHEW 4.2)

http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/jun8.htm
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Wed Jun 10, 2015 7:16 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Tuesday (June 9): "The salt of the earth and light of the world"

Scripture: Matthew 5:13-16

13 "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. 15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

Meditation: Jesus used ordinary images, such as salt and light, to convey extraordinary truths that transform our minds, hearts, and lives. What does salt and light have to teach us about God and the transforming power of his kingdom? Salt was a valuable commodity in the ancient world. People traded with it, like we trade with valuable goods, such as gold and stock. Salt also served a very useful purpose, especially in warmer climates before the invention of electricity and refrigeration. Salt not only gave rich flavor to food, it also preserved food from going bad and being spoiled.

Jesus used the image of salt to describe the transforming effect of God's work in our lives - and how the Holy Spirit wants to work through us to bring the power and blessing of God's kingdom to others. As salt purifies, preserves, and produces rich flavor for our daily food, we, too, as disciples of Jesus, are "salt" for the world of human society. The Lord wants to work in and through us to purify, preserve, and spread the rich flavor of God's kingdom everywhere - his "kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17).

Don't lose your saltiness
What did Jesus mean by the expression "if salt has lost its taste... it is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot" (Matthew 5:13)? Salt in the ancient world was often put into ovens to intensify the heat. When the salt was burned off and no longer useful it was thrown out on the ground where it would easily get stepped on and swept away (Matthew 5:13). How can we lose our "saltiness"? When we allow the world, sin, and Satan to corrupt us. The Lord wants us to preserve our "saltiness" - through virtuous living and rejection of sin - not only for our own sake but also for the sake of others. Paul the Apostle reminds us that we are called to be "the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life" (2 Corinthians 2:15-16 ). Do you allow the fragrance of Christ's love, truth, and holiness to permeate every area of your life, your thoughts, words, actions, and relationships?

Light that shines for all to see
Jesus used the image of light and a lamp to further his illustration of God's transforming work in and through us. Lamps in the ancient world served a vital function, much like they do today. They enable people to see and work in the dark and to avoid stumbling. The Jews also understood "light" as symbol or expression of the inner beauty, truth, and goodness of God. In his light we see light ( Psalm 36:9). His word is a lamp that guides our steps (Psalm 119:105). God's grace not only illumines the darkness in our lives, but it also fills us with spiritual light, joy, and peace.

Jesus used the image of a lamp to describe how his disciples are to live in the light of his truth and love. Just as natural light illumines the darkness and enables one to see visually, so the light of Christ shines in the hearts of believers and enables us to see the heavenly reality of God's kingdom. Our mission is to be light-bearers of Jesus Christ so that others may see the truth of the gospel and be freed from the blindness of sin and deception.

There is great freedom and joy for those who live in the light of God's truth and goodness. Do you know the joy and freedom of living in God's light?

"Lord Jesus, you guide me by the light of your saving truth. Fill my heart and mind with your light and truth and free me from the blindness of sin and deception that I may see your ways clearly and understand your will for my life. May I radiate your light and truth to others in word and deed".

Psalm 98:1-6

1 O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.
2 The LORD has made known his victory, he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
4 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
5 Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody!
6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The Light of Truth, by Chromatius (died 406 AD)

The Lord has already called his disciples the "salt of the earth" because they seasoned with divine wisdom the hearts of the human race which had been made tasteless by the devil. Now he also calls them the "light of the world." For, illumined by his very own self who is the true and eternal light, they too become light within the darkness. For since he himself is the sun of righteousness, he rightly also calls his disciples "light of the world." Through them, as if through shining rays, he poured the light of his knowledge on the entire world. For by showing the light of truth, the Lord's disciples made the darkness of error flee from people's hearts. (excerpt from TRACTATE ON MATTHEW 19.1.1-2)

http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/jun9.htm
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Wed Jun 10, 2015 7:18 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Wednesday (June 10): Great are those who teach and obey the commandments

Scripture: Matthew 5:17-19

17 "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18 For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away,not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Meditation: Why do people tend to view the "law of God" negatively rather than positively? Jesus' attitude towards the law of God can be summed up in the great prayer of Psalm 119: "Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day."

For the people of Israel the "law" could refer to the ten commandments or to the five Books of Moses, called the Pentateuch or Torah, which explain the commandments and ordinances of God for his people. The "law" also referred to the whole teaching or way of life which God gave to his people. The Jews in Jesus' time also used it as a description of the oral or scribal law. Needless to say, the scribes added many more things to the law than God intended. That is why Jesus often condemned the scribal law because it placed burdens on people which God had not intended.

The essence of God's law
Jesus made it very clear that the essence of God's law - his commandments and way of life, must be fulfilled. God's law is true and righteous because it flows from his love, goodness, and holiness. It is a law of grace, love, and freedom for us. That is why God commands us to love him above all else and to follow in the way of his Son, the Lord Jesus who taught us how to love by laying down our lives for one another.

Reverence and respect
Jesus taught reverence for God’s law - reverence for God himself, reverence for the Lord's Day, reverence or respect for parents, respect for life, for property, for another person's good name, respect for oneself and for one's neighbor lest wrong or hurtful desires master and enslave us. Reverence and respect for God's commandments teach us the way of love - love of God and love of neighbor. What is impossible to humans is possible to God who gives generously of his gifts and the Holy Spirit to those who put their faith in him. God gives us the grace, help, and strength to love as he loves, to forgive as he forgives, to think and judge as he judges, and to act as he acts with mercy, loving-kindness, and goodness. The Lord loves righteousness and hates wickedness. As his followers we must love his commandments and hate every form of sin and wrong-doing. Do you seek to understand the intention of his law and to grow in wisdom of his ways?

Jesus promised his disciples that he would give them the gift of the Holy Spirit who writes God's law of love and truth on our hearts. The Spirit teaches us God's truth and gives us wisdom and understanding of God's ways. The Spirit helps us in our weakness, strengthens us in temptation, and transforms us, day by day, into the likeness of Christ himself. There is great blessing and reward for those who obey God's commandments and who help others, especially the younger generations, to love, respect, and obey the Lord.

"Lord Jesus, grant this day, to direct and sanctify, to rule and govern our hearts, minds, and bodies, so that all our thoughts, words, and deeds may be be in accord with your Father’s law and wisdom. And thus may we be saved and protected through your mighty help."

Psalm 16:1-2,4-5,8,11

1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you."
4 Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their libations of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips.
5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
8 I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
11 You show me the path of life; in your presence there is fulness of joy, in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: What you teach, you should do, by Chromatius (died 406 AD)

"While it is sinful to abolish the least of the commandments, all the more so the great and most important ones. Hence the Holy Spirit affirms through Solomon: 'Whoever despises the little things shall gradually die' (Sirach 19:1b). Consequently nothing in the divine commandments must be abolished, nothing altered. Everything must be preserved and taught faithfully and devotedly that the glory of the heavenly kingdom may not be lost. Indeed, those things considered least important and small by the unfaithful or by worldly people are not small before God but necessary. For the Lord taught the commandments and did them. Even small things point to the great future of the kingdom of heaven. For this reason, not only words but also deeds are important; and you should not only teach, but what you teach, you should do." (excerpt from TRACTATE ON MATTHEW 20.2.1–3)

http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/jun10.htm
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Fri Jul 10, 2015 8:29 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Friday (July 10): Sheep in the midst of wolves - wise and innocent

Scripture: Matthew 10:16-23

16 "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22 and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes.

Meditation: What does Jesus mean when he says his disciples must be sheep in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16)? The prophet Isaiah foretold a time when wolves and lambs will dwell in peace (Isaiah 11:6 and 65:25). This Old Testament prophecy certainly refers to the second coming of Christ when all will be united under the Lordship of Jesus after he has put down his enemies and established the reign of God over the heavens and the earth (Ephesians 1:10 and Revelation 11:15). In the meantime, the disciples must expect opposition and persecution from those who oppose the Gospel and the coming of God's kingdom.

The readiness to serve and face hardship for Christ and his kingdom
Jesus never hesitated to tell his disciples what they might expect if they chose to follow him. Here Jesus says to his disciples: This is my task for you at its grimmest and worst - do you accept it? This is not the world's way of recruitment for service and toil with promise of honor and reward. After the British defeat at Dunkirk (June 1940), Churchill offered his country blood, toil, sweat, and tears.

This is not the message we prefer to hear when the Lord Jesus commissions us in his service for the advancement of God's kingdom and the battle against Satan's kingdom of darkness and death. Nonetheless, our privilege is to follow in the footsteps of the Lord and Master who willingly laid down his life for us in order to bring us victory over Satan, sin, and death. Are you willing to accept hardship and suffering in serving the Lord Jesus Christ?

"Lord Jesus, help me to patiently and joyfully accept the hardships, adversities, and persecution which come my way in serving you and your kingdom of love, truth,and goodness. Strengthen my faith and give me courage that I may not shrink back from doing your will."

Psalm 37:3-5,18-19,27-28,39-40

3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security.
4 Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
18 The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will abide for ever;
19 they are not put to shame in evil times, in the days of famine they have abundance.
27 Depart from evil, and do good; so shall you abide for ever.
28 For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. The righteous shall be preserved for ever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
39 The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their refuge in the time of trouble.
40 The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked, and saves them, because they take refuge in him.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The Spirit of your heavenly Father speaks through you in every age, by Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD)

"To be sure, we heard in that reading, 'But when they deliver you up, do not be anxious how or what you are to speak... for it is not you who are speaking but the Spirit of your Father who speaks through you.' And he says in another place: 'Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the world' (Matthew 28:20). Does this mean that the people who heard those words of the Lord would be here until the end of the world? The Lord was referring, rather, not only to those about to depart from this life but also to the others, including us and those who would come after us in this life. He saw everyone in his single body, and the words he spoke, 'I am with you even to the end of the world,' were heard by them and by us too. And if we did not hear them then in our knowledge, we heard them in his foreknowledge. Therefore, safe as sheep among the wolves, let us keep the commandments of him who directs us. And let us be 'innocent as doves but cautious as snakes' (Matthew 10:16). Innocent as doves that we may not harm anyone; cautious as snakes that we may be careful of letting anyone harm us." (excerpt from the Sermon 44a.2)

http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/jul10.htm
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Thu Oct 15, 2015 12:51 pm

Daily Reading & Meditation

Tuesday (September 15): "Standing by the cross of Jesus"

Scripture: John 19:25-27 (alternate reading: Luke 7:11-17)
But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold, your son!' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
Meditation: Does suffering or sorrow weigh you down? The cross brings us face to face with Jesus' suffering. He was alone. All his disciples had deserted him except for his mother and three women along with John, the beloved disciple. The apostles had fled in fear. But Mary, the mother of Jesus and three other women who loved him were present at the cross. They demonstrate the power of love for overcoming fear (1 John 4:18).

Love sustains us in hope through griefs and trials
At the beginning of Jesus' birth, when he was presented in the temple, Simeon had predicted that Mary would suffer greatly - a sword will pierce through your own soul (see Luke 2:33-35). Many have called Mary a martyr in spirit. Bernard of Clairvaux said: Jesus "died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his." Mary did not despair in her sorrow and loss, since her faith and hope were sustained by her trust in God and the love she had for her Son.

The love of Christ enables us to bear all things
Jesus, in his grief and suffering, did not forget his mother. He entrusted her care to John, as well as John to her. No loss, no suffering can keep us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39). Paul the Apostle says that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:3). We can find no greater proof of God's love for us than the willing sacrifice of his only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, on the cross. Do you know the love that enables you to bear your cross and to endure trial and difficulties with faith and hope in God?
"Lord Jesus Christ, by your death on the cross you have won pardon for us and freedom from the tyranny of sin and death. May I live in the joy and freedom of your victory over sin, condemnation, and death."

Psalm 31:1-2,6

In you, O Lord, do I seek refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me, rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!
You hate those who pay regard to vain idols; but I trust in the Lord.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Mary stood at the cross with her Son Jesus, by Ambrose of Milan, 339-397 A.D.
"Mary, the mother of the Lord, stood by her Son's cross. No one has taught me this but the holy Evangelist John. Others have related how the earth was shaken at the Lord's passion, the sky was covered with darkness, the sun withdrew itself (Matthew 27:45) and how the thief was, after a faithful confession, received into paradise (Luke 23:43). John tells us what the others have not told, how the Lord while fixed on the cross called to his mother. He thought it was more important that, victorious over his sufferings, Jesus gave her the offices of piety than that he gave her a heavenly kingdom. For if it is the mark of religion to grant pardon to the thief, it is a mark of much greater piety that a mother is honored with such affection by her Son. 'Behold,' he says, 'your son.' ...'Behold your mother.' Christ testified from the cross and divided the offices of piety between the mother and the disciple... Nor was Mary below what was becoming the mother of Christ. When the apostles fled, she stood at the cross and with pious eyes beheld her Son's wounds. For she did not look to the death of her offspring but to the salvation of the world. Or perhaps, because that 'royal hall' [Mary as bearer of the divine King] knew that the redemption of the world would be through the death of her Son, she thought that by her death she also might add something to that universal gift. But Jesus did not need a helper for the redemption of all, who saved all without a helper. This is why he says, 'I am counted among those who go down to the pit. I am like those who have no help' (Psalm 88:4-5). He received indeed the affection of his mother but sought not another's help. Imitate her, holy mothers, who in her only dearly beloved Son set forth so great an example of maternal virtue. For neither have you sweeter children, nor did the Virgin seek the consolation of being able to bear another son." (excerpt from LETTER 63.109–11)
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