Daily Bible Reflections

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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Mon Oct 19, 2015 1:57 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Monday (October 19): Storing up true riches

Scripture: Luke 12:13-21

13 One of the multitude said to him, "Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me." 14 But he said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?" 15 And he said to them, "Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." 16 And he told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; 17 and he thought to himself, `What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' 18 And he said, `I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.' 20 But God said to him, `Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' 21 So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

Meditation: Have you ever tried to settle a money dispute or an inheritance issue? Inheritance disputes are rarely ever easy to resolve, especially when the relatives or close associates of the deceased benefactor cannot agree on who should get what and who should get the most. Why did Jesus refuse to settle an inheritance dispute between two brothers? He saw that the heart of the issue was not justice or fairness but rather greed and possessiveness.

Loving possessions rather than loving my neighbor
The ten commandments were summarized into two prohibitions - do not worship false idols and do not covet what belongs to another. It's the flip side of the two great commandments - love God and love your neighbor. Jesus warned the man who wanted half of his brother's inheritance to "beware of all covetousness." To covet is to wish to get wrongfully what another possesses or to begrudge what God has given to another. Jesus restates the commandment "do not covet", but he also states that a person's life does not consist in the abundance of his or her possessions.

August of Hippo (354-430 AD) comments on Jesus' words to the brother who wanted more:
Greed wants to divide, just as love desires to gather. What is the significance of 'guard against all greed,' unless it is 'fill yourselves with love?' We, possessing love for our portion, inconvenience the Lord because of our brother just as that man did against his brother, but we do not use the same plea. He said, 'Master, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.' We say, 'Master, tell my brother that he may have my inheritance.' (Sermon 265.9)

The fool who was possessed by his riches
Jesus reinforces his point with a parable about a foolish rich man (Luke 12:16-21). Why does Jesus call this wealthy landowner a fool? Jesus does not fault the rich man for his industriousness and skill in acquiring wealth, but rather for his egoism and selfishness - it's mine, all mine, and no one else's. This parable is similar to the parable of the rich man who refused to give any help to the beggar Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). The rich fool had lost the capacity to be concerned for others. His life was consumed with his possessions and his only interests were in himself. His death was the final loss of his soul! What is Jesus' lesson on using material possessions? It is in giving that we receive. Those who are rich towards God receive ample reward - not only in this life - but in eternity as well.

Where is your treasure?
In this little parable Jesus probes our heart - where is your treasure? Treasure has a special connection to the heart, the place of desire and longing, the place of will and focus. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. What do you treasure above all else?
"Lord Jesus, free my heart from all possessiveness and from coveting what belongs to another. May I desire you alone as the one true treasure worth possessing above all else. Help me to make good use of the material blessings you give me that I may use them generously for your glory and for the good of others."

Psalm 100:2-5

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: Surrounded by wealth, blind to charity, by Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD)

"'What does the rich man do, surrounded by a great supply of many blessings beyond all numbering? In distress and anxiety, he speaks the words of poverty. He says, 'What should I do?' ... He does not look to the future. He does not raise his eyes to God. He does not count it worth his while to gain for the mind those treasures that are above in heaven. He does not cherish love for the poor or desire the esteem it gains. He does not sympathize with suffering. It gives him no pain nor awakens his pity. Still more irrational, he settles for himself the length of his life, as if he would also reap this from the ground. He says, 'I will say to myself, "Self, you have goods laid up for many years. Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself." 'O rich man,' one may say, "You have storehouses for your fruits, but where will you receive your many years? By the decree of God, your life is shortened." 'God,' it tells us, 'said to him, "You fool, this night they will require of you your soul. Whose will these things be that you have prepared?" (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 89)
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Sat Dec 19, 2015 9:32 pm

Daily Reading & Meditation

Saturday (December 19): "Many will rejoice at his birth"

Scripture: Luke 1:5-25
5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth; 15 for he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. 16 And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared."
18 And Zechariah said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years." 19 And the angel answered him, "I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time." 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they wondered at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he made signs to them and remained dumb.
23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. 24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she hid herself, saying, 25 "Thus the Lord has done to me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men."

Old Testament Reading: Judges 13:2-7,24-25
2 And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had no children. 3 And the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, "Behold, you are barren and have no children; but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4 Therefore beware, and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, 5 for lo, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from birth; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines." 6 Then the woman came and told her husband, "A man of God came to me, and his countenance was like the countenance of the angel of God, very terrible; I did not ask him whence he was, and he did not tell me his name; 7 but he said to me, `Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son; so then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from birth to the day of his death.'" 24 And the woman bore a son, and called his name Samson; and the boy grew, and the LORD blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him in Mahanehdan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

Meditation: Do you believe that God will fulfill all his promises just as he said? Advent is a time to renew our hope and confidence in God’s faithfulness to the covenant he made with his people. In preparing the way for a Savior, we see the wondrous miracle of two barren couples who conceive and bear sons – Samson in the Old Testament (Judges 13) and John the Baptist in the New Testament (Luke 1:5ff) - who are called by God to bring hope and deliverance at a time of spiritual darkness and difficulty for the people of God.
A blessing beyond expectations
Zechariah was a godly man who was tuned to God’s voice. He was born into a priestly family and it was his privilege to be chosen to enter the inner court of the temple to offer sacrifice to God. Luke records that the people wondered at Zechariah's delay and were amazed that he was speechless when he withdrew from the inner sanctuary. They rightly perceived that he had a special encounter with God. God’s angelic messenger greeted Zechariah with a blessing beyond his expectations.
"Your prayer is heard! You will have a son! And his mission will be great for all of Israel."
Now that seemed like a lot for Zechariah to take in all at once. Could God really do a miracle for his barren wife, Elizabeth? The angel somewhat wisely put Zechariah in his place before God’s mighty action. He became speechless until the day the infant was dedicated to the Lord and given the name, John. When God draws us into his presence, he wants us to be still and quiet before him so we can listen to his voice as he speaks to our hearts and reveals his mind to us. Do you listen attentively to the Lord and do you ponder his word in your heart with trust and confidence?

The Lord is gracious
In the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist, the angel explains to Zechariah the role his son is to play in preparing the way for the Messiah. John will be great in the sight of God. He will live as a Nazarite (see Numbers 6) - a person set apart for the Lord. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even within his mother's womb. And he shall be sent to the people of God, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers and children to God and one another, by turning the "disobedient to the wisdom of the just." The name John means "the Lord is gracious". When God acts to save us he graciously fills us with his Holy Spirit and makes our faith "alive" to his promises. Do you pray that "the hearts of parents and children may be turned to God and one another"?
"Lord Jesus, you bring hope and restoration to your people. Restore and strengthen Christian family life today. Help me to love and serve my family. May your love rule in all my relationships and remove any barriers to peace and harmony."

Psalm 71:3-6, 16-17
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.
16 With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come, I will praise your righteousness, yours alone.
17 O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Born for prophecy - murdered for truth, by Maximus of Turin (died between 408-423 AD)
"I do not know what is the most important thing that we should preach - that he [John the Baptist] was wonderfully born or more wonderfully slain - for he was born as a prophecy and murdered for truth. By his birth he announced the coming of the Savior, and by his death he condemned the incest of Herod (Matthew 14:3-12). This holy and righteous man, who was born in an uncommon way as the result of a promise, merited from God that he should depart this world by an uncommon death - that he should by confessing the Lord lay aside his body, which he had received as a gift from the Lord. Therefore John did everything by the will of God, since he was born and died for the sake of God’s work." (excerpt from SERMON 5.1-.2)
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Sat Dec 19, 2015 9:38 pm

Daily Reading & Meditation

Sunday (December 20): Joyful Anticipation of the Messiah

Scripture: Luke 1:39-45 (alternate reading: Luke 1:26-38)
39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."
Old Testament Reading: Micah 5:2-4
2 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. 3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth;
Meditation: Do you recognize the indwelling presence of the Lord Jesus in your life? Blessed are you if you see and recognize the Lord with the "eyes of faith". The word "blessed" [makarios in Greek] literally means "happiness" or "beatitude". It describes a kind of joy which is serene and untouchable, self-contained, and independent from chance and changing circumstances of life.
God gives us supernatural joy with hope in his promises
There is a certain paradox for those "blessed" by the Lord. Mary was given the "blessedness" of being the mother of the Son of God. That blessedness also would become a sword which pierced her heart as her Son died upon the cross. Anselm, a great teacher and Archbishop of Canterbury (1033-1109), spoke these words in a homily: "Without God's Son nothing could exist; without Mary's son, nothing could be redeemed." To be chosen by God is an awesome privilege and responsibility. Mary received both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow. Her joy was not diminished by her sorrow because it was fueled by her faith, hope, and trust in God and his promises.
Jesus promised his disciples that "no one will take your joy from you" (John 16:22). The Lord gives us a supernatural joy which enables us to bear any sorrow or pain and which neither life nor death can take away. Do you know the joy of a life given over to God in faith and trust?

They were filled with the Holy Spirit
What is the significance of Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth before the birth of Jesus? When Elizabeth greeted Mary and recognized the Messiah in Mary's womb they were filled with the Holy Spirit and with a joyful anticipation of the fulfillment of God's promise to give a Savior. What a marvelous wonder for God to fill not only Elizabeth's heart with his Holy Spirit but the child in her womb as well. John the Baptist, even before the birth of the Messiah, pointed to his coming and leaped for joy in the womb of his mother as the Holy Spirit revealed to him the presence of the King to be born.
The Lord wants to fill each of us with his Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is God's gift to us to enable us to know and experience the indwelling presence of God and the power of his kingdom. The Holy Spirit is the way in which God reigns within each of us. Do you live in the joy and knowledge of God's indwelling presence with you through his Holy Spirit?
"Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit and give me joy in seeking you more earnestly. Increase my faith in all your promises, my hope in the joy of heaven, and my love for You as my All."

Psalm 80:1-3,14-15,17-19
1 Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
2 before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh! Stir up your might, and come to save us!
3 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!
14 Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine,
15 the stock which your right hand planted.
17 But let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you hast made strong for yourself!
18 Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name!
19 Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: John prophecies from the womb, by Maximus of Turin (died between 408-423 AD)
"Not yet born, already John prophesies and, while still in the enclosure of his mother's womb, confesses the coming of Christ with movements of joy - since he could not do so with his voice. As Elizabeth says to holy Mary, 'As soon as you greeted me, the child in my womb exulted for joy.' John exults, then, before he is born. Before his eyes can see what the world looks like, he can recognize the Lord of the world with his spirit. In this regard, I think that the prophetic phrase is appropriate: 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you came forth from the womb I sanctified you' (Jeremiah 1:5). Thus we ought not to marvel that after Herod put him in prison, he continued to announce Christ to his disciples from his confinement, when even confined in the womb he preached the same Lord by his movements." (excerpt from SERMON 5.4)
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Sat Jan 09, 2016 8:26 pm

Daily Reading & Meditation

Sunday (January 10): "Baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire"

Scripture: Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

Meditation:
Do you want to be on fire for God? John the Baptist said that the Messiah would "baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire." Fire in biblical times was associated with God and with his action in the world and in the lives of his people. God sometimes manifested his presence by use of fire, such as the burning bush which was not consumed when God spoke to Moses (Exodus 3:2). The image of fire was also used to symbolize God's glory (Ezekiel 1:4, 13), his protective presence (2 Kings 6:17), his holiness (Deuteronomy 4:24), righteous judgment (Zechariah 13:9), and his wrath against sin (Isaiah 66:15-16). It is also used of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11 and Acts 2:3). God's fire both purifies and cleanses, and it inspires a reverent fear of God and of his word in us.
Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire
Jesus came to give us the fire of his Spirit that we may radiate the joy and truth of the Gospel to a world in desperate need of God's light and truth. His word has power to change and transform our lives that we may be lights pointing others to Christ. Like John the Baptist, we too are called to give testimony to the light and truth of Jesus Christ. Do you want the Lord's power, grace, and love to burn brightly in your life? Ask him to fill you with his Holy Spirit.

John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3). Why did Jesus, the Sinless One, submit himself to John's baptism? In this humble submission we see a foreshadowing of the "baptism" of his bloody death upon the cross. Jesus' baptism is the acceptance and the beginning of his mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allowed himself to be numbered among sinners. Jesus submitted himself entirely to his Father's will. Out of love he consented to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins. Do you know the joy of trust and submission to God?

Jesus' baptism - beginning of a new creation
The Father proclaimed his entire delight in his Son and spoke audibly for all to hear. The Holy Spirit, too, was present as he anointed Jesus for his ministry which began that day as he rose from the waters of the Jordan river. Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all who come to believe in him. At his baptism the heavens were opened and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, signifying the beginning of a new creation.

Heaven will open for those who bow before the Lord
How can we enter into the mystery of Jesus' humble self-abasement and baptism? Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389 AD), an early church father tells us: "Let us be buried with Christ by Baptism to rise with him; let us go down with him to be raised with him; and let us rise with him to be glorified with him." Do you want to see your life transformed in the likeness of Christ? And do you want to become a more effective instrument of the Gospel? Examine Jesus' humility and ask the Holy Spirit to forge this same attitude in your heart. As you do, heaven will open for you as well.
The Lord Jesus is ever ready to renew and refashion us in his likeness through the gift and working of the Holy Spirit - and he anoints us for mission as ambassadors of his kingdom of righteousness (moral goodness), peace, and joy (Romans 14:17). We are called to be the "light" and salt" of his kingdom that radiate the beauty and aroma of his mercy and goodness to those around us (Matthew 5:13,15-16). The Lord Jesus wants his love and truth to shine through us that many others may may find new life, freedom, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Ask the Lord Jesus to fill you with his Holy Spirit that you may radiate the joy of the Gospel to those around you.

"Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit and with the fire of your love and goodness. May I always find joy and delight in seeking to please you in doing your will just as you have delighted in the joy of pleasing your Father and doing his will."

Psalm 29:1-4,9-10

1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name; worship the LORD in holy array.
3 The voice of the LORD is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, upon many waters.
4 The voice of the LORD is powerful, the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
9 The voice of the LORD makes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forests bare; and in his temple all cry, "Glory!"
10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king for ever.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The divine - human reconciliation, attributed to Hippolytus, 170-236 A.D.

"Do you see, beloved, how many and how great blessings we would have lost if the Lord had yielded to the exhortation of John and declined baptism? For the heavens had been shut before this. The region above was inaccessible. We might descend to the lower parts, but not ascend to the upper. So it happened not only that the Lord was being baptized - he also was making new the old creation. He was bringing the alienated under the scepter of adoption (Romans 8:15). For straightway 'the heavens were opened to him.' A reconciliation took place between the visible and the invisible. The celestial orders were filled with joy, the diseases of earth were healed, secret things made known, those at enmity restored to amity. For you have heard the word of the Evangelist, saying, 'The heavens were opened to him,' on account of three wonders [appearance of the eternal Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together at the baptism]. At the baptism of Christ the Bridegroom, it was fitting that the heavenly chamber should open its glorious gates. So when the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove, and the Father's voice spread everywhere, it was fitting that 'the gates of heaven should be lifted up.'" (excerpt from THE DISCOURSE ON THE HOLY THEOPHANY 6)

http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/jan10.htm
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Sun Apr 24, 2016 1:59 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Sunday (April 24): "Love one another as I have loved you"

Scripture: John 13:31-35
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.' 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Meditation: How does God reveal his glory to us? During his last supper with his disciples on the eve of his sacrifice on the cross, Jesus speaks of his glory and the glory of his Father. What is this glory? It is the cross which Jesus speaks of here. The cross of Jesus reveals the tremendous love and mercy of God the Father and his beloved Son for the human race. John the Evangelist writes, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

The true nature of love
There is no greater glory and honor that one can offer than the willing sacrifice of one's life for the sake of another. This is the true nature of love - the total self-giving and free offering of one's life for the good of another. A mother who loves her child will do everything in her power to nurture, protect, and save the life of the child. A soldier devoted to his country's welfare, will endure any hardship and suffering and willingly sacrifice his own life to defend his people. God the Father showed the unfathomable depth of his love and mercy by willingly offering his only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world. To ransom a slave God gave his only Son. That slave is you and me and the whole human race which is bound in sin and death and separation from God.

The cancer of sin is healed by Christ's merciful love
Paul the Apostle tells us, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). The Lord Jesus died for our sins to bring us abundant new life in his Spirit and to restore our nature in the true image and likeness of God. The cancer of sin shows us the ugliness of greed, hatred, and envy which destroy the very core of our being and rob us of life and love. That is why evil infects the world which God created out of his boundless love and goodness. God did not create evil and suffering, but through suffering he conquers evil with goodness, truth, and mercy and righteousness.

That is why Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment and way of love - not a commandment that replaces the Old Covenant commandment to love one's neighbor as oneself. This new commandment transforms the old commandment with the love and mercy which the Lord Jesus poured out for us on the Cross of Calvary. There death was defeated, and sin was covered with merciful love and forgiveness, and Satan's power was crushed through Godly meekness and obedience. Jesus proved that love is stronger than death. That is how we overcome the world and conquer our enemies - Satan, who is the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning, the world which stands in opposition to God, and our own sinful pride and fear of death.

The love of Christ conquers all
The Father has glorified his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, by raising him from the dead. And the Lord shares his glory with us and with all who believe in him as their Lord and Savior. Augustine of Hippo wrote, God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love. God's love is direct, personal, and wholly oriented to our good welfare and happiness. What can hold us back from loving the One who suffered and died for us and who offers us abundant joy and happiness with him forever? Nothing can separate us from that love except our own stubborn pride, envy, and self-deception. Satan rebelled out of pride and envy - he wanted to be God's rival. Adam disobeyed because he listened to Satan's lie and deceptive promise to glory apart from God. We sin because we love ourselves more than we love God and our neighbor. Only the cross can break the curse of sin and bring full restoration of body, mind, and soul.

We are called to love as Christ loves us
We were made for glory - the glory which comes from God and which lasts forever. That glory can only be obtained in the cross of Jesus Christ. And the price for that glory is the total offering of our lives for the One who loved us first and who died on the cross to save us from everlasting death and destruction. God offers us the free gift of faith which enables us to believe in his only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who frees us from slavery to sin so we can live as sons and daughters of God. The distinctive mark of the followers of Jesus is love - a love not bound by fear, greed, or selfishness - but a love full of compassion, mercy, kindness, and goodness.

God's love has been poured into our hearts
How can we love one another as Christ has loved us? Paul the Apostle tells us that "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Romans 5:5). Jesus poured out his Holy Spirit on his disciples at Pentecost and he pours out his Spirit today on all who believe in him. If we yield our hearts to Jesus and submit to his will for us, then the Holy Spirit will purify all that is unloving, unkind, and unforgiving in us. The Lord wants to transform our minds so we can understand his word of truth and life which has power to set us free from ignorance, unbelief, deception, and prejudice.

This is the power that overcomes the world - the triumphant cross of Christ which breaks the destructive forces of sin, hatred, and division. And we share in the power of Christ's victory by embracing the cross which the Lord Jesus sets before each one of us. What is the cross that I must take up daily in order to follow the Lord Jesus? When my will crosses with God's will, then his will must be done. The cross of Christ sets us free to live no longer for ourselves but for Christ and his kingdom of peace, joy, and righteousness (moral goodness). Our calling and privilege is to serve as Christ has served and to love and he has loved. That is the way we share in the glory of our heavenly Father who gave us his beloved Son who laid down his life for each one of us.

The distinctive mark of every disciple and follower of Jesus Christ is love - a love that is ready to forgive and forget past injuries, to heal and restore rather than inflict revenge and injury. The cross of Jesus is the only way to pardon, peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Every other way will fail or fall short of the glory and victory which Jesus Christ has won for us through his death and resurrection. If we embrace his love and truth and allow his Holy Spirit to purify and transform our hearts and minds, then we will find the inner freedom, joy, and strength we need to love without measure, to forgive without limit, and to serve without reward - save that of knowing we are serving the One who wants to be united with us in an unbreakable bond of peace and joy forever.

"Lord Jesus, your love knows no bounds and surpasses everything I could desire and long for. Fill me with the fire of your love and with the joy of your Holy Spirit that I may freely serve my neighbor with loving-kindness, tenderhearted mercy, and generous care for their well-being."

Psalm 145:1,8-13
1 I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name for ever and ever.
8 The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.
10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you!
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power,
12 to make known to the sons of men your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Christ's love goes further than anything previous, by Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD)
"He plainly indicates the novelty involved in his command here - and the extent to which the love he enjoins here surpasses the old idea of mutual love (Deuteronomy 6:5) - by adding the words 'Even as I have loved you, you also should love one another.' ... The law of Moses mandated the necessity of loving our brothers as ourselves, yet our Lord Jesus the Christ loved us far more than he loved himself. Otherwise, he would have never descended to our humiliation from his original exaltation in the form of God and on an equality with God the Father, nor would he have undergone for our sakes the exceptional bitterness of his death in the flesh, nor have submitted to beatings from the Jews, to shame, to derision, and all his other sufferings too numerous to mention. Being rich, he would never have become poor if he had not loved us far more than he loved himself. It was indeed something new for love to go as far as that! Christ commands us to love as he did, putting neither reputation, wealth or anything else before love of our brothers and sisters. If need be, we even need to be prepared to face death for our neighbor’s salvation as our Savior's blessed disciples did, as well as those who followed in their footsteps. To them the salvation of others mattered more than their own lives, and they were ready to do anything or to suffer anything to save souls that were perishing." (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 9)
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Fri Aug 26, 2016 10:04 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Friday (August 26): The foolish will miss heaven's wedding feast
Scripture: Matthew 25:1-13

1 "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, `Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' 7 Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, `Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' 9 But the wise replied, `Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.' 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, `Lord, lord, open to us.' 12 But he replied, `Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.' 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour."

Meditation: Are you missing out on what's most important in life? Being unprepared can lead to unnecessary trouble and even disaster! What good is a life-jacket left on the shore when the boat is sinking? Jesus' story of ten single ladies waiting for a wedding procession in the middle of the night seems strange to most westerners today. But Jesus' audience knew all too well how easily this could happen to them.

Don't miss the most important engagement of all
Wedding customs in ancient Palestine required extra vigilance and preparation for everyone involved. (Some near eastern villages still follow this custom.) The bride and groom did not go away for their honeymoon, but celebrated for a whole week with their family and friends. It was the custom for the groom, in company with his friends, to come at his discretion and get his bride and bring her to their new home. They would take the longest route possible so that many villagers along the way could join in the wedding procession. Once they arrived and closed the doors, no one else could be admitted. If the groom decided to come and bring his bride at night, then lights were required by necessity to guide the travelers through the dark and narrow streets. No one was allowed on the village streets at night without a lamp!
To show up for a wedding party without proper attire and travel arrangements is like trying to get into a special event today that requires a prearranged permit or reservation. You just don’t get in without the proper pass. Can you imagine the frustration travelers might experience when going abroad and finding out that they can’t get into some country because they don't have the right visa or a valid passport.

The consequences of being unprepared to meet the Lord
Jesus warns us that there are consequences for being unprepared. There are certain things you cannot obtain at the last moment. For example, students cannot prepare for their exams when the day of testing is already upon them. A person cannot get the right kind of character, strength, and skill required for a task at hand unless they already possess it, such as a captain with courage and nautical skills who must steer a ship through a dangerous storm at sea.
When the Lord Jesus comes to lead you to his heavenly banquet will you be ready to hear his voice and follow? Our eternal welfare depends on our hearing, and many have trained themselves to not hear. We will not be prepared to meet the Lord, face to face, when he calls us on the day of judgment, unless we listen to him today. The Lord invites us to feast at his heavenly banquet table. Are you ready?

"Lord Jesus, make me vigilant and attentive to your voice that I may heed your call at all times. May I find joy in your presence and delight in doing your will."

Psalm 78:1-7

1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old,
3 things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders which he has wrought.
5 He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children;
6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children,
7 so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments;

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The Kingdom of God compared with ten maidens, by Hilary of Poitiers (315-367 AD)

"The whole story is about the great day of the Lord, when those things concealed from the human mind will be revealed through our understanding of divine judgment. Then the faith true to the Lord's coming will win the just reward for unwavering hope. For in the five wise and five foolish virgins (Matthew 25:2), a complete separation between the faithful and unfaithful is established... The wise virgins are those who, embracing the time available to them, were prepared at the first onset of the coming of the Lord. But the foolish were those who were lax and unmindful. They troubled themselves only over present matters and, forgetting what God said, did not direct their efforts toward hope for resurrection." (excerpt from the commentary ON MATTHEW 27.3,5)
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Tue Aug 30, 2016 9:39 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Tuesday (August 30): "His word was with authority and power"

Scripture: Luke 4:31-37
31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath; 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word was with authority. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon; and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 "Ah! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God." 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, "What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out." 37 And reports of him went out into every place in the surrounding region.

Meditation: When you listen to the word of God in Scripture how do you respond to it? Do you hear it with indifference, selective submission, or with the full assent of faith and obedience? When Jesus taught he spoke with authority. He spoke the word of God as no one had spoken it before. When the Rabbis taught they supported their statements with quotes from other authorities. The prophets spoke with delegated authority - Thus says the Lord. When Jesus spoke he needed no authorities to back his statements. He was authority incarnate - the Word of God made flesh. When he spoke, God spoke. When he commanded even the demons obeyed.

God's Word is alive and active
Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD), in his commentary on this passage from the Gospel of Luke, tells us that Jesus had all power and authority to heal every sickness and expel every demonic power because he was the living and active Word of God the Father (John 1:14 and Hebrews 4:12):
The bystanders, witnesses of such great deeds, were astonished at the power of his word. He performed his miracles, without offering up a prayer, asking no one else at all for the power to accomplish them. Since he is the living and active Word of God the Father, by whom all things exist, and in whom all things are, in his own person he crushed Satan and closed the profane mouth of impure demons. [Commentary on Luke, Homily 12].

God's Word has power to set us free
God's living and abiding Word is truth and life and it has power to set us free from every sin and oppression and bring us healing of body, mind, and spirit. If the demons, the fallen angels, were able to recognize the power and authority of Jesus, the Son of God, how much more should we recognize and believe in the power and authority of the Gospel - the good news of Jesus Christ, and entrust our lives to the Lord Jesus?

God's Word produces life and freedom for us
The Lord Jesus speaks his life-giving Word to us each and every day so that we may walk in the freedom of his love and truth. If we approach the Word of God with meekness and humility, and with an eagerness to do everything the Lord desires, we are in a much better position to learn what God wants to teach us through his word. Are you ready to follow the Lord Jesus and to conform your life according to his word?
"Lord Jesus, you have the words of everlasting life. May I never doubt your saving love and mercy, and the power of your word to bring healing, restoration, and freedom from every sin and oppression."

Psalm 27:1,4,13-14
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?
4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.
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!

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: New creation begins on the Sabbath, by Ambrose of Milan, 339-397 A.D.
"He describes the works of divine healing begun on the sabbath day, to show from the outset that the new creation began where the old creation ceased. He showed us that the Son of God is not under the law but above the law, and that the law will not be destroyed but fulfilled (Matthew 5:17). For the world was not made through the law but by the Word, as we read: 'By the Word of the Lord were the heavens established' (Psalm 33:6). Thus the law is not destroyed but fulfilled, so that the renewal of humankind, already in error, may occur. The apostle too says, 'Stripping yourselves of the old man, put on the new, who was created according to Christ' (Colossians 3:9-10, Ephesians 4:22,24). He fittingly began on the sabbath, that he may show himself as Creator. He completed the work that he had already begun by weaving together works with works. (excerpt from EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF LUKE 4.58)
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Thu Sep 01, 2016 8:34 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Thursday (September 1): "You will catch people for the kingdom of God"

Scripture: Luke 5:1-11
1 While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret. 2 And he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." 5 And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, 7 they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." 9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men." 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Meditation: Why did Jesus perform the miracle of the great catch of fish? No doubt the great crowd of people who had pressed upon Jesus had something to do with this miracle. They were very hungry for God and were eager to hear his word. Jesus wanted to use this occasion to teach his disciples an important lesson. Although Simon was wearied from a night of fruitless toil, he nonetheless did what the Lord Jesus told him to do: At your word I will let down the nets. When you meet disappointment and failure, do you press upon the Lord, like Simon, to hear his word and to receive his command?

God expects greater things than we can do by ourselves
This incident tells us an important truth about how God works in and through each of us for his glory. God expects of us greater things than we can do by ourselves. When we cooperate in his works, we accomplish far beyond what we can do on our own. Therese of Lisieux, a Carmelite nun who died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-four, wrote to a friend: "Jesus has so incomprehensible a love for us that he wills that we have a share with him in the salvation of souls. He wills to do nothing without us. The Creator of the universe awaits the prayer of a poor little soul to save other souls redeemed like it at the price of all his Blood."
When God's word is spoken his kingdom is revealed and his power is released. When people respond to God's word with faith and obedience they are changed and made "a new creation" in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Witness the joy of the Gospel
God chooses ordinary people, like you and me, as his ambassadors and he uses the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives and work situations to draw others into his kingdom. Jesus speaks the same message to us today: we will "catch people" for the kingdom of God if we allow the light of Jesus Christ to shine through us. God wants others to see the light of Christ in us in the way we live, speak, and witness the joy of the Gospel. Paul the Apostle says, "But thanks be to God, who in Christ Jesus always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing" (2 Corinthians 2:15).

Do you witness to those around you the joy of the Gospel and do you pray for your neighbors, co-workers, and relatives that they may come to know the Lord Jesus Christ and grow in the knowledge of his love and truth?
"Lord Jesus, fill my heart with love and compassion for those who do not know you or follow you. May I be a good witness of your truth and salvation to my family, friends, and co-workers."
Psalm 98:2-6
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: By faith Peter casts the nets of Christ's teaching, by Maximus of Turin (died between 408-423 AD)
"'That you may understand that the Lord was speaking of spiritual fishing, however, Peter says, 'Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.' It is as if he were saying, 'Through the whole night our fishing has brought us nothing, and we have been laboring in vain. Now I will not fish with fishing gear but with grace, not with diligence acquired by skill but with the perseverance acquired by devotion.' When Peter lets down the nets at the word, therefore, he is in fact letting down the teachings in Christ. When he unfolds the tightly woven and well-ordered nets at the command of the Master, he is really laying out words in the name of the Savior in a fitting and clear fashion. By these words he is able to save not creatures but souls. 'We toiled all night,' he says, 'and took nothing.' Peter, who beforehand was unable to see in order to make a catch, enduring darkness without Christ, had indeed toiled through the whole night. But when the Savior's light shone upon him the darkness scattered, and by faith he began to discern in the deep what he could not see with his eyes." (excerpt from SERMON 110.2.1)
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Sun Sep 18, 2016 12:18 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Sunday (September 18): "Who will entrust to you the true riches?"

Scripture: Luke 16:1-13
1 He also said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a steward, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. 2 And he called him and said to him, `What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.' 3 And the steward said to himself, `What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that people may receive me into their houses when I am put out of the stewardship.' 5 So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, `How much do you owe my master?' 6 He said, `A hundred measures of oil.' And he said to him, `Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.' 7 Then he said to another, `And how much do you owe?' He said, `A hundred measures of wheat.' He said to him, `Take your bill, and write eighty.' 8 The master commended the dishonest steward for his shrewdness; for the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light."
9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations. 10 "He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."

Meditation: What does wealth and riches have to do with the kingdom of God? Jesus seemed to praise a steward (a manager entrusted with his master's goods) who misused his wealthy employer's money. What did the steward do that made Jesus praise him? The steward was responsible for managing his wealthy landowner's property. The steward very likely overcharged his master's tenants for their use of the land and kept more than his fair share of the profit. When the landowner discovered the steward's dishonest practice he immediately removed him from his job, leaving him penniless and ashamed to beg or do manual work.

The necessity of prudent foresight to avert disaster
Before news of his dismissal became public knowledge, the shrewd steward struck a deal with his master's debtors. In discounting their debts he probably was giving up his generous commission. Such a deal won him great favor with the debtors. Since the steward acted as the landowner's agent, such a deal made his master look very generous and forgiving towards those who owned him money. Surely everyone would praise such a generous landowner as the town hero! Since the master could not undo the steward's cancellation of the debts without losing face and making his debtors resent him, he praised the steward for outwitting him and making him appear as a generous and merciful landowner.

Generous giving is rewarded with treasure that lasts forever
What's the point of Jesus' parable? Jesus did not praise the steward for his dishonest behavior but for his shrewd foresight in relieving the debts of others who he believed would, in turn, treat him as a friend and show him mercy, kindness, and generosity in his time of need and great want. Jesus immediately followed this parable with an exhortation to his followers to make use of the world's material goods, including "tainted money" ( which in Hebrew means "unrighteous mammon"), to relieve those who are endebted to us for the material and physical help we give them in their time of need and want. In the Scriptures generous giving is connected with alms giving - the sharing of our financial and material resources with those in need (Luke 12:33). Those who receive alms become your friends because you are merciful to them in their time of need. And God who sees all, rewards those who are generous in helping others.
Generous giving will be repaid in kind. Augustine of Hippo reminds us that we are all beggars of God.
"Even though you possess plenty, you are still poor. You abound in temporal possessions, but you need things eternal. You listen to the needs of a human beggar, you yourself are a beggar of God. What you do with those who beg from you is what God will do with his beggar. You are filled and you are empty. Fill your neighbor from your fullness, so that your emptiness may be filled from God's fullness" (Sermon 56, 9).

Paul the Apostle reminds us, "We brought nothing into this world and we cannot take anything out of this world" (1 Timothy 6:7). The Lord Jesus wants us to make good use of all the resources that he gives us and that come into our possession. Our life is short - but how we invest in this present life will determine our future in the age to come when the Lord Jesus will raise our mortal bodies to immortality and give to each what he or she has sown in this present life.
The rabbis had a saying, "The rich help the poor in this world, but the poor help the rich in the world to come." Ambrose, a 4th century bishop commenting on the parable of the rich fool who tore down his barns to build bigger ones to store his goods. said: The bosoms of the poor, the houses of widows, the mouths of children are the barns which last forever. The true treasure which lasts is the treasure stored up for us in heaven. God richly rewards those who give generously from the heart to help those in need.
True generosity does not impoverish - but enriches the giver
What is the enemy of generosity? It's greed, the excessive desire for personal gain and security. However, we do not need to be afraid for true generosity does not impoverish the giver, but enriches that person a hundredfold! Generosity expands the soul - but greed contracts it. God is generous and superabundant in lavishing his gifts upon us. We can never outmatch God in generosity. He has given us the best of gifts in sending us his only-begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who offered up his life for us on the cross. The Father also offers us the gift of the Holy Spirit who fills us with the fruit of peace, joy, patience, kindness, love, and self-control (Galatians 5:22) - and many other blessings as well. Everything we have is an outright gift of God. Do you know the joy and freedom of blessing others with the gifts and resources God has given to you?

What controls or rules your life?
Jesus concludes his parable with a lesson on what controls or rules our lives. Who is the master (or ruler) in charge of your life? Our "master" is that which governs our thought-life, shapes our ideals, and controls the desires of the heart and the values we choose to live by. We can be ruled by many different things - the love of money or possessions, the power of position, the glamor of wealth and prestige, the driving force of unruly passions and addictions. Ultimately the choice boils down to two: God and "mammon". What is mammon? "Mammon" stands for "material wealth or possessions" or whatever tends to "control our appetites and desires."
When a number of the religious leaders heard Jesus' parable they reacted with scorn (Luke 16:14). Jesus spoke to the condition of their hearts - they were lovers of money (Luke 16:14). Love of money and wealth crowd out love of God and love of neighbor. Jesus makes clear that our heart must either be possessed by God's love or our heart will be possessed by the love of something else.
The Lord alone can satisfy our desires and give us generous hearts
There is one Master alone who has the power to set us free from greed and possessiveness. That Master is the Lord Jesus Christ who died to set us free and who rose to give us new abundant life. The Lord Jesus invites us to make him the Master and Lord of our lives. He alone can satisfy the desires of our heart and transform us in his love through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Our money, time, and possessions are precious resources and gifts from God. We can guard them jealously for ourselves alone or allow the love of the Lord to guide us in making good use of them for the benefit of others - especially those in need - and for the work of the Lord in advancing his kingdom. Ask the Lord to fill your heart with a spirit of generosity and joy in sharing what you have with others.
"Lord Jesus, all that I have is a gift from you. May I love you freely and generously with all that I possess. Help me to be a wise and faithful steward of the resources you put at my disposal, including the use of my time, money, and possessions."

Psalm 1138:1-8
1 Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD!
2 Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and for evermore!
3 From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the LORD is to be praised!
4 The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens!
5 Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high,
6 who looks far down upon the heavens and the earth?
7 He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
8 to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Jesus recommends the foresight, prudence, and ingenuity of the steward, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
"Why did the Lord Jesus Christ present this parable to us? He surely did not approve of that cheat of a servant who cheated his master, stole from him and did not make it up from his own pocket. On top of that, he also did some extra pilfering. He caused his master further loss, in order to prepare a little nest of quiet and security for himself after he lost his job. Why did the Lord set this before us? It is not because that servant cheated but because he exercised foresight for the future. When even a cheat is praised for his ingenuity, Christians who make no such provision blush. I mean, this is what he added, 'Behold, the children of this age are more prudent than the children of light.' They perpetrate frauds in order to secure their future. In what life, after all, did that steward insure himself like that? What one was he going to quit when he bowed to his master's decision? He was insuring himself for a life that was going to end. Would you not insure yourself for eternal life?" (excerpt from 359A.10.)
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Sat Sep 24, 2016 10:49 pm

Daily Reading & Meditation

Sunday (September 25): Lazarus was carried to Abraham's bosom

Gospel Reading: Luke 16:19-31


19 "There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.' 25 But Abraham said, `Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' 27 And he said, `Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house, 28 for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' 29 But Abraham said, `They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' 30 And he said, `No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31 He said to him, `If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'"

Meditation:
What most absorbs your time, your attention, and your heart? In the parable of the rich man who refused to help the beggar named Lazarus Jesus paints a dramatic scene of contrasts - riches and poverty, heaven and hell, compassion and indifference, inclusion and exclusion. We also see an abrupt and dramatic reversal of fortune. Lazarus was not only poor and a beggar, he was also sick and unable to fend for himself. He was "laid" at the gates of the rich man's house. The dogs which licked his sores probably also stole the little bread he got for himself. Dogs in the ancient world symbolized contempt. Enduring the torment of these savage dogs only added to the poor man's miseries and sufferings.

The rich man treated the beggar with contempt and indifference, until he found his fortunes reversed at the end of his life! In God's economy, those who hold on possessively to what they have, lose it all in the end, while those who share generously receive back many times more than they gave away.

Hope in God and his merciful help
The name Lazarus means God is my help. Despite a life of misfortune and suffering, Lazarus did not lose hope in God. His eyes were set on a treasure stored up for him in heaven. The rich man, however, could not see beyond his material wealth and possessions. He not only had every thing he needed, he selfishly spent all he had on himself. He was too absorbed in what he possessed to notice the needs of those around him. He lost sight of God and the treasure of heaven because he was preoccupied with seeking happiness in material things. He served wealth rather than God. In the end the rich man became a beggar!

Do you know the joy and freedom of possessing God as your true and lasting treasure? Those who put their hope and security in the kingdom of heaven will not be disappointed (see Hebrews 6:19).

"Lord Jesus, you are my joy and my treasure. Make me rich in the things of your heavenly kingdom and give me a generous heart that I may freely share with others the spiritual and material treasures you have given to me."

Psalm 146:1,6b-10

1 Praise the LORD, O my soul!
6b LORD who keeps faith for ever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free;
8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
9 The LORD watches over the sojourners, he upholds the widow and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
10 The LORD will reign for ever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!

A Daily Quote for the early church fathers: Creator of both rich and poor, by Augustine of Hippo, 3540-430 A.D.


"God made both the rich and the poor. So the rich and the poor are born alike. You meet one another as you walk on the way together. Do not oppress or defraud anyone. One may be needy and another may have plenty. But the Lord is the maker of them both. Through the person who has, He helps the one who needs - and through the person who does not have, He tests the one who has." (excerpt from Sermon 35, 7)
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Mon Sep 26, 2016 4:22 pm

Daily Reading & Meditation

Tuesday (September 27): "Jesus' face was set toward Jerusalem"

Scripture: Luke 9:51-56
51 When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him; 53 but the people would not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?" 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 And they went on to another village.

Meditation: Are you surprised to see two of Jesus' disciples praying for the destruction of a Samaritan village? The Jews and Samaritans had been divided for centuries. Jewish pilgrims who passed through Samaritan territory were often treated badly and even assaulted. Jesus did the unthinkable for a Jew. He not only decided to travel through Samaritan territory at personal risk, but he also asked for hospitality in one of their villages!

Jesus faced rejection and abuse in order to reconcile us with God and one another
Jesus' offer of friendship was rebuffed. Is there any wonder that the disciples were indignant and felt justified in wanting to see retribution done to this village? Wouldn't you respond the same way? Jesus, however, rebukes his disciples for their lack of toleration. Jesus had "set his face toward Jerusalem" to die on a cross that Jew, Samaritan and Gentile might be reconciled with God and be united as one people in Christ.

Jesus seeks our highest good - friend and enemy alike
Tolerance is a much needed virtue today. But aren't we often tolerant for the wrong thing or for the wrong motive? Christian love seeks the highest good of both one's neighbor and one's enemy. When Abraham Lincoln was criticized for his courtesy and tolerance towards his enemies during the American Civil War, he responded: "Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?" How do you treat those who cross you and cause you trouble? Do you seek their good rather than their harm?
"Lord Jesus, you are gracious, merciful, and kind. Set me free from my prejudice and intolerance towards those I find disagreeable, and widen my heart to love and to do good even to those who wish me harm or evil."

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: Jesus gave power and authority to his apostles, by Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD)
"It would be false to affirm that our Savior did not know what was about to happen, because he knows all things. He knew, of course, that the Samaritans would not receive his messengers. There can be no doubt of this. Why then did he command them to go before him? It was his custom to benefit diligently the holy apostles in every possible way, and because of this, it was his practice sometimes to test them... What was the purpose of this occurrence? He was going up to Jerusalem, as the time of his passion was already drawing near. He was about to endure the scorn of the Jews. He was about to be destroyed by the scribes and Pharisees and to suffer those things that they inflicted upon him when they went to accomplish all of violence and wicked boldness. He did not want them to be offended when they saw him suffering. He also wanted them to be patient and not to complain greatly, although people would treat them rudely. He, so to speak, made the Samaritans’ hatred a preparatory exercise in the matter. They had not received the messengers... For their benefit, he rebuked the disciples and gently restrained the sharpness of their wrath, not permitting them to grumble violently against those who sinned. He rather persuaded them to be patient and to cherish a mind that is unmovable by anything like this." (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 56)
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Wed Sep 28, 2016 9:59 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Tuesday (September 27): "Jesus' face was set toward Jerusalem"

Scripture: Luke 9:51-56
51 When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him; 53 but the people would not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?" 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 And they went on to another village.

Meditation: Are you surprised to see two of Jesus' disciples praying for the destruction of a Samaritan village? The Jews and Samaritans had been divided for centuries. Jewish pilgrims who passed through Samaritan territory were often treated badly and even assaulted. Jesus did the unthinkable for a Jew. He not only decided to travel through Samaritan territory at personal risk, but he also asked for hospitality in one of their villages!
Jesus faced rejection and abuse in order to reconcile us with God and one another
Jesus' offer of friendship was rebuffed. Is there any wonder that the disciples were indignant and felt justified in wanting to see retribution done to this village? Wouldn't you respond the same way? Jesus, however, rebukes his disciples for their lack of toleration. Jesus had "set his face toward Jerusalem" to die on a cross that Jew, Samaritan and Gentile might be reconciled with God and be united as one people in Christ.

Jesus seeks our highest good - friend and enemy alike
Tolerance is a much needed virtue today. But aren't we often tolerant for the wrong thing or for the wrong motive? Christian love seeks the highest good of both one's neighbor and one's enemy. When Abraham Lincoln was criticized for his courtesy and tolerance towards his enemies during the American Civil War, he responded: "Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?" How do you treat those who cross you and cause you trouble? Do you seek their good rather than their harm?
"Lord Jesus, you are gracious, merciful, and kind. Set me free from my prejudice and intolerance towards those I find disagreeable, and widen my heart to love and to do good even to those who wish me harm or evil."

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: Jesus gave power and authority to his apostles, by Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD)
"It would be false to affirm that our Savior did not know what was about to happen, because he knows all things. He knew, of course, that the Samaritans would not receive his messengers. There can be no doubt of this. Why then did he command them to go before him? It was his custom to benefit diligently the holy apostles in every possible way, and because of this, it was his practice sometimes to test them... What was the purpose of this occurrence? He was going up to Jerusalem, as the time of his passion was already drawing near. He was about to endure the scorn of the Jews. He was about to be destroyed by the scribes and Pharisees and to suffer those things that they inflicted upon him when they went to accomplish all of violence and wicked boldness. He did not want them to be offended when they saw him suffering. He also wanted them to be patient and not to complain greatly, although people would treat them rudely. He, so to speak, made the Samaritans’ hatred a preparatory exercise in the matter. They had not received the messengers... For their benefit, he rebuked the disciples and gently restrained the sharpness of their wrath, not permitting them to grumble violently against those who sinned. He rather persuaded them to be patient and to cherish a mind that is unmovable by anything like this." (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 56)
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Tue Oct 04, 2016 5:14 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Tuesday (October 4): "You are anxious - one thing is needful"

Scripture: Luke 10:38-42
38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." 41 But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; 42 one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her."

Meditation: Does the peace of Christ reign in your home and in your personal life? Jesus loved to visit the home of Martha and Mary and enjoyed their gracious hospitality. In this brief encounter we see two very different temperaments in Martha and Mary. Martha loved to serve, but in her anxious manner of waiting on Jesus, she caused unrest. Mary, in her simple and trusting manner, waited on Jesus by sitting attentively at his feet. She instinctively knew that what the Lord and Teacher most wanted at that moment was her attentive presence.

Give your concerns and pre-occupations to the Lord
Anxiety and preoccupation keep us from listening and from giving the Lord our undivided attention. The Lord bids us to give him our concerns and anxieties because he is trustworthy and able to meet any need we have. His grace frees us from needless concerns and preoccupation. Do you seek the Lord attentively? And does the Lord find a welcomed and honored place in your home?

Always welcome the Lord into your home and heart
The Lord Jesus desires that we make a place for him, not only in our hearts, but in our homes and in the daily circumstances of our lives as well. We honor the Lord when we offer to him everything we have and everything we do. After all, everything we have is an outright gift from God (1 Chronicles 29:14). Paul the Apostle urges us to give God glory in everything: "Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3:17).
When you sit, eat, sleep and when you entertain your friends and guests, remember that the Lord Jesus is also the guest of your home. Scripture tells us that when Abraham opened his home and welcomed three unknown travelers, he welcomed the Lord who blessed him favorably for his gracious hospitality (Genesis 18:1-10; Hebrews 13:2). The Lord wants us to bring him glory in the way we treat others and use the gifts he has graciously given to us. God, in turn, blesses us with his gracious presence and fills us with joy.
"Lord Jesus, to be in your presence is life and joy for me. Free me from needless concerns and preoccupations that I may give you my undivided love and attention."

Psalm 130:1-8
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!
2 Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared.
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the LORD more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plenteous redemption.
8 And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The Body of Christ needs hearers and doers of the Word, by Ambrose of Milan, 339-397 A.D.
"'Virtue does not have a single form. In the example of Martha and Mary, there is added the busy devotion of the one and the pious attention of the other to the Word of God, which, if it agrees with faith, is preferred even to the very works, as it is written: 'Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.' So let us also strive to have what no one can take away from us, so that not careless but diligent hearing may be granted to us. For even the seeds of the heavenly Word itself are likely to be taken away if they are sowed by the wayside (Luke 8:5,12). Let the desire for wisdom lead you as it did Mary. It is a greater and more perfect work. Do not let service divert the knowledge of the heavenly Word... Nor is Martha rebuked in her good serving, but Mary is preferred because she has chosen the better part for herself, for Jesus abounds with many blessings and bestows many gifts. And therefore the wiser chooses what she perceives as foremost." (excerpt from EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF LUKE 7.83-86)
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Wed Oct 05, 2016 8:39 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Wednesday (October 5): "Lord, teach us to pray"

Scripture: Luke 11:1-4

1 He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." 2 And he said to them, "When you pray, say: "Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread; 4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation."

Meditation: Do you pray with joy and confidence? The Jews were noted for their devotion to prayer. Formal prayer was prescribed for three set times a day. And the rabbis had a prayer for every occasion. It was also a custom for rabbis to teach their disciples a simple prayer they might use on a regular basis. Jesus' disciples ask him for such a prayer. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray he gave them the disciple's prayer, what we call the Our Father or Lord's Prayer. (See longer version in Matthew 6:9-13).

God treats us as his own sons and daughters
What does Jesus' prayer tell us about God and about ourselves? First, it tells us that God is both Father in being the Creator and Author of all that he has made, the first origin of everything and transcendent authority, and he is eternally Father by his relationship to his only Son who, reciprocally is Son only in relation to his Father (Matthew 11:27). All fatherhood and motherhood is derived from him (Ephesians 3:14-15). In Jesus Christ we are reborn and become the adopted children of God (John 1:12-13; 3:3).

We can approach God confidently as a Father who loves us
Jesus teaches us to address God as "our Father" and to confidently ask him for the things we need to live as his sons and daughters. We can approach God our Father with confidence and boldness because Jesus Christ has opened the way to heaven for us through his death and resurrection. When we ask God for help, he fortunately does not give us what we deserve. Instead, he responds with grace and mercy. He is kind and forgiving towards us and he expects us to treat our neighbor the same.
We can pray with expectant faith and trust in the Father's goodness
We can pray with expectant faith because our heavenly Father truly loves each one of us and and he treats us as his beloved children. He delights to give us what is good. His love and grace transforms us and makes us like himself. Through his grace and power we can love and serve one another as Jesus taught - with grace, mercy, and loving-kindness.
Do you treat others as they deserve, or do you treat them as the Lord Jesus would with grace and mercy? Jesus' prayer includes an injunction (charge) that we must ask God to forgive us in proportion as we forgive those who have wronged us (Matthew 6:14-15). God's grace frees us from every form of anger, resentment, envy, and hatred. Are you ready to forgive others as the Lord Jesus forgives you?

"Father in heaven, you have given me a mind to know you, a will to serve you, and a heart to love you. Give me today the grace and strength to embrace your holy will and fill my heart with your love that all my intentions and actions may be pleasing to you. Help me to be kind and forgiving towards my neighbor as you have been towards me".

Psalm 86:3-6,9-10

3 be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day.
4 Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.
6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; hearken to my cry of supplication.
9 All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things, you alone are God.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The privilege and responsibility of calling God Father, by Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD)

"For the Savior said, 'When you pray, say, 'Our Father.' And another of the holy Evangelists adds, 'who art in heaven' (Matthew 6:9)... He gives his own glory to us. He raises slaves to the dignity of freedom. He crowns the human condition with such honor as surpasses the power of nature. He brings to pass what was spoken of old by the voice of the psalmist: 'I said, you are gods, and all of you children of the Most High' (Psalm 82:6). He rescues us from the measure of slavery, giving us by his grace what we did not possess by nature, and permits us to call God 'Father,' as being admitted to the rank of sons. We received this, together with all our other privileges, from him. One of these privileges is the dignity of freedom, a gift peculiarly befitting those who have been called to be sons. He commands us, therefore, to take boldness and say in our prayers, 'Our Father.'" (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 71)
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Re: Daily Bible Reflections

Postby evolution8 » Sun Oct 23, 2016 1:11 am

Daily Reading & Meditation

Sunday (October 23): "God, be merciful to me a sinner!"

Gospel Reading: Luke 18:9-14

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: 10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, `God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.' 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, `God, be merciful to me a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Meditation: How can we know if our prayer is pleasing to God or not? The prophet Hosea, who spoke in God's name, said: "I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice" (Hosea 6:6). The prayers and sacrifices we make to God mean nothing to him if they do not spring from a heart of love for God and for one's neighbor. How can we expect God to hear our prayers if we do not approach him with humility and with a contrite heart that seeks mercy and forgiveness? We stand in constant need of God's grace and help. That is why Scripture tells us that "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6; Proverbs 3:34).

God hears the prayer of the humble
Jesus reinforced this warning with a vivid story of two people at prayer. Why did the Lord accept one person's prayer and reject the other's prayer? Luke gives us a hint: despising one's neighbor closes the door to God's heart. Expressing disdain and contempt for others is more than being mean-minded. It springs from the assumption that one is qualified to sit in the seat of judgment and to publicly shame those who do not conform to our standards and religious practices. Jesus' story caused offense to the religious-minded Pharisees who regarded "tax collectors" as unworthy of God's grace and favor. How could Jesus put down a "religious person" and raise up a "public sinner"?

Jesus' parable speaks about the nature of prayer and our relationship with God. It does this by contrasting two very different attitudes towards prayer. The Pharisee, who represented those who take pride in their religious practices, exalted himself at the expense of others. Absorbed with his own sense of self-satisfaction and self-congratulation, his boastful prayer was centered on his good religious practices rather than on God's goodness, grace, and pardon. Rather than humbling himself before God and asking for God's mercy and help, this man praised himself while despising those he thought less worthy. The Pharisee tried to justify himself before God and before those he despised; but only God can justify us. The tax collector, who represented those despised by religious-minded people, humbled himself before God and begged for mercy. His prayer was heard by God because he had true sorrow for his sins. He sought God with humility rather than with pride.

The humble recognize their need for God's mercy and help
This parable presents both an opportunity and a warning. Pride leads to self-deception and spiritual blindness. True humility helps us to see ourselves as we really are in God's eyes and it inclines us to seek God's help and mercy. God dwells with the humble of heart who recognize their own sinfulness and who acknowledge God's mercy and saving grace. I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit (Isaiah 57:15). God cannot hear us if we boast in ourselves and despise others. Do you humbly seek God's mercy and do you show mercy to others, especially those you find difficult to love and to forgive?

"Lord Jesus, may your love and truth transform my life - my inner thoughts, intentions, and attitudes, and my outward behavior, speech, and actions. Where I lack charity, kindness, and forbearance, help me to embrace your merciful love and to seek the good of my neighbor, even those who cause me ill-favor or offense. May I always love as you have loved and forgive others as you have forgiven."

Psalm 34:2-3,17-19,22
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!
17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
22 The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The medicine of repentance, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

"How useful and necessary a medicine is repentance! People who remember that they are only human will readily understand this. It is written, 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble' (1 Peter 5:5, James 4:6, Job 22:29, Proverbs 3:34). The Pharisee was not rejoicing so much in his own clean bill of health as in comparing it with the diseases of others. He came to the doctor. It would have been more worthwhile to inform him by confession of the things that were wrong with himself instead of keeping his wounds secret and having the nerve to crow over the scars of others. It is not surprising that the tax collector went away cured, since he had not been ashamed of showing where he felt pain." (excerpt from Sermon 351.1)
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