What’s In A Name ?

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Daily Reflection – 6/24/2020

Sacred Scripture

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.( Luke 1:57-66, 80)

Reflection

The Orthodox churches around the world reserve this day to celebrate the birth of John the Baptist. We call him the Baptist. Eastern Christians call him the Forerunner.

While only Luke’s gospel tells us of the marvelous circumstances surrounding his birth,  each of the four gospels tells us of his essential work in preparing the way for Jesus. And well he did . . . to the point of diminishing himself. And John found joy in this.  “My joy is now full.  He must increase and I must decrease.”

John the Baptist was joyful because he was humble.  In fact, he shows us the true nature of this virtue.  Humility is not beating up on yourself, denying that you have any gifts, talents, or importance. The humble person does not sheepishly look down on himself.  Actually, he does not look at himself at all.  He looks away from himself to the Lord.

At one time or another, every human being battles a nagging sense of inadequacy. Pride is sin’s approach to dealing with this.  Proud people are preoccupied with self, seeing all others as competitors.  The proud perpetually exalt themselves over others in hopes that this will provide a sense of worth and inner peace.  Of course, it doesn’t.  Human history has proven that time and time again. Pride always comes before the fall, as it did in the Garden of Eden.

Recognizing that our dignity and self-worth is a gift from God relieves us from this stressful burden.  Freed from the blinding compulsion to dominate, we can feel a sense of satisfaction when others recognize that God is God and honor him as such.  We can even be free to recognize God in someone else and rejoice when others notice and honor God’s goodness this person.

Each of us bears another name . . . Christian..  At baptism, you were also signed with the name of the Holy Trinity, and so God’s name is upon you.  God has therefore claimed you for His own and desires to bless you as His child.  For if God has given you His name, then He has made you a member of His holy family.

You have a choice every day of whether or not to accept that holy and awesome name. Every time that you believe and obey God, you are accepting His naming and claiming of you. Each time we act in His spirit, we are increasing His name and honoring ours.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord, I thank You for choosing me before the foundation of the world and claiming me as Your own.  I thank You for giving me Your name and making me a part of Your family.  Help me to honor Your name by believing You when You speak and obeying when You command.” 

Daily Note

As we look around our communities, nations, and world, we see the manifold ways that God could use us to announce the good news and to call out injustice in our midst. At times it may appear that our work on behalf of the Kingdom is futile or hopeless. This is something Isaiah acknowledges when he reflects: “Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God.” John, too, might be considered a failure by worldly standards, someone imprisoned by the state and executed out of jealousy and insecurity. Yet, as Jesus Christ has made clear, death does not have the last word for those who sincerely pursue the path of holiness God has placed before all of us. Though the challenges may be great and the struggle for justice real, the “hand of the Lord” is with us as much as it was with John in the desert.

What’s In A Name ?

Luke 1:80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was ...
Daily Reflection – 6/24/2020

Sacred Scripture

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.( Luke 1:57-66, 80)

Reflection

The Orthodox churches around the world reserve this day to celebrate the birth of John the Baptist. We call him the Baptist. Eastern Christians call him the Forerunner.

While only Luke’s gospel tells us of the marvelous circumstances surrounding his birth,  each of the four gospels tells us of his essential work in preparing the way for Jesus. And well he did . . . to the point of diminishing himself. And John found joy in this.  “My joy is now full.  He must increase and I must decrease.”

John the Baptist was joyful because he was humble.  In fact, he shows us the true nature of this virtue.  Humility is not beating up on yourself, denying that you have any gifts, talents, or importance. The humble person does not sheepishly look down on himself.  Actually, he does not look at himself at all.  He looks away from himself to the Lord.

At one time or another, every human being battles a nagging sense of inadequacy. Pride is sin’s approach to dealing with this.  Proud people are preoccupied with self, seeing all others as competitors.  The proud perpetually exalt themselves over others in hopes that this will provide a sense of worth and inner peace.  Of course, it doesn’t.  Human history has proven that time and time again. Pride always comes before the fall, as it did in the Garden of Eden.

Recognizing that our dignity and self-worth is a gift from God relieves us from this stressful burden.  Freed from the blinding compulsion to dominate, we can feel a sense of satisfaction when others recognize that God is God and honor him as such.  We can even be free to recognize God in someone else and rejoice when others notice and honor God’s goodness this person.

We should always remember that each of us bears another name . . . Christian..  At baptism, you were also signed with the name of the Holy Trinity, and so God’s name is upon you.  God has therefore claimed you for His own and desires to bless you as His child.  For if God has given you His name, then He has made you a member of His holy family.

You have a choice every day of whether or not to accept that holy and awesome name. Every time that you believe and obey God, you are accepting His naming and claiming of you. Each time we act in His spirit, we are increasing His name and honoring ours.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord, I thank You for choosing me before the foundation of the world and claiming me as Your own.  I thank You for giving me Your name and making me a part of Your family.  Help me to honor Your name by believing You when You speak and obeying when You command.” 

Daily Note

As we look around our communities, nations, and world, we see the manifold ways that God could use us to announce the good news and to call out injustice in our midst. At times it may appear that our work on behalf of the Kingdom is futile or hopeless. This is something Isaiah acknowledges when he reflects: “Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God.” John, too, might be considered a failure by worldly standards, someone imprisoned by the state and executed out of jealousy and insecurity. Yet, as Jesus Christ has made clear, death does not have the last word for those who sincerely pursue the path of holiness God has placed before all of us. Though the challenges may be great and the struggle for justice real, the “hand of the Lord” is with us as much as it was with John in the desert.

Of Course, It Is Hard

Matthew 7:13-14 | KCIS 630
Daily Reflection – 6/23/2020

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces. Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the Law and the Prophets. Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”( Matthew 7:6, 12-14)

Reflection

Following Jesus through the narrow gate is difficult but the reward lasts for eternity. Is that worth it for you?

Entering into the narrow gate means following Christ, not just sometimes or part way, but completely. It means sacrificing to Him, and surrendering your life to Him. While to most of us, this seems like an impossible task, we also know that it certainly is not impossible. But phrases like “sacrificing to Him” and “surrendering your life to Him” not only make some squirm but also many feel that it is reserved for the saintly. In truth, the lives of saints can give us direction and purpose.

It is worth it to examine the metaphor in a more granular way. Jesus used this metaphor to reinforce his lesson about choosing the one true way which leads to peace with God rather than separation and destruction.

The word “narrow” is generally pejorative. We like to think of ourselves as broad-minded. No one wants to be considered narrow-minded. But the gospel calls for a certain narrowing of focus in following Christ, excluding some pathways that are easy and well-trodden. Saying “yes” to Christ’s way requires saying “no” to selfish ways. But any “narrowing down” and self-denial in the following of Jesus ultimately leads to a great expansiveness, a full sharing of God’s life. What lies beyond the narrow gate has a length, breath, width and depth which surpasses our knowledge.

While one can saunter through a wide gate without a second thought, to get through a narrow gate we must concentrate and focus our attention. It takes commitment to get through such a narrow gap. Being a true follower of Jesus requires both commitment and desire.

Attending Church each Sunday is uplifting and enriching. It also brings you closer to those who share your beliefs. But that alone is not passing through the narrow gate. It’s being obedient to God’s word and refusing to follow the way of those who think and act contrary to God’s law. It’s having the strength and the wisdom to stand up and distance ourselves from those whose words or actions are contrary to the Golden Rule.

When we encounter life’s crossroads, we have a choice to make which will affect our eternal life. When we follow or do not stand away from those who are antithetical to the Golden Rule we have a choice to make which will affect our eternal life.

Do the choices you make help you move towards the goal of loving God and obeying his will?

Prayer of The Day

“Let me love you, my Lord and my God, and see myself as I really am – a pilgrim in this world, a Christian called to respect and love all whose lives I touch, those in authority over me or those under my authority, my friends and my enemies. Help me to conquer anger with gentleness, greed by generosity, apathy by fervor. Help me to forget myself and reach out towards others.” (Prayer attributed to Clement XI of Rome)

Daily Note

The Lord Jesus gives us freedom to choose which way we will go. Ask him for the wisdom to know which way will lead to life rather than to harm and destruction. “See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil.. Therefore choose life that you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 3:15-20). Choose this day whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15).” Behold I set before you the way of life and the way of death (Jeremiah 21:8)”. If we allow God’s love and wisdom to rule our hearts, then we can trust in his guidance and help to follow his path of love, truth, and holiness.

Looking Within Is The First Step

Matthew 7:1 - Latter-day Saint Scripture of the Day
Daily Reflection – 6/22/2020

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to his disciples: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”  (Matthew 7:1-5)

Reflection

In today’s scripture, we hear Jesus proclaim another moral standard that is consistent with what it means to live as a follower of Christ. It’s a moral standard that is abused and compromised every day throughout the world. It’s the “sin” of judgemental hypocrisy.

Unfortunately, a lot of damage has been done to the Christian faith by Christians who say one thing and do another.  It is of utmost importance that we live lives of consistency and integrity in order to safeguard the name of Christ, whom we represent.

Jesus is not suggesting that we have no right to make moral judgments about human behavior, and he is certainly not suggesting we have no right to hold others accountable. He doesn’t condemn mutual accountability and moral responsibility and the need to address sin in the church—he addresses hypocrisy.

It makes little sense to approach a Christian brother or sister about their specific sin if we are committing the very same sin and are unwilling to address it or break free from it.

How easy it is to misjudge and how difficult it is to be impartial in judgment. Our judgment of others is usually “off the mark” because we can’t see inside the person to their inner motives and intentions, or we don’t have access to all the facts, or we are swayed by instinct and unreasoning reactions to people. It is easier to find fault in others than in oneself.

Jesus also reminds us that judgment always reciprocates. In other words, the measuring stick used to measure the lives of others will be the same measuring stick held up against their lives by God himself.

The truth is we should all be sorrowful about sin in our lives. And when we see it, we should address it, confessing it and forsaking it out of reverence for God. It is only when we are consistently doing this ourselves that we are qualified and able to address the sins in the lives of our brothers and sisters in the church, which we must do as well.

Prayer of The Day

“O Father, give us the humility which realizes its ignorance, admits its mistakes, recognizes its need, welcomes advice, accepts rebuke. Help us always to praise rather than to criticize, to sympathize rather than to discourage, to build rather than to destroy, and to think of people at their best rather than at their worst. This we ask for thy name’s sake.” (Prayer of William Barclay, 20th century)

Daily Note

We are commanded to judge the sin, not the sinner.  When we point out someone else’s sin, we should do so with love and compassion, and with the intent of helping the person see that their actions are not only hurting others, but hurting themselves.  We should want them to see that their relationship to God is more important than anything, and that it is important to us as well.  When we sum it all up, in order to love one another we must obey the command of Jesus’ to teach one another the commandments.

No Other Yoke Is That Heavy

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Daily Reflection – 6/19/2020

Sacred Scripture

At that time Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him. Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:25-30)

Reflection

Since every heart innately years for Jesus Christ, this passage from Matthew should be the definitive, “go-to” reading. As such, it requires a detailed reading.

First, note that Jesus makes a claim which no one else would have dared to make – he is the perfect revelation of God because he has been with the Father before all creation and time existed. He and the Father are united in an inseparable bond of love and unity. We can know God personally because God desires to be closely united with each one of us in a bond of love through his Son, Jesus Christ. To see Jesus is to see what God is like. In Jesus we see the perfect love of God – a God who cares intensely and who yearns over men and women, loving them to the point of sacrificing his only begotten Son who freely gave up his life for our sake on the cross.

The second is how Jesus promises to refresh us. He does not pledge to do so by TAKING AWAY our burdens. If we’re dealing with the stress and the fatigue of life, most of us think we want the Lord to take away all our hardships, so that we can live without stress. We want the Lord to exchange whatever difficulties we have for an easier, more comfortable, relaxing life. That’s not what Jesus knows is best for us nor wants to do. Immediately after inviting us and promising us that he will refresh us, he gives us his remedy: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.”

To find our refreshment involves two things.

First Jesus wants us to come to Him to learn. He is the Master. He wants us to come to him directly and to learn from him. We can learn from Him in Sacred Scripture he wants and he wants us to pray each day, because in prayer he continues to whisper to us the path to humility and meekness.

Second, we need to take Jesus’ yoke upon our shoulders. What is that yoke? It’s that which he put on his shoulders: his Cross. At first glance, it seems ridiculous that Jesus called that yoke “easy” and “light.”. But what made him capable of calling it sweet and light is the love with which he bore it. The Cross is not so much a sign of pain and suffering, but a sign of the love for the Father and for us that made that pain bearable. When the Lord says he wants us to learn from him in taking his yoke upon ourselves, he is telling us that we need to take his love upon us and bear our own crosses as He did His.

Life is not that hard after all when we trust in God and rest in Him, for only in the Lord can we truly find rest. Amidst suffering and pain, we follow the Lord and take the yoke and learn from Him. Our lives will be light and easy because we keep his Word and live by it. When we follow the Lord, life will be lighter as God lives in us.

Prayer of The Day

Lord Jesus, you have the words of everlasting life. May the light of your truth free me from the error of sin and deception. Take my heart and fill it with your love that I may desire you alone as my Treasure and my all.

Daily Note

To follow the Lord means we accept His very words to His disciples: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” There is still a yoke and burden to carry although it is light (or even lighter). We carry our yoke and burden trusting in the Lord’s heart of gentleness, meekness, and humility as we carry it in Him and with Him.

It’s All About Who You Know

My Soul Magnifies the Lord! | For God's Glory Alone Ministries

Daily Reflection : 6/18/2020

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This is how you are to pray: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:7-15)

Reflection

Some look at the Christian faith as a series of rules we obey. But that is far from the truth. Christianity is not about what we do and don’t do. It’s about a relationship. It’s about a relationship with the God who made us.

It’s not about what you know; it’s not about what you do; it’s about who you know.

Think about the fact that when you love someone, that comes out in the way you live. Today’s scripture tells us how knowing God comes out in the way we pray.

The Lord’s prayer starts by telling us to address God as “our Father in heaven”. We pray to God as our Father. He’s not an abstract principle. God is a person. But if God is our Father that also means he’s a person who loves us. He wants to hear us. He wants us to ask him things. None of our human fathers have ever loved us perfectly.

Then we pray seeking the honor of God. After Jesus tells us which God we pray to, the Lord’s Prayer then has six requests. The first three are all to do with God’s honor. We are to pray that God’s name would be honored. We are to pray that God’s kingdom would come. We are to pray that God’s will would be done. Even those of us who acknowledge that Jesus is our king do not always live as he would want, so we are to pray that God’s priorities would be worked out in the here and now.

Calling God our Father also means recognizing that the loves us and wants to look after us, and because he’s our Father in heaven he’s able to give us all we need. And this also comes out in the way we pray, as the last three requests of the Lord’s Prayer shows.

What’s slightly surprising is what we ask for. It’s not quite what we’d expect.

The first of these three sounds obvious. Give us this day our daily bread. Bread here stands for everything we need, our daily necessities. The challenge comes in that we just ask for what we need for today, and possibly for tomorrow. This challenges us in two ways. On the one hand, the fact that we are to pray for what we need may seem obvious, but many of us just take things for granted.

But if the first prayer for our needs is slightly surprising, the other two are even more so. .If you asked me what we most need from God, what we should most be hoping he’d do for us, I’d never have come up with what Jesus says next.

Forgive us our trespasses as we also have forgiven our trespassers And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

We all let God down in the way we live. We do so every day. And so we need God to forgive us for what we do wrong.

We are all weak, and prone to let God down tomorrow. We also need God to keep us from situations where we won’t be able to remain true to him, and to give us his strength to be faithful.

Forgiveness for the past. Faithfulness for the future. Is there any more for which we could ask?

Prayer of The Day

“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 and mind with your truth and love that all my intentions and actions may be pleasing to you.”

Daily Note

We can approach God confidently because he is waiting with arms wide open to receive his prodigal sons and daughters. That is why Jesus gave his disciples the perfect prayer that dares to call God, Our Father. This prayer teaches us how to ask God for the things we really need, the things that matter not only for the present but for eternity as well. We can approach God our Father with confidence and boldness because the Lord Jesus has opened the way to heaven for us through his death and resurrection.

Where Is Your Treasure?

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room; and when you have ...
Daily Reflection – 6/17/2020

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)

Reflection

For the last few days, we have reviewed sections of The Sermon on the Mount and hopefully reflected on how those words should affect our lives. In each case, this introspection should have brought us to the baseline of assessing to what degree faith shapes our lives and if it does then reviewing our actions and thoughts in terms of their fidelity to the concept of being a follower of Christ.

Today is no different. Jesus is speaking to His disciples and discusses four activities of the Christian life, righteous living, giving, prayer and fasting. I think we can all agree that these are things that we should do on a consistent basis. However, is it possible to do these activities in such a way that would make them unpleasing to the father? Jesus would answer, YES!

More than the activity itself, Jesus is highlighting the motivation behind our actions. It is not enough just to do the right thing; we have to do the right things for the right reasons. As humans we are naturally prideful people. It is so easy to do things to be seen by others or to show how holy we are. On the surface we would probably never admit that we do this.

As people who are saved by the grace of God, our motivation for everything we do should be one of gratitude. We are spiritual for God not people. We serve to please God not to get recognition. We can bluff a human audience and people will think we are genuine. They watch us give, pray, serve and they say “Wow, here is a committed Christian!” But if we are bluffing, God is not fooled. God can see right through our fake modesty and generosity, through our spiritual showiness. What God desires is honesty, integrity, heart-felt commitment. God desires generosity, conversation, and spiritual practices that flow from our deep commitment to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

What Jesus teaches in today’s Gospel lesson is that if we worry about how other people see us, then the greatest reward we can ever hope to receive is their admiration. But if we focus, instead, on how God sees us; if we base our sense of self on this One who is less interested, frankly, in the actions we take, and more interested in the character of our hearts; if that is most important to us, then the reward we receive will be a living and growing relationship with this One, who knows the secret thoughts of our hearts, but who, at the same time, loves us enough even to die for us.

 The key to this passage, really, is Jesus’ final advice for us in today’s Bible passage: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We try to live, pray and act as a follower of Christ because the greatest, most enduring treasure we will ever be given is a relationship with this God who knows us, who loves us, who forgives us, and who has given us promises that will outlast even our own deaths.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, give me a lively faith, a firm hope, a fervent charity, and a great love for you. Take from me away from being lukewarm when I am meditating on your word, and away from dullness in prayer. Give me fervor and delight in thinking of you and your grace. Fill my heart with compassion for others, especially those in need, that I may respond with generosity.”

Daily Note

The Lord rewards those who seek him with humble and repentant hearts. He renews us each day and he gives us new hearts of love and compassion so  that we may serve him and our neighbor with glad and generous hearts. Do you want to grow in your love for God and for your neighbor? Seek him expectantly in prayer, with fasting, and in generous giving to those in need.

So, You Want To Be A Christian?

Matthew 5:44 KJV and more Blessings!! | Kristi Ann's Haven

Daily Reflection – 6/16/2020

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”( Matthew 5:43-48)

Reflection

In an article assessing the current state of the world, a magazine author recently wrote: “We are in a desert devoid of civility, searching the horizon for a path to moral rectitude.” As we review all that is happening in the world, many would nod their head in agreement. 

Against this background of enmity and divisiveness, we hear the words of Jesus in today’s scripture telling us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

 In today’s world?

Even more so in today’s world. The world is where it is because there are not enough who have become followers of Christ. There are many who wear that label. There are many who become members of an institution that defines itself as Christian. There are many who are so busy “doing things” in and for their Christian church that their activity spins your head. But doing is not living the faith. Being baptized as a Christian doesn’t do it either.

What does do it? What defines an authentic follower of Christ?

Authenticity as a Christian means that a person has gone through a radical transformation. The entire Sermon on the Mount depicts the behavior that Jesus expects of every citizen of the kingdom of God. To be “born again” means that you become a totally new person. We are not talking about a personality reform.

In today’s excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that the test comes in being able to love those who hurt us or even persecute us. Just as God does not discriminate in giving His love, so too must we.

God seeks our highest good and teaches us to seek the greatest good of others. Our love for others, even those who are ungrateful and selfish towards us, must be marked by the same kindness and mercy which God has shown to us. It is easier to show kindness and mercy when we can expect to benefit from doing so. How much harder when we can expect nothing in return. Our prayer for those who do us ill both breaks the power of revenge and releases the power of love to do good in the face of evil.

Becoming a Christian involves a transformation in which your way of thinking is utterly changed. Paul says the same thing in Romans 12:2. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. You stand out in the world as someone different. You are so different because God’s transforming power has made you to be born again. You have been transformed into a new kind of person, with a new way of thinking, with God’s way of thinking. And so, you deliberately love as God loves. In loving even the unjust, you prove whose child you are. The love that you express proves that you are a child of God. God has empowered you to become His son or daughter.

If God is not working in us, we are preaching the gospel in vain because all that we are doing is simply to provide some nice philosophical ideas, ethical ideas, moral ideas, which are impossible to fulfill. God has to change our life so completely that we become a new person. And when people look at a godly Christian, they can immediately see that he /she is a son or daughter of God who is in heaven.

So, the question is : Are you ready to be a Christian?

Prayer of The Day

“Holy Spirit, please comfort all those who suffer today from hurts and insults of others. Pour the love of God into their hearts so that they can forgive and be healed.”

Daily Note

Love of those whom we hate is the very fulfillment of God’s law. Because when you love that which you hate, it ceases to be the object of hate. There are no haters in the kingdom of God. Jesus means for his disciples to be law-abiding citizens of the reign of God. To live the law of love fully, even when it may cause one suffering and persecution.

The Most Poisonous Seed

Matthew 5:43 -44 “You dihat it was - iFunny :)
Daily Reflection – 6/15/2020

Sacred Scripture

“Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.” Matthew 5:38-42

Reflection

Of all the evils that surround a human being, none is more destructive than hate and the desire to retaliate a wrong doing. That poisonous seed has destroyed the lives of countless men and women.

If we habitually retaliate and hate, we are exactly the same as those who instinctively and consistently retaliate when wrong is done to them. We are exactly the same as those who instinctively and consistently love those who love them and hate those who hate them. We are synonymous with the world around us and its dominant values.

Our scripture today calls us to a higher standard – one in which the desire to seek revenge is ruled out totally.

Jesus approached this  with a surprising revelation of God’s intention for how we should treat others, especially those who mistreat us. When Jesus spoke about God’s law, he did something no one had done before. He gave a new standard based not just on the requirements of justice – giving each their due – but based on the law of love and mercy.

How can we possibly love those who cause us harm or ill-will? With God all things are possible. He gives power and grace to those who believe and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit. His love conquers all, even our hurts, fears, prejudices and griefs. Only the cross of Jesus Christ can free us from the tyranny of malice, hatred, revenge, and resentment and gives us the courage to return evil with good.

Think about His crucifixion for a moment. If there’s anyone in all the world who has the right to decry vengeance, in the midst of the wicked affliction of his accusers, it’s Jesus. He has taught us and shown us who God really is. His love embraces saint and sinner alike. God seeks our highest good and teaches us to seek the greatest good of others, even those who hate and abuse us. Our love for others, even those who are ungrateful and selfish towards us, must be marked by the same kindness and mercy which God has shown to us. It is easier to show kindness and mercy when we can expect to benefit from doing so. How much harder when we can expect nothing in return. Our prayer for those who do us ill both breaks the power of revenge and releases the power of love to do good in the face of evil.

Prayer of The Day

“Jesus, reign as Lord over my heart and all my actions. Give me your grace so that I can live by the standards of your kingdom.”

Daily Note

Think  about this. Jesus doesn’t expect a woman in an abusive relationship to passively endure her husband’s beatings. But neither does he want her to beat up her husband in return. Rather, Jesus offers each of us grace so that we can deal with the challenges we face—whether great or small—and the daily demands of life with a spirit of charity and a heart of generosity. It’s when we go out of our way to run an errand for an irritating neighbor, forgive an injury without getting back at the offender, give generously to those in need, refuse to snipe back at the co-worker who is provoking us—that’s when we reflect the glory of Jesus and the light of his kingdom to everyone around us.

God continues to call out to us to love continually.  This does not mean to love when things are going well or when someone loves you.  It means to love ALWAYS.  How do we do this?  As it says in Matthew 25:40 “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mind, you did for me.”  When you get into an argument with someone, or someone has hurt you, imagine Jesus is standing before you.  You would not hit Jesus, or speak foul words towards Jesus, but that is what we do when our actions and words stem from evil and not love. Use the image of Jesus to draw ourselves into prayer and a state of love and peace. 

Preparing for the Journey

Deuteronomy 10:17-19
Daily Reflection – 6/12/2020

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna. It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”(Matthew 5:27-32)

Reflection

Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, we hear Jesus exhorting his disciples’ righteousness to exceed the self-righteousness of the Pharisees.

Today, Jesus is teaching them and us about that which is of most importance in our lives . . .  inheriting the Kingdom of God.

Jesus is insisting that we should not let any other thing in this world distract us from having the Everlasting Life. In our verse today, Jesus says that if it is the things  we hold dear in our hearts that will make us lose the Kingdom of God, then let them go. When Jesus talks about gouging out our eyes and cutting off our hands, He doesn’t literary mean that but means shedding off someone or something that may lead you into sin. You can shed off bad habits like adultery, drunkenness, gambling, idolatry etc. They may seem like fun and feel good when doing them but they ultimately lead us into sin.

Holiness, is a treasure we carry within ourselves. But holiness is not just about cutting things out of your life. There are other ways you can preserve and foster holiness. Pick up the Scriptures and read—maybe the story of Jesus’ death or a passage that declares your worth in God’s sight (Matthew 26–28; Psalm 139). Write a note to remind yourself that you are “created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Ephesians 4:24). Sit quietly in prayer and ask the Lord to show you something about the depth of his love for you.

Remember too that God earnestly desires you to be holy, and so he is intent on reaching out to help you. So when you are facing temptation and the allure of sin, cry out to him. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you his grace and to help you grow in the fruit of self-control. And if you do fall to temptation, don’t despair. God still loves you. No distance, no depth of sin, is ever beyond his reach. He is always ready to forgive you, even if you commit the same sin again and again. Never hesitate to run to him. He will shower you with his mercy—and the grace to live a holy life.

He knew that the spiritual life is a journey and not a moment. In this journey, he knew that we would stumble. When we pick ourselves up, it is to God that we must look to for forgiveness, and it is then that the ‘great exchange’ that Luther speaks of, takes place, “You give God your sin and He gives you His Son on the Cross”

Prayer of The Day

Lord Jesus, help us to identify the negative distractions in our lives that can make us lose the Kingdom of God. Help us to shun them and give us the strength to avoid falling back into their tempting invitations. Jesus, we love you.”

Daily Note

Jesus teaches that righteousness involves responding to every situation in life in a way that fulfills God’s law, not just externally but internally as well.  He knows that evil desires spring from the heart. He also knows that lust and adultery lead to even more grievous sin. That is why he discusses that the sin of adultery must first be dealt with in the heart, the place not only of the emotions, but the mind, will, thought, and intentions as well.