“Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.” (Luke 6:22)
It doesn’t sound like a blessing, does it? Hated, excluded, insulted…why would anyone want to be “blessed” like that? The Master tells it like it is – no secrets, no sugar-coating. Jesus calls us to do what He does and to endure what He endures as well. He wants us to know that the way will not be easy, that following Him is almost certain to be costly and difficult in an earthly sense.
This scripture passage comes to us from Luke’s gospel (6:17-26) and most translations sub-title it “The Sermon on the Plain”. In Matthew’s gospel (5:1-12) it is called “The Sermon on the Mount” and the first section containing this teaching is known as “The Beatitudes”, meaning blessings. When I was a child, I mistook these for the “Be Attitudes”, thinking that we should “be” like this. Maybe that wasn’t such a bad interpretation – if we were in fact like this we’d be much closer to following the path Jesus called us to be on with Him.
Jesus called us all to be part of what He is doing in the world, and taught that we could expect the same type of opposition He faced when we share His story and His love. It may not be easy, but it is the mission we have been given – to make disciples of all the earth.
Loving Lord, You have asked us to be Your partners in the saving work You came to do. Make us willing servants, ready to do the things necessary to bring your kingdom here. Help us to be faithful and strong through difficult times, loving even those who oppose us. Amen.
Whether you were raised in a church family and never missed a Sunday, or have never been to church and never had a relationship with Jesus, He is calling you. He wants to show you His love and asks you to share it with the whole world. That may sound like a big job – it is – but He stands ready to teach and guide us as we go.
Jesus is bigger than our fear of failure and rejection. He’s been there and understands why we worry about not being liked, not being accepted. He dealt with that the whole time He was here on earth, and to our shame, we are still rejecting Him, sometimes intentionally, sometimes in ways we fail to notice. When we shirk our responsibility to help because we are busy or tired or afraid, we reject Him. When we don’t listen to our brothers and sisters in love, trying to refute rather than understand, we reject Him. Jesus knows how we struggle, but He has placed a call on our lives that we can’t ignore, and He will be with us every step of the way to guide and support us. Jesus trusted us to carry on His mission here; we need to trust that He will provide for our efforts. He never promised it would be easy, in fact He said it would be difficult, but He had faith that we would follow Him, carrying our crosses just as He did.
Loving Lord, may we be energetic in our ministry, which is Your ministry to all people. Help us to see and hear those who are in need of Your love, and care for them as You have commanded.
Sometimes I think if only we could see some of the miracles Jesus performed, we could have faith like His disciples…alright, their faith was often just like ours, weak and not very effective. Jesus told them “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not yet seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) Why do we need a sign to prove Jesus to us? God has told us of His love since the very beginning, but time and again we have failed to accept that love and respond to His call.
We seem to expect that God will show us marvelous examples of His power on a regular basis so that our faith can be strong. Well, doesn’t He? Maybe we need to redefine what constitutes a miracle. If we are honest with ourselves, everything we see is a miracle of God’s creation. We aren’t capable of making any of this happen on our own! God shows us His love through reaching out to us continually, wanting to be connected to all of us always.
Take time to be thankful for the miracles in your life, the everyday things that are God’s gift to us. We don’t need amazing, out of the ordinary happenings to know God’s love and power, we just need to accept that He is with us and be willing to do as He asks so that we can be part of His miracles.
Wise and wonderful God, you created a whole universe to show Your power and glory, yet You made us to be partners in Your continuing work. That is the most awesome miracle of all! Help us to feel the amazing love You send us every day, and to share that love with everyone.
We are not simply a random bunch of cells that became human and then banded together. We were created intentionally by God to be His people. He didn’t just put us here and say “good luck”, He has a purpose for each and every one of us!
The prophet Jeremiah writes “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) God has something special in mind for us, a reason for our lives. That reason is what drives us to seek Him, to want to be part of His work. It is not always easy to hear God’s call and know His will for us. While He is always seeking us, we are often distracted by the ways of the world and our own selfish behavior.
How can we better know what we are made for? Jesus taught us to “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” (Matthew 7:7). We have to accept that we are called and ask God to help us find our place in creation and our task according to our gifts.
Gracious God, we are so easily drawn astray from You and Your holy plan. Keep us in Your love and strength that we may fulfill the purpose You have for us.
“When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.” (Matthew 2:9) Part of our Christmas story recounts Jesus being visited by travelers from the east, who had been led to worship Him by a brilliant star. We are used to seeing them as part of our Nativity sets and singing “We Three Kings” on Epiphany Sunday when we celebrate their visit. To be honest, we don’t know how long after Jesus’ birth their visit occured. We aren’t even sure how many there were. As with many bible lessons, those details aren’t the important part of the story, and we need to avoid being distracted by the questions of “when and how many”.
The essential part of this scripture is that God led these people, whoever they were, to find Jesus and recognize Him as the king that had been promised. These were rich and powerful people by all accounts, quite different than the shepherds who visited Jesus on the night He was born. They also were foreigners, Gentiles – not part of the nation of Israel and not members of the Jewish faith. Why did God invite these people?
God used the witness of these wealthy visitors from far away to teach us that Jesus was born for all – rich and poor, humble and powerful, Jew and Gentile. Yes, much of Jesus ministry focused on the poor and He taught that God was concerned about them; however this passage tells us that God was concerned about the wise and wealthy as well, that they too had a part to play in His eternal plan. The gifts they presented to Jesus also had a special significance: gold as treasure for a king; frankincense as a royal fragrance; and myrrh, a spice used to prepare a body for burial. All of these were appropriate for Jesus, our king, our savior and our sacrifice.
Heavenly Father, we don’t always understand the lessons You have given us. Help us to keep listening, studying and learning Your plan for us through Your word. May we continue to seek Your truth to share with all our brothers and sisters. Guide us to Your perfect light.
Most of us are familiar with the second chapter of Luke up to the point that “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) While that may be the end of the “birth narrative” as theologians term it, there is much more to the story of Jesus and Mary and Joseph in the rest of the chapter.
In the following verses we hear testimony from two aged prophets, Simeon and Anna, who have been told by the Holy Spirit that God’s Messiah is coming. They have waited long and faithfully, praying at the Temple, and when Jesus is brought to Jerusalem, they recognize Him immediately as the one God has sent to save all His people.
We are waiting too, but God expects us to wait actively, working together to bring His kingdom on earth. We are called to be patient, but also persistent, aware of the call He places on our lives.
Heavenly Father, we are sometimes impatient creatures, unwilling to wait and unworthy of the blessings You send. Help us to see that all things happen in Your time, according to Your plan. Thank You for being patient with us and giving us a Savior to follow with hope.
When Mary heard what God had called her to do, she said “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). No objections, no requests to find someone else, just a couple of questions. Of all the call stories we hear from scripture, Mary is the most accepting of what God asks.
Was Mary comfortable with her situation? In those times an unwed mother might be forced to leave the village or face death at the hands of those who charged her with dishonoring the community. It certainly couldn’t have been easy. However, that didn’t deter Mary in the least. She still said yes without hesitation.
How do we respond to God’s call on our lives? Are we ready to do the work of the kingdom when asked? Sometimes the request is outside our comfort zone. God didn’t promise it would be easy, but He did promise to be there with us.
Loving Lord, sometimes You call us to difficult tasks. Give us strength and confidence in the gifts You have provided for the work You need in our world. May we, like Mary, respond with joy and let it be with us according to Your word.
In Luke 3:8 John the Baptist admonishes us to “bear fruit worthy of repentance.” That’s a fancy way of telling us we have to make a change in our lives if we want to be saved. Yes, God loves us as we are, if He didn’t why would He reach out to us at all? However, He knows we could be so much better – and if we are honest with ourselves, we know it too!
We encounter change in our world on a daily basis – the channels on our cable system have been rearranged, we have to insert the chip rather than swipe the card at the checkout, and there’s road construction on the way to work. Sometimes change is merely annoying, but often change is hard. Change we don’t have control over can be frustrating, but changing ourselves may be the most difficult thing we are called to do.
Changing our lives by saying “yes” to Christ means giving up control, something that seems almost impossible for humans. How can we let go of being in charge? In his teaching from Luke 3, John the Baptist gives us a glimpse of what Jesus will teach: share your gifts and be good to one another. How hard is that? We don’t always get it right, but we can practice every day until we do. God wants us all back as part of His beloved family, but we have to change our hearts and lives!
Gracious God, thank You for the chance to be redeemed, for loving us so much that You are willing to come after us to bring us back. Help us to change so that everyone may see Your love through us.
“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness ‘prepare ye the way of the Lord!’ Make straight in the desert a highway for our God!” Isaiah 40:3
I don’t really remember ever reading these words from the prophet Isaiah until my senior year in high school when I did the opening tenor solos for Handel’s “Messiah” and being surprised that they came from the Old Testament. I thought that only the New Testament talked about Jesus! Over the years I have found that there are many Old Testament references to the coming of God’s Chosen One. It’s interesting to note that this passage also tells us that we are responsible for being part of His coming, that we must prepare His way, and that it will require us to visit the deserts and wilderness places of this world.
This is both a wonderful opportunity and an awesome responsibility! Think about it – we have been called to be part of the roadcrew, helping to make God’s kingdom on earth a reality. Now, let’s not kid ourselves; God doesn’t need our help for anything! However, He graciously calls us to be part of what He is doing, to participate in the sharing of His Good News throughout our world.
God wanted to bring us back to Himself so much that He was willing to come to us in human form, to show us the path we must follow and teach us how to help build it for others. We read that the early church was known as the Way, showing us all this wonderful road to salvation from God!
Loving Lord, as we wait in joyful anticipation for Your coming among us, help us to continue on the Way, Your followers and by Your grace, partners in building the highway.
How do you get ready for an important project or activity? Usually there is planning and research, followed by decisions and a timeline. A lot of time and effort go into preparing for a large scale or long term endeavor. Now I ask you, is there anything more large scale than salvation or long term than eternity? If we pay this much attention to our human business, why wouldn’t we work as hard for our spiritual business?
Perhaps we don’t plan for eternal life because we don’t understand it completely. Maybe we remember Jesus’ words “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority” (Acts 1:7). What we should remember is what He told us to do – love God and love one another. If we would only follow that commandment, many of our earthly difficulties would be resolved.
Part of our problem is that we want to follow our plan, when all that matters is God’s plan. We are so self-centered that we have a hard time realizing how much God loves us all, and how much He wants us to be part of that eternal plan. We don’t need to plan at all!
Loving Lord, thank You for making us part of Your plan, for including us in what You are doing in creation. Help us to pay more attention to the things You want for us than what we want for ourselves. Help us to be prepared for the coming of Your kingdom.