Monday, June 25, 2018

Joseph Forgives His Brothers

Jesus Calls for Justice and Mercy

The Unforgiving Servant

Genesis 50:15-21 The Message

14-15 After burying his father, Joseph went back to Egypt. All his brothers who had come with him to bury his father returned with him. After the funeral, Joseph’s brothers talked among themselves: “What if Joseph is carrying a grudge and decides to pay us back for all the wrong we did him?”
16-17 So they sent Joseph a message, “Before his death, your father gave this command: Tell Joseph, ‘Forgive your brothers’ sin—all that wrongdoing. They did treat you very badly.’ Will you do it? Will you forgive the sins of the servants of your father’s God?”
When Joseph received their message, he wept.
18 Then the brothers went in person to him, threw themselves on the ground before him and said, “We’ll be your slaves.”
19-21 Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid. Do I act for God? Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people. Easy now, you have nothing to fear; I’ll take care of you and your children.” He reassured them, speaking with them heart-to-heart.

For Reflection

Joseph's brothers lived by the rules of the secular world. As such, they expected Joseph to hate them and take vengeance for their attempted murder. Joseph lived by the laws of the spiritual world and contrary to their expectations wept with joy upon their arrival and forgave them.  Joseph saw their act as good because he believed God was good and he saw the good that resulted from being thrown into the pit. Joseph's brothers were prisoners of their secular world.  Because they could only see what they would gain by ridding themselves of their brother they saw no choice.

Pray

Pray so that you will have the freedom to choose a spiritual solution to life's troubling twists.  Pray so that you can see God's plan for you in selecting an option among conflicting choices.  Pray so that you find spiritual answers to secular issues.


Friday, June 22, 2018

Entry into the Kingdom of Heaven

God is Just and Merciful

Jesus Teaches about Justice

Matthew 19:23-30 The Message

23-24 As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.”
25 The disciples were staggered. “Then who has any chance at all?”
26 Jesus looked hard at them and said, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”
27 Then Peter chimed in, “We left everything and followed you. What do we get out of it?”
28-30 Jesus replied, “Yes, you have followed me. In the re-creation of the world, when the Son of Man will rule gloriously, you who have followed me will also rule, starting with the twelve tribes of Israel. And not only you, but anyone who sacrifices home, family, fields—whatever—because of me will get it all back a hundred times over, not to mention the considerable bonus of eternal life. This is the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.”

For Reflection

So how does one enter the Kingdom of Heaven?
1.  Believe in God
2.  Read Scripture
3.  Read Commentaries about Scripture
4.  Discuss the meaning of Scripture with other believers
5.  Let your understanding reside in your Soul and dominate your action.
6.  Pray about all things.
7.  Follow the example of Jesus.

Or on the other hand:

1. Love as God loves.

Pray

Pray that your love of humankind drives your understanding of your role in this world.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Two Responses to the Light

God is Just and Merciful

Jesus Teaches about Justice

John 3:16-21 The Message

16-18 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.
19-21 “This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.”

For Reflection

Many people who met Jesus saw in him the light of God's intention for humankind.  They saw God's love, compassion, grace, forgiveness and responded as one who thirsts for justice.  They found rest in Christ.

Others feared change and were wary of the offer for salvation which they considered irrational.  Instead of following the light, they opted for the darkness they knew. Are you growing toward the light or are you doubling down on the statusquo?

Pray

Pray so that you can respond to the light of reality and follow God's will.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Blessed Are the Poor

God is Just and Merciful

Jesus Teaches about Justice

Luke6:20-26 The Message

You’re Blessed

17-21 Coming down off the mountain with them, he stood on a plain surrounded by disciples, and was soon joined by a huge congregation from all over Judea and Jerusalem, even from the seaside towns of Tyre and Sidon. They had come both to hear him and to be cured of their ailments. Those disturbed by evil spirits were healed. Everyone was trying to touch him—so much energy surging from him, so many people healed! Then he spoke:
You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all.
God’s kingdom is there for the finding.
You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry.
Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal.
You’re blessed when the tears flow freely.
Joy comes with the morning.
22-23 “Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—skip like a lamb, if you like!—for even though they don’t like it, I do . . . and all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this.

Give Away Your Life

24 But it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made.
    What you have is all you’ll ever get.
25 And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself.
    Your self will not satisfy you for long.
And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games.
    There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it.
26 “There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests—look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.

For Reflection

Being at your wit's end with no hope of success, with no apparent possibilities for satisfaction is a good thing.  It is good because, at that point when you have tried everything that you know to do and not been successful, you are ready to accept a gentle nudge from that point in your soul that is uniquely you.  That element divinely placed to lift you closer to who you were meant to be and you experience, perhaps, for the first time the confidence and joy that results in giving yourself away and embracing tomorrow with unreasonable trust that the Holy Spirit will lead you to see the world anew.

Pray

Pray for confidence in God's love for you.  Pray so that you will see opportunities for a joy-filled life. Pray so that you satisfy your soul's desire to be one with God's will.

Forward to a friend

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Oppressors and Righteous Receive Justice


God is Just and Merciful

Jesus Teaches about Justice

James 5:1-6 The Message
Destroying Your Life from Within
5 1-3 And a final word to you arrogant rich: Take some lessons in lament. You’ll need buckets for the tears when the crash comes upon you. Your money is corrupt and your fine clothes stink. Your greedy luxuries are a cancer in your gut, destroying your life from within. You thought you were piling up wealth. What you’ve piled up is judgment.
4-6 All the workers you’ve exploited and cheated cry out for judgment. The groans of the workers you used and abused are a roar in the ears of the Master Avenger. You’ve looted the earth and lived it up. But all you’ll have to show for it is a fatter than usual corpse. In fact, what you’ve done is condemn and murder perfectly good persons, who stand there and take it.

For Reflection

Each of us was born with a desire to achieve.  However, when the need to achieve dominates our desires that need becomes idolatry and it corrupts us. One’s wealth is not the issue here.  It is the debilitating consequence of greed and oppression of others.

Pray

Pray so that your need to receive secular rewards is balanced by your drive for spiritual fulfillment.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Folly of Riches


God is Just and Merciful

Jesus Teaches about Justice

Psalm 49 Amplified Bible

The Folly of Trusting in Riches.

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah.

Hear this, all peoples;
Listen carefully, all inhabitants of the world,
2 Both low and high,
Rich and poor together:
3 My mouth will speak wisdom,
And the meditation of my heart will be understanding.
4 I will incline my ear and consent to a proverb;
On the lyre I will unfold my riddle.
5 Why should I fear in the days of evil,
When the wickedness of those who would betray me surrounds me [on every side],
6 Even those who trust in and rely on their wealth
And boast of the abundance of their riches?
7 None of them can by any means redeem [either himself or] his brother,
Nor give to God a ransom for him—
8 For the ransom of his soul is too costly,
And he should cease trying forever—
9 So that he should live on eternally,
That he should never see the pit (grave) and undergo decay.
10 For he sees that even wise men die;
The fool and the stupid alike perish
And leave their wealth to others.
11 Their inward thought is that their houses will continue forever,
And their dwelling places to all generations;
They have named their lands after their own names [ignoring God].
12 But man, with all his [self] honor and pomp, will not endure;
He is like the beasts that perish.
13 This is the fate of those who are foolishly confident,
And of those after them who approve [and are influenced by] their words. Selah.
14 Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol (the netherworld, the place of the dead);
Death will be their shepherd;
And the upright shall rule over them in the morning,
And their form and beauty shall [a]be for Sheol to consume,
So that they have no dwelling [on earth].
15 But God will redeem my life from the power of Sheol,
For He will receive me. Selah.
16 Be not afraid when [an ungodly] man becomes rich,
When the wealth and glory of his house are increased;
17 For when he dies he will carry nothing away;
His glory will not descend after him.
18 Though while he lives he counts himself happy and prosperous—
And though people praise you when you do well for yourself—
19 He shall go to the generation of his fathers;
They shall never again see the light.
20 A man [who is held] in honor,
Yet who lacks [spiritual] understanding and a teachable heart, is like the beasts that perish.

For Reflection

"Oh, I am so blessed," I overheard one man bragging about the quality of his life. What was the implied meaning in his statement I asked myself? Is it the same statement that Job may have made before his suffering? Does the boaster think that God was the bestower of the quality of his material life?  Does he also believe that others who are not as well off are somehow punished for some unnamed sin?

I remember hearing another say, "I made my way. I worked hard for what I have. Those other losers just don't want to work hard." One thinks that his success is related somehow to a reward for his level of righteousness, a sign of God's approval.  The other thinks his success is due only to his effort. One is blinded by his stubborn self-determination and the other blinded by his spiritual point of view. Conversely, those that have little may blame God and jealously curse those who appear to have more than they and blame them for their predicament.

So listen, all you haves and have-nots. Abiding in God is not about the material world.  There is no inherent shame in wealth or poverty. There is no intrinsic blessing either. Living a life that God intends for us is about finding spiritual rest in God's desire for us to be good stewards of God's universe and each other. It is about God's desire for us to be perfected by mimicking God's love and grace.

"Have a blessed day," we say. What if we don't have a "blessed" day? I appreciate the sentiment, but have we used these phrases so often that we have lost the spiritual meaning of blessing? For me, I would rather see opportunities to love, to be humble, to be rich in spirit and a witness to the gospel as a blessing.

So for Heaven's sake, please don't bless my sneezing!

Pray

Pray so that your soul grows in humility and grace.  Pray so that you can be the one through which others see the love of God actively working for good.  Pray so that God can grab you by the collar, yank you into God's grace, and bestow God's blessing to you in the service of God's Kingdom.


Friday, June 15, 2018

What Defiles Comes from the Heart

God is Just and Merciful

Jesus Teaches about Justice

Mark 7:14-23 The Message
14-15 Jesus called the crowd together again and said, “Listen now, all of you—take this to heart. It’s not what you swallow that pollutes your life; it’s what you vomit—that’s the real pollution.”
17 When he was back home after being with the crowd, his disciples said, “We don’t get it. Put it in plain language.”
18-19 Jesus said, “Are you being willfully stupid? Don’t you see that what you swallow can’t contaminate you? It doesn’t enter your heart but your stomach works its way through the intestines, and is finally flushed.” (That took care of dietary quibbling; Jesus was saying that all foods are fit to eat.)
20-23 He went on: “It’s what comes out of a person that pollutes: obscenities, lusts, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, depravity, deceptive dealings, carousing, mean looks, slander, arrogance, foolishness—all these are vomit from the heart. There is the source of your pollution

For Reflection

Vomit from the heart.  Your heart, or soul, desires all things.  Our egos can drive us to greatness, but also, to darkness.  There has to be a balance in our souls that limits our need to desire selfish things and enhances our desire to become altruistic.  There is a point in our souls that cries to be united with God. God made us that way so that we cannot be contaminated and live our lives at the expense of others.

Pray

Pray so that your life is not contaminated by selfish desire. Pray so that through the Holy Spirit, the divine point in our souls can grow and you can become one with God.