“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 138:1-8

1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the angels I sing your praise; 
2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your mercy and your faithfulness; for you have exalted above everything your name and your word. 
3 On the day I called, you answered me, my strength of soul you increased. 
4 All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth; 
5 and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD
6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he knows from afar. 
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. 
8 The LORD will fulfil his purpose for me; your mercy, O LORD, endures for ever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

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)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use, please cite credits:  
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

“Come away and rest a while”

Scripture:  Mark 6:30-34

30 The apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

Meditation: What does the image of a shepherd tell us about God’s care for us? Shepherding was one of the oldest of callings in Israel, even before farming, since the Chosen People had traveled from place to place, living in tents, and driving their flocks from one pasture to another. Looking after sheep was no easy calling. It required great skill and courage. Herds were often quite large, thousands or even ten thousands of sheep. The flocks spent a good part of the year in the open country. Watching over them required a great deal of attention and care. 

Stray sheep must be brought back lest they die
Sheep who strayed from the flock had to be sought out and brought back by the shepherd. Since hyenas, jackals, wolves, and even bear were common and fed on sheep, the shepherds often had to do battle with these wild and dangerous beasts. A shepherd literally had to put his life on the line in defending his sheep. Shepherds took turns watching the sheep at night to ward off any attackers. The sheep and their shepherds continually lived together. Their life was so intimately bound together that individual sheep, even when mixed with other flocks, could recognize the voice of their own shepherd and would come immediately when called by name.

God himself leads us like a good shepherd
The Old Testament often spoke of God as shepherd of his people, Israel. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23:1). Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! (Psalm 80:1) We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture (Psalm 100:3). The Messiah is also pictured as the shepherd of God’s people: He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms (Isaiah 40:11). 

Jesus told his disciples that he was the Good Shepherd who was willing to lay down his life for his sheep (Matthew 18:12, Luke 15:4, John 10). When he saw the multitude of people in need of protection and care, he was moved to respond with compassionate concern. His love was a personal love for each and every person who came to him in need. 

Jesus is the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls
Peter the apostle called Jesus the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (1 Peter 2:25). Do you know the peace and security of a life freely submitted to Jesus, the Good Shepherd? In the person of the Lord Jesus we see the unceasing vigilance and patience of God’s love. In our battle against sin and evil, Jesus is ever ready to give us help, strength, and refuge. Do you trust in his grace and help at all times?

“Lord Jesus, you guard and protect us from all evil. Help me to stand firm in your word and to trust in your help in all circumstances. May I always find rest and refuge in the shelter of your presence.”

Psalm 119:9-14

9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 
1 I have laid up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!
13 With my lips I declare  all the ordinances of your mouth.
14 In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The good shepherd feeds us with the words of God, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

“The pastures that this good shepherd has prepared for you, in which he has settled you for you to take your fill, are not various kinds of grasses and green things, among which some are sweet to the taste, some extremely bitter, which as the seasons succeed one another are sometimes there and sometimes not. Your pastures are the words of God and his commandments, and they have all been sown as sweet grasses. These pastures had been tasted by that man who said to God, ‘How sweet are your words to my palate, more so than honey and the honeycomb in my mouth!’ (Psalm 119:103).” (excerpt from Sermon 366.3)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite:
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

Herod’s guilty conscience

Scripture:  Mark 6:14-29

14 King Herod heard of it; for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; that is why these  powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17 For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; because he had married  her. 18 For John said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly. 

21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias’ daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you  wish, and I will grant it.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out, and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27 And immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard and gave orders to bring his head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

Meditation: Do you ever feel haunted by a past failure or a guilty conscience? The Lord Jesus came to set us free from the oppression of sin and guilt. King Herod, the most powerful and wealthy man in Judea, had everything he wanted, except a clear conscience and peace with God. Herod had respected and feared John the Baptist as a great prophet and servant of God. John, however did not fear to rebuke Herod for his adulterous relationship with his brother’s wife, Herodias. John ended up in prison because of Herodias’ hatred and jealousy. Herod, out of impulse and a desire to please his family and friends, had John beheaded. Now Herod’s conscience is pricked when he hears that some think that the Baptist has risen.

When Herod heard the fame of Jesus he supposed that John the Baptist, whom he had beheaded, had returned from the dead. Unfortunately for Herod, he could not rid himself of sin by ridding himself of the man who confronted him with his sin. Herod was a weak man. He could take a strong stand on the wrong things when he knew the right. Such a stand, however, was a sign of weakness and cowardice. The Lord gives grace to the humble, to those who acknowledge their sins and who seek God’s mercy and pardon. His grace and pardon not only frees us from a guilty conscience, it enables us to pursue holiness in thought and action as well.  God’s grace enables us to fight fear with faith and to overcome the temptation to compromise goodness and truth with wrongdoing and falsehood.

John Chrysostom describes John’s death as a crown:

In what way, then, was this just man harmed by this demise, this violent death, these chains, this imprisonment? Who are those he did not set back on their feet – provided they had a penitent disposition – because of what he spoke, because of what he suffered, because of what he still proclaims in our own day – the same message he preached while he was living. Therefore, do not say: “Why was John allowed to die?” For what occurred was not a death, but a crown, not an end, but the beginning of a greater life. Learn to think and live like a Christian. You will not only remain unharmed by these events, but will reap the greatest benefits.(ON THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD 22.10)

Do you rely on God’s grace and help to choose his way of holiness and to reject whatever would compromise your faith and loyalty to Jesus Christ?

“Heavenly Father, form in me the likeness of your Son that I may imitate him in word and deed. Help me to live the Gospel faithfully and give me the strength and courage I need to not shrink back in the face of adversity and temptation.”

Psalm 18:30, 46, 49-50

30 This God – his way is perfect;  the promise of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. 
46 The LORD lives; and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation 
49 For this I will extol you, O LORD, among the nations,  and sing praises to your name. 
50 Great triumphs he gives to his king, and shows mercy to his anointed, to David and his descendants for ever. 

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The Weakness of the Tyrant and the Power of the Beheaded, by John Chrysostom (347-407 AD)

“Note well the weakness of the tyrant compared to the power of the one in prison. Herod was not strong enough to silence his own tongue. Having opened it, he opened up countless other mouths in its place and with its help. As for John, he immediately inspired fear in Herod after his murder – for fear was disturbing Herod’s conscience to such an extent that he believed John had been raised from the dead and was performing miracles (Mark 6:14-16)! In our own day and through all future time, throughout all the world, John continues to refute Herod, both through himself and through others. For each person repeatedly reading this Gospel says: ‘It is not lawful for you to have the wife of Philip your brother’ (Mark 6:18). And even apart from reading the Gospel, in assemblies and meetings at home or in the market, in every place… even to the very ends of the earth, you will hear this voice and see that righteous man even now still crying out, resounding loudly, reproving the evil of the tyrant. He will never be silenced nor the reproof at all weakened by the passing of time.” (excerpt from ON THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD 22.8-9)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite:
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

Jesus gave them authority over sickness and unclean spirits

Scripture:  Mark 6:7-13

7 And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, “Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 And if any place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and preached that men should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.

Meditation: What kind of authority and power does the Lord want you to exercise on his behalf? Jesus gave his apostles both the power and the authority to speak and to act in his name. He commanded them to do the works which he did – to heal the sick. to cast out evil spirits, and to speak the word of God – the good news of the gospel which they received from Jesus. When Jesus spoke of power and authority he did something unheard of. He wedded power and authority with self-sacrificing love and humility. The “world” and the “flesh” seek power for selfish gain. Jesus teaches us to use it for the good of our neighbor.

Why does Jesus tell the apostles to “travel light” with little or no provision? “Poverty of spirit” frees us from greed and preoccupation with our possessions and makes ample room for God’s provision. The Lord wants his disciples to be dependent on him and not on themselves. He wills to work in and through each of us for his glory. Are you ready to use the spiritual authority and power which God wishes you to exercise on his behalf? The Lord entrusts us with his gifts and talents. Are you eager to place yourself at his service, to do whatever he bids you, and to witness his truth and saving power to whomever he sends you?

“Lord Jesus, make me a channel of your healing power and merciful love that others may find abundant life and freedom in you. Free me from all other attachments that I may joyfully pursue the treasure of your heavenly kingdom. May I witness the joy of the Gospel both in word and deed.”

Psalm 48:2-11

2 Beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King. 
3 Within her citadels God has shown himself a sure defense. 
4 For behold, the kings assembled, they came on together. 
5 As soon as they saw it, they were astounded, they were in panic, they took to flight; 
6 trembling took hold of them there, anguish as of a woman in travail. 
7 By the east wind you did shatter the ships of Tarshish. 
8 As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God, which God establishes for ever. [Selah] 
9 We have thought on your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple. 
10 As your name, O God, so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth. Your right hand is filled with victory; 
11 let Mount Zion be glad! Let the daughters of Judah rejoice because of your judgments! 

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Jesus gives them power to heal and cast out evil spirits, by Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD)

“The grace bestowed upon the holy apostles is worthy of all admiration. But the bountifulness of the Giver surpasses all praise and admiration. He gives them, as I said, his own glory. They receive authority over the evil spirits. They reduce to nothing the pride of the devil that was so highly exalted and arrogant. They render ineffectual the demon’s wickedness. By the might and efficacy of the Holy Spirit, burning them as if they were on fire, they make the devil come forth with groans and weeping from those whom he had possessed…

“He glorified his disciples, therefore, by giving them authority and power over the evil spirits and over sicknesses. Did he honor them without reason and make them famous without any logical cause? How can this be true? It was necessary, most necessary, that they should be able to work miracles, having been publicly appointed ministers of sacred proclamations. By means of their works, they then could convince men that they were the ministers of God and mediators of all beneath the heaven. The apostles then could invite them all to reconciliation and justification by faith and point out the way of salvation and of life that is this justification.” (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 47)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite:
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

Jesus marveled because of their unbelief

Scripture:  Mark 6:1-6

1 He went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him. 2 And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his  hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And  they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.

Meditation: Are you critical towards others, especially those who may be close to you? The most severe critics are often people very familiar to us, a member of our family, a relative, or neighbor or co-worker we rub shoulders with on a regular basis. Jesus faced a severe testing when he returned to his home town, not simply as the carpenter’s son, but now as a rabbi with disciples. It would have been customary for Jesus to go to the synagogue each week during the Sabbath, and when his turn came, to read from the scriptures during the Sabbath service. His hometown folks listened with rapt attention on this occasion because they had heard about the miracles he had performed in other towns. What sign would he do in his hometown?

Jesus startled his familiar audience with a seeming rebuke that no prophet or servant of God can receive honor among his own people. The people of Nazareth took offense at Jesus and refused to listen to what he had to say. They despised his preaching because he was a mere workman, a carpenter, and a layman who had no formal training by a scholar or teacher. They also despised him because of his undistinguished family background. How familiarity can breed contempt. Jesus could do no mighty works in their midst because they were closed-minded and unbelieving towards him. If people have come together to hate and to refuse to understand, then they will see no other point of view than their own and they will refuse to love and accept others. How do you treat those who seem disagreeable to you?

 The word “gospel” literally means “good news”. Isaiah had prophesied that the Messiah would come in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring freedom to the afflicted who suffered from physical, mental, or spiritual oppression (see Isaiah 61:1-2). Jesus came to set people free – not only from their physical, mental, and spiritual infirmities – but also from the worst affliction of all – the tyranny of slavery to sin, Satan, and the fear of losing one’s life. God’s power alone can save us from hopelessness, dejection, and emptiness of life. The Gospel of salvation is “good news” for everyone who will receive it. Do you know the joy and freedom of the Gospel?

“Lord Jesus, you are the fulfillment of all our hopes and desires. Your Spirit brings grace, truth, freedom, and abundant life. Set my heart on fire with your love and truth.”

Psalm 32:1-2,5,7,11

1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 
2 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. 
5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity;  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”;  then you forgave the guilt of my sin. 
6 Therefore let every one who is godly offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.
7 You are a hiding place for me, you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with deliverance.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Distinguishing God’s power and our faith, by Origen of Alexandria (185-254 AD)

“And perhaps, as in the case of metallic substances there exists in some a natural attraction toward some other thing, as in the magnet for iron, and in naphtha for fire, so there is an attraction in such faith toward the divine power according to what Jesus said: ‘If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain, ‘Move to another place,’ and it shall be moved’ (Matthew 17:20). Matthew and Mark wished to present the all-surpassing value of that divine power as a power that works even in those who do not believe. But they did not deny that grace works even more powerfully among those who have faith. So it seems to me that they accurately said not that the Lord did not do any mighty works because of their unbelief, but that he did not do many there (Mark 6:5). Mark does not flatly say that he could do no mighty work there at all, and stop at that point, but added, ‘except that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk and healed them’ (Mark 6:5). Thus the power in him overcame even their unbelief.” (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW 10.19)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite:
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

“The favor of God was upon him”

Scripture: Luke 2:22-40  (alternate reading: Mark 5:21-43)

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; 34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in  Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” 

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband  seven years from her virginity, 37 and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Meditation: Do you know the favor of the Lord? After Jesus’ birth, Mary fulfills the Jewish right of purification after childbirth. Since she could not afford the customary offering of a lamb, she gives instead two pigeons as an offering of the poor. This rite, along with circumcision and the redemption of the first-born point to the fact that children are gifts from God. Jesus was born in an ordinary home where there were no luxuries. Like all godly parents, Mary and Joseph raised their son in the fear and wisdom of God. He, in turn, was obedient to them and grew in wisdom and grace. The Lord’s favor is with those who listen to his word with trust and obedience. Do you know the joy of submission to God? And do you seek to pass on the faith and to help the young grow in wisdom and maturity?

The Holy Spirit reveals the presence of the Savior of the world  
What is the significance of Simeon’s encounter with the baby Jesus and his mother in the temple? Simeon was a just and devout man who was very much in tune with the Holy Spirit. He believed that the Lord would return to his temple and renew his chosen people. The Holy Spirit also revealed to him that the Messiah and King of Israel would also bring salvation to the Gentile nations. When Joseph and Mary presented the baby Jesus in the temple, Simeon immediately recognized this humble child of Bethlehem as the fulfillment of all the messianic prophecies, hopes, and prayers. Inspired by the Holy Spirit he prophesied that Jesus was to be “a revealing light to the Gentiles”. The Holy Spirit reveals the presence of the Lord to those who are receptive and eager to receive him.  Do you recognize the indwelling presence of the Lord with you?

The ‘new temple’ of God’s presence in the world
Jesus is the new temple (John 1:14; 2:19-22). In the Old Testament God manifested his presence in the “pillar of cloud” by day and the “pillar of fire” by night as he led them through the wilderness. God’s glory visibly came to dwell over the ark and the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-38). When the first temple was built in Jerusalem God’s glory came to rest there (1 Kings 8). After the first temple was destroyed, Ezekiel saw God’s glory leave it (Ezekiel 10). But God promised one day to fill it with even greater glory (Haggai 2:1-9; Zechariah 8-9). That promise is fulfilled when the “King of Glory” himself comes to his temple (Psalm 24:7-10; Malachi 3:1).  Through Jesus’ coming in the flesh and through his saving death, resurrection, and ascension we are made living temples of his Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Ask the Lord to renew your faith in the indwelling presence of his Spirit within you. And give him thanks and praise for coming to make his home with you.

Mary receives both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow
Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph and he prophesied to Mary about the destiny of this child and the suffering she would undergo for his sake. 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. She received both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow. But 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 way.  Do you know the peace and joy of a life surrendered to God with faith and trust?

The Holy Spirit renews our hope in the promise of God
Simeon was not alone in recognizing the Lord’s presence in the temple. Anna, too, was filled with the Holy Spirit. She was found daily in the temple, attending to the Lord in prayer and speaking prophetically to others about God’s promise to send a redeemer. Supernatural hope grows with prayer and age! Anna was pre-eminently a woman of great hope and expectation that God would fulfill all his promises. She is a model of godliness to all believers as we advance in age.  

Advancing age and the disappointments of life can easily make us cynical and hopeless if we do not have our hope rightly placed. Anna’s hope in God and his promises grew with age. She never ceased to worship God in faith and to pray with hope. Her hope and faith in God’s promises fueled her indomitable zeal and fervor in prayer and service of God’s people. 

Our hope is anchored in God’s everlasting kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy
What do you hope for? The hope which God places in our heart is the desire for the kingdom of heaven and everlasting life and happiness with our heavenly Father. The Lord Jesus has won for us a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). The Holy Spirit gives hope to all who place their trust in the promises of God. God never fails because his promises are true and he is faithful. The hope which God places within us through the gift of the Spirit enables us to persevere with confident trust in God even in the face of trails, setbacks, and challenges that may come our way. 

Is there anything holding you back from giving God your unqualified trust and submission to his will for your life? Allow the Lord Jesus to flood your heart with his peace, joy, and love. And offer to God everything you have and desire –  your life, family, friends, health, honor, wealth, and future. If you seek his kingdom first he will give you everything you need to know, love, and serve him now and enjoy him forever.

“Lord Jesus, you are my hope and my life. May I never cease to place all my trust in you. Fill me with the joy and strength of the Holy Spirit that I may boldly point others to your saving presence and words of eternal life.”

Psalm 128:1-5

Blessed is every one who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! 
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. 
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. 
Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. 
The Lord bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life!

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Christ who was rich became poor, by Origen of Alexandria (185-254 AD)

“For this reason it seems wonderful that the sacrifice of Mary was not the first offering, that is, ‘a lamb a year old,’ but the second, since ‘she could not afford’ (Leviticus 5:7) the first. For as it was written about her, Jesus’ parents came ‘to offer a sacrifice’ for him,’according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”‘ But this also shows the truth of what was written, that Jesus Christ ‘although he was rich, became a poor man’ (2 Corinthians 8:9). Therefore, for this reason, he chose both a poor mother, from whom he was born, and a poor homeland, about which it is said, ‘But you, O Bethlehem Ephratha, who are little to be among the clans of Judah’ (Micah 5:2), and the rest. (excerpt from HOMILIES ON LEVITICUS 8.4.3)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite:
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

“Tell them how much the Lord has done for you”

Scripture:  Mark 5:1-20  

1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of Gerasenes. 2 And when he had come out of the boat, there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, 3 who lived among the tombs; and no one could bind him any more, even with a chain; 4 for he had often been bound with fetters and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the fetters he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out, and bruising himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped him; 7 and crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 And he begged him eagerly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside; 12 and they begged him, “Send us to the swine, let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them leave. And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea. 

14 The herdsmen fled, and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus, and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the man who had the legion; and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it told what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their neighborhood. 18 And as he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 But he refused, and said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and all men marveled.

Meditation: Do you ever feel driven by forces beyond your strength? A man driven mad by the evil force of a legion found refuge in the one person who could set him free. A legion is no small force – but an army more than 5,000 strong! For the people of Palestine, hemmed in by occupied forces, a legion, whether spiritual or human, struck terror! Legions at their wildest committed unmentionable atrocities.Our age has also witnessed untold crimes and mass destruction at the hands of possessed rulers and their armies. 

What is more remarkable – the destructive force of this driven and possessed man – or the bended knee at Jesus’ feet imploring mercy and release? God’s word reminds us that no destructive force can keep anyone from the peace and safety which God offers to those who seek his help. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand; but it will not come near you. ..Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your habitation(Psalm 91:7,9).

Jesus took pity on the man who was overtaken by a legion of evil spirits. The destructive force of these demons is evident for all who can see as they flee and destroy a herd of swine. After Jesus freed the demoniac the whole city came out to meet him. No one had demonstrated such power and authority against the forces of Satan as Jesus did. They feared Jesus as a result and begged him to leave them. Why would they not want Jesus to stay? Perhaps the price for such liberation from the power of evil and sin was more than they wanted to pay. Jesus is ready and willing to free us from anything that binds us and that keeps us from the love of God. Are you willing to part with anything that might keep you from his love and saving grace?

“Lord Jesus, unbind me that I may love you wholly and walk in the freedom of your way of life and holiness. May there be nothing which keeps me from the joy of living in your presence.”

Psalm 3:1-7a

1 O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying of me, there is no help for him in God.
3 But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4 I cry aloud to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain.
5 I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the LORD sustains me.
6 I am not afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me round about.
7 Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God!  

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The God-Man beheld, by Gregory of Nazianzus (330 – 390 AD)

“Yes, he is recognized by demons (Luke 4:33-34, Mark 1:23-24), drives out demons (Matthew 8:16, Mark 1:34), drowns deep a legion of spirits (Matthew 8:32; Mark 5:9,13; Luke 8:30,33) and sees the prince of demons falling like lightning (Luke 10:18). He is stoned, yet not hit (John 8:59; 10:31,39); he prays yet he hears prayer (Matthew 8:13; Mark 1:35). He weeps (John 11:35), yet he puts an end to weeping (Luke 7:13; 8:522; 23:28). He asks where Lazarus is (John 11:34) – he was man; yet he raises Lazarus (John 11:43-44) – he was God.” (excerpt from ORATION 29, ON THE SON 20)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite:
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

Jesus’ power to heal and cleanse

Gospel Reading:  Luke 4:21-30

21 And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.  22 And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, `Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here also in your own country.'” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. 30 But passing through the midst of them he went away.

Meditation: Do you believe that God wants to act with power in your life today? Power to set you free from sin and hurtful desires, fear and oppression. Throughout the Scriptures we see God performing mighty acts to save his people from death and destruction – from Noah’s ark that spared his family from the flood of wickedness that had spread across the land to Moses and the Israelites who crossed through the parting waters of the Red Sea as they fled the armies of Pharoah their slave Master and oppressor.

Throughout the Gospel accounts Jesus praised individuals who put their faith in God as they remembered the great and wonderful deeds he had performed time and again. Jesus even praised outsiders – non-Jews and pagans from other lands who had heard about the mighty deeds of the God of Israel. One example Jesus mentioned was Naaman the pagan army commander from Syria who was afflicted with leprosy – a debilitating skin disease that slowly ate away the flesh (2 Kings 5:1-15). Naaman’s slave-girl was a young Jewish woman who had faith in God and compassion for Naaman her master. She urged him to seek healing from Elisha, the great prophet of Israel.When Naaman went to the land of Israel to seek a cure for his leprosy, the prophet Elisha instructed him to bathe seven times in the Jordan river. Namaan was indignant at first, but then repented and followed the prophet’s instructions. In doing so he was immediately restored in body and spirit.

Healing the leprosy of soul and body 
What is the significance of Naaman’s healing for us? Ephrem the Syrian (306-373 AD), an early Christian teacher from Edessa, tells us that Naaman’s miraculous healing at the River Jordan, prefigures the mystery of the healing which is freely granted to all nations of the earth by our Lord Jesus through the regenerating waters of baptism and renewal in the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).

“Therefore Naaman was sent to the Jordan as to the remedy capable to heal a human being. Indeed, sin is the leprosy of the soul, which is not perceived by the senses, but intelligence has the proof of it, and human nature must be delivered from this disease by Christ’s power which is hidden in baptism. It was necessary that Naaman, in order to be purified from two diseases, that of the soul and that of the body, might represent in his own person the purification of all the nations through the bath of regeneration, whose beginning was in the river Jordan, the mother and originator of baptism.” (commentary ON THE SECOND BOOK OF KINGS 5.10-1)

 Jesus told Nicodemus, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). The Lord Jesus wants to renew in each one of us the gift of faith and the regenerating power of baptism and the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) which cleanses us of the leprosy of sin and makes us “newborn” sons and daughters of God.

Confronting the sin of indifference and unbelief 
When Jesus first proclaimed the good news of God’s kingdom to his own townspeople at Nazareth (Luke 4:23-27), he did not hesitate to confront them with their sin of indifference and unbelief. He startled his listeners in the synagogue at Nazareth with a seeming rebuke that no prophet or servant of God could receive honor among his own people. He then angered them when he complimented Gentiles (non-Jews) who had shown more faith in God than the “chosen ones” of Israel. Some who despised the Gentiles (non-Jews) even spoke of them as “fuel for the fires of hell.” Jesus’ praise for “outsiders” offended the ears of his own people because they were blind-sighted to God’s merciful plan of redemption for all the nations. The word of rebuke spoken by Jesus was met with indignation and hostility. The Nazarenes forcibly threw him out of their town and would have done him physical harm had he not stopped them.

We all stand in need of God’s grace and merciful help every day and every moment of our lives. Scripture tells us that “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23). God gives grace to the humble who seek him with expectant faith and with a repentant heart that wants to be made whole and clean again.

The Lord Jesus will set us free from every sinful habit and every harmful way of relating to our neighbor, if we allow him to cleanse and heal us. If we want to walk in freedom and grow in love and holiness, then we must humbly renounce our sinful ways and submit to Christ’s instruction and healing discipline in our lives. Scripture tells us that the Lord disciplines us for our good that we may share his holiness (Hebrews 12:10). Do you want the Lord Jesus to set you free and make you whole again? Ask him to show you the way to walk in his healing love and truth.

“Lord Jesus, teach me to love your ways that I may be quick to renounce sin and wilfulness in my life. Make me whole and clean again that I may delight to do your will.”

Psalm 71:1-6,15,17

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

A Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Could anyone refuse to love our God?, by Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

“These words having been read to the assembled people, all eyes focused on Jesus, wondering perhaps how he could read without having been taught. The Israelites used to say that the prophecies concerning Christ were fulfilled, either in the persons of some of their more glorious kings or at least in the holy prophets. They did not correctly understand what was written about him, so they missed the true direction and traveled down another path. He carefully guards against error by saying, ‘This day is this prophecy fulfilled in your ears,’ that they might not again misinterpret the present prophecy. He expressly set himself before them in these words, as the person spoken of in the prophecy. It was he who preached the kingdom of heaven to the heathen. They were poor, having nothing – not God, not law, not prophets. Rather, he preached it to all who were without spiritual riches. He set the captives free; having overthrown the apostate tyrant Satan, he shed the divine and spiritual light on those whose heart was darkened. This is why he said, ‘I come as a light in this world ‘ (John 12:46).’ It was he who took the chains of sin off of those whose heart was crushed by them. He clearly showed that there is a life to come, and sinners denounced in just judgment. Finally, it was he who preached the acceptable year of the Lord, the year in which the Savior’s proclamation was made. By the acceptable year I think is meant his first coming, and by the day of restitution the day of judgment. (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 12)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite:
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

“Why are you afraid?”

Scripture:  Mark 4:35-41 

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.  38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” 41 And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?”

Meditation: How can we fight fear with faith? Jesus’ sleeping presence on the storm-tossed sea reveals the sleeping faith of his disciples. They feared for their lives even though their Lord and Master was with them in the boat. They were asleep to Christ while he was present to them in their hour of need. The Lord is ever present to us. And in our time of testing he asks the same question: Why are you afraid? Have you no faith? Do you recognize the Lord’s presence with you, especially when you meet the storms of adversity, sorrow, and temptation? Whenever we encounter trouble, the Lord is there with the same reassuring message: “It is I, do not be afraid.”

What are the characteristics of faith and how can we grow in it? Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to us. Believing is only possible by grace and the help of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and who opens the eyes of the mind to understand and accept the truth which God has revealed to us. Faith enables us to relate to God rightly and confidently, with trust and reliance, by believing and adhering to his word, because he is utterly reliable and trustworthy. If we want to live, grow, and persevere in faith, then it must be nourished with the word of God. 

Fear does not need to cripple us from taking right action or rob us of our trust and reliance on God. Courage working with faith enables us to embrace God’s word of truth and love with confidence and to act on it with firm hope in God’s promises. The love of God strengthens us in our faith and trust in him and enables us to act with justice and kindness towards our neighbor even in the face of opposition or harm. Do you allow the love of Christ to rule in your heart and mind, and to move your will to choose what is good in accordance with his will?

“Lord Jesus, increase my faith in your redeeming love and power that I may always recognize your abiding presence with me. And give me courage to do your will in all circumstances.”

Psalm 51:12-17

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. 
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 
14 Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance. 
15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth your praise. 
16 For you have no delight in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. 
17 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Awakening the Christ asleep within you, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

“When you have to listen to abuse, that means you are being buffeted by the wind. When your anger is roused, you are being tossed by the waves. So when the winds blow and the waves mount high, the boat is in danger, your heart is imperiled, your heart is taking a battering. On hearing yourself insulted, you long to retaliate; but the joy of revenge brings with it another kind of misfortune – shipwreck. Why is this? Because Christ is asleep in you. What do I mean? I mean you have forgotten his presence. Rouse him, then; remember him, let him keep watch within you, pay heed to him… A temptation arises: it is the wind. It disturbs you: it is the surging of the sea. This is the moment to awaken Christ and let him remind you of those words: ‘Who can this be? Even the winds and the sea obey him.” (excerpt from Sermons 63:1-3) 

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite:
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

What the kingdom of God is like

Scripture:  Mark 4:26-34

26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, 27 and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” 30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” 33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

Meditation: What can mustard seeds teach us about the kingdom of God? The tiny mustard seed literally grew to be a tree which attracted numerous birds because they loved the little black mustard seed it produced. God’s kingdom works in a similar fashion. It starts from the smallest beginnings in the hearts of men and women who are receptive to God’s word. And it works unseen and causes a transformation from within. Just as a seed has no power to change itself until it is planted in the ground, so we cannot change our lives to be like God until God gives us the power of his Holy Spirit.

The Lord of the Universe is ever ready to transform us by the power of his Spirit. Are you ready to let God change you by his life-giving Word and Spirit? The kingdom of God produces a transformation in those who receive the new life which Jesus Christ offers. When we yield to the Lord Jesus and allow his word to take root in us, our lives are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. Paul the Apostle says, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Do you believe in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit?

Peter Chrysologous (400-450 AD), an early church father, explained how the ” tree of the cross” spread its branches throughout the world and grew into a worldwide community of faith offering its fruit to the whole world:

It is up to us to sow this mustard seed in our minds and let it grow within us into a great tree of understanding reaching up to heaven and elevating all our faculties; then it will spread out branches of knowledge, the pungent savor of its fruit will make our mouths burn, its fiery kernel will kindle a blaze within us inflaming our hearts, and the taste of it will dispel our unenlightened repugnance. Yes, it is true: a mustard seed is indeed an image of the kingdom of God. Christ is the kingdom of heaven. Sown like a mustard seed in the garden of the virgin’s womb, he grew up into the tree of the cross whose branches stretch across the world. Crushed in the mortar of the passion, its fruit has produced seasoning enough for the flavoring and preservation of every living creature with which it comes in contact. As long as a mustard seed remains intact, its properties lie dormant; but when it is crushed they are exceedingly evident. So it was with Christ; he chose to have his body crushed, because he would not have his power concealed….

Christ became all things in order to restore all of us in himself. The man Christ received the mustard seed which represents the kingdom of God; as man he received it, though as God he had always possessed it. He sowed it in his garden, that is in his bride, the Church. The Church is a garden extending over the whole world, tilled by the plough of the gospel, fenced in by stakes of doctrine and discipline, cleared of every harmful weed by the labor of the apostles, fragrant and lovely with perennial flowers: virgins’ lilies and martyrs’ roses set amid the pleasant verdure of all who bear witness to Christ and the tender plants of all who have faith in him. Such then is the mustard seed which Christ sowed in his garden. When he promised a kingdom to the patriarchs, the seed took root in them; with the prophets it sprang up; with the apostles it grew tall; in the Church it became a great tree putting forth innumerable branches laden with gifts. And now you too must take the wings of the psalmist’s dove, gleaming gold in the rays of divine sunlight, and fly to rest for ever among those sturdy, fruitful branches. No snares are set to trap you there; fly off, then, with confidence and dwell securely in its shelter. (SERMON 98)

Do you allow the seed of God’s word to take deep root in your life and transform you into a fruit-bearing disciple of Jesus Christ?

“Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit and transform me into the Christ-like holiness you desire. Increase my zeal for your kingdom and instill in me a holy desire to live for your greater glory.”

Psalm 51:1-5,8-9

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;  according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless in your judgment. 
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 
8 Fill me with joy and gladness; let the bones which you have broken rejoice. 
9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: God gave us what was most precious, by Isaac of Nineveh (a Syrian monk, teacher, and bishop), 613-700 A.D.

“The sum of all is God, the Lord of all, who from love of his creatures has delivered his Son to death on the cross. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son for it. Not that he was unable to save us in another way, but in this way it was possible to show us his abundant love abundantly, namely, by bringing us near to him by the death of his Son. If he had anything more dear to him, he would have given it to us, in order that by it our race might be his. And out of his great love he did not even choose to urge our freedom by compulsion, though he was able to do so. But his aim was that we should come near to him by the love of our mind. And our Lord obeyed his Father out of love for us.” (excerpt from ASCETICAL HOMILY 74.28)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite:
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager