The Resurrection and the Life

Bible:

Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” John 11:17-27 ESV

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. I Corinthians 15:20-26 ESV

Reflection:

Many years ago among the Viking people before they became Christians, they had some interesting burial practices. When a Viking man died, he would be buried, or sometimes burned and then buried, in the ground. He would be buried with his clothes and also some of his personal belongings, and sometimes some horses would be buried with him. A Viking would be buried in a boat or in a wagon. Some people believe that the horses and wagon, or the boat, would be the way the dead man would get to the afterlife, and that people believed his possessions would also go with him. Stones would be placed in a circle or a triangle around his grave, and in Denmark these stones were often laid out in the shape of a ship.

People from all around the world have different practices for burying people who have died, and many of these customs show that they believe in some kind of life after death. But how can anyone be sure of what happens after people die? When Lazarus died, his sisters Mary and Martha were terribly sad. When Jesus came, Martha poured out her sadness to him. She said that if Jesus had been there, their brother wouldn’t have died. Jesus talked to Martha and told her that her brother would live again. Martha believed that there would be a resurrection of God’s people at the end of the world, but Jesus said that he himself was the resurrection and the life. Everyone who believes in him will live again, and in fact will never really die.

Jesus defeated death when he died on the cross and then rose again from the dead. Because of Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid to die. We know that we will be with Jesus in heaven when we die, and then something even more wonderful will happen when the world comes to an end. Jesus will bring our dead bodies out of their grave and make them brand new, and we will live in his heavenly kingdom forever.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for defeating death for us so that we can have life forever with you. Amen.

Source:

https://www.danishnet.com/vikings/viking-burial-customs/

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A Delayed Visit

Bible:

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him. The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover. Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” John 11:1-16 ESV

Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying out;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God. Psalm 69:1-3 ESV

Reflection:

In the dry summer months, forest fires often rage through acres and acres of trees and brush, causing devastation and destruction. They seem to be a terrible thing when they are happening. But did you know that scientists believe that forest fires aren’t all bad? In fact, there is a branch of science called fire ecology that studies the effects of forest fires, and this science has found that there are a lot of benefits to these summer blazes. For example, a fairly small forest fire can clear out a lot of fuel that would later cause a much bigger fire. Forest fires can kill off invasive plants that don’t belong, giving a chance for native plants to grow back and flourish. The ashes of a forest fire add nutrients to the soil that helps new growth to happen. Fires kill off older, diseased trees and the insect pests that live in them, giving more room for younger, healthier trees to flourish. Burned trees also provide habitat for nesting birds and small mammals. For all these reasons, forest fires aren’t a completely a bad thing, and that’s why forest fires are carefully managed, but not always put out immediately.

One day Jesus heard that a dear friend of his named Lazarus (not the man who was very poor and went to heaven, but the brother of his friends Mary and Martha) was very sick. Anyone would think that Jesus would hurry right away to visit Lazarus and heal him, but Jesus didn’t do that. He stayed where he was for two more days. In this time, Lazarus died. Why didn’t Jesus help him right away? He told his disciples that he was glad that he hadn’t been there, because he was about to do something that would help his disciples believe in him. The disciple didn’t know Jesus’ plans, but they did know it was dangerous for him to travel to the area where his friends lived, because the religious leaders were threatening to kill him. There was so much they didn’t understand about Jesus! He had delayed his visit to his friends because he had a good purpose in mind. Just like fire ecologists might let a fire burn for awhile because they know it will be best for the forest, Jesus allowed something bad to happen to his friend because he knew something very good would come of it.

Sometimes we pray to our Heavenly Father for help, and it seems as if he doesn’t answer our prayers. Sometimes bad things happen to us or our families, and we wonder why God didn’t keep them from happening. We can’t always know why things happen the way they do, but we can be sure that God always hears our prayers and answers them in the way that is best. Even when bad things happen, God stays in control and works out his good purposes for us. We know this, because we see the terrible thing that happened when Jesus died on the cross, and yet we know that God worked out his most wonderful purposes through Jesus. Because of what Jesus did for us, all our sins are forgiven, and we have life with God forever. We can trust the Lord to be with us and help us and to bring good to us, no matter what happens.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for hearing our prayers. Help us to trust you to answer them in the time and the way that is best for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.pacificbio.org/initiatives/fire/fire_ecology.html

We Have Only Done Our Duty

Bible:

[Jesus said:] “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” Luke 17:7-10 ESV

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. Romans 3:19-22a ESV

Reflection:

Kimmy wanted her teacher, Mrs. Gill, to like her and to give her special treats, so she worked very hard to please her teacher. She always behaved well in class and did all her homework and tried hard to do well in all of her subjects. She often raised her hand because she knew the answer to a question, and she was always willing to volunteer to help Mrs. Gill.  Kimmy’s teacher was wise enough not to make any student the teacher’s pet, and after awhile she had to explain to Kimmy that all the things she was doing were only what was expected of her and of all the students. There would be no special treats or privileges for just doing her job as a student. But Mrs. Gill also told Kimmy that she cared about her very much, just because she was her student.

Jesus told a story a little like that. He said that a servant is paid for doing his work, and he doesn’t get any special treatment or thanks just for doing his job. His boss expects the servant to do what he is told without expecting any special reward for it. When the servant has done everything he is supposed to do, he will say that he has only done his duty, and that he hasn’t done anything special or extraordinary.

This is a picture of the way things are with us and God. If we work hard to obey God’s law and follow his ways, we can’t expect any special reward from him. Even if we could obey the Lord perfectly, we would only be doing what is expected of us. But the truth is, we can’t obey God’s law perfectly. We can’t even come close. There’s no way we can earn the Lord’s favor with our obedience and our hard work, and in fact all we really deserve is his punishment for the ways we fall short every day. But the good news is that God loves us very much, not because of our hard work, but because he made us and wants us to be his. He sent Jesus to obey his law perfectly in our place, and to die to pay for all the ways we disobey God. Because of Jesus, we are God’s children, and we can be sure of his love and his blessing, now and always.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us and making us your children through Jesus, our Savior. In His Name, Amen.

God’s Judgment in Hell

Bible:

“And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” Luke 16:24-31 ESV

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:27-28 ESV

Reflection:

Many years ago a man named Dante wrote a poem about hell. In this poem he visited what he called the inferno and wrote about what he saw there. He saw nine circles in hell, each one inside the next, and the deeper a person went into the circles, the more miserable hell would be. People who were in each circle were punished according to the sins they have committed. For example, one circle is the circle of gluttony, or eating too much. People in this circle were stuck in a horrible, stinky mud with icy rain falling on them and a three-headed beast punishing them. People who were in the circle of wrath were either constantly fighting each other, or else they sank into a sullen, black existence where they nursed their grudges.

Dante used his imagination to try to understand hell, but what he wrote was only a story. The Bible sometimes uses the picture of fire to talk about hell, but hell is really a place of God’s judgment on sins and of separation from him forever. This separation from our Heavenly Father is much worse than any punishments our imagination could think of. Jesus described the rich man in hell as being in torment, and of there being no help for him. He saw, far away, Lazarus being comforted next to Abraham in heaven, and he wanted Lazarus to come and just give him a little water to cool his tongue. Abraham said that that wasn’t possible, because there was a great chasm between heaven and hell that no one could cross. Then the rich man wanted Lazarus to go and warn his brothers so that they wouldn’t come to that horrible place. But Abraham said that they should listen to the prophets, and if they didn’t, they wouldn’t listen even if someone would rise from the dead.

Jesus died to take away our sins, and then he rose again from the dead. But some people won’t even listen to Jesus, and if they keep on refusing to trust in him for forgiveness and life, they will suffer God’s judgment in the end. It can be very scary and sad to think about hell, but God sent Jesus to die for us because he doesn’t want anyone to go there. Because Jesus took all of God’s judgment on himself, we don’t have to worry about going to hell. Jesus loves us and keeps us as his own people, and when we die we will go to heaven and be at his side forever.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for saving us from hell and winning a place for us at your side in heaven. Amen.

Source:

Alighieri, Dante Divine Comedy “Inferno.”

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Bible:

[Jesus said:] “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. Luke 16:19-23 ESV

He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty. Luke 1:51-53 ESV

Reflection:

During the American Great Depression in the 1930s, there were many, many people who could not find work. Without money, some of them lost their homes. Many people set up shacks for themselves as makeshift living quarters in encampments, and one of the most famous “Hoovervilles,” as these encampments were sometimes called, was in New York’s Central Park. One thing that made this encampment famous was that the wooden shacks of people in deep poverty were very close to a rich part of New York. There were tall, beautiful apartment buildings surrounding Central Park, and the rich people who lived there could see the homeless people living near them in their struggles to survive the hard times.

Jesus told a story about a very rich man and a very poor man who lived close to each other. The rich man had a feast of the best food every day, but the poor man, whose name was Lazarus, camped out at his gates and wished for just a little bit of the leftovers from the rich man’s table. Lazarus was so poor that he was covered with sores, and dogs came and licked his scabs. But soon both men died, and the rich man went to hell, while Lazarus went to heaven.

We shouldn’t think that all poor people go to heaven, or that all rich people go to hell. It is faith in Jesus, and what he’s done for us on the cross, that opens the door to heaven for us. But sometimes rich people have a harder time trusting Jesus, because they are so used to trusting in themselves and in their riches. Rich people also sometimes struggle with being greedy, and not wanting to help poor people, even those that are very close to them. Poor people sometimes have an easier time having faith because they know they need God’s help for everything.

God loves all people, rich and poor, and Jesus came for all people. Both rich and poor people are sinners, and Jesus died to pay for the sins of all. God helps rich people to have generous hearts to help those who are poor, and he helps poor people to have the faith they need to trust him through hard times. Whether we are rich or poor or somewhere in between, we can trust in God for everything in this life and in the life to come.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for all the blessings you’ve given us. Please help us to be generous and to share our blessings with others, and to trust your help when we have hard times. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

https://mashable.com/2015/09/17/hoovervilles/#WVRgpEIKusqk

A Jealous Brother

Bible:

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” Luke 15:25-32 ESV

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:30-32 ESV

Reflection:

George Bailey was always a good, dutiful man. When he was a boy, his younger brother fell into some icy water and almost drowned, but George jumped in and pulled him out. Because of that, he lost the hearing in one ear, and when he grew up and there was a war he wasn’t allowed to fight because of his bad ear. He had to stay home and watch his brother go to war and become a hero. George’s brother left their small town after the war to follow his dreams, but George stayed home and continued to do what he thought was right, even though he also had dreams of traveling and of becoming an engineer. Those dreams didn’t come true, and later, when George was in trouble, he felt as if his whole life had been pointless. He was ready to jump off a bridge and kill himself, but then an angel came and showed him how much his life had meant to many of the people in town. When George went home, everyone was ready to help him with his problem, and he realized that his life had great value and joy.

This is only a story, but George is a little bit like the older brother in the story Jesus continued to tell. The older brother in the story didn’t take his inheritance from his father and run away. He stayed home and worked with his father and always did what he thought was right. He might have sometimes felt jealous of the fun he thought his younger brother was having, and when his brother came home and his father threw him a party, he was so angry and jealous that he wouldn’t join the celebration. His father came out to talk to him, gently and patiently. The father said that the older son had always been with his father, and that everything his father had was his. He tried to show his son that his life had great value and joy because he had stayed home with him. The father pleaded with him to understand his joy over his younger son, who had caused him so much grief and now come home again. The father wanted the older son to share that joy, just as he shared everything else with him.

We are sometimes like the older brother. We try to live lives faithful to God and his ways, but we don’t always realize what value and joy our lives have because we live our lives with the Lord. We might even feel jealous of people who go their own way and don’t care about God. When one of these people comes to know the love of our Heavenly Father through what Jesus has done for us on the cross, we might even feel jealous. We don’t want to forgive them, because we forget how much love and forgiveness the Lord gives us every day because of Jesus. But our Heavenly Father pleads with us patiently and gently to be ready to love and forgive everyone who comes home to him, the same way that he forgives us. He wants us to share in the joy of his mercy and grace for all people, now and forever.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the life we have with you. Help us to love and welcome everyone that you bring home to your family. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Capra, Frank, dir. It’s a Wonderful Life RKO Radio Pictures, 1946. Film.

A Father’s Heart

Bible:

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:17-24 ESV

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:8-14 ESV

Reflection:

There’s a Christmas album with songs that tell a story about a man whose daughter became angry and left him. She stayed away for a long time, and on Christmas Eve her father was very sad. He prayed that she would be kept safe, and that someday she would come home to him again. The daughter was far away that Christmas Eve, but something inside her wanted to go home. She didn’t have any money, but a kind bartender took all the money out of his cash register and gave it to her so that she could buy a plane ticket home. Then her father, hearing that his daughter was coming home at last for Christmas, was very happy and excited. He said that he had a perfect tree and a string of lights and that everything was just the way it should be. Everything was ready for his daughter, and everything that his heart thought could be was now coming true!

This is a little like the story Jesus continued to tell about the son who left his father and spent all his money until he ended up very hungry and feeding pigs. The son finally realized how foolish he had been to leave his home, and he decided to go back. He knew that he didn’t deserve to be his father’s son anymore, and was going to beg to just be a hired servant, but when he finally reached his father he knew that he didn’t even deserve to ask for that. But his father’s heart was full of love and compassion, and he ran to meet his son. He had been sad and waiting and hoping day after day that his son would come home to him again, and now it was finally coming true! He called for the best robe and for sandals and a ring for his son, and immediately threw a party to celebrate. He was full of joy to have his son back.

The father in this story is a picture of God, our Heavenly Father. We have all turned away from him and lived in sin and rebellion, but his love for us never changed. He longed with all his heart for us to come back to him. He sent his Son Jesus to be our Savior to die for us so that all our sins could be forgiven and we could be his children again. Jesus came to us to bring us home to our Heavenly Father, who is always waiting and hoping for all people to come back to him again through Jesus.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your great love for us, and for sending Jesus to bring us back to you. In His Name, Amen.

Source:

Trans-Siberian Orchestra Christmas Eve and Other Stories, Atlantic Recording Corporation, 1996.

A Lost Son

Bible:

And [Jesus] said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.” Luke 15:11-16 ESV

My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains. From mountain to hill they have gone. They have forgotten their fold. All who found them have devoured them, and their enemies have said, “We are not guilty, for they have sinned against the Lord, their habitation of righteousness, the Lord, the hope of their fathers. Jeremiah 50:6-7 ESV

Reflection:

Timon was a very rich man from the city of Athens. He threw a huge party for all of his friends, and he gave away his money to everyone who said or did things that made him happy. He gave money to his servant so that the servant could marry a woman he wanted to marry, and he gave money to a friend who was in prison so he could be set free. When Timon’s money ran out, he gave away his horses and all his other possessions to his friends until he didn’t have anything left. After that Timon’s land had to be sold because he didn’t have anything else, and when Timon went to his friends to ask for help they wouldn’t give him any. Timon was wasteful with everything he had until he was left with nothing.

This is only a story, and it’s a little like a story Jesus told about a man who took everything his father gave him and left home and spent it all until he didn’t have anything left. He ended up being very hungry and needing to get a job feeding pigs. He was so hungry that he wished he could eat the pig food, but no one gave him anything to eat. This man was very wasteful of the things he had, and the greatest thing he wasted was his father’s love. He had asked his father for all the money that would come to him when his father died, and when he did that he was saying he wished his father were dead! The son wanted to do things his own way, and when he did that, he lost everything.

We are all like this son. We wanted to go our own way and not have to follow the Lord’s ways, and so we took everything God gave us and wasted it in sin and selfishness. We took our life with our Heavenly Father and turned it into death, and without God we were left with nothing. But Jesus came to pay the price for all our sins and to bring us back to our Heavenly Father. Because of Jesus, we have all the blessings of life with God, and will live forever in his heavenly kingdom.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to bring us back to you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Shakespeare, William Timon of Athens

Looking for the Lost

Bible:

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:1-10 ESV

I long for your salvation, O Lord,
and your law is my delight.
Let my soul live and praise you,
and let your rules help me.
I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant,
for I do not forget your commandments. Psalm 119:174-176 ESV

Reflection:

Have you ever lost your cat or your dog? It’s very sad when that happens. It’s especially hard to know what to do when a cat gets lost. Here’s some advice for looking for a lost cat. If you see it outside, be careful not to run toward your cat or clap your hands or make loud noises, because that will just scare it. If it’s possible that your cat is still in the house, you need to get on your knees and search carefully. You need to look under chairs and beds and in all the cupboards. Sometimes cats vanish inside box spring mattresses or arm rests! If your cat is outside, put food and water and cat litter near an upside-down box with a hole in it and a soft bed inside. This might lure your cat to come to this safe nest. You can also hang up a shirt that smells like you outside and let the wind blow the scent to your cat. If you go out to look in the neighborhood, the best time to look for a cat is about 2 a.m.!

Some people don’t like cats, and think that it would be a waste of time to go to so much trouble to find a lost cat. The Pharisees thought that Jesus was wasting his time eating with and teaching tax collectors and other sinners. They thought he should spend his time with better people than that. But Jesus told them some stories to show that when someone cares about something, they will go to all kinds of effort to find it if it gets lost. He told them about a man who had lost a sheep and a woman who had lost a silver coin, and both of them did everything they could to find what they had lost. When they did find it, they were so happy that they had a party for their friends! Jesus said that God and his angels are full of joy when one sinful person comes back to God, and that’s why he spent his time with people who knew they were sinful and had come to him for help and forgiveness.

The Pharisees didn’t think that they were sinful or needed God’s help, and that made them think they didn’t need Jesus and the forgiveness he came to bring. But everyone is a sinner, and everyone needs God’s forgiveness. Jesus came to die on the cross to pay the penalty for all our sins, and because of that we have forgiveness and life with God. We know that God has enough love to go around to all people, and we are happy to share his love with others.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for loving us and coming to find us when we were lost. Amen.

Source:

https://www.petmd.com/cat/care/guide-finding-lost-cat

The Great Banquet

Bible:

When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’” Luke 14:15-24 ESV

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.

Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
and your righteousness to the upright of heart!
Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
There the evildoers lie fallen;
they are thrust down, unable to rise. Psalm 36:7-12 ESV

Reflection:

Sometimes people are supposed to go to work, but they don’t want to. So they might give their boss an excuse. There are many funny excuses for not going to work. Here are some of them: “I have to help my grandmother bake cookies.” “I’ve got my fingers stuck together with super glue.” “I’m being sent to the moon by NASA.” “My hair aches.” “I have to get my big toe calibrated.” “I have a bunch of old parking tickets, and if I don’t pay them I’m going to be arrested.” “I’m having my head examined.” “I’m breaking in my shoes.”

These are very silly excuses! Jesus told a story about some other silly excuses. He said that a man once gave a banquet for his friends and sent invitations to them. They knew when the party was going to happen, and then, as was the custom in Jesus’ day, on the day of the banquet the host sent out his servant to tell the friends that everything was ready. All of his friends gave excuses for not coming. One said that he had bought a field and had to go look at it, and another said the same thing about some oxen. Why would they buy important things like these without looking at them first? Then the third said he had just gotten married, and couldn’t come for that reason. But he would only be away from his new wife for a few hours! All of these excuses were not only silly, but also an insult to the man who was giving the banquet. They thought they could ruin his party by not coming. But the man wouldn’t let his party be ruined. He sent his servant out to find other people, people who were poor or disabled, and people who were traveling along the highway or sheltering in the hedges, and urge them all to come. He was going to have his party, and they would be his honored guests.

In this story Jesus gives us a picture both of God’s judgment and of God’s love. Some people, including many of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day, turn away from God and reject what Jesus has done for them. God has invited them to be part of his heavenly kingdom, but they don’t want any part of it. They are like the people who thought they could ruin the man’s party by not coming. If they continue to refuse, they will miss out on what God has prepared for them and know his judgment and anger instead. But God’s love and mercy go out to everyone, and there is room for everyone in his kingdom. Jesus’ death paid the price for all sin, and no one needs to think that they are not good enough to be one of God’s people. God sends us his Holy Spirit to bring us to faith in him and to bring us into God’s heavenly kingdom, now and always.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for inviting us and for making us part of your kingdom. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.netfunny.com/rhf/jokes/89q3/skipwork.605.html