Dear God, open a door for my message, so that I may proclaim the mystery of Christ. I pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Colossians 4:3-4

R4C

R4C
Reconciliation and Forgiveness ~ I am Sorry * Please Forgive Me * Thank You * I Love You. ~ Reconciliation and Forgiveness ~ I am Sorry * Please Forgive Me * Thank You * I Love You. ~ Reconciliation and Forgiveness ~ I am Sorry * Please Forgive Me * Thank You * I Love You.
Psalm 19:14, May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Whoever relaxes one of the commandments




Do you view God's law negatively or positively? Jesus' attitude towards the law of God can be summed up in the great prayer of Psalm 119: "Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day." For the people of Israel the "law" could refer to the ten commandments or to the five Books of Moses, called the Pentateuch, which explain the commandments and ordinances of God for his people. The "law" also referred to the whole teaching or way of life which God gave to his people. The Jews in Jesus' time also used it as a description of the oral or scribal law. Needless to say, the scribes added many more things to the law than God intended. That is why Jesus often condemned the scribal law. It placed burdens on people which God had not intended. Jesus, however, made it very clear that the essence of God's law - his commandments and way of life, must be fulfilled.

Jesus taught reverence for God's law - reverence for God himself, for the Lord's Day, reverence or respect for parents, respect for life, for property, for another person's good name, respect for oneself and for one's neighbor lest wrong or hurtful desires master us. Reverence and respect for God's commandments teach us the way of love - love of God and love of neighbor.

The transforming work of the Holy Spirit 
What is impossible to men and women is possible to God and those who put their faith and trust in God. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit the Lord transforms us and makes us like himself. We are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) because "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Romans 5:5). God gives us the grace to love as he loves, to forgive as he forgives, to think as he thinks, and to act as he acts.

The Lord loves justice and goodness and he hates every form of wickedness and sin. He wants to set us free from our unruly desires and sinful habits, so that we can choose to live each day in the peace, joy, and righteousness of his Holy Spirit (Romans 14: 17). To renounce sin is to turn away from what is harmful and destructive for our minds and hearts, and our very lives. As his followers we must love and respect his commandments and hate every form of sin. Do you love and revere the commands of the Lord?

Lord Jesus, grant this day, to direct and sanctify, to rule and govern our hearts and bodies, so that all our thoughts, words and deeds may be according to your Father's law and thus may we be saved and protected through your mighty help.

source: From the desk of Don Schwager, 
hosted by Kairos Europe and the Middle East

Please pray for those suffering from cancer ....

Who are fighting a good fight against cancer. Grant them your prayer and support for a complete healing. God works wonder and nothing is beyond His power. He will grant them His miraculous healing touch and may every cancer cell be wiped out by your powerful hands. Amen.


Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Our Lenten Opportunity


"Christ saved us according to His mercy, 
and renewing through the Holy Spirit."
~ Titus 3:5 ~

Our last Faith Reflection focused on the significant role Lenten sacrifice has in a renewal of our commitment to living our faith. In addition, Lent is also the perfect time to invite the Holy Spirit into our hearts to help us see and accept our opportunities for growth.


Change, even in small aspects of our life, can be a bit intimidating sometimes . . . or seem more like a bother, especially when you’re someone who is already mindful of living your life guided by faith.

Through our devotion to St. Jude, we know he is always ready to receive our prayers for help and our requests for intercession. As the Patron Saint of Hope, he can be the additional strength and support we need to continue to grow in how we live the Gospel.

We have our deep love and commitment to Christ in our hearts and our daily decisions. Part of living our faith is to reflect that love to the outside world, too. It is a way we are able to bring the Word of God to others . . . we share aspects of the Gospel by our example.

Our actions as a reflection of God’s love can be very small and still be extremely meaningful. We can impact many people’s day simply by treating everyone we interact with as people of dignity.

In gratitude for everything St. Jude felt Jesus had given him by inviting him to be one of His Apostles, he committed the rest of his life to sharing the Word of God with people anywhere he could travel. It certainly isn’t practical for most of us to try to follow St. Jude’s particular path, but his passion for Jesus and the Gospel does remind us he is especially aware of the grace we may need to venture a bit out of our comfort zone as we work to grow in our Catholic life.


Ask St. Jude to open our hearts to Lent’s riches for our souls. And through his intercession, ask him to also place your prayers of gratitude before God.


source: Faith Reflection @ http://www.shrineofstjude.org/

Can you drink Christ's cup?




Who or what takes first place in your life? You and what you want to do with your life or God and what he desires for you? When personal goals and ambitions are at odds with God's will, whose will prevails? The prophet Jeremiah spoke a word that was at odds with what the people wanted. The word which Jeremiah spoke was not his personal opinion but the divinely inspired word which God commanded him to speak. Jeremiah met stiff opposition and even threats to his life for speaking God's word. Jeremiah pleaded with God when others plotted to not only silence him but to destroy him as well. Jesus also met stiff opposition from those who opposed his authority to speak and act in God's name. Jesus prophesied that he would be rejected by the religious authorities in Jerusalem and be condemned to death by crucifixion - the most painful and humiliating death the Romans had devised for enemies who opposed their authority.

Jesus called himself the "Son of Man" (Matthew 20:17) - a prophetic title for the Messiah which came from the Book of Daniel. Daniel was given a prophetic vision of a "Son of Man" who is given great authority and power to rule over the earth on behalf of God. But if Jesus is the Messiah and "Son of Man" prophesied by Daniel, why must he be rejected and killed? Did not God promise that his Anointed One would deliver his people from their oppression and establish a kingdom of peace and justice? The prophet Isaiah had foretold that it was God’s will that the "Suffering Servant" who is "God's Chosen One" (Isaiah 42:1) must first make atonement for sins through his suffering and death (Isaiah 53:5-12) and then be raised to establish justice on the earth (Isaiah 42:4). Jesus paid the price for our redemption with his own blood. Jesus' life did not end with death on the cross - he triumphed over the grave when he rose victorious on the third day. If we want to share in the Lord's victory over sin and death then we will need to follow his way of the cross by renouncing my will for his will, and my way for his way of self-sacrificing love and holiness.

Seeking privilege and power
Right after Jesus had prophesied his impending death on the cross, the mother of James and John brought her sons before Jesus privately for a special request. She asked on their behalf for Jesus to grant them a special status among the disciples, namely to be placed in the highest position of privilege and power. Rulers placed their second-in-command at their right and left side. James and John were asking Jesus to place them above their fellow disciples.

Don't we often do the same? We want to get ahead and get the best position where we can be served first. Jesus responds by telling James and John that they do not understand what they are really asking for. The only way one can advance in God's kingdom is by submitting one's whole life in faith and obedience to God. Jesus surrendered his will to the will of his Father - he willingly chose the Father's path to glory - a path that would lead to suffering and death, redemption and new life.

When the other ten disciples heard what James and John had done, they were very resentful and angry. How unfair for James and John to seek first place for themselves. Jesus called the twelve together and showed them the true and rightful purpose for seeking power and position - to serve the good of others with love and righteousness. Authority without love, a love that is oriented towards the good of others, easily becomes self-serving and brutish.

Jesus does the unthinkable - he reverses the order and values of the world's way of thinking. If you want to be great then become a servant for others. If you want to be first, then became a slave rather than a master. How shocking and contradictory these words must have rang in the disciples ears and in our own ears as well! Power and position are tools that can be used to serve and advance one's own interests or to serve the interests of others. In the ancient world servants and slaves had no personal choice - they were compelled to serve the interests of their masters and do whatever they were commanded.

Freedom and servanthood
The model of servanthood which Jesus presents to his disciples is based on personal choice and freedom - the decision to put others first in my care and concern and the freedom to serve them with love and compassion rather than with fear or desire for reward. That is why the Apostle Paul summed up Jesus' teaching on freedom and love with the exhortation, "For freedom Christ has set us free... only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh [for indulging in sinful and selfish desires], but through love be servants of one another" (Galatians 5:1,13). Jesus, the Lord and Master, sets himself as the example. He told his disciples that he "came not to be served but to serve" (Matthew 20:28). True servanthood is neither demeaning nor oppressive because its motivating force is love rather than pride or fear.

The Lord Jesus summed up his mission by telling his disciples that he came "to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). The shedding of his blood on the cross was the payment for our sins - a ransom that sets us free from slavery to wrong and hurtful desires and addictions. Jesus laid down his life for us. This death to self is the key that sets us free to offer our lives as a sacrifice of thanksgiving and love for the Lord and for the people he calls us to serve.

Can you drink my cup? 
The Lord Jesus asks each of us the same question he asked of James and John, "Can you drink the cup that I am to drink"? The cup he had in mind was a cup of sacrificial service and death to self - even death on a cross. What kind of cup might the Lord Jesus have in mind for each one of us who are his followers? For some disciples such a cup will entail physical suffering and the painful struggle of martyrdom - the readiness to die for one's faith in Christ. But for many followers of Jesus Christ, it entails the long routine of the Christian life, with all its daily sacrifices, disappointments, set-backs, struggles, and temptations. A disciple must be ready to lay down his or her life in martyrdom for Christ and be ready to lay it down each and every day in the little and big sacrifices required as well.

An early church father summed up Jesus' teaching with the expression "to serve is to reign with Christ". We share in God’s reign by laying down our lives in humble service of one another as Jesus did for our sake. Are you ready to lay down your life and to serve others as Jesus did?

Lord Jesus, make me a servant of love for your kingdom, that I may seek to serve rather than be served. Inflame my heart with your love that I may give generously and serve others joyfully for your sake.

source: From the desk of Don Schwager, 
hosted by Kairos Europe and the Middle East

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Your heavenly Father knows what you need




Do you believe that God's word has power to change and transform your life today? Isaiah says that God's word is like the rain and melting snow which makes the barren ground spring to life and become abundantly fertile (Isaiah 55:10-11). God's word has power to penetrate our dry barren hearts and make them springs of new life. If we let God's word take root in our heart it will transform us into the likeness of God himself and empower us to walk in his way of love and holiness.


Let God's word guide and shape the way you judge and act 
God wants his word to guide and shape the way we think, act, and pray. Ambrose (339-397 AD), an early church father and bishop of Milan, wrote that the reason we should devote time for reading Scripture is to hear Christ speak to us. "Are you not occupied with Christ? Why do you not talk with him? By reading the Scriptures, we listen to Christ."

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

When we ask God for help, he fortunately does not give us what we deserve. Instead, God responds with grace, mercy, and loving-kindness. He is good and forgiving towards us, and he expects us to treat our neighbor the same. God has poured his love into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:5). And that love is like a refining fire - it purifies and burns away all prejudice, hatred, resentment, vengeance, and bitterness until there is nothing left but goodness and forgiveness towards those who cause us grief or harm.

The Lord's Pray teaches us how to pray 
Consider what John Cassian (360-435 AD), an early church father who lived for several years with the monks in Bethlehem and Egypt before founding a monastery in southern Gaul, wrote about the Lord's Prayer and the necessity of forgiving one another from the heart:


"The mercy of God is beyond description. While he is offering us a model prayer he is teaching us a way of life whereby we can be pleasing in his sight. But that is not all. In this same prayer he gives us an easy method for attracting an indulgent and merciful judgment on our lives. He gives us the possibility of ourselves mitigating the sentence hanging over us and of compelling him to pardon us. What else could he do in the face of our generosity when we ask him to forgive us as we have forgiven our neighbor? If we are faithful in this prayer, each of us will ask forgiveness for our own failings after we have forgiven the sins of those who have sinned against us, not only those who have sinned against our Master. There is, in fact, in some of us a very bad habit. We treat our sins against God, however appalling, with gentle indulgence - but when by contrast it is a matter of sins against us ourselves, albeit very tiny ones, we exact reparation with ruthless severity. Anyone who has not forgiven from the bottom of the heart the brother or sister who has done him wrong will only obtain from this prayer his own condemnation, rather than any mercy."

Do you treat others as you think they deserve to be treated, or do you treat them as the Lord has treated you - with mercy, steadfast love and kindness? 

Father in heaven, you have given me a mind to know you, a will to serve you, and a heart to love you. Give me today the grace and strength to embrace your holy will and fill my heart and mind with your truth and love that all my intentions and actions may be pleasing to you. Help me to be kind and forgiving towards my neighbor as you have been towards me.

source: From the desk of Don Schwager, 

hosted by Kairos Europe and the Middle East

Lent . . . Sacrifice or Renewal?



"When you search for me, you will find me; 
if you seek me with all your heart." 
~ Jeremiah 29:13 ~

We nurture our relationship with God as we live our faith. We know our connection with Him gives us the grace to grow through the easy days and the challenging days. The beauty of nurturing—of really investing in—our relationship with God is that all the benefits of that investment on our part come back to bless us! It’s really kind of a sweet deal.

Lent provides us with a reminder and plenty of weeks to put a unique focus on strengthening our faith in preparation for Easter. Sacrifice is a common element of our strengthening process during Lent; it’s meant to help remind us on a daily, or at least a weekly, basis that we need to examine and enrich and improve our commitment to living our faith.

Our sacrifices can be favorite things we decide to do without during Lent—such as a certain television show every week or desserts every evening. Our sacrifices can also include new things we chose to do—like saving a certain amount each week to make a special donation to a local charity, or adding an extra rosary or a visit to Church every week. Either way (or even both approaches!), we commit to an extra effort to be mindful of just how central our love of God is to our life.

This increased discipline of sacrifice throughout Lent often begins on a physical level; through earnest reflection and prayer we actually arrive at Holy Week spiritually energized. We may have found a thing or two we could improve on in how we live our faith. But at the end of Lent we hopefully have also found a renewed conversation with God and a renewed peace within ourselves—the peace that comes from knowing, truly knowing, He is always with us.


source: Faith Reflection @ http://www.shrineofstjude.org/

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Ash Wednesday ~ 2017



Reflection

One of my dearest friends used to have a sign on the outside of his office door. It read, “O Lord, make me interruptible.” It was an act of hospitality, of course, but also a sincere prayer. I’ve tried to imitate this, but the fact is, I don’t like interruptions. I don’t like having my very important train of thought derailed, my time taken in an unplanned way by God-knows-what. 

Then I think of St. Benedict saying, “Let every guest be received as Christ himself.” Even the rudest, most untimely interruption could be a visit from no less than the Savior himself.

Lent is an interruption. It starts, for heaven’s sake, on a Wednesday. It tears a work week in half. This is not convenient timing for us, if God wants our attention. We’re busy people, and we’re doing good things.

But the interruption of Ash Wednesday is about as intentional as it can be. Today it is not business as usual. A lot is at stake. Whatever we cling to tightly, whatever tethers us or binds us or weighs us down from the true freedom for which we were made—today we want to at least begin to loosen our grasp, and give it back to its rightful owner.

Today is a day to be interrupted by God’s news, God’s good news, God’s promise to heal and transform. We mark ourselves with the blackness of the earth itself, a humbling reminder that our best intentions, our best resolutions, our best efforts have too often crumbled to dust in the ways we allow ourselves to be pulled in other directions. 

We don’t do any of these things to be noticed. Jesus gives us a more than adequate warning against religious showmanship. We do Ash Wednesday not to look good, but because God wants to make us become good. The purpose is the heart, or Lent has no purpose at all.

We have a compass, a direction for our 40-day walk in the desert, and it points to Easter. Where do want to be, as Christians, as people, come Easter? We want to be ready, of course. But readiness is not as simple as how hard or long we pray, how severely we fast or how many things we give up, how much money we give to charity or how many hours of service we do. It is really about how deeply we can yield to what God wants to do with us, in us, through us. 

If we’re not careful, our Lenten activity and religious practices can reinforce our sense of control, when the invitation is always to give up control and trust God alone. In other words, to allow God to be God for us.

“Now is the acceptable time,” says St. Paul. “Now is the day of salvation!” The interruption of Ash Wednesday cracks us open. Through that crack, how deep will we allow God to go in us this Lent?

O Lord, make us interruptible.

by: Father Michael Connors, CSC, ’83 M.Div.
Director, John S. Marten Program in Homiletics
Associate Professional Specialist, Theology

source: Faith ND, University of Notre Dame


Ash Wednesday

Reading 1
Joel 2:12-18
Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.
Perhaps he will again relent
and leave behind him a blessing,
Offerings and libations
for the LORD, your God.

Blow the trumpet in Zion!
proclaim a fast,
call an assembly;
Gather the people,
notify the congregation;
Assemble the elders,
gather the children
and the infants at the breast;
Let the bridegroom quit his room
and the bride her chamber.
Between the porch and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep,
And say, "Spare, O LORD, your people,
and make not your heritage a reproach,
with the nations ruling over them!
Why should they say among the peoples,
'Where is their God?'"

Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land
and took pity on his people.


Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 12-13, 14, 17
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.

R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
"Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight."

R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.

R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Reading 2
2 Corinthians 5:20 - 6:2
Brothers and sisters:
We are ambassadors for Christ,
as if God were appealing through us.
We implore you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin,
so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

Working together, then,
we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
For he says:

In an acceptable time I heard you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you.

Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.

Verse Before The Gospel
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.


Gospel
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms,
do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

"When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

"When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you."

When you pray, fast, and give alms




Are you hungry for God and do you thirst for his holiness? God wants to set our hearts ablaze with the fire of his Holy Spirit that we may share in his holiness and radiate the joy of the gospel to those around us. St. Augustine of Hippo tells us that there are two kinds of people and two kinds of love: "One is holy, the other is selfish. One is subject to God; the other endeavors to equal Him." We are what we love. God wants to free our hearts from all that would keep us captive to selfishness and sin. "Rend your hearts and not your garments" says the prophet Joel (Joel 2:12). The Holy Spirit is ever ready to transform our hearts and to lead us further in God's way of truth and holiness.

Why did Jesus single out prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for his disciples? The Jews considered these three as the cardinal works of the religious life. These were seen as the key signs of a pious person, the three great pillars on which the good life was based. Jesus pointed to the heart of the matter. Why do you pray, fast, and give alms? To draw attention to yourself so that others may notice and think highly of you? Or to give glory to God? The Lord warns his disciples of self-seeking glory - the preoccupation with looking good and seeking praise from others. True piety is something more than feeling good or looking holy. True piety is loving devotion to God. It is an attitude of awe, reverence, worship and obedience. It is a gift and working of the Holy Spirit that enables us to devote our lives to God with a holy desire to please him in all things (Isaiah 11:1-2).

What is the sure reward which Jesus points out to his disciples? It is communion with God our Father. In him alone we find the fulness of life, happiness, and truth. May the prayer of Augustine of Hippo, recorded in his Confessions, be our prayer this Lent: When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrows or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete. The Lord wants to renew us each day and give us new hearts of love and compassion. Do you want to grow in your love for God and for your neighbor? Seek him expectantly in prayer, with fasting, and in generous giving to those in need.

The forty days of Lent is the annual retreat of the people of God in imitation of Jesus' forty days in the wilderness. Forty is a significant number in the scriptures. Moses went to the mountain to seek the face of God for forty days in prayer and fasting. The people of Israel were in the wilderness for forty years in preparation for their entry into the promised land. Elijah fasted for forty days as he journeyed in the wilderness to the mountain of God. We are called to journey with the Lord in a special season of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and penitence as we prepare to celebrate the feast of Easter, the Christian Passover. The Lord gives us spiritual food and supernatural strength to seek his face and to prepare ourselves for spiritual combat and testing. We, too, must follow in the way of the cross in order to share in the victory of Christ's death and resurrection. As we begin this holy season of testing and preparation, let's ask the Lord for a fresh outpouring of his Holy Spirit that we may grow in faith, hope, and love and embrace his will more fully in our lives.

Lord Jesus, give me a lively faith, a firm hope, a fervent charity, and a great love of you. Take from me all lukewarmness in the meditation of your word, and dullness in prayer. Give me fervor and delight in thinking of you and your grace, and fill me with compassion for others, especially those in need, that I may respond with generosity.

source: From the desk of Don Schwager, 
hosted by Kairos Europe and the Middle East

Thursday, 23 February 2017

If your hand or eye causes you to sin


Who in their right mind would want to lose their reward and then be deprived of joy in the end? We have been given the greatest of rewards - God himself who is perfect love and source of abundant life and unending happiness. Paul the Apostle tells us that "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Romans 5:5). God's love purifies our hearts and compels us to express kindness and charity towards our neighbor who is created in the image and likeness of God. We were created in love for love. The charity we show to our neighbors in their need expresses the gratitude we have for the abundant goodness and kindness of God towards us. Jesus declared that any kindness shown and any help given to the people of Christ will not lose its reward. Jesus never refused to give to anyone in need who asked for his help. As his disciples we are called to be kind and generous as he is.

Gregory of Nyssa (330-395 AD), an early church father wrote:

"God never asks his servants to do what is impossible. The love and goodness of his Godhead is revealed as richly available. It is poured out like water upon all. God furnishes to each person according to his will the ability to do something good. None of those seeking to be saved will be lacking in this ability, given by the one who said: 'whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward'" ( ON THE CHRISTIAN MODE OF LIFE 8.1)

Do you allow the love of Christ to transform your heart that you may treat your neighbor with loving-kindness and mercy?

Avoiding evil and the near occasion of sin
Was Jesus' exaggerating when he urged his followers to use drastic measures to avoid evil and its harmful consequences (Mark 9:42-47? Jesus set before his disciples the one supreme goal in life that is worth any sacrifice, and that goal is God himself and his will for our lives which leads to everlasting peace and happiness. Just as a doctor might remove a limb or some part of the body in order to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything that causes us to sin and which leads to spiritual death. Jesus warns his disciples of the terrible responsibility that they must set no stumbling block in the way of another, that is, not give offense or bad example that might lead another to sin. The Greek word for temptation ( scandalon) is exactly the same as the English word scandal. The original meaning of scandal is a trap or a stumbling block which causes one to trip and fall. The Jews held that it was an unforgivable sin to teach another to sin. If we teach another to sin, he or she in turn may teach still another, until a train of sin is set in motion with no foreseeable end. The young in faith are especially vulnerable to the bad example of those who should be passing on the faith. Do you set a good example for others to follow, especially the young?

Salt and fire
What does Jesus mean when he says "have salt in yourselves" (Mark 9:50)? Salt served a very useful purpose in hot climates before the invention of electricity and refrigeration. Salt not only gave food flavor, it also preserved meat from spoiling. Salt was used as a symbol of fellowship and the sharing of a common meal with one's friends. The near-Eastern expressionto betray the salt meant to betray one's Lord or Master or one's friends. Leonardo da Vinci in his painting of the Last Supper depicts Judas in the act of tipping over the salt shaker, thus symbolically indentifying himself as the betrayer of his Master the Lord Jesus.

Jesus used the image of salt to describe how his disciples are to live in the world. As salt purifies, preserves, and produces rich flavor for food, so the disciple of Christ must be salt in the world of human society to purify, preserve, and bring the flavor of God's kingdom of righteousness, peace, joy, and mercy. What did Jesus mean by the expression "salted with fire" and "salt losing its saltiness"? Salt in the ancient world was often put in ovens to intensify the heat. When the salt was burned off and no longer useful it was thrown out on the foot path where it would easily get trodden upon (Matthew 5:13) . Perhaps Jesus wanted to contrast useful salt and salt which lost its ability to prevent corruption to encourage his disciples to bring the rich flavor of Christ's love, holiness, and righteousness to a world dominated by greed, selfish ambition, and neglect for the weak, poor, and defenseless.

Paul the Apostle reminds us that we are called to be "the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life" (2 Corinthians 2:15-16 ). The Lord Jesus wants the fragrance of his love and righteousness to permeate our lives, thoughts, speech, and actions. Do you allow the fragrance of Christ's love and truth to permeate your relationships and circle of influence, especially among your family, friends, and neighbors?

Lord Jesus, fill me with the fragrance of your love and truth that I may radiate the joy and peace of the Gospel wherever I go and with whomever I meet.

source: From the desk of Don Schwager, 
hosted by Kairos Europe and the Middle East

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Only the presence of GOD ....


A note to self as a personal reminder.


Find Hope in relationship with GOD

Feel hopeless? Struggling? 
Hope begins with a relationship with GOD
GOD reserves His “best” for His children 
and offers you all His best 
- but you can only receive it 
through His Son, Jesus Christ.


All things are possible to him who believes


What kind of faith does the Lord Jesus expect of us, especially when we meet challenges and difficulties? Inevitably there will be times when each of us cause disappointment to others. In this Gospel incident the disciples of Jesus brought disappointment to a pleading father because they failed to heal his epileptic son. Jesus' response seemed stern; but it was really tempered with love and compassion. We see at once both Jesus' dismay with the disciples' lack of faith and his concern to meet the need of this troubled boy and his anguished father. Jesus recognized the weakness of the father’s faith and at the same time challenged him to pray boldly with expectant faith: "All things are possible to him who believes!"

Prayer and faith go together 
Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD), in his commentary on this passage, reminds us that prayer and faith go together: "Where faith fails, prayer perishes. For who prays for that in which he does not believe? ..So then in order that we may pray, let us believe, and let us pray that this same faith by which we pray may not falter." The Lord gives us his Holy Spirit that we may have the confidence and boldness we need to ask our heavenly Father for his help and grace. Do you trust in God's love and care for you and pray with expectant faith that he will give you what you need?

When Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, the boy at first seemed to get worse rather than better as he went into a fit of convulsion. Peter Chrysologus (400-450 AD), a renowned preacher and bishop of Ravena, reflects on this incident:
"Though it was the boy who fell on the ground, it was the devil in him who was in anguish. The possessed boy was merely convulsed, while the usurping spirit was being convicted by the awesome judge. The captive was detained, but the captor was punished. Through the wrenching of the human body, the punishment of the devil was made manifest."
God promises each one of us freedom from oppression, especially from the oppression of sin and the evil one who tries to rob us of faith, hope, and peace with God. The Lord Jesus invites us, as he did this boy’s father, to pray with expectant faith. Do you trust in God’s unfailing love and mercy?

Faith and trust in God's unfailing love and mercy 
The mighty works and signs which Jesus did demonstrate that the kingdom of God is present in him. These signs attest that the Father has sent him as the promised Messiah. They invite belief in Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world. The coming of God's kingdom means defeat of Satan's kingdom. Jesus' exorcisms anticipate his great victory over "the ruler of this world" (John 12:31). While Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and may cause grave injuries of a spiritual nature, and indirectly even of a physical nature, his power is nonetheless limited and permitted by divine providence (Romans 8:28). Jesus offers freedom from bondage to sin and Satan. There is no affliction he cannot deliver us from. Do you make full use of the protection and help he offers to those who seek him with faith and trust in his mercy?

Lord Jesus, help my unbelief! Increase my faith and trust in your saving power. Give me confidence and perseverance, especially in prayer. And help me to bring your healing love and truth to those I meet.

source: From the desk of Don Schwager, 
hosted by Kairos Europe and the Middle East

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Faith is trusting GOD



Now faith is confidence 
in what we hope for and assurance 
about what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1


And without faith 
it is impossible to please God, 
because anyone who comes to him 
must believe that he exists 
and that he rewards 
those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6


Therefore I tell you, 
whatever you ask for in prayer, 
believe that you have received it, 
and it will be yours.
Mark 11:24 


For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. 
The LORD loves righteousness and justice; 
the earth is full of his unfailing love.
By the word of the LORD 
the heavens were made, 
their starry host 
by the breath of his mouth.
Psalm 33:4-6


Look to the LORD and his strength; 
seek his face always.
1 Chronicles 16:11


For it is with your heart 
that you believe and are justified, 
and it is with your mouth 
that you profess your faith 
and are saved.
Romans 10:10

Happy Valentine ~ 2017


Each and every day is Valentine for us 
as God so loved us that He gave His only Son, 
our Lord JESUS CHRIST
who died to save us for our sins.
AMEN.