The Good Word for February 1st

the-stacheHave you ever met someone who really commanded a room? I used to be in Boy Scouts and we had great adult leaders in our troop. One time we paired up for a campout with another troop and one of their adults was this old, grizzled, veteran leader with a huge, bushy red mustache. When he spoke everyone listened and trusted what he said to be true. When he asked us to build a fire or clean up or go get firewood, we immediately set to doing what he asked. This leader spoke with authority.

In the gospel today, Jesus confronts unclean spirits who have possessed a man. Immediately the spirits know who Jesus is – “The Holy One of God.” Then Jesus orders them out and frees the man. Those who saw Jesus heal this man are amazed and said, “What is this? A new teaching with authority.”

People who speak with authority usually do so because their actions back up their words. We listen to them because they walk the walk. Our gospel twice confirms that people think of Jesus as one who teaches and then acts with authority.

This simple story begs us to make a decision about Jesus.

Either Jesus teaches with authority or he does not. The question for us is whether or not we let Jesus have authority in our life. Do we listen to his words as if they carry final authority? Do we let Jesus “author” or write our lives? The people of Capernaum recognized the authority of Jesus’ teaching and actions. Will we?

Live It:
Pick 1 teaching of Jesus. Pray the words every morning and live it every day for one week.
Here are some examples of simple teaching:
Turn the other cheek – Matthew 5:39
Do not let your heart be troubled – John 14:1
Sell your belongings and give alms – Luke 12:33
Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No’ – Matthew 5:37
Love your enemies – Matthew 5:44
Ask – Matthew 7:7
You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart – Matthew 22:37
You shall love your neighbor as yourself – Matthew 22:39

The Good Word for January 25

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

In the gospel today two things happen. First, Jesus declares that the kingdom of God is at hand. Second Jesus calls his first disciples to follow him. Though it doesn’t seem like it, these two sections of the gospel are very much interrelated.

When Jesus declares the kingdom and invites us to repent and believe, he really is announcing good news! In the kingdom of God the hungry are fed, the broken are fixed, the angry are calmed, the sick are healed, the lonely are included, the thirsty are given water, the tired are given rest, the naked are clothed, and much more! This is great news, but lets make it more tangible. By the time you are done reading this blog, 3 people, likely children, will have died from unclean drinking water (get the facts on clean water.) In the kingdom of God that Jesus is declaring, that won’t happen. This really is good news.

Jesus then invites us to repent, which is another way of saying that we have the opportunity to repent because in the kingdom of God, the sinner can be forgiven. He then ends his statement by saying that we can trust this good news to be true.

The very next story is about Jesus going out to call people to follow him, see the good news first hand, and then continue to spread the good news through their lives. Jesus declares the kingdom and then calls people to live it.

The thing is that you and I are also called. Jesus Christ is calling us to not just be Christian in name, but to be true believers of the kingdom of God, the good news that sins are forgiven and all will be made right. And as disciples, just like Simon and Andrew, James and John, we are called to go out and tell others about the good news.

Live It:
Sometimes it’s hard to really hear the good news because we’ve heard stories about Jesus our whole life. This week take out your Bible (or look it up here) and read John 3:16-17 and pretend you are reading it for the first time. It really is good news.

The Good Word for January 18

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

Full disclosure, I’m a big fan of Target. I know it is just a store and just where I buy my toilet paper and milk, but there is something I really enjoy about going to Target.

I really like that the question that Target team members ask isn’t “How’s it going?” or “Are you lost?” or “Sir, would you please stop testing the Nerf guns?” Instead the always ask the same thing, “Can I help you find something?”

This question gets to the point, zeros in on why I am actually at Target in the first place, and encourages me to ask for help even when every fiber of my manhood is screaming to just keep walking aimlessly looking for that hard to find item.

In the Gospel today, two of John’s disciples leave him to follow Jesus. When Jesus notices them and turns around, Jesus asks this incredible question, “What are you looking for?” Jesus asks us the same question. What are we looking for in life? What is our motivation for doing what we do? Why do we go to work? Why do we enter into relationships? Have children? Make a home? Go to church? What exactly are we looking for in our life?

I think a big problem is that sometimes we aren’t looking for anything. Time marches on and we do the same thing today that we did yesterday. We lead busy lives, but we never stop to think about why we are doing what we are doing.

By asking this simple question, Jesus is asking us to be intentional about the things we do in our lives. Jesus is inviting us to think deeply about what we are looking for. In the end, Jesus knows that our complete happiness can only be found in one place – in intimate relationship with the person of Jesus.

Live It:
Ask yourself this question: If a total stranger examined your life, what would they say you are searching for? Does that answer match with what you are actually looking for in life?

The Good Word for the Baptism of the Lord January 11th

For the complete Sunday readings click here.

Who is the best? Who is #1? This is a question we ask often in our society. Sports analysts argue over who is the current best NBA player. Then they argue about who is the best of all time. Cable news stations air endless discussions about which politician and which political party is on top. Minnesotans delight in one-uping each other in stories of bad weather and scary low temperatures.

John the Baptism witnesses to a different way of approaching life when he says, “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.” John the Baptist rightly knows, believes, and teaches that he is number 2.

In the spiritual life it is vitally important that every now and again we ask ourselves this simple but powerful question, “Who is my #1?” For some of us, it is our kids. We would lay down in traffic for them. For others it may be our parents, as they need so much of our attention and care. Still others, it may be our community or our jobs. If we are completely honest with ourselves, many days we are our own #1.

John shows us in this short Gospel reading that when we are at our best, Jesus Christ is our #1. When Jesus is #1, then we are able to give our very best to our kids, our spouses, our parents, our jobs, and ultimately ourselves.

Live It:
Make Jesus #1 tomorrow by give him the first 5 minutes of your day. Set your alarm for just 5 minutes earlier and when it goes off, sit up, say this simple prayer, “Good morning Jesus. I give you my day. I give you my first 5 minutes. Do with it what you will.” And then mindfully go about your day.