Good News of Great Joy

Today’s reading is Luke 2.

When Luke was written, “gospel” or “good news” was not a religious word. It was a political word. That is, “gospel” or “good news” usually referred to some great news about the emperor, the empire, or victory. It was the word used to describe the birth of the coming emperor or the ascension of a new emperor or the victory of the emperor over Rome’s enemies. When the angels used this word to describe the birth of Jesus, it was a powerful word for those Jewish shepherds. The anointed King of Israel, the descendant of David was born. He would be both Lord and Savior of the Jews. Rome would not be able to withstand this King. It was very much a challenge to the politics of the day. It was good news of great joy because finally the real King had been born, and victory over all enemies was coming. What good news of great joy this still is today. Our King was born. He lived. He conquered. He reigns. Follow Jesus today. He is the Savior. He is the Lord. He is the King. He is the Emperor. He is the only way to victory over and salvation from every enemy, including sin and death. And that is good news of great joy.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 2.

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The Scandal of Judgment

Today’s reading is Matthew 21.

Wow! Is today’s master of the house the same one we read about Friday? Friday’s master was generous and gracious, giving one-hour workers a full day’s pay. Today’s master is a straight up killer. I mean, I get it; the tenants deserved it. But how is this the same master? We learned on Friday that grace is scandalous. The interesting thing is everyone who heard Jesus’s new story of judgment knew exactly what the master in the story would do, and it made sense to them. The problem is it was scandalous to think the hearers of the parable were in the exact same situation as the subjects in the parable. And that is what makes judgment a scandal, isn’t it? Grace is scandalous because none of us deserves it, but we all think we do. When we see someone else get it, we think it is a scandal. Judgment is scandalous because we all deserve it, but none of us thinks we do. When we are told we are going to receive it, we think it is a scandal. Judgment is coming; it shouldn’t be that scandalous to us. That is why we need God’s grace; it shouldn’t be that scandalous either. Yet, here we are. Pick your scandal.

Today’s reading is Matthew 21.

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The Scandal of Grace

Today’s reading is Matthew 20.

What boss acts like this? It’s utterly crazy. It’s scandalous. And we all know it when we stop to think about it. If we owned the vineyards and fields next to the master of the house inĀ Matthew 20, we would be ticked. Not only that, we’d think he was a fool. Pay the guys who only worked the last hour of the day for a full day’s work? Great! Now tomorrow, no one will show up for work until the 11th hour. And then, they will actually expect to get a full day’s pay. I can hear the vineyard owners’ coalition meeting now: “What was that guy thinking?” “Doesn’t he know when you give that kind of grace to people they take it for granted and then take advantage of it?” “These workers will use it as license to lay about and be lazy.” “He’s shooting himself and us in the foot.” That is the scandal of grace. Isn’t it what so many of us are afraid of when we hear God’s grace proclaimed? Let’s face it. Are there workers who will use the master’s generosity and grace as a license to laze about? Of course. But that didn’t stop the Master from bestowing grace and generosity. And it shouldn’t stop us from actually proclaiming God’s grace. Will some use it as a license to sin? Yes. But it is not our job to alter or twist the teaching of grace to try to manipulate the outcomes in others’ lives. It is our job to teach God’s grace, scandalous as it is. It is the hearers’ job to respond properly or no. And, of course, it is our job when people respond improperly to warn them. It is God’s job to dispense the generosity when, where, and to whom He will. Finally, it is also our job to be humbled, amazed, and grateful when His generosity and grace surprises us. I promise you, it will. (After all, when I receive it, I won’t hold it against you if you are surprised. And I hope you won’t hold my surprise and shock against me when you receive it).

Monday’s reading is Matthew 21.

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Calling Sinners

Today’s reading is Matthew 9.

We must all remember what Jesus declared was His mission: “I desire equity, not elitism. For I came not to call the mainstream, but the marginalized.” Wait. Sorry. That’s not it. “I desire empowerment, not oppression. For I came not to call the privileged, but the disenfranchised.” Hold on. That’s not it either. I’m not sure what is wrong with me today. He said, “I desire justice, not inequity. For I came not to call the powerful, but the vulnerable.” Nope. That’s not it either. Alright, let me just go back, read it, and quote it word for word: “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Don’t misunderstand me. I believe Jesus likes equity, empowerment, and justice. But that wasn’t His mission. His mission was salvation. It is often the marginalized, disenfranchised, and vulnerable who have nothing left to lose and therefore are willing to see that they are sinners. That’s why those were the classes that often responded to Jesus, though even they ultimately cried “Crucify Him!” But Jesus came to call sinners. And that is good news for me, because that is what I am. I’m a sinner. How about you? If you are clamoring for social equity, empowerment, and justice, I don’t know that Jesus has what you are looking for. If, on the other hand, you are longing for forgiveness, redemption, and salvation from your sins, Jesus is calling you. Why not respond?

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 10.

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Only One Good News

Today’s reading is Galatians 1.

There are plenty of things parading as good news, but only one really is good news. There are plenty of things that offer hope, but only one that really is hope. There are plenty of things that claim to give good guidance and help through life and into eternity, but only one that really shepherds you into God’s presence. Do not be deceived. Do not be duped. Do not be taken in. Get in God’s Word for yourself. Learn the one, the only, the true Good News that comes from God Himself through Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit. Then walk in the hope that only God can give and look forward to an eternity that only God’s will experience. And hang on to it no matter what anyone or anything else says, offers, or promises. God’s good news works. And it is the only good news that does.

Tomorrow’s reading is Galatians 2.

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Mercy for All

Today’s reading is Romans 11.

All have disobeyed. Therefore, all need mercy. God has consigned all to disobedience that He may have mercy on all. That being said, Paul isn’t actually talking about every single individual (though, surely it applies to all individuals). Rather, in the context of Romans, Paul is actually talking about Jews and Gentiles as groups. Jews had received the Law, but they disobeyed. Jews need the mercy that comes from Jesus. Gentiles were not under the Law, but they too had disobeyed. Gentiles need the mercy that comes from Jesus. But here’s the great thing. Jesus is offering mercy to Jews and Gentiles alike. That is great news for us today. Whether Jew or Gentile, Jesus died to offer you mercy. Why not receive it today? Why not live in it today? But keep in mind, Jesus died to give mercy to that person next to you as well. Why not proclaim it to them? Praise God for the mercy of Jesus on all.

Tomorrow’s reading is Romans 12.

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Beloved

Today’s reading is Romans 9.

We were not His people, but through His patience and grace, we are now His people. We were not beloved, but through His endurance and mercy, we are now His beloved. Wow! Think of what God has gone through over the eons to bring us to be His beloved. Think of the sacrifice He endured. Think of the love He has shown. We were not His people, but now we are children of the living God. Praise the Lord! Thank you, Jesus. That is good news.

Tomorrow’s reading is Romans 10.

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