“Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them”


Saturday (August 18): 

Scripture:  Matthew 19:13-15

13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people; 14 but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.

Meditation: Do you seek to help others draw near to the Lord? The parents who brought their children to Jesus wanted Jesus to lay his hands upon them. They knew of the healing power, both physical and spiritual, which came from Jesus’ touch. Jesus, in turn, rebuked his disciples for hindering the children from coming. The disciplesvery likely wanted to shield Jesus from the nuisance of noisy children. But Jesus delighted in the children and demonstrated that God’s love has ample room for everyone, including children. No one is unimportant to God. He comes to each person individually and uniquely that he might touch them with his healing love and power. Do you show kindness to the youth you encounter in your neighborhood, home, and church and do you pray for them that they may grow in the knowledge and wisdom of Jesus Christ?

“Lord Jesus, may we never hinder our youth from coming to you to receive your blessing and healing power. Make our youth strong in faith and in character that they may follow you zealously. And as we grow with age, may we never lose that child-like simplicity and humility which draws us into your loving presence.”

Psalm 16

1 Preserve me, O God, for in you take refuge. 
2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” 
3 As for the saints in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight. 
4 Those who choose another God multiply their sorrows; their libations of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips. 
5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 
6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yes, I have a goodly heritage. 
7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 
8 I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. 
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure. 
10 For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your Godly one see the Pit. 
11 You show me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy, in your right hand are pleasures for evermore. 

“What God has joined together, let not man put asunder”


Friday (August 17): 
Scripture: 
 Matthew 19:3-12

3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” 8 He said to them, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery.” 10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”

Meditation: What is God’s intention for our state in life, whether married or single? Jesus deals with the issue of divorce by taking his hearers back to the beginning of creation and to God’s plan for the human race. In Genesis 2:23-24 we see God’s intention and ideal that two people who marry should become so indissolubly one that they are one flesh. That ideal is found in the unbreakable union of Adam and Eve. They were created for each other and for no one else. They are the pattern and symbol for all who were to come. Jesus explains that Moses permitted divorce as a concession in view of a lost ideal. Jesus sets the high ideal of the married state before those who are willing to accept his commands. Jesus, likewise sets the high ideal for those who freely renounce marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Both marriage and the single life are calls from God to live a consecrated life, that is to live as married couples or as singles who belong not to themselves but to God. Our lives are not our own, but they belong to God. He gives strength, joy, and blessing to those who seek to follow his way of holiness in their state of life. Do you seek the Lord Jesus and his grace for your state of life?

“Lord Jesus Christ, your call to holiness extends to all in every state of life. Sanctify our lives – as married couples and as singles – that we may live as men and women who are consecrated to you. Make us leaven in a society that disdains life-long marriage fidelity, chastity, and living single for the Lord.”

 Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26

1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever.
2 O give thanks to the God of Gods, for his steadfast love endures for ever.
3 O give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures for ever;
4 to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures for ever;
5 to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures for ever;
6 to him who spread out the earth upon the waters, for his steadfast love endures for ever;
7 to him who made the great lights, for his steadfast love endures for ever;
8 the sun to rule over the day, for his steadfast love endures for ever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night, for his steadfast love endures for steadfast love endures for ever; arm, for his heritage to Israel his servant, for his steadfast love endures for ever.
23 It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures for ever;
24 and rescued us from our foes, for his steadfast love endures for ever;
25 he who gives food to all flesh, for his steadfast love endures for ever.
26 O give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures for ever.

“Lord, how often shall I forgive my brother?”


Thursday (August 16):Scripture:  Matthew 18:21-19:1

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; 25 and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, `Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, `Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken  place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, `You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; 33 and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”  19:1 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.

Meditation: Does mercy trump justice? Justice demands that everyone be given their due. So when is it right to show mercy and pardon to those who have acted unjustly or wrongly? The prophet Amos speaks of God forgiving transgression three times, but warns that God may not revoke punishment for the fourth (see Amos 1:3-13; 2:1-6). When Peter posed the question of forgiveness, he characteristically offered an answer he thought Jesus would be pleased with. Why not forgive seven times! How unthinkable for Jesus to counter with the proposition that one must forgive seventy times that. Jesus made it clear that there is no reckonable limit to forgiveness. And he drove the lesson home with a parable about two very different kinds of debts. The first man owed an enormous sum of money – millions in our currency. In Jesus’ time this amount was greater than the total revenue of a province – more than it would cost to ransom a king! The man who was forgiven such an incredible debt could not, however bring himself to forgive his neighbor a very small debt which was about one-hundred-thousandth of his own debt.

The contrast could not have been greater! No offence our neighbor can do to us can compare with our debt to God! We have been forgiven a debt which is beyond all paying; to ransom our debt of sin God gave up his only begotten Son. Paul the Apostle states, “you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 7:23 ) and that price was Jesus’ death on the cross. Through the shedding of his blood on the cross, Jesus not only brought forgiveness and pardon for our offenses, but release from captivity – from bondage and slavery to sin. Christ came to redeem us from a sinful way of life. “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers …with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18). Christ “gave himself to redeem us from all iniquity” (Titus 2:14). Iniquity describes the futile ways of wrongdoing or sin. We have been forgiven an enormous debt which we could never possibly repay. God expects us to treat one another the same way he treats us. If God has forgiven each of us our debt, which was very great, we, too must forgive others whatever debt they owe us.

Jesus teaches that one must forgive in order to be forgiven (Matthew 6:12,14-15). If we do not forgive our fellow human beings, we cannot expect God to forgive us in turn. The Apostle James says that “judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13). Mercy is truly a gift and it is offered in such a way that justice is not negated. Mercy seasons justice as salt seasons meat and gives it flavor. Mercy follows justice and perfects it. To pardon the unrepentant is not mercy but license. C.S. Lewis, a 20th century Christian author wrote: “Mercy will flower only when it grows in the crannies of the rock of Justice: transplanted to the marshlands of mere Humanitarianism, it becomes a man-eating weed, all the more dangerous because it is still called by the same name as the mountain variety.”  If we want mercy shown to us we must be ready to forgive others as God has forgiven us. Do you hold any grudge or resentment towards anyone?

“Lord Jesus, you have been kind and forgiving towards me. May I be merciful as you are merciful. Free me from all bitterness and resentment that I may truly forgive from the heart those who have caused me injury or grief.”

Psalm 72:7,55-62

7 so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments;
56 Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most High God, and did not observe his testimonies,
57 but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers; they twisted like a deceitful bow.
58 For they provoked him to anger with their high places; they moved him to jealousy with their graven images.
59 When God heard, he was full of wrath, and he utterly rejected Israel.
60 He forsook his dwelling at Shiloh, the tent where he dwelt among men,
61 and delivered his power to captivity, his glory to the hand of the foe.
62 He gave his people over to the sword, and vented his wrath on his heritage.

“His mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation”


Wednesday (August 15): Scripture: Luke 1:39-56   (alternate reading: Matthew 18:15-20)

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechari’ah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” 46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, 52 he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.” 56 And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home.

Meditation: How strong is your hope in the promises of God? Mary is a model of faith and hope for us. And she is among “the first-fruits” of “all those who belong to Jesus” and who share in his triumph (1 Corinthians15:20-24). There is a venerable tradition dating back to the early church which marks Mary’s “falling asleep” (called the Feast of Dormition in many Eastern churches) and her heavenly birthday when she was received into heaven. Her reception into heaven is seen as a sign to all believing Christians of the promise Jesus made that we too would be received into paradise. At the last supper Jesus told his disciples that he would prepare a place for them in his Father’s house. “And when I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).

What enabled Mary to grow in faith and to persevere in hope in the face of obstacles and trials? The Gospel of Luke reveals the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in Mary’s life. When Elizabeth and Mary greeted one another they were filled with the Holy Spirit and with a joyful anticipation of the fulfilment of God’s promise to give a Savior. John the Baptist, even before the birth of the Messiah, pointed to his coming and leapt for joy in the womb of his mother as the Holy Spirit revealed to him the presence of the King to be born. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us to enable us to know and experience the indwelling presence of God and the power of his kingdom. The Holy Spirit is the way in which God reigns within each of us. Mary accepted her mission with uncompromising faith and obedience. She acted with unwavering trust and faith because she believed that God would fulfill the word he had spoken. Her great hymn of praise echoes the song of Hannah (see 1 Samuel 2:1-10) and proclaims the favor of the Lord: God exalts the lowly and he fills the hungry. The Holy Spirit is ever ready to renew your faith and hope in God’s promises and to make you strong in love for God and your neighbor. Do you live in the joy and confidence of God’s indwelling presence with you through his Holy Spirit?

“Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit and give me joy in seeking you more closely. Increase my faith in all your promises, my hope in the joys of heaven, and my love for You as my All.”

Psalm 45:9b-15

9b at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.
10 Hear, O daughter, consider, and incline your ear; forget your people and your father’s house;
11 and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him;
12 the people of Tyre will sue your favor with gifts, the richest of the people
13 with all kinds of wealth. The princess is decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes;
14 in many-colored robes she is led to the king, with her virgin companions, her escort, in her train.
15 With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king.

“It is not the will of my Father that one of these little ones should perish”


Tuesday (August 14):Scripture: 

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; 10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.

12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?  13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Meditation: Are you surprised to see the disciples discussing with Jesus who is the greatest? Don’t we do the same thing? The appetite for glory and greatness seems to be inbred in us. Who doesn’t cherish the ambition to be “somebody” whom others admire rather than a “nobody”? Even the psalms speak about the glory God has destined for us. You have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor (Psalm 8:5). Jesus made a dramatic gesture by placing a child next to himself to show his disciples who really is the greatest in the kingdom of God. What can a little child possibly teach us about greatness? Children in the ancient world had no rights, position, or privileges of their own. They were socially at the “bottom of the rung” and at the service of their parents, much like the household staff and domestic servants. What is the significance of Jesus’ gesture? Jesus elevated a little child in the presence of his disciples by placing the child in a privileged position of honor at his right side. It is customary, even today, to seat the guest of honor at the right side of the host. Who is the greatest in God’s kingdom? The one who is humble and lowly of heart – who instead of asserting their rights willingly empty themselves of pride and self-seeking glory by taking the lowly position of a servant or child.

What does Jesus’ story about a lost sheep tell us about God and his kingdom? Shepherds normally counted their sheep at the end of the day to make sure all were accounted for. Since sheep by their very nature are very social, an isolated sheep can quickly become bewildered and even neurotic. The shepherd’s grief and anxiety is turned to joy when he finds the lost sheep and restores it to the fold. What was new in Jesus’ teaching was the insistence that sinners must be sought out and not merely mourned for. God does not rejoice in the loss of anyone, but desires that all be saved and restored to fellowship with him. That is why the whole community of heaven rejoices when one sinner is found and restored to fellowship with God (Luke 15:7). Seekers of the lost are much needed today. Do you pray and seek after those you know who have lost their way to God?

“Lord Jesus, teach me your way of humility and simplicity of heart that I may find perfect joy in you. May your light shine through me that others may see your truth and love and find hope and peace in you.”

Psalm 119: 14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131

14. In the way of your decrees I rejoice, as much as in all riches.
24. Yes your decrees are my delight; they are my counselors.
72. The law of your mouth is to me more precious than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
103. How sweet to my palate are your promises, sweeter than honey to my mouth!.
111. Your decrees are my inheritance forever; the joy of my heart they are.
131. I gasp for open mouth in my yearning for your commands.

“Not to give offense”


Monday (August 13): Scripture: 

22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed. 24 When they came to Caper’na-um, the collectors of the half-shekel tax went up to Peter and said, “Does not your teacher pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook, and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel; take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

Meditation: Who likes to pay taxes, especially when you think they might be unreasonable or unjust? Jesus and his disciples were confronted by tax collectors on the issue of tax evasion. When questioned about paying the temple tax, Jesus replied to his disciples: We must pay so as not to cause bad example. In fact, we must go beyond our duty in order that we may show others what they ought to do. The scriptural expression to give no offense doesn’t refer to insult or annoyance; rather it means to put no stumbling block in the way of another that would cause them to trip or fall. Jesus would not allow himself anything which might possibly be a bad example to someone else. Do you evade unpleasant responsibilities or obligations?

On three different occasions the Gospels record that Jesus predicted he would endure great suffering through betrayal, rejection, and the punishment of a cruel death. The Jews resorted to stoning and the Romans to crucifixion – the most painful and humiliating death they could devise for criminals they wanted to eliminate. No wonder the apostles were greatly distressed at such a prediction! If Jesus their Master were put to death, then they would likely receive the same treatment by their enemies. Jesus called himself the “Son of Man” because this was a common Jewish title for the Messiah. Why must the Messiah 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” make atonement for sins through his suffering and death. Jesus paid the price for our redemption with his blood. Slavery to sin is to want the wrong things and to be in bondage to destructive desires. The ransom Jesus paid sets us free from the worst tyranny possible – the tyranny of sin and the fear of death. Jesus’ victory did not end with death but triumphed over the tomb. Jesus defeated the powers of death through his resurrection. Do you want the greatest freedom possible, the freedom to live as God truly meant us to live as his sons and daughters?

“Lord Jesus, your death brought life and freedom. May I always walk in that freedom and be guided by your love and truth that I may be generous towards all and give each their due.”

Psalm 148:1-2,11-12,14

1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens, praise him in the heights!
2 Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host!
11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and maidens together, old men and children!
14 He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him.  Praise the LORD!

“If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever”


Sunday (August 12): Scripture: John 6:41-51

41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, `I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, `And they shall all be taught by God.’ Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Meditation: Do you receive the word of God with trust and submission? A number of Jesus’ contemporaries, including most of the religious authorities, rejected his authority to speak in the name of God. They despised him because they thought they knew who he was – supposing him to be an uneducated laborer from an out-of-the-way town called Nazareth. They regarded Mary, his mother, and Joseph, his foster father, as ordinary people with no particular distinction to their name. How could such a common man claim to be God’s spokesman? They were even more offended when Jesus claimed something which only God could claim. He claimed to be the very source of life which comes from God and which lasts forever (John 6:51). Don’t we make the same mistake when we refuse to listen to others because we think they are inferior to us? We can miss what God may wish to speak to us through others, especially if we despise the instrument which God chooses to work through. John states that the Jews murmured at Jesus. They listened to him, but with a critcal heart rather than with an open ear and an earnest desire to learn what God wanted to speak to them through his Son Jesus. There are many different ways that people can choose to listen to others: with an atitude of superiority, with indifference, or with a teachable spirit that wishes to learn, grow, and be transformed. How do you listen to God’s word?

God offers his people abundant life, but we can miss it. What is the bread of life which Jesus offers? It is first of all the life of God himself – life which sustains us not only now in this present age but also in the age to come. The Rabbis said that the generation in the wilderness have no part in the life to come. In the Book of Numbers it is recorded that the people who refused to brave the dangers of the promised land were condemned to wander in the wilderness until they died. The Rabbis believed that the father who missed the promised land also missed the life to come. When Jesus offers us real life he brings us into a new relationship with God, a relationship of trust, love, and obedience. And he offers us real, abundant, sustaining life which last forever  – a life of enduring love, fellowship, communion, and union with the One who made us in love to be united with him forever. To refuse Jesus is to refuse eternal life, unending life with the Heavenly Father. To accept Jesus as the bread of heaven is not only life and spiritual nourishment for this world but glory in the world to come. Do you accept the Lord Jesus as the bread of life?

“Lord Jesus, you are the living bread which sustains me in this life and for all eternity as well. May I always hunger for the true and sustaining bread which comes from heaven and find in it the nourishment and strength I need to love and serve you all the days of my life.”

Psalm 34:1-9
1 I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and be glad.
3 O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 O taste and see that the LORD is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in him!
9 O fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no want!