“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted”


Saturday (August 25): Scripture: 

1 Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. 4 They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. 11 He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; 12 whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Meditation: Does your practice match your talk? Jesus scolds the scribes and Pharisees, the religious leaders of the Jews, for their showy practices. In a way they wanted to be good models of observant Jews. See how well we observe all the ritual rules and regulations of our religion! In their misguided zeal for religion they sought respect and honor for themselves rather than for God and for his word. They wanted the people to treat them as great teachers and rulers. They, unfortunately, made the practice of their faith a burden rather than a joy for the people they were supposed to serve.

Was Jesus against calling anyone rabbi or father? Or was he just directing this sharp rebuke to the scribes and Pharisees? Jesus seemed to be warning both his disciples and the religious leaders about the temptation to seek titles and honors to increase one’s personal reputation and admiration by others. The scriptures give ample warning about the danger of self-seeking pride: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbes 16:18)  “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6; Proverbs 3:24)

Jerome, an early church father (347-420 AD) and bible scholar who translated the bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into the common Latin tongue, comments on this passage:

“No one should be called teacher or father except God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is the Father, because all things are from him. He alone is the teacher, because through him are made all things and through him all things are reconciled to God. But one might ask, ‘Is it against this precept when the apostle calls himself the teacher of the Gentiles? Or when, as in colloquial speech widely found in the monasteries of Egypt and Palestine, they call each other Father?’ Remember this distinction. It is one thing to be a father or a teacher by nature, another to be so by generosity. For when we call a man father and reserve the honor of his age, we may thereby be failing to honor the Author of our own lives. One is rightly called a teacher only from his association with the true Teacher. I repeat: The fact that we have one God and one Son of God through nature does not prevent others from being understood as sons of God by adoption. Similarly this does not make the terms father and teacher useless or prevent others from being called father.” [Jerome’s Commentary on Matthew]

Respect for God and his ways inclines us to Godly humility and simplicity of heart. The word disciple means one who listens in order to learn. Jesus shows us the way to the Father – the way of peace, joy, righteousness, holiness, and true happiness. He showed us the way by lowering himself as a servant for our sake. He humbled himself, even to death on a cross, that we might be raised up and exalted at the Father’s right hand in heaven (Philippians 2:1-11). What is true Christ-like humility? Humility is true self-knowledge – regarding oneself as God sees each of us. The humble do not rely on themselves, but trust in God and in the power of his love and saving grace. True humility is a servant-like quality which enables us to place our life at the service of God and the service of our neighbor. Do you know the joy of Christ-like humility and simplicity of heart?

“Lord Jesus, teach me your way of humility and servanthood that I may walk in love as you have loved me. Fill me with the joy of servanthood that I may know the true freedom of  selfless love and generous service for my neighbor.”

Psalm 85:8-13

8 Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.
10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
12 Yes, the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him, and make his footsteps a way.

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“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. 

“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!

“Great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire”


Wednesday (August 8): Scripture: Matthew 15:21-28

21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Meditation: Do you ever feel “put-off” or ignored by the Lord? This passage describes the only occasion in which Jesus ministered outside of Jewish territory. (Tyre and Sidon were fifty miles north of Israel and still exist today in modern Lebanon.) A Gentile woman, a foreigner who was not a member of the Jewish people, puts Jesus on the spot by pleading for his help. She addressed Jesus as Lord and Son of David. She recognized that Jesus was God’s annoined one who would bring healing and salvation, not only to the people of Israel, but to the Gentiles as well. She asks Jesus to show mercy and compassion to her tormented daughter. At first Jesus seemed to pay no attention to her, and this made his disciples feel embarrassed. Jesus does this to test the woman to awaken faith in her.

When she persisted in asking Jesus to heal her daughter, Jesus answered by saying one shouldn’t take food prepared for their children and throw it to the dogs. What did Jesus mean by this expression? The Jews often spoke of the Gentiles as “unclean dogs” since they worshipped idols, offered sacrifices to demons, and rejected the true God. For the Greeks the “dog” was a symbol of dishonor and was used to describe a shameless and audacious woman. Matthew 7:6 records the expression: do not give dogs what is holy. Jesus was sent from the Father in heaven to first feed the children of Israel with the true bread of life that would bring healing, reconciliation, and lasting union with God. This humble Canaanite woman was not put-off by Jesus’ refusal to give her what she asked for. In desparation and hope for her tormented child, she pleads with Jesus to give some of the “crumbs that fall from the table” to the “little dogs”.

John Chrysostom (349-407 AD), in his sermon on this passage, remarks how this woman approached Jesus with great humility, wisdom, and faith:

“See her humility as well as her faith! For he had called the Jews ‘children,’ but she was not satisfied with this. She even called them ‘masters,’ so far was she from grieving at the praises of others. She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’ Behold the woman’s wisdom! She did not venture so much as to say a word against anyone else. She was not stung to see others praised, nor was she indignant to be reproached. Behold her constancy. When he answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs,’ she said, ‘Yes, Lord.’ He called them ‘children,’ but she called them ‘masters.’ He used the name of a dog, but she described the action of a dog. Do you see the woman’s humility? …Do you see how this woman, too, contributed not a little to the healing of her daughter? For note that Christ did not say, ‘Let your little daughter be made whole,’ but ‘Great is your faith, be it done for you as you desire.’ These words were not uttered at random, nor were they flattering words, but great was the power of her faith, and for our learning. He left the certain test and demonstration, however, to the issue of events. Her daughter accordingly was immediately healed.” [The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 52.3]

Jesus praised this woman for her faith and for her love because she made the misery of her child her own. She was willing to suffer rejection in order to obtain healing for her loved one. She also had indomitable persistence. Her faith grew in contact with the person of Jesus. She began with a request and she ended on her knees in worshipful prayer to the living God. No one who ever sought Jesus with faith – whether Jew or Gentile – was refused his help. Do you seek Jesus with expectant faith?

“Lord Jesus, your love and mercy knows no bounds. May I trust you always and pursue you with indomitable persistence as this woman did. Increase my faith in your saving power and deliver me for all evil and harm. ”

Psalm 67:1-7

1 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, [Selah]
2 that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. [Selah]
5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
6 The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us.
7 God has blessed us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!

“Lord, give us this bread always”


Sunday (August 5): Scripture: 

24 So when the people saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Caper’na-um, seeking Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, `He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.

Meditation: What do you most hunger and thirst for in life? Jesus addressed this issue with those who sought him after the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. Where they simply hungry for things which satisfy the body or for that which satisfies the heart and soul? Jesus echoes the question posed by the prophet Isaiah: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy” (Isaiah 55:2)? Only God can satisfy the spiritual hunger in our heart and soul – the hunger for truth, for life, and for companionsip and love.

Jesus makes a claim which only God can make: He is the true bread of heaven that can satisfy the deepest hunger, thirst, and longing which every human being experiences in life. When the Israelites journeyed in the desert wildnerness they could find no food to keep themselves alive. They complained that God had left them there to perish. God tested them to see if they would trust in his personal care and provision for them. He gave them sufficient manna each day to sustain them on their journey to the promised land. This daily provision of manna in the wilderness could not produce long lasting satisfaction nor eteral life for the Israelites. It did however prefigure and point to the superabundance of the unique bread of the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper which Jesus gave to his disciples on the eve of his sacrifice. The bread which Jesus offers his disciples sustains us not only on our journey to the heavenly paradise, it gives us the abundant supernatural life of God which sustains us now and for all eternity. When we receive from the Lord’s table we unite ourselves to Jesus Christ, who makes us sharers in his body and blood and partakers of his divine life. Ignatius of Antioch (35-107 A.D.) calls it the “one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ” (Ad Eph. 20,2). This supernatural food is healing for both body and soul and strength for our journey heavenward.

Jesus also spoke about the works of God and what we must do to be doing the works of God, namely to believe in God’s Son whom he has sent into the world. Jesus offers a new relationship with God which issues in a new kind of life: a life of sacrificial love, selfless service, and the forgiveness of others which corresponds to God’s mercy, goodness and loving kindness; a life of holiness, purity, and truth which corresponds to God’s holiness; and a life of obedience and trust which corresponds to God’s offer of abundant life, peace, and happiness. This is the work which Jesus directs us to and enables us to perform in the power of the Holy Spirit. Do you hunger for the bread which comes down from heaven and thirst for the words of everlasting life?

“Lord Jesus, you are the true Bread of Heaven. Only you alone can truly satisfy the deepest longing and hunger of my heart. Nourish me with the bread of life that I may be truly satisfied in you alone as the giver of life.”

Psalm 78:3-4,23-25,54

3 things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders which he has wrought.
23 Yet he commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven;
24 and he rained down upon them manna to eat, and gave them the grain of heaven.
25 Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance.
54 And he brought them to his holy land, to the mountain which his right hand had won.

“The heavenly treasure and the pearl of great price”


Wednesday (August 1): Scripture:  

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he  has and buys that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Meditation: What do you most treasure and how do you keep it secure? In a peasant community the best safe was often the earth. The man in the parable “went in his joy” to sell everything. Why? Because he found a treasure worth possessing above everything else he had. He did not, however, have enough to buy the treasure. Fortunately, he only needed enough money to buy the field. In a similar fashion, God offers his kingdom as incomparable treasure at a price we can afford! We can’t pay the full price for the life which God gives us; but when we exchange our life for the life which God offers, we receive a treasure beyond compare. The pearl of great price also tells us a similar lesson. Pearls in the ancient world came to represent the supremely valuable. Jesus remarked that one should not cast pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). Why would a merchant sell everything for a peerless pearl? No doubt because he was attracted to what he thought was the greatest treasure he could possess.

Discovering God’s kingdom is like stumbling across hidden treasure or finding the one pearl of great price. When we discover the kingdom of God we receive the greatest possible treasure – the Lord himself. Selling all that we have to obtain this incomparable treasure could mean many things – our friends, job, our “style of life”, what we do with our free time. Treasure has a special connection to the heart, the place of desire and longing, the place of will and focus. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. In this parable what does the treasure of the kingdom refer to? It certainly refers to the kingdom of God in all its aspects. But in a special way, the Lord himself is the treasure we seek.If the Almighty is your gold and your precious silver, then you will delight yourself in the Almighty (Job 22:22-23).  Is the Lord the treasure and delight of your heart?

“Lord Jesus, reveal to me the true riches of your kingdom. Help me to set my heart on you alone as the treasure beyond compare with any other. Free my heart of any inordinate desires or attachment to other things that I may freely give to you all that I have in joy and gratitude for all that you have given to me. May I always find joy and delight in your presence.”

Psalm 59:1-4, 10, 16-17

1 Deliver me from my enemies, O my God, protect me from those who rise up against me,
2 deliver me from those who work evil, and save me from bloodthirsty men.
3 For, lo, they lie in wait for my life; fierce men band themselves against me. For no transgression or sin of mine, O LORD,
4 for no fault of mine, they run and make ready. Rouse yourself, come to my help, and see!
10 My God in his steadfast love will meet me; my God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.
16 But I will sing of your might; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.  For you hast been to me a fortress  and a refuge in the day of my distress.
17 O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.

“An enemy sowed weeds among the wheat”


Saturday (July 28):  Scripture:  

24 Another parable he put before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the householder came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?’ 28 He said to them, `An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, `Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, `No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be  burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”

Meditation: What can malicious weed-sowing tell us about the kingdom of God? The image Jesus uses here is a common everyday example of planting, harvesting, and sorting the good fruit from the bad. Weeds can spoil and even kill a good harvest if they are not separated and destroyed at the proper time. Uprooting them too early, though, can destroy the good plants in the process. Just as nature teaches us patience, so God’s patience also teaches us to guard the word which he has planted in our hearts and to beware of the destructive force of sin and deception which can destroy it. God’s word brings life, but Satan, the father of lies, seeks to destroy the good seed which God plants in the hearts of those listen to his word. God’s judgment is not hasty, but it does come. And in the end, God will reward each according to what they have sown and reaped in this life. In that day God will separate the evil from the good. Do you allow God’s word to take deep root in your heart?

“Lord Jesus, may your word take deep root in my heart and that I may bear good fruit for your glory. May I hunger for your righteousness now that I may look forward to the day of judgment with joy rather than with dismay.”

Psalm 84:1-5,7,10

1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD;  my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! [Selah]
5 Blessed are the men whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
7 They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.  I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God  than dwell in the tents of wickedness.