Grace and Work

Day 108

Joshua 16:1-18:28; Luke 19:1-27; Psalm 87:1-7; Proverbs 13:11

Grace and Work

In the sacristy of our church, there is a needlepoint hanging on the wall. It reads, “Ask God to bless your work, but do not expect Him to do it for you.” The reading from Joshua reminds me of this. The LORD gave the Promised Land to the Israelites, but they had to do the hard work of clearing out the Land. Some of the tribes did not clear out their portion of the Land as instructed. Later, this would become problematic. Still, the grace of God in the Promise preceded the work of clearing it out. In one sense, this pattern comes to us again in the Gospel reading.

As a chief tax collector, Zacchaeus was also considered to be a chief sinner. Jesus, however, made a beeline straight to this sinner extraordinaire. Zacchaeus received a taste of God’s grace, and he responded generously. He went straight to work making things right and living in love.

On the heels of this encounter, we find a story about the different responses to God’s grace. Some reject it, two respond to it with all they have, and another is paralyzed by fear. Living in response to grace means that there is work to be done. The good news is that we do not begin with work. Rather, we begin with grace, and then go about extending God’s promise to others. So let us ask ourselves, “How am I responding to grace, and is it working in my life?”

The Rev. Gary Jackson
Holy Trinity
Bartow, FL

Unite My Heart to Fear Your Name

Day 107

Joshua 15:1‐63; Luke 18:18‐43; Psalm 86:1‐17; Proverbs 13:9‐10

Unite My Heart to Fear Your Name

It’s amazing how hyperactive our hearts can be – flitting from this distraction to that one, from this affection to that one, from this allegiance to that one. David, “a man after God’s own heart,” understood. So he left us one of the most important prayers we can pray: “Unite my heart to fear your Name” (Ps. 86:11). Joshua reminds us of the consequences of not having a united heart to fear God’s name: Judah is unable to liberate the Promised Land completely, and must share Jerusalem with the Jebusites (Josh 15:63). Proverbs 13:9-10 informs us that our lives will either be characterized by light or by dark, by pride that provokes strife or by wisdom that prompts learning. In Luke, Jesus confronts the rich young ruler with a clear choice: own your possessions enough to give them away, or be owned by them.

In praying for a “united heart,” David could have had but the slightest glimmer of what it would eventually take for God to answer, “Yes!” Jesus promises to go to Jerusalem – the same city that Judah had been unable to liberate from the Jebusites, and which under the Romans was still occupied territory – to accomplish the one victory that counts: His death for our life. His scourging for our healing. His being “handed over” that we might be given back our very selves, whole and free to love and serve the Living God.

Dr. Reggie Kidd
Reformed Theological Seminary

Don’t Give Up Hope

Day 106

Joshua 13:1‐14:15; Luke 18:1‐17; Psalm 85:1‐13; Proverbs 13:7‐8

Don’t Give Up Hope

This reading from Luke exposes a judge who is not predisposed to justice and neither feared God nor respected man. The widow was the symbol of the poor and defenseless. It was only through her persistence that this godless judge granted her petition, not through conscience but in order to silence her “nagging.”

Jesus uses this parable to let the people know that if an unjust judge can be badgered into giving this widow justice so to silence her, so much more is the loving Father willing to listen to His children and grant their petitions. But there is also another message we need to consider: What we ask for may not be in our best interest. God always answers prayers but not always to our liking.

Even Garth Brooks, the country singer, sang about unanswered prayer. We who have children or recall our own youth should remember that haunting refrain, “Daddy, (or Mommy), please!!” The persistence of a child can be both frustrating and tearfully painful. As parents we don’t want to deny our children, but we often know that what they are asking is not in their best interest.

Only the Father knows what’s going to happen in our future, and He knows what’s best for us. We must never be discouraged if our prayers don’t seem to be answered, but we must continue, with persistence, to pray. We will never grow tired or discouraged in our petitions if we remember to end them with, “Thy Will be done!”

Rev. Ed Bartle
St. Edward’s
Mt. Dora, FL