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Learning to Pray

Luke 11:1 11 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just...

Thursday, August 31, 2023

The Light in the Darkness

Acts 20: 35

“35 In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Have you ever thought what your last words would be to those you love?  Would they be something profound?  Would they be something poetic?  Would it be an expression of love or some life advice?

In this scripture, Paul was on his way to Jerusalem and was speaking to the elders of the church at Ephesus.  He told them that he would never see them again.  So, his words were to be his last words to them; his most important words.

He told them to serve others.   Service done through faith is service founded on love.  Through the service of others, especially the least, the last, and the lost, we are examples of Christ in the world.  We are examples of Christ’s love, mercy and grace.   

Christianity, then, is the light in the darkness.   It is the calm in the chaos.  It is the love amidst hate.  

May the love of Christ be with you

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Luke 18: 10-14

10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

We all know people who brag or who constantly talk about themselves, never asking about you or your family.  And when we leave them, we thank God that we are not like them.   It is at that point that we have become the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable.

You see, the tax collector never said, “Lord, thank you that I am not like that other person”.  It was the Pharisee who said that.  It was the Pharisee, like us, who could not see his own faults because his own light was shining so brightly in his eyes.

We identify with the tax collector in this story, but Jesus was telling us that we are the Pharisee and we don’t even know it.  

Let us shut our eyes.  Let us pray with our heads bowed.  With all sincerity and humility, thinking of nothing but God’s love and forgiveness, let us whisper “God have mercy on me,  a sinner.”  Now, we are the tax collector.

May the love of Christ be with you

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)

Saturday, August 26, 2023

The Kingdom of God is Among Us

 Luke 17: 20-21

“20 Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.”

The Pharisees wanted to know when the Kingdom of God was coming.  To this day, we are all wanting to know when the Kingdom of God will arrive.  But, Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is already among us.  It has not arrived with material benefits as the Pharisees expected.  It is a spiritual kingdom that inhabits our hearts.

Great stone structures called churches are not evidence of God’s Kingdom.  Huge, ornate sanctuaries are not evidence of God’s Kingdom.  Large budgets are not evidence of God’s Kingdom.  

We can see evidence of God’s Kingdom on earth in the people of faith.  Through our love, mercy and forgiveness the world can see the Kingdom.  Through our compassion for people who are in need, the Kingdom is visible.  Through our humility, the Kingdom is visible.  Through our examples of Christ to the least, the last, and the lost the world sees the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God is among us….in our hearts.

May the love of Christ be with you

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)

Friday, August 25, 2023

Saying Thank you to God

Luke 17: 11-19

“11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus's feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Ten lepers were healed, but only one, the Samaritan, thought to turn and praise God. They forgot to thank God, even though they had pleaded for mercy just prior to their healing.

Saying thank you to God, offering praise and worship for God’s mercy and love, is a spiritual discipline in which we can experience God.  God can work within this discipline to move us in closer relationship to Him.

Saying “thank you” to God can change your heart.  And then it will change your life.

May the love of Christ be with you

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Thank You for the Work

Luke 17: 7-10

7 “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 8 Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? 9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

Growing up, our mothers taught us to say thank you when someone did something for us, or passed us the mashed potatoes at supper.  I had cousins that would say, “Thank you for the mashed potatoes,” even before they were passed.  

In our jobs, we are taught it is important to say thank you and to show our appreciation for people who work for us.  People like to be appreciated for what they do.  And we like for people to express their appreciation by saying “Thank you!”

In this scripture, Jesus is telling us that when we work for God, our motivation should be our faith and our love for God; that we should not work for recognition or even for a “thank you”.  When we do the work of God, we do it because we cannot imagine not doing it.   

We should say thank you for the work, even before the work has begun.  

May the love of Christ be with you

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

The Older Brother

 Luke 15: 25-32

“25 Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father[e] said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

The prodigal son’s older brother is the lost character in Jesus’ parable.  And it was told in such a way that this would happen.  All of the attention is on the prodigal son and his father.  

The older son is angry with the younger son, who took his inheritance and deserted his family.  He has imagined that his younger brother has been having a wild time, living it up, cavorting with prostitutes, while he, the loyal older son, has been sweating under the sun in the fields.  And now, when the prodigal returns, he is welcomed back as if he had never left, as if he had never sinned against his father and his family.

The father tries to console the older son by saying, in essence, “I thought he was gone forever, but he came back.  We had to celebrate.” 

And so, the parable ends with the older brother at a crossroads.  He has a choice to make.  Does he remain angry at this seeming injustice, or does he accept his father’s justice?

In our Christian walk, we will inevitably come to a crossroads.  We cannot take both roads.  We have to choose to follow the road that leads to love, forgiveness and reconciliation, or the road that leads to anger, hate and retribution.   

It is up to us.  It is in our hands.  Which road do we walk?

May the love of Christ be with you

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

The Blameless Life

  Psalm 26: 1-3

“1 Vindicate me, Lord, for I have led a blameless life.  I have trusted in the Lord

and have not faltered. 2 Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;

3 for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.”

According to the dictionary, vindication is the act of clearing someone from blame.  Who can say they have led a blameless life?  Paul wrote in Romans 3: 23 that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  If this is true, who can be vindicated?

Forgiveness is not vindication.  It is God loving us while we are yet sinners and full of blame.  Forgiveness is God’s undeserved grace; it is the washing away our sins and our guilt, but not the blame.  Part of the process of repentance is acknowledging our sins and accepting the blame for them.

You see, we may be forgiven, but we still may have to suffer the consequences of our sins on earth.  Our actions here on earth have temporal consequences that God does not remove.  God may forgive us and the people we have hurt may forgive us, but our actions have ripple effects that will impact us for years.

Only Christ has led a blameless life.  The rest of us need forgiveness, and the faith and courage to face the future.

May the love of Christ be with you

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)