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Do not be afraid. Just have faith. Mark 5:36

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Jesus’ life is the greatest example or expression of the truth of God’s Word! His very existence, His Life, His Death, and His Resurrection are all fulfillment of the Old Testament’s prophecy. Jesus is the revealed Word of God. How open are we to this reality?  


In Luke, Chapter Four, we find, first, the rejection of Jesus’ Word and Authority in His hometown of Nazareth. Those who knew Him the best from His childhood into His adult ministry had the most difficulty accepting Him. Then He ventures down the road to Capernaum where people were immediately taken with the authority and command of His teaching. Jesus’ words made a “deep impression” on the people who truly listened to Him.  


In their willingness of faith, the people of Capernaum witnessed Jesus’ authority and command over demons. The key lesson the truly faithful derived from this is that in the face of Jesus’ Divine Words, evil cannot co-exist! While teaching in the Synagogue at Capernaum, a man possessed with an unclean spirit challenged Jesus, “Leave us alone, what have You to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know Who You are, the Holy One of God!”


Jesus immediately silenced the demon, commanding him to come out of the man. The man was immediately relieved of His possession, unharmed. How open are we to the Authority of Jesus’ Word and Presence in our lives? Does our faith stand, even in the face of the evil around us? Or do we allow ourselves to stumble and question in the face of any adversity or stumbling block?  


Lord, Your Words are Power and Life, everlasting! May we believe and see Your Love and Mercy in our lives and in this, Your world! Free us from the grip of this world’s distraction and sin through Your healing power in the Word. Jesus, Only You!

Paul B.


John the Baptist lived and died the truth in an open, honest, and fearless manner. He did not compromise the message that He was charged to deliver: The Truth of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Truth that we are to prepare the Way of the Lord through our commitment to His Ways.


The message that we ultimately take from the life and death of John the Baptist is one in which we understand that truth is living in God’s Way! We are to call attention to Him through emulation of His precepts—our finest example being the way Jesus taught us! In Mark 6:22-28, we find John the Baptist uncompromising—to the end of His life. He was unwilling to compromise God’s Way, even in the face of Herod’s kingly and earthly power. How do we respond to the earthly powers that we face daily in our lives: peers, friendships, job and career demands, family ties and tugs, and other distractions? Is Jesus and His Way the first thought on our minds in the face of these?  


When we fall short, how do we respond? Are we like Herod, making quick and impulsive decision, only to find ourselves distressed and in anguish after doing so? Do we act or promise on our own whims and desires and then find ourselves “in a bind”, fearing the reaction of peers and colleagues, rather than pondering God’s desire and reaction? 


John the Baptist’s life and death must be an inspiration for our courage and a call to renew our commitment to follow Jesus in an uncompromising manner. Herod’s guilt and anguish must be something we strive to avoid by truly thinking, “What would Jesus do?”  


Lord, give me the strength to stand in strong conviction of faith! May that faith be bold in the face of this world’s distractions and may my testimony of Word be evident in my deeds! Finally, may my courage lead me to the promise of life everlasting, with You! Jesus, Only You!

Paul B.


While Jesus was eating at the house of one of the Pharisees, He took note of how the other guests came in and sought the places of honor at the table (Luke 14::7-11):


Upon noticing their desire for the best seats in the house, He shared, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host, causing the host who invited to come to you, to say, “Give this person your place….”


Using this same example, He emphasizes the point that those who exalt themselves shall be humbled and those who humble themselves shall be exalted, by encouraging them to seek the lowest place, whenever invited to the feast, so that the host may honor you with a place of honor. Jesus was not afraid to be direct in pointing these things out to the Pharisees.  


As we ponder His Life, Example and Word, we must understand that this call to humility, is as strong for and to us as it was to the people during Jesus’ earthly journey. This example points out, clearly, the important difference between pride and humility. All of us experience moments when we are (or believe we are) the “guest of honor”. How we receive this temporal and temporary praise must reflect a Christ-like heart and example—that such praise is fleeting and pales in comparison to the eternal call to Glory that we will experience in God’s Kingdom.  


Our fleeting moments are nothing compared to the unending joy and praise we are called to join in His Kingdom. What we must understand is celebrating Him, ultimately, allows us to celebrate all that He is and has created and we can take joy in so much more than just our own needs and desires!  


Lord, give us the strength to overcome joy in self so that we can take full joy in You in and through all that You are and all that You have created! Thus, we better serve others! Jesus, Only You! J.O.Y.

Paul B. 


Matthew 25:14-30 is an account of the “Parable of the Talents”. A talent was a denomination of currency in the Jewish culture of Jesus’ time. Of course this word is fitting in today’s world, as we look at what we are called to do, as contributing Christian members of today’s society. In pondering the word “talent”, as we use it today, we are all blessed with gifts from God and we can categorize these in three different areas: time, treasure, and talent.  


In this parable of the talents, three servants are entrusted with varied amounts of talents (money), to be stewards of while the master is away. The one who received five, used the talents wisely and upon the return of the master, was able to return twice the amount. The one given two did the same. The one given one talent hid it away, out of unwarranted fear. He had nothing to return to the master except the minimum: that which he’d been given.  


As we look at this in today’s terms, do we hide the time, treasure and talent that we are blessed with in this life? Do we stow it, hoard it and not try to use it for the gain and benefit of the God, from Whom we received these blessings? Jesus’ point, here, is that we will be held accountable for how we invest ourselves for His Glory in this life! Simple economics requires that we take what we’ve been given and invest so as to receive benefit and continued use of that which we invest. God’s gifts to us—time, treasure and talent—are His resources that are endless, as we share them to grow His Kingdom. We don’t always have all three of these, at any one and given time. The parable of the talents makes clear that we are to use our gifts fully, creatively, and selflessly, so as to benefit others and, ultimately, God’s Will and Kingdom. 


Lord, help us to use our time, talents, and treasures so as to return all Glory to You, multiplied by our efforts. Jesus, Only You! J.O.Y.

Paul B.


In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus provides a parable to highlight His challenge to us to be prepared; to not leave things to the last minute. Ten bridesmaids went out to wait for and meet the bridegroom in the night. The wise ones, knowing it could be a long night of waiting, brought flasks of oil in case the lamps burned low. The foolish ones did not plan for this! So, in their desperation, they ran back to get more oil, thus missing the bridegroom.  


This is a stark example of preparation. How many of us would leave on a long journey with only a quarter of a tank? When traveling through some of the vast expanses of our nation, we come across signs that say, for example, “No services for the next 120 miles.” At this time, we look down at our gas gauges or take a “tummy check” to see if we need to stop and prepare ourselves. God, in the Word, is our “sign to be prepared”. We need strength and sustenance for our “long night” or “journey”. We need hope!  


There is comfort when we look at our gas gauge and see “3/4 tank”, knowing we will make the long stretch! To use another example, relevant to me, when I have to get up early to head out on the road, I sleep much better when I set an alarm. There is comfort knowing that I am prepared and won’t over-sleep. Otherwise, I am waking up often, throughout the night to ensure I don’t oversleep. So what do all of the examples do for us as Christians? They call us to develop a personal and INTENTIONAL relationship with God! We must live our lives in a way that we are prepared to encounter Him (and seek to encounter Him) each day! We must not wait in haphazard hope and piecemeal watchfulness, but, rather, in prepared hopefulness and watchfulness.  


Lord Jesus, Your sacrifice and eternal Presence among us is our invitation to the Eternal Feast! May we value Your Way as we wait in watchful hope and preparation to receive Your Promise of Salvation! Jesus, Only You! J.O.Y.

Paul B.


In Matthew 24:42-51, Jesus reminds us that we are to remain vigilant, “watchfully alert”, at all times:  “Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” Remember, back in the day, when we were children and we barely slept on Christmas Eve? Or the night before a big and exciting trip to a favorite place or activity? Why? Because we are designed to be “vigilant” on the things which we desire or worry about.


As we read on in this passage, Jesus gives several examples about vigilance, perhaps more “relevant” to the worries of our adult life. In the first He reminds us that if we knew someone was coming in the night to steal from us, we would be vigilant, staying awake and watchful. We would be “at the ready”. 


He goes on to give example of the wisdom of the servant who stays busy, working at the master’s bidding and found doing so, even after the master arrives home, having not been watching directly over them. This destroys the old adage, “When the cat’s away, the mice will play” concept. He says, “Blessed is the servant whom his master will find at work when he arrives.” 


There is another adage that goes something like this, “It is not what you do when someone is watching, but rather, that which you do when no one is watching.” As we study the wisdom of these statements made by our parents and those before them, we know that they are rooted in the understanding of God’s omnipotence and love—something that Jesus reminds us of when He tells us to remain vigilant.  


We do not know when our earthly life will end, but we do believe and know that our eternal life awaits and that how we honor Him in this life determines how we will get to honor Him in the next. 


Lord, give me the strength and courage to remain awake—vigilant—in my watchfulness. May I watch over (and use) the blessings You have entrusted to me to further Your Will in this world so as to be prepared to greet You when You call upon me! You know my heart AND ways! Jesus, Only You!

Paul B.


John, in 1:45-51, shares the account of Nathaniel and his interaction with our Lord. Phillip and Nathaniel were friends. Phillip was eager to tell Nathaniel (who also Scripture identifies as Bartholomew (Matthew 10:3 and Luke 6:14)) of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. Phillip tries to convince Nathaniel but he is skeptical. He even questions the fact that Jesus came from Nazareth, stating, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” 


As Christians in today’s world we must examine this exchange between Philip and his friend. We must consider how we are when we engage each other in our conversations of God and our faith.  Are we skeptical with each other in the same manner that Nathaniel was skeptical? Philip was wise in his approach to Nathaniel. Rather than debate, he invited him to come and see for himself. Phillip understood that clever arguments and trading barbs do not draw people closer. Rather, interaction with Jesus Christ impacts one’s life forever!  


When Jesus encountered Nathaniel, He identified him has an “Israelite in whom there is no deceit” and went on to tell him that he had “seen him under the fig tree”. This example was important because Nathaniel and Jesus did not know each other, yet Jesus knew Nathaniel’s heart—evidenced by the fact that it was typical for scholars (which Nathaniel was) to spend time studying God’s Word under the fig tree.  


Jesus’ knowledge of him, without knowing him, astounded Nathaniel. Though skeptical, Nathaniel was open to the Word of Jesus and his heart and faith were strengthened by that openness.


Lord, give us the strength of faith, courage, and openness to come to You and to bring others to you in that same faith! Help us to seek and to find you, as You reveal Yourself to us and through us. Jesus, Only You! J.O.Y.

Paul B.


Matthew 23:23-26

Jesus said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. But these you should have done, without neglecting the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.”


From the perspective of the Pharisees, they saw little wrong with what they were doing. The way they did things—paying their tithes and cleaning their cups, they thought they were doing a pretty decent job of clean and righteous living. And from all appearances, at least from theirs anyway, things looked just that.


Yet Jesus had other ideas. He called it as He saw it. The Pharisees paid far too much attention to the little things and not near enough to the greater things. He wasn’t criticizing so much their way of life as He was their hypocrisy in the way they carried it out. He wanted to know how it was that the cup was so clean on the outside yet what was inside was not so. 


As He challenged them, He challenges us to do the same. We can live a life that looks like all is well on the outside but within, not so much. Our lives should be congruent with our faith; our faith should be congruent with what God wills; what God wills should be the way we are living. And so it should go. Let us live a life where we have no need to strain out the gnat so as to swallow that camel.


“Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” (Revelation 3:20)  


Are we ready to receive that which He is so willingly offering? God has given us the free will to open the doors of our minds, hearts, and very lives, which He has given us, to Him! In Matthew 23:13-23, Jesus continues His angered discourse toward the scribes and Pharisees, continuing to point out their failure to truly listen to God’s Word. His anger is rooted in their misleading and conflicting actions and words. Here they were, having been called to teach and lead the ways of God, yet they impose their own ideas, rules and practices through lecture and piety, rather than giving example in merciful deeds. He calls them “hypocrites”.  


A hypocrite is one who says one thing, yet does another. Throughout Matthew 23:13-23, he gives examples of their hypocrisy to show how they are misleading people—He calls them “blind guides” - speaking the law, holding people accountable through judgment, yet putting themselves above others. In verse 23 Jesus tells them, “Woe to you, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced.”  


The prophets of the Old Testament repeatedly warn us to seek God and put Him first over our own desires, striving to truly understand how He calls us to be (for each other, in His Image). Isaiah says it beautifully in 55:6-9, “Seek the Lord, while he may be found. Call to Him, while He is still near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts.  For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, My ways, says the Lord. For the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts”. 


Lord, Your Word is the guide for our lives, both worldly and eternal! May I never fail to open and keep open my door, upon which You knock. Jesus, Only You! 

Paul B.


As Christians we are called to consider whether our actions demonstrate our expressed faith in Jesus Christ. We express, in our words, the name, “Christian” through our profession of faith, but how often do we examine the quality of our relationship with Jesus Christ?  


The best examination is to consider whether or not we are actually living out the precepts of the Gospel. In Luke 13:22-30, Jesus is asked, “Lord, will there be only a few saved?” to which He responds, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.”  (vs 23-24) The word, “strive” is an action verb which means, “to try” for something.  


Jesus uses an analogy that anyone who’d been to Jerusalem would understand. At night, in order to prevent invaders and marauders from entering the city freely, the large gates to the walls of the city were closed and only small gates, closely guarded, would remain accessible and to only those who necessarily needed to enter. This small gate was known as “the eye of the needle” (as referenced in Matthew 19:25 and Mark 10:25), through which it would be easier for a camel to pass, than for a rich person (into the kingdom of heaven). It was an arduous task to enter these small and narrow gates, because camels had to be unloaded and come through on their knees and things packed hand-carried in.  


Those who were unable to unpack, had to spend the night outside the gates. The references here, in Luke 3:22-30, and in Matthew and Mark are cautions for us to take life as a gift from God, living in meaningfully and willfully making sacrifices in this world, so as to enter into the next, unburdened and prepared to enter His Kingdom!  


Lord, may we strive, in our daily words and deeds, to prepare ourselves for our entrance into the Eternal Kingdom of Heaven! May we unburden ourselves of the distractions of this world so as to focus on entering the Joyous Gates! Jesus, Only You! J.O.Y. 

Paul B.


“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.” Jesus begins His discourse, in Matthew 23:1-12, with this statement. In verses 11-12, He says, “The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” The word “humbled” is thrown around in today’s world by those whom society has lifted up in popularity—politicians, actors, singers, and other folks whom the media deems important (or sensational) enough to put in the forefront.  


These people use the word humble every time they except an award or honor (or big check) as to how they feel. As Christians, we cannot view humility as just a feeling. It is how we are to speak and act—service to others—without calling attention to that which we do. “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others, but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others…..They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the Synagogues….”  


The power of these words, shedding light upon those who would be seen as important, yet don’t lift a hand to help, are as relevant in today’s world of social media and transparency. Bearing this in mind, as Christians we are called to be more than men of our word, we must be men of action, too.  


Lord, You showed us how to be the servant of all servants—willingly sacrificing Yourself for the sake of the salvation of all mankind. Give us the humility to understand how we, too, can truly help others with that same humility. May we observe Your Word in both our words and our actions! Jesus, Only You! J.O.Y.

Paul B.


Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”


St. Augustine is noted as saying ‘Love God then do what you will.’ How can one go wrong if one then is loving God in all they do? If one truly does love God, how then can you do anything apart from that love? This is the sort of love found for the good and well being of others—agape love, beyond and deeper than affection. 


So Jesus’ response that to truly love God and to truly love our neighbor will keep us on that path toward holiness. How can one be out of a state of grace if love is ever present in their lives? It is the power of transformation we carry with us in that power of love. It is not our love but the love of God that makes this, that makes us who we are. 


As He was hungry. 

As He was thirsty.

As He was naked. 

It was and is our love that fed Him, gave Him water and clothed Him with love. 

With the same He has given us to share.

That love transcends all other love. 

As He loves us, so must we love others.


In Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus is speaking to the church leaders and shares the parable of those invited to the wedding feast—but are too busy for or are disinterested in or flat-out rejecting the invitation.

He begins, telling them, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.” He goes on to caution them that, though God has called them “to the banquet” and desires that all mankind share in the feast and joy of His kingdom, the invitation is open to acceptance or rejection. 


Just as with any “well planned event”, the invitation is laid out clearly with specific directions as to how to RSVP. We must use our time to prepare for the feast and be ready when the day comes. God calls us to prepare for the feast—the eternal banquet—every day. We have Him in His Word, He sent His Son, and we have the Spirit working in and through us and others every day! Yet, we make merry, tend (first and foremost—and, often, only) to worldly business, and we (too silently) tolerate the mistreatment of those who would bring this message to the world. And God’s invitation still stands, in spite of man’s stubbornness!  


In Matthew 22:11-14, Jesus, in parable form, makes it clear what will happen to those who do not prepare themselves properly for the banquet:  “….he noticed a man who was not wearing a wedding robe and asked, “How did you get in here without a wedding robe?” The man was speechless. So the king said, “Bind him hand and foot and throw him into the outer darkness. For many are called, but few are chosen.”  


How are we readying ourselves for the eternal feast? Do we have the invitation front and center (on the bathroom mirror, refrigerator front) where we are reminded daily to “get ready”?  


Lord, may we wear, daily, the garment of Christ that we received upon baptism, the wedding garment, so as to be fully prepared to enter the eternal feast to which we have been invited.  Jesus, Only You! J.O.Y.

Paul B.


In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus shares the parable of the land owner who hires workers in his vineyard, agreeing to pay them one denarius for a days’ work. He hired several more later in the day and paid them also, one denarius. The workers hired early in the day grumbled over the fact that those hired later in the day got the same wage as those hired in the morning.  


How do we view each other in this life? Do we assess the gifts, graces, blessings and talents that we perceive others to have as compared to our own? In doing so, do we experience envy when we perceive theirs to be greater than ours? Jesus’ parable is relevant in this world of material desire. Because of our human nature and condition, we do experience inequality and injustice in this world—we see it around us in the difficulty so many have—limited employment opportunities, low wages, long hours, etc. But we must also remember that we cannot compare our own limited views on generosity and ability to be generous to God’s unlimited and extraordinary compassion, mercy, and grace! 


Though we know we fall short, because of the free will of our human condition, we are still called to strive to be more Christ-like in our views and interactions towards others. We must share, without question, all that we can and whenever we can (and, even times when we think we are “tapped out”, so to speak). There are many interesting “debates’ in our world today, that compare the concepts of fairness and equality. In understanding the difference between these two words, we must understand that we are each uniquely created to share our varied gifts and blessings with the world. Therefore, we are called to appreciate those same varied gifts! 


Lord, help us rise to the challenge of overcoming human pettiness and value each other’s gifts, graces, and blessings to make this world better so as to lead all toward you in Eternal Glory! J.O.Y.

Paul B.


Jesus came to show us and offer us a treasure that cannot be obtained by money or material possessions. It cannot be obtained in any way other than through stores of the heart, mind, and soul. It is a treasure that ultimately outlasts the fleeting security of earthly treasures and relationships.  


In Matthew 19:23-30, the disciples watch the young rich man walk away, sadly, after being told that Jesus must be his first and foremost focus: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven...then come follow me.” (Matthew 19:21) As they watch him walk away, Jesus reinforces the fact that He must come first—”Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven….”  


Jesus was not condemning wealth, He was condemning the distraction that material wealth can or does cause in our lives. We know that Matthew was a tax collector and, therefore, a man of some material wealth. Yet when called, he “walked away” and followed Jesus. Jesus makes a powerful statement in Matthew 19:29: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”  


Jesus does not expect us to forego the necessary things of comfort in this life—things to sustain our earthly existence in order to complete our Call from Him. Again, though, He cautions as to what motivates and guides us? Are we drawn by obtaining more and more material wealth and relationships? Or are we drawn by using that which we have for His Glory?  


Lord, help us to set our hearts, minds, and souls as storehouses of Your treasures. In doing so, may our lives reflect that which we contain: You! Jesus, be our treasure! Jesus, Only You!

Paul B.


There is a quote I heard from some actor in some long-forgotten movie, “What are you going to do with your ‘one-and-only-life?” While I don’t remember the movie or the actor, reading Matthew 19:16-22 brought the quote to mind. Here Matthew recounts a young man visiting Jesus and asking, “Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?” Jesus first asks the young man, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only One Who is Good.”  He then goes on to remind the young man of the commandments of God, to which the man indicated, “I have kept all these, what do I still lack?” 


By this question, it is obvious that, though Matthew tells us the young man is rich, he is still feels the emptiness of lacking something. Jesus, understanding this, tells the young man that to fill that void, to be “perfect”, he must let go of earthly bonds and desires—giving away or sharing his earthly possessions, in order to gain heaven’s treasure.  


At this, the young man became sad—he valued his earthly goods, therefore, this caused him consternation. As Christians we must ask ourselves, “Are we committed to our one-and-only ETERNAL life?” How willing are we to untie ourselves from our earthly bonds in order to truly grasp what God offers us? When we have that “empty feeling”, even when surrounded by fun, revelry, and “things”, perhaps we are experiencing the same thing the young man experienced: the voice of Jesus speaking to us and calling to us? How do we respond? This is not to say that we do not strive to sustain the earthly life we’ve been given, just remember, we are called to live it in a way of seeking Him first! In whom to we trust our eternal life?  


Lord, help us to understand that our “one-and-only life”, ultimately, is our eternal life with You. May our earthly life be one that leads us and others to You. Jesus, Only You! J.O.Y. 

Paul B.


What does it mean to be “on fire for God”? In reading Luke 12:49-53, we find an account in which Jesus speaks of the image of fire and division. This very well could have shocked His disciples when He said that he had come to cast fire and division, rather than peace, on the earth. 


As we ponder this, we must first consider the image of fire related to God’s actions throughout biblical times. God manifested Himself through the use of fire as in Exodus, where the burning bush was not consumed by the flames through which God showed Himself to Moses. God provided assurance of His continued and constant presence to the Hebrews in the desert.  


There are other references in which fire was called down to reveal God’s presence and power, God’s Glory, protective presence, righteous judgement or holy wrath, Ezekiel, Deuteronomy, Isaiah and Zechariah. In the New Testament, John the Baptist said Jesus would baptize with fire in the Holy Spirit and we see, in Acts 2:3, the Holy Spirit appear as tongues of fire.  


In both the Old and New Testament, fire cleans and purifies, inspires reverence of God’s presence and brings a sense of respect for God and His Word. Jesus speaks of division! While this could have initially brought confusion to His Disciples and us, we must consider that Jesus continually spoke of the difficulty—the choice and cost—of following Him above all else!  


The central piece of our Christian belief is loyalty to Jesus Christ, not anything of this world! True love of Christ causes us to consider God first, in all that we say and do, including in all of our earthly relationships. Division exists when not all are one in His true love.  


Lord, give us the fire of Your Love so that You are the center of all our relationships, goals and desires in this life. Bring us true peace, joy and happiness in this life and the next. Jesus, Only You! J.O.Y. 

Paul B.


“Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”  And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.”     Matthew 19:13-15  


Matthew references Jesus’ care and concern for children and admiration for their open, trusting, humble ways here and in Matthew 18:2-4. How do we value our children? Are they precious in our eyes and actions? Do we encourage their innocent and trusting ways? Do we lead them to Christ? Jesus issues a clear warning as to not stopping the children from coming to Him. Therefore, as we examine our roles as parents, understanding that we and all we have and are come from God, we must ask ourselves, “Are we doing everything in our ability (through word and deed) to ensure our children maintain their (natural) love, faith, trust, and humility?  


In this passage, we see that the disciples are trying to discourage people from bringing their children to Jesus. Though they may have simply been doing so out of concern for Jesus, He admonishes them. Surely, He was wanting them to remember what He had just said, “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.”  


What example do we set for our children? We strive to give them “every advantage in life that we didn’t have” (something I heard often, as an educator). What are those advantages? Who do we promote as their idols or heroes?  


Lord, help us to lead our children to You! Rather than present you as “one option”, may we present (and model you as “the” option. Let us all present ourselves with the love, trust, and humility that leads us to You! Jesus, Only You!  J.O.Y. 

Paul B.


In Matthew 19:3-12, the leaders try to deceive Jesus into saying something contrary the law, this time on the topic of divorce, so that they can have accusations against Him. Jesus responds to their question as to whether it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife by saying, ““Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 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’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 


To set their trap, they then questioned as to why Moses would then allow the issuance of divorce decrees. Jesus having already pointed to the idea that God created in Adam and Eve as male and female and as one flesh—an unbreakable union—explains that man’s stubbornness is why Moses was forced to “concede” to divorce: Man’s stubbornness and unwillingness to stick to God’s will.  Therefore, Jesus makes it clear that the high ideal of marriage, as God intended man and woman to live, must still be maintained. 


He goes on to emphasize that the ideal of marriage is not desired or attainable by everyone. But, whether married or single, we consecrate ourselves and our lives to God! Whether we are called to married life or a single life, we belong to God and must therefore derive our strength, joy, and blessing from Him and follow His ways. So in our life’s journey, are we seeking His grace and eternal invitation by responding to His Word, Ways and Will? 


Lord, give us the strength to stop questioning Your ways and to simply answer Your Call. May we stand for You and Your light in a society that that questions and challenge Your Ways at each “turn and twist”.  Steady our wills with Yours. 

Jesus, Only You! 

Paul B.


We are all counting on the mercy of God! That is a fact of our human condition and supported by the fact that He sent His Own Son, Jesus, to show us the example of how we are to be. And we also understand and know that He paid the “ultimate ransom” for our Salvation. Thus we are no different than the servant, in the parable in Matthew 18:21-35, who was forgiven a huge debt by the Master for simply pleading, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” 


Is this not what we promise God in our prayers? Do we not intend to offer Him everything? But, as the parable goes on, the servant, having been forgiven a huge debt, leaves the presence of the master and encounters a fellow servant who owes him a much smaller debt. Rather than offering the same mercy that he pleaded for and received from the master, he demands repayment. When it can’t be done, he has the man taken away! 


Jesus shared this parable with the disciples after Peter’s questions, “Lord, how many times must I forgive, seven times? When Jesus responded, “seventy-seven times…” He felt the need to explain with this parable! How do we fare in our efforts to forgive others? Do we take Jesus’ advice? Do we forgive, repeatedly? Do we patiently tolerate, just as we beg of God?  


There is no way we can pay back the debt that God paid for us just as the first servant in the parable. As we ponder the real and perceived wrongs that have been committed against us in our lives, the forgiveness we are called give (most likely) pales compared to the forgiveness God gives us—the price, the effort of that forgiveness also pales compared to the price God paid!  


Lord, You showed us a life of kindness and mercy and, still, paid the ultimate price to show us how to forgive! Give me the grace to truly show mercy to all whom I encounter. J.O.Y. 

Paul B.




“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24 


The “cycle of life” requires that seeds (whether grain, grass, trees, shrubs, veggies, etc., transform from a speck of grain or a pit, such as a peach seed, into a plant that bears the fruit for which it was intended. So it is with our lives. We must live with a purpose and be transformed so that others around us may benefit.  


We must bear fruit, provide shade, be a safe haven, provide cover, or otherwise be of benefit for/to each other. Otherwise, we remain just a speck or pit of a seed, not growing into what God has called us to be. We are each endowed by our Creator to serve Him by serving each other. Just as a seed “dies” from its original form, this “dying to self” transforms the seed into something much greater and more beneficial.  


As we consider this concept, “dying to self”, we see the main obstacles—selfishness and pride—denying us the opportunity to truly grow so as to bear the fruit we were designed to be and share! A seed, once planted, requires some basic attention in order to grow into fulfillment. So it is the same with us—in order to truly be a part of this creation and help to move it forward, we need to tend to our basic needs. Yes, this requires basic human sustenance. But the most important ingredients must be present: water and Light.   


In John 4:14, Jesus tells us that whoever drinks of the Water of Life (Jesus’ Word, life, example) will never be thirsty. In John 8:12, Jesus tells us that He is the Light of the World and we who follow will not be in darkness! As a seed grows, it’s roots seek water and its foliage seeks light!  


Lord, may the seed you planted, in each of us, grow so that we are rooted in You—seeking the Living Water—and extend ourselves toward you, the Light of the World!  Transform us! Jesus, Only You! J.O.Y. 

Paul B.


In Matthew 18:1-10, the Disciples ask, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus tell us, “In truth I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” So, we must ask ourselves, “As followers of Christ, striving to attain the reward of Eternal Residence in the Kingdom of Heaven, what does this mean?”  


In pondering the attributes of a small child (having recently spent a delightful weekend with my seven year old granddaughter, the words/attributes that come to mind are: trust, love, simplicity and honesty. She appreciates the simplest of attention and time from us. As I ponder my time with her, I smile. How must God feel when we approach Him (and this life He has given us) with trust, love, simplicity, and honest? Jesus clearly tells His disciples (us) that those who demonstrate these attributes of child-like openness is the greatest in God’s eyes. 


He goes on to say, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” If we are called to welcome such attributes in ourselves and others, woe to the person who prevents himself or others from sharing in and exhibiting the same. In fact, Jesus provides a grave example for those who would purposefully prevent any or themselves from coming to the Kingdom of Heaven—to Jesus—by saying, “it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea, if you prevent children of God from believing.  


As Christians, therefore, we are called to seek God’s grace—to trust, follow, love, and enjoy the simplicity of the life and love God has shared with us!  


Lord, help me to be full of love, humility, simplicity, trust, hope, and faith. Help me to truly be YOUR child in this life so as to enjoy life eternal in Your Kingdom. J.O.Y. 

Paul B.


In reading Matthew 17:22-27, there are several points that can and should be highlighted. The first is our call to live in the love of God, which as Christians we know is our primary or foremost call. This passage demonstrates that not only are we called to abide as citizens of God’s Kingdom, but we are also called to live as responsible citizens, abiding by the laws of our communities and country.  


We are called to obey laws that are just, as citizens of our respective countries. In this passage, the tax collectors were trying to find a way to accuse Jesus of wrong doing—in this case, “tax evasion.” Jesus, not wanting to provide an example that would lead others astray taught two lessons by His response to paying the Temple Tax. He instructed Peter to go out and “cast a hook”. In the mouth of the first fish he would catch, he would find a coin that would pay the temple tax for both Peter and Jesus.  


The first lesson, of course, is that we must abide by the just and good laws, as citizens of our countries. The second is that we must trust God that He will provide!  How many of us would raise our eyebrows if we were told to go catch a fish and find a coin that would take care of our needs at that very moment? Yet, Peter, ever faithful, followed Christ’s Directive. Jesus foretells His death and resurrection, one of three times in Matthew’s Gospel. The disciples were greatly distressed when hearing these prophecies, but Jesus continues to teach and encourage them—focus on the Resurrection, for the sacrifice is part of this life, not the next!  


As we read and understand the Life of Jesus, passages such as these help us understand that Jesus came to save us from sin and death—offering eternal life. We must strive to live IN THIS WORLD in God’s love and in the freedom of that love. 


Lord, help us to be good citizens of this world so as to live eternally as a Citizen of Heaven! Jesus, Only You! J.O.Y. 

Paul B. 


“Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but they awoke and saw His glory….”  


Luke 9:28-35 describes the account of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Peter, John and James went up to the mountain with Jesus to pray. While there, they witnessed Jesus’ face changing, as His clothes became a dazzling white. While this occurred, Moses and Elijah appeared, talking to Jesus. Though “heavy with sleep”, they awoke to witness Jesus in this Glory. They were, understandably, excited and wanted to build a monument on the site of this experience. As they spoke, they heard a voice from the heavens boom, “This is My Son, My Chosen! Listen to Him!”  


There is so much to ponder in this passage.  First and foremost, we must understand that we are called to pray! Though our journeys encounter difficulty, we are called to pray! In this passage the disciples had gone up the mountain to pray.  Their journey “up the hill” was surely tiresome, as indicated by what Luke wrote in verse 32, “…. Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep….” But they awakened and experienced Jesus in Glory!  


So it is with us if we are vigilant and diligent in our prayer life. We also learn hear that we are not only called to pray, but to listen. God not only affirms Jesus’ Divinity, He clearly commands, “Listen to Him”. Throughout the Gospels Jesus teaches us to love one another. By choosing to do so, we are choosing the Eternal Life He offers through example of encompassing love and compassion. Understand that this Gospel Passage is a “peek” into Jesus’ divinity. We get a glimpse of Jesus’ divine Glory!  


Lord, help us to seek and find the consolation of your Divine Presence through prayerful time with You! Give us strength to awaken (and stay awake) on this earthly journey so as to encounter in and through our lives. Jesus, Only You! 

Paul B.


“As Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, “Blessed the womb that bore You and the breasts that fed You!” But, Jesus replied, “More blessed, still, are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.”  Luke 11;27-28  


John 1:1 tells as that “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God.”. Therefore, as Jesus responds to this woman’s praise, He reminds her and all who believe that those who hear Him and believe will be blessed.


Do we hear Jesus? Do we listen for His voice? Mary holds a special place in Jesus’ heart. In all normal human relationships, a mother holds a special place in the hearts of their children! Mary, as the chosen Mother of God, therefore, must hold a special place in our hearts, as she brought our Savior into this world. 


We, too, are sons and daughters of God, heirs to His Kingdom, given by the Sacrifice of the Son of God—our Brother—Jesus Christ! In these two simple verses, Luke brings forth the great importance of hearing and keeping the Word of God!  We are called to hear and learn—read, study, and pray the Word of God! 


Through doing this, we learn more and more the importance of keeping the word through our thought, word, and deed. If we put it aside, letting the world’s distractions take us away from that focus, we lose site of His Will for Us in this world and the next. The woman, in saying, “Blessed the womb that bore you….” was correct in her reverence, as we all have reverence for our mothers. Let us ponder upon Mary’s life, too, and her answer to God’s Call by her life’s sacrifice in bearing and raising His Son.  


Lord, give us the same strength and courage You gave to Mary, so that we, too, can bear Christ in this Life!  Jesus, Only You!  J.O.Y.

Paul B.


“Who do people say I Am?” “Who do YOU say I Am?” 


These two questions are asked by Jesus of His disciples in Matthew 16:13-19. Both questions are as relevant today as when Jesus walked this earth as Man. And as we look around the world, the first question can be answered in all of the “good” and “bad” things that we see going on around us. 


We can find many examples of how to answer this question, with some of those answers frustrating us and others filling us with joy and faith-strengthening acts. But, as proclaimed Christians, the second questions is one that each of us can and must personalize. Imagine a world in which all believers answer this question, as Peter did, in thought, word, and deed: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God!”


If we all lived this answer, in more than the mere knowledge of Jesus, but integrating Him and His teachings in all that we are, then the answer to the first would become more and more pleasing to Jesus, than just a “few individuals”. While Jesus does have concern about Who ALL people say He Is, He asked the second question in order for His professed disciples (those who’ve answered His Call) to answer. He surely took great consolation in Peter’s answer, as He responded, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it….”


We are all taught that the church on earth is truly rested in us—God’s People! Therefore, as descendants of Peter in the “Family of God”, we must consider ourselves as “rocks” in the continued foundation of the church—the Church that we are and that we build for those to join and follow us! Jesus promises bus the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven as a reward of our faith! 


Lord, help us to really feel Your Presence in our lives beyond mere knowledge of You.  May You be central to our desire, dreams, and daily efforts! Jesus, Only You!

Paul B.


Do we come to Jesus with the expectation that He will satisfy all that we need? In reading Matthew 15:21-28 we find an example of expectation in faith and persistence. This account is the only account in which we find Jesus ministering outside the Jewish territory. Because of the Jewish attitude, toward Gentiles, it was not the norm for a non-Jew to approach a Jew seeking any type of aide. Yet, as we see, this woman approached Jesus and said, “Lord, Son of David, take pity on me….” 


Jesus, perhaps testing her faith, ignored her plea so she was persistent in asking for help until His disciples pleaded with Him to aide her. Perhaps Jesus was trying to make a point to the disciples and to us that we are called to respond to all in need and that all in need can and must turn to Him and seek Him? In doing so and making this point, Jesus seems rather harsh, telling the woman, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to little dogs.”  


The woman, whose faith was obviously stronger than the Jewish indifference, immediately replied, “Ah, yes, Lord! But, even little dogs eat the scraps that fall from the master’s table.”  Jesus was clearly moved by her persistence and expectation that He help her, freeing her daughter from the grips of a tormenting demon.  


There are several factors that we, as Christians, can and must internalize from this lesson: 1) Jesus came to help all; 2) Jesus expects all to turn to Him and to seek Him with confidence; 3) We must be persistent in our faith and hopeful (expectant) in it. There may and will be times when we feel “put off” or ignored by others, even God. Yet, we must remember this example of the Gentile woman who turned to God and received His attention because of Her persistent faith!  


Lord, we believe (and know) that your love and mercy are unlimited. Give us courage and strength to trust and seek You with unquenched faith. Receive us, O Lord! Jesus, Only You!

Paul B.




Matthew 14:22-36 

Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side of the sea, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.

During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” 


Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 

He said, “Come.” 


Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret. When the men of that place recognized him, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought to him all those who were sick and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak, and as many as touched it were healed.


Yesterday’s gospel had the results of feeding well over 5,000 people, all from a few loaves and fishes. Imagine the success and sensation the disciples must have been feeling from being part of such a miraculous occasion. Maybe even a bit of pride was seeping into their psyche as they realized the huge undertaking they had just witnessed, as they were filled with food and with the wisdom from Jesus.


And now Jesus needs His time to pray and sends them off to the other side of the lake as those that were fed begin to go back from whence they came. The gospels don’t say why He sent them, other than He went to pray as He often did—another leading example for us all. Maybe it was because He didn’t want them to get the wrong idea about how He was to serve. Not as king they were expecting but a king of another sort. 


And as Jesus went to pray, the disciples go across the lake and it doesn’t get much better for them. Not only do they not get to revel in the miracle of the loaves and fishes but now a storm is tossing them about in the early hours of the morning. Even being fishermen, they are scared and to make matters worse, they see Jesus approaching yet see Him as a ghost, terrifying them even more. So many times in scripture, so many times Jesus reminds the disciples.. do not be afraid. This time He tells them ‘It is I.’ 


This should be all they need to sturdy their faith yet Peter says that if it is You Lord, have me come out on the water then to meet You. 

And Jesus said ‘Come.’ 


As much as Peter wanted to believe it, he goes only so far before Jesus rescues him as he asks to be saved. ‘O you of little faith. Why did you doubt?’ So what happens then when they get back in the boat? Complete calm. Within and around them. Then the disciples are overcome and proclaim Truly You are the Son of God. 


Not only is this an image of the early Church, the boat and the disciples being depicted here. With Peter the head of the Church as Jesus would soon make him to be. The waters and storm pounding away at them and Jesus seeming to be far away but always so close. And what happens when they realize His presence? Peace and calm. 


Even in our own lives we can recognize the peace and calm that He brings when we come to realize His presence. There is a saying that goes something along the lines that we often pray for Jesus to calm the storm; He will when find Him in the midst of it.. Just as the disciples did. 


And as soon as they reach the shore, what happens again? More people come to realize who they see and what He can do for them. It’s their faith that brings them to Him, just as our faith keeps us with Him. As they touched and were healed and made whole so too can we be made whole and be healed as we keep in touch with Him in our faith and prayer.


“There is no need for them to go, give them something to eat yourselves.” Matthew 14:16  


Jesus said this to His disciples as they expressed their concern for the multitudes, who had followed Him just to hear Him speak and to bear witness to the healing touch He brought. Jesus had retreated to a deserted and silent place, upon hearing of the death of John the Baptist, but the crowds found and followed Him. The disciples, seeing that Jesus was tired and surely distracted after a day of tending to the crowds’ needs, had encouraged Jesus to send the crowds away so that they could get back  to the villages and get something to eat for there was nothing in this deserted place. Jesus, saying this, was not only directing them to share the meager sustenance they had five loaves and two fish, He was making a prophetic request of them—one that they would fulfill with and for the rest of their lives!  


Of course, as with many of the lessons we live “at the moment”, the disciples were probably confused as to what He meant, even at the very moment. That is, until, they, too, witness His blessing of these loaves and bread, at which time there became an abundance with which over 5,000 were satisfied from their hunger(Matthew 14:14:21). It says that Jesus was filled with compassion for the crowds and spent time among them healing and sharing His Word. Ultimately through these acts, He filled their hearts with His Love. This is the perfect example of Jesus showing His Disciples, and us, that “all will be well” with us if we simply trust in Him. Not only is His miraculous act prophetic to the Disciples’ Mission to go forward and proclaim  the Gospel, taking care of all the Peoples’ needs (if we but listen), but it is prophetic of His own Sacrifice—Himself—as The Bread of Life for all who seek!  


Jesus, May we share in the solitude You call us to share. Thank You for being in our lives, Your Presence ever strengthening our journey. Jesus, Only You! J.O.Y. 

Paul B.