Tuesday Matthew 23:29-36

Prayer: Lord Jesus, teach us through your Word to better serve you. Amen.

 The here and now

 30 and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors…

 Oh my God!  I thought to myself, I am sounding like my father.  Am I becoming my father (or mother)?  I don’t know when it was, but when I was younger, I swore I would not make the same mistakes as my parents.  But one day I began to see that indeed some of my actions and my words seemed very familiar…I seemed to be somehow acting the same way that I swore I would never do.  How humbling! How discouraging!

 Today we see Jesus chastising the Jewish leaders for professing that they were changed and yet still they acted just like their ancestors who killed God’s prophets.  Our devotion writer reminds us that hindsight is 20/20 and looking back; “we can see mistakes our parents and grandparents made and feel certain we surely would not have done so…But we live in the here and now.  Our actions are determined by the knowledge we have today, not the knowledge that will come to us later.  Even when we make decisions based upon prayerful consideration, we may face unpleasant consequences.  And we may have to forgive ourselves later if we feel we didn’t make the best choices.

 Knowing this, I try hard to look at my motives and visualize how I might act differently if Jesus came today. Or, how I might receive His prophets who He sends to tell me what I do wrong.  Sometimes I see that I might be acting like a Pharisee in reaction to changes, or warnings that affect my faith.  God help me to see His purposes and His will.

 We are the sum of our experiences.  We respond the way we have been taught even from our youth.  It is easy to make mistakes because we have lived them before and unless we are careful we will repeat them.

 Our devotion writer declares; “As we face decisions, it is a comfort to know that God is with us and that ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.’ (Hebrews 13:8)?

 Prayer: “Lord Jesus, be with me today as I make choices and decisions. Amen.”

  

Matthew 23:29-36

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, 30 and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. 33 You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, 35 so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.

 

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Monday 2 Corinthians 12:11-21

Prayer: Teach me through your Word, O God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 Building up, not tearing down

 Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up. (v. 19)

 When we take our eyes off of God and look to ourselves we may find ourselves quarreling, complaining, and angry.  In today’s text Paul expresses his anger that some in Corinth think they are better than him.  His words are sarcastic and pointed.  He tells them that it is apparent there is bickering among them and they need to get back to focusing on God and that Paul and his messengers had been doing all they could to help them.

 Our devotion writer writes; “He (Paul) knows that when believers start preening themselves on what fine Christians they are, they take their minds off God.  And they open themselves up to quarreling, jealousy, and all the rest.”

 Moreover, our writer explains; “It is through our aches and pains that God gets our attention.  It is through our fears and worries that we come to know how dependent we are on God.  It is through the dark times that we see the light of God’s grace.” (More of these crosses we have to bear that we have previously discussed.)

 Our writer continues; “These terrible things—remind us that god has promised to heal us and to never leave us.  What might tear us down can also build us up when we keep our eyes on Jesus and not on ourselves.”

 In our own vision of what we would like, this is probably not what we would want, but it is part of our walk in this life and if we keep our eyes on Jesus, we can rejoice in the love and peace He will bring.

 Prayer: “O God, when trials come my way, do not let them destroy me.  Encourage me and help be to keep my focus on Jesus. Amen.” 

  

2 Corinthians 12:11-21

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Paul’s Concern for the Corinthian Church

11 I have been a fool! You forced me to it. Indeed you should have been the ones commending me, for I am not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. 12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, signs and wonders and mighty works. 13 How have you been worse off than the other churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!

14 Here I am, ready to come to you this third time. And I will not be a burden, because I do not want what is yours but you; for children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for you. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? 16 Let it be assumed that I did not burden you. Nevertheless (you say) since I was crafty, I took you in by deceit. 17 Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Titus did not take advantage of you, did he? Did we not conduct ourselves with the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?

19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you? We are speaking in Christ before God. Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up. 20 For I fear that when I come, I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish; I fear that there may perhaps be quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come again, my God may humble me before you, and that I may have to mourn over many who previously sinned and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and licentiousness that they have practiced.

 

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Sunday Matthew 16:21-28

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me share your love through your Word. Amen.

 Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

 This must never happen to you…(v. 22)

 When Jesus foretold His suffering and death at the hands of the Jewish leaders, Peter was appalled by this revelation.  Our devotion writer updates Peter’s words in today’s vernacular; “I can’t believe you said that!”  or perhaps; “Are you kidding me? No way God can allow you to suffer and die.”

 This just shortly after Peter had professed Christ as the Messiah. “The Son of the Living God.”  Peter had trouble with the common vision that the Messiah would come like the conquering hero and restore Jerusalem’s glory with a worldly kingdom of God.  Let’s not kid ourselves too, as our devotion writer explains; “However, let’s not be too hard on Peter, for we too struggle with the cross where suffering and salvation meet. We might wish God to wipe away problems painlessly and to fulfill our dreams freely, but that is not God’s way.  Instead, God points us to the cross to remind us that Jesus is with us in the midst of suffering and always by our side.”

 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

 And so it seems we have our crosses to bear. Life is not perfect as we would like it, but Jesus promises us His presence while we travel through life’s sufferings and living a full life in Christ as we make the best of it sharing the joy and the love Jesus promises in spite of our crosses.  Life may never be what we want of it.  So we turn to Jesus to show us the life He gives us to follow and we pick up and carry the crosses we are given and go on our way…Rejoicing!

 Our devotion writer in summary writes; “God sent Jesus to share our life, both our pains and our joys.  But more, God points us to Easter and the empty tomb. The suffering one became the victorious one, and we share that victory.”

 Prayer: “My Lord Jesus, when I’m clinging to things that don’t really matter, remind me to let go. Amen.”

  

Matthew 16:21-28

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

The Cross and Self-Denial

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

 

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Saturday Romans 12:9-21

Prayer: O God, let your Word inspire me with your Spirit to do as you call me to do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 The real thing

 Let love be genuine…

 I have found it hard to trust people whom I have once trusted with private thoughts, and I have later learned they have shared these thoughts with others.  It is especially troubling when that information comes back with different interpretations.  Like the example in today’s devotion where Janet is concerned about Ruth for talking behind her back; friends can be false friends.  We often learn that in friendships, we often share our ‘real’ feelings and concerns and that trust is compromised when we share these ‘real’ concerns with others without approval.

 Personal thoughts and opinions are often just that, personal.  In relationships, we feel safe sharing because the interaction with others helps us formulate and validate our thoughts.  These thoughts and opinions, when taken out of context, can be hurtful or miss-understood.  It is important to be ‘real’ and ‘genuine’ with our friends.  Friends know that sharing these with others could lead to embarrassment and harm to other relationships.

 Paul, in today’s text shares that as Christians we need to let our love be genuine and our actions good.  We should strive to live in harmony with others and not breed distrust.  Our devotion writer suggests that this also means to be real and honest with each other, but cautions that often being real and saying exactly what we are thinking can also be hurtful to others.  Therefore we learn to temper our words and actions out of consideration for others.

 Our devotion writer explains; “For Christians this means living out our baptism as sinners who are made saints in Christ.  As sinners, we will never love perfectly and without guile.  As saints, we strive to bring God’s love to others through our words and deeds.”

 There is much more in today’s text and it goes beyond personal relationships, but to extend Christian love to even our enemies;  To repay evil with good and strive to live peaceably with all people.  Good will overcome evil.

 Prayer: “Jesus, my Lord, let me always be honest about who I am, and keep me open to who I can become through your love. Amen.”

  

Romans 12:9-21

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Marks of the True Christian

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

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Friday Psalm 26:1-8

Prayer: Gracious Father, teach us through your Word, in Christ. Amen.

 Never alone

 For your steadfast love is before my eyes,

 I have been down and I have felt alone.  I have felt abandoned by nearly all others including God.  It is a lonely feeling, however untrue.  The mind can play tricks on us and the feelings of hurt, depression and aloneness can encourage us to believe that we are alone.  Our devotion writer suggests; “We knock and no one answers. Even God seems silent, as if God doesn’t care anymore.”  How lonely this is.

 In today’s text David proclaims his trust in God even though he has been falsely accused and alone.  He clings to God’s promise to be present and supportive with His love. He prays for justice and that he will be proved innocent.

 Our devotion writer writes; “In dark times of the soul, we can cling to a vital truth: We are never totally alone or utterly abandoned.  Jesus never leaves our side. His final words on earth were, ‘I am with you always’ (Matthew 28:20)  However bleak and somber life may seem, Jesus opens our eyes to see God’s steadfast love shining through the mists.  Living hope will walk with us through this night until the dawn of a new day breaks through the clouds.”

 Prayer: “Lord Jesus, stay by my side when I’m walking alone, lest I stumble. Amen.”

  

Psalm 26:1-8

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Psalm 26

Plea for Justice and Declaration of Righteousness

Of David.

Vindicate me, O Lord,     for I have walked in my integrity,     and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. Prove me, O Lord, and try me;     test my heart and mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes,     and I walk in faithfulness to you.

I do not sit with the worthless,     nor do I consort with hypocrites; I hate the company of evildoers,     and will not sit with the wicked.

I wash my hands in innocence,     and go around your altar, O Lord, singing aloud a song of thanksgiving,     and telling all your wondrous deeds.

O Lord, I love the house in which you dwell,     and the place where your glory abides.

 

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Thursday Jeremiah 15:15-21

Prayer: Teach us through your Word, O God, in Christ. Amen.

 The truth-teller

 …for I am with you to save you and deliver you, (v. 20)

 No one likes a truth-teller!  One must be prepared when giving bad news to people…they don’t like to hear the truth. When Jeremiah warned the people of Judah of the consequences they would face if they did not turn back to God, they said; “Don’t be such a pessimist! Stop ruining our happiness.  Life is good; enjoy it.”

 Our devotion writer points out that Jeremiah was persecuted for telling them God’s truth. “He told them their situation was worse than they imagined. He urged them not to count on God to deliver them from their foolishness.” Even though he was right, and spoke the truth Jeremiah still suffered from persecution.

 Jeremiah prays to God to deliver him from the persecutions, but God tells him that it was not going to be easy.  He must endure, but He will be with him.  Our devotion writer says; “God gave Jeremiah the comfort of integrity.  We are not always praised for being right.  Still it is better to be right than wrong, whether we get rewarded or not.”

 Most of us have been criticized for being pessimistic or negative.  Sometimes we are right in our negativism, but when we are right and no one wants to hear it, we are faced with anger and accusations.  So it was for Jeremiah, so it is with us.  Sometimes we know in our hearts and in our heads that mistakes are being made and being right is not a comfortable place to be.  Consider too John the Baptist and Jesus our Lord.  The officials in charge did not want to hear what they had to say.

 Prayer: “Lead me, dear Jesus, to count on your strength rather than relying on the praise of others. Amen.”

  

Jeremiah 15:15-21

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

15 O Lord, you know;     remember me and visit me,     and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors. In your forbearance do not take me away;     know that on your account I suffer insult. 16 Your words were found, and I ate them,     and your words became to me a joy     and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name,     O Lord, God of hosts. 17 I did not sit in the company of merrymakers,     nor did I rejoice; under the weight of your hand I sat alone,     for you had filled me with indignation. 18 Why is my pain unceasing,     my wound incurable,     refusing to be healed? Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook,     like waters that fail.

19 Therefore thus says the Lord: If you turn back, I will take you back,     and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,     you shall serve as my mouth. It is they who will turn to you,     not you who will turn to them. 20 And I will make you to this people     a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you,     but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you     to save you and deliver you, says the Lord. 21 I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,     and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.

 

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Wednesday Jeremiah 15:1-14

Prayer: O God, you are my refuge and my strength, teach me through your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 The realist

 10 Woe is me, my mother, that you ever bore me,

 Our devotion writer tells us that in Jeremiah’s time there were many prophets who preached positive words.  They promised the people that God’s covenant with them was unbreakable and they would always be protected.  They could do as they pleased.  Much like some of the preaching we hear today.

 Jeremiah had a different, more realistic message. Our devotion writer explains; “He warned the people that God wouldn’t bail them out of every difficulty they brought on themselves.  He urged them not to take their special relationship with Yahweh for granted.  Jeremiah was persecuted on account of this message.  He despaired of his prophetic call.  In the end, events proved him right.  Jerusalem fell, and the exile began.”

 Our devotion writer warns us that we should not take our relationship with God for granted.  We can’t just do as we please and ignore God’s commandments and then turn to Him renewed in faith when things get tough. “With unreal optimism, we assume we can ignore cultivating a spiritual life, yet will suddenly acquire a firm, confident faith when a crisis sweeps in.  It doesn’t always work this way. We need prayer, service, study, worship, and relationships with other believers to nurture and strengthen our relationship with God.”

 We profess we are saved by grace and this is true, but we also need to understand that we can’t simply ignore developing our daily focus and the ministries and disciplines to which we are called and expect to run back to God whenever we get into troubles.  So we can’t live worldly all week and get saved every Sunday.  Our commitment to God must live in us daily, even when we stumble through it.

 “We need prayer, service, study, worship, and relationships with other believers to nurture and strengthen our relationship with God.”

 Prayer: “Holy Spirit, draw me ever closer to the fountain of grace, through Christ. Amen.”

  

Jeremiah 15:1-14

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Punishment Is Inevitable

15 Then the Lord said to me: Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of my sight, and let them go! And when they say to you, “Where shall we go?” you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord:

Those destined for pestilence, to pestilence,     and those destined for the sword, to the sword; those destined for famine, to famine,     and those destined for captivity, to captivity.

And I will appoint over them four kinds of destroyers, says the Lord: the sword to kill, the dogs to drag away, and the birds of the air and the wild animals of the earth to devour and destroy. I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what King Manasseh son of Hezekiah of Judah did in Jerusalem.

Who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem,     or who will bemoan you? Who will turn aside     to ask about your welfare? You have rejected me, says the Lord,     you are going backward; so I have stretched out my hand against you and destroyed you—     I am weary of relenting. I have winnowed them with a winnowing fork     in the gates of the land; I have bereaved them, I have destroyed my people;     they did not turn from their ways. Their widows became more numerous     than the sand of the seas; I have brought against the mothers of youths     a destroyer at noonday; I have made anguish and terror     fall upon her suddenly. She who bore seven has languished;     she has swooned away; her sun went down while it was yet day;     she has been shamed and disgraced. And the rest of them I will give to the sword     before their enemies, says the Lord.

Jeremiah Complains Again and Is Reassured

10 Woe is me, my mother, that you ever bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land! I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me. 11 The Lord said: Surely I have intervened in your life for good, surely I have imposed enemies on you in a time of trouble and in a time of distress. 12 Can iron and bronze break iron from the north?

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