Thursday Isaiah 51:1-6

Prayer: O God, great are your wonderful creations,  comforting are the promises in your Word. Teach us your ways, in Christ. Amen.

 Past and present

 Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you;

 The Jews were captives in Babylon.  Isaiah was sent to them to tell them that they needed to remember the good times of the past to remind them that the future would be bright.

 Our devotion writer’s example of a couple going through marriage counseling where the counselor asks them to remember the good times in order to remember how it was when they were most in love.  It was with much despair the Israelites were taken to a strange land. So Isaiah’s words were to help them remember that they were still favored by God even though they were going through tough times.  God had not abandoned them, even though they fell that He had.

 Our devotion writer declares; “Sometimes our trust in God falters, and we go into a kind of spiritual exile.  That’s when we need to remember the good times, when we felt close to God.  God never walks away from us, even then our feelings have drifted from God.  Remember those more blessed times with the Lord, for God’s promises are certain and a closer spiritual relationship will return.  When it does, it may be richer and deeper than you remember.”

 …my salvation will be forever, and my deliverance will never be ended. (v. 6)

 Prayer: “Lord Jesus, in my spiritual struggles, help me to remember that you never leave my side. Amen.”

  

Isaiah 51:1-6

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Blessings in Store for God’s People

51 Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness,     you that seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you were hewn,     and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father     and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him,     but I blessed him and made him many. For the Lord will comfort Zion;     he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden,     her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her,     thanksgiving and the voice of song.

Listen to me, my people,     and give heed to me, my nation; for a teaching will go out from me,     and my justice for a light to the peoples. I will bring near my deliverance swiftly,     my salvation has gone out     and my arms will rule the peoples; the coastlands wait for me,     and for my arm they hope. Lift up your eyes to the heavens,     and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens will vanish like smoke,     the earth will wear out like a garment,     and those who live on it will die like gnats; but my salvation will be forever,     and my deliverance will never be ended.

 

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Wednesday Matthew 16:5-12

Prayer: Most merciful God, In my hours of need, give me comfort through your Word, in Christ. Amen.

 Misunderstandings

 12 Then they understood…

 In today’s text, the disciples misunderstood what Jesus was saying.  They thought what He said something about bread, yet He was really talking about the insidious attitudes of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 

 “Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (v. 7)

 I am sure we all have at least given thought to how God must be trying to tell us we did something wrong as we wonder why or how we were facing difficulties either physical or financial.  Often, our devotion writer says, we are often miss-interpreting God’s message.  We misunderstand.  God does not want us to suffer nor give us a bad time.

 Our devotion writer explains; “Our Father wants to redeem and bless us.  In our sinful world, bad things happen to us, but God does not send tragedy.  Instead, God offers love and support of the Spirit to ease our way through the tough patches in life.”

 Prayer: “Thank you, God, for lifting me up when I’m feeling down.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

  

Matthew 16:5-12

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They said to one another, “It is because we have brought no bread.” And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, “You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!” 12 Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

 

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Tuesday 2 Corinthians 10:12-18

Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for you love and mercy. Amen.

 Bigger than real life

 13 We, however, will not boast beyond limits…

 I am sure we have all had friends or relatives who bragged about their children. I mean we all brag a little at least about our kids.  Our devotion writer relates a case about a mother who complained that a certain other mother whose kids were super perfect in all they did.  They seemed to embellish far beyond what would be considered normal.  “…they’re always successful and achieving marvelous things.”

 Usually we take such bragging with a grain of salt.  But Paul in today’s text that we ought not to boast unless we boast of the Lord in declaring the gospel.

 Our devotion writer explains that; “when we are tempted to [boast] we may need to recognize the image God has given us in baptism.  We are God’s children.  Even when life batters us, the self that God gives us cannot be shattered.”

 17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not those who commend themselves that are approved, but those whom the Lord commends.

 Prayer: “Heavenly Father, I give thanks that with you I am always a somebody and never a nobody, through Christ Jesus. Amen.”

  

2 Corinthians 10:12-18

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another, and compare themselves with one another, they do not show good sense. 13 We, however, will not boast beyond limits, but will keep within the field that God has assigned to us, to reach out even as far as you. 14 For we were not overstepping our limits when we reached you; we were the first to come all the way to you with the good news of Christ. 15 We do not boast beyond limits, that is, in the labors of others; but our hope is that, as your faith increases, our sphere of action among you may be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may proclaim the good news in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in someone else’s sphere of action. 17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not those who commend themselves that are approved, but those whom the Lord commends.

 

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Monday 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

Prayer: Lord Jesus, teach us through your Word. Amen.

 What’s changed

 But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (v. 11)

 How do you answer that question?  What changes when we are Baptized?  Not much changes us physically, but there is an enormous change in our future and our spirit.

 Our devotion writer explains to us; “As Luther reminds us, what God is doing makes the changes, not the water.  Yet, through the water and the Word, God brings the promise fo forgiveness and wholeness. We emerge from the waters of Baptism as children of God.  The moment of Baptism, however, marks only the beginning of a lifelong process of growth and change led by the Holy Spirit. The word sanctified reminds us that right now, God is actively working to grow our love and our discipleship.

 Next time you see a Baptism, consider just what is happening at that moment.  It is a new beginning…A permanent change that forever marks that child or adult.  What happens next is a process of learning to seek the changes in our lives by accepting the direction of the Holy Spirit.  For some of us the changes are quicker.  For others it may take a lifetime to learn because we are afraid of change.  But as always there is God’s promise that when we let the Spirit lead, we will be surprised by what He does through and for us.

 To us the change may seem slow, but they are only moments in God’s time.

 Prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit, come. Open my heart to your presence, so I may grow in love and confidence, through Christ. Amen.”

  

1 Corinthians 6:1-11

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Lawsuits among Believers

6 When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels—to say nothing of ordinary matters? If you have ordinary cases, then, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to decide between one believer and another, but a believer goes to court against a believer—and before unbelievers at that?

In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—and believers at that.

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, 10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

 

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Sunday Matthew 15:10-28

Prayer: Lord Jesus, give me faith enough to do as you lead me with your Word. Amen.

 Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

 28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith!

 Preparing a budget for a church or for home is a challenging task especially when receipts are down and expenses are up. Finance committees in all churches struggle to come up with balanced budgets. The first things many consider to cut are tithes and benevolences.  Our devotion writer is correct as he discusses today’s text; “we should cut back on benevolences and keep that money at home…This may sound reasonable, but sit?  Today’s reading may give a clue.”

 First, we often consider tithes and benevolences as expenses.  Well they may be on the expense side of the ledger, but they have a direct impact on the income as well.

 Jesus was sent first to the lost people in Israel.  He knew God’s plan was to share and expand the gospel out to the Gentiles, but first as was promised, He came to serve the Jews.  The Gentile woman in today’s text challenged Jesus.  She believed in His mercy and power.  She knew that if Jesus said, her daughter would be healed, because Jesus promised it.  This woman was not the only Gentile that He ministered to.

 The disciples tried to send her away.  They wanted to be sure that Jesus concentrated only on the Jews.  This woman was a distraction.  But the woman was persistent and challenged Jesus by arguing that even the dogs get scrapes from the master’s table.  Jesus was impressed with the woman’s faith and did as she asked, healed her daughter.

 Consider this in context with tithing and ministries.  Do we like the disciples try to limit our expenses to utilities and our own wants, or do we focus are giving to ensure that we  are returning to ministry the required amounts?

 Our devotion writer explains; “That which lies closest to us naturally claims our attention, but when it consumes all our attention, we shrink a little and we turn inward.  That is when we desperately need some of the ‘great faith’ this woman displayed.  Supporting ministries beyond our neighborhood with prayer and with gifts is one way to express such faith.”

  

Matthew 15:10-28

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Things That Defile

10 Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” 12 Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” 13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” 15 But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” 16 Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19 For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”

The Canaanite Woman’s Faith

21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

 

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Saturday Romans 11:1-2, 29-32

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, teach me how to tell others about your Love and Grace through your Word. Amen.

 Call

 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

 I like the devotion writer’s suggestions; “Look up. Don’t worry about getting everything right. Breathe.  Have fun.”  These were also her horse riding instructor gave her.  They seem well worth appreciating in our walk of faith.  She writes; “As I rode around the arena, I began to appreciate the lack of destination. The adventure was the thrill of the ride.”

These are good words to consider.  God’s time is not our time.  I included the entire text today rather than just a few verses because if you take the time to read it, Paul is talking about how the Jews are still God’s chosen.  He will still turn their hearts and they will not all perish.  He now has called the Gentiles like you and I and His call is permanent.  He made a covenant with His people and with us.  He will not break it.  So we don’t have to worry so much about what we are doing.  Focus on the ride not on the destination.  Have fun, enjoy the ride.

 Our devotion writer also thinks we probably spend too much time worrying about what God is calling us to do, or to be. “Will we ever arrive at the destination God intends?  Are we getting everything right along the way?”

 These are good words for me today.  Since I recently retired, I have been trying to see what I am going to do next.  I have been asking God for direction and so far little has actually jumped up and grabbed me.  Again our devotion writer explains; “The irrevocable, unrelenting call is to proceed on the journey and not to worry about the destination.  God will take care of the goals and plans and the destinations.”

 Show mercy to those we meet along the way “Have fun! Enjoy the ride.”

  

Romans 11:1-32

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Israel’s Rejection Is Not Final

11 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” But what is the divine reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written,

“God gave them a sluggish spirit,     eyes that would not see     and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.”

And David says,

“Let their table become a snare and a trap,     a stumbling block and a retribution for them; 10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,     and keep their backs forever bent.”

The Salvation of the Gentiles

11 So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry 14 in order to make my own people jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead! 16 If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And even those of Israel, if they do not persist in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.

All Israel Will Be Saved

25 So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written,

“Out of Zion will come the Deliverer;     he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.” 27 “And this is my covenant with them,     when I take away their sins.”

28 As regards the gospel they are enemies of God for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. 32 For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

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Friday Isaiah 61:7-11

Prayer: Thank you God for you mercy and your Word. Teach me more through your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 Mary, Mother of our Lord

 For I the Lord love justice,

 In our devotion today, our devotion writer speaks of unfairness; the unfairness of the suffering of Mary to become pregnant before she was married and to have to give birth in a stable.  But Mary considered herself ‘chosen’; special in the eyes of the Lord.  The “equity” depends upon the point of view.  There are poor today who have enough…Enough to eat, a roof a ,bed and their contentment with their God.  God blesses in many different ways and what we may consider poor may not be poor from the poor person’s perspective.

 Today we hear a lot about equity in economic prosperity.  Where some think that all people must have at least the same as us.  That to me makes no common sense.  It sounds fair and equitable, but in reality, God gives to all according to their needs, and some to what abilities and responsibilities.  In all of the Bible there are stories of rich and poor.  Those blessed by God with great wealth and those who have very little, but as God promises they all have blessings.  I think of Abraham, who had great wealth and prosperity.  I think of John the Baptist, who had little but the clothes on his back.  Both were servants of God and had enough to accomplish God’s purposes.

 I remember the parables of the Talents, where each servant was given according to his abilities.  To those who have been given much, much is expected, but even those given less, still have responsibility to use what they are given to the Glory of God.

 Our devotion writer explains; “Justice is more that fairness.  Isaiah says justice does not keep score or worry about equal portions.  Justice provides help to all who are oppressed, brokenhearted, captive, or imprisoned.  The prophet proclaims God’s justice will come to all who mourn.

 Today we remember Mary, the Mother of our Lord.  Our devotion writer declares; “God’s justice accompanied here, though, and she was clothed ‘with the garments of salvation’ and covered ‘with the robe of righteousness’ (v. 10).

 Prayer: “Thank you for your loving acts of justice and love, O Christ. Amen.”

  

Isaiah 61:7-11

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Because their shame was double,     and dishonor was proclaimed as their lot, therefore they shall possess a double portion;     everlasting joy shall be theirs.

For I the Lord love justice,     I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense,     and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants shall be known among the nations,     and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge     that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed. 10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,     my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,     he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,     and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots,     and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise     to spring up before all the nations.

 

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