Wednesday Mathew 22:34-46

Prayer: O God, how do I love you? Show me through your Word. Amen.

With all you mind

37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’

Today’s text is really deep, especially when one considers our devotion writer’s comments. Of course when we look at human emotions we can certainly get into complex issues.  God made us humans as emotional beings.  God made us in His image and He has emotions too.  Scripture is full of examples of God’s emotions of anger and compassion and love.

There is therefore, nothing wrong with emotions. Our devotion writer makes a very good point when Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:5; but says ‘mind’ instead of might. This indicates that love is not just an emotion, but “Love is thought, reason, interpretation, planning, memory, and attentiveness.”  For all of us who have been married, this makes a lot of sense.  It is impossible to have a long term relationship with only emotional attachment.

To love one’s neighbor is the same way. We have to look to see the image of God in all humans.  Sometimes we have to look really, really hard to find it. Our devotion writer explains; “to love one’s neighbors in the same way is to see the image of God in them.  Such love doesn’t require and exceptionally intelligent mind, but a graced mind.  God love us wholly even when we can’t return it. Such love changes our lives and our minds.”

Prayer: “God, grant us loving minds and grace-filled hearts to do your will. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Matthew 22:34-46

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Greatest Commandment

34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

The Question about David’s Son

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: 42 “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,

44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand,     until I put your enemies under your feet”’?

45 If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” 46 No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

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Tuesday 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

Prayer: O God, thank you for your many blessings and gifts, help me use them to show others your love through your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Gentle strength

But we were gentle among you, (v. 7)

There is more meaning in the entire verse 7:

though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children.

Do we not know people who live and care for not only their own but for others unselfishly? Those who we might consider saints? Those who we might go to when we have a need? These people must have their own problems too; pain, disappointments, illness—yet they seem to be strong in their faith and still share the love of God.

How much better will a nurse care for her own children? This is an example of how we might wish to live our own lives. Our devotion writer writes; “Paul knew abuse and rejection.  Each one of us has experienced these as well.  The cross of Christ demonstrates the reality of such abuse and rejection and announces God’s gentle triumph over them in order to love us. God loves us so that we might love each other with gentle strength.”

It is through this love of God and the love God shows to us that we can share and care for others.

Prayer: “God of love, give me a gentle spirit. Amen.”

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Paul’s Ministry in Thessalonica

2 You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

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Monday Titus 2:7-8, 11-15

Prayer: May your Word, O God, help me to share you love, in Christ. Amen.

Temporary conditions

…then any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us. (v. 8)

Consider these words from our devotion writer; “In many ways our world is at enmity with God, and God is always acting to turn enmity to faith. Paul’s prayer for Titus, and for us, is that we move from the world’s way of doing things, such as heaping shame and division on others, into God’s way of doing things—redeeming, cleansing, and having zeal for good works.”

God is not at enmity with the world. God wants redemption.  He wants our allegiance and our love yet many in this world fight against Him and persecute His followers.  We even see it in our own country.  The response God want from us is to love these enemies. Paul writes of doing good works, sound speech, self-control, uprightness and godliness.  These are the tools of our fight against the world.

Our devotion writer explains; “An enemy’s shame should be only a temporary condition. Our calling is to live the grace of God, which invites all people to move into the new day of God’s love and forgiveness.”

Prayer: “God, help me to love my enemies. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Titus 2:7-15

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured; then any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us.

Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, 10 not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, 12 training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

15 Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one look down on you.

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Sunday Matthew 22:15-22

Prayer: Lord Jesus, open our hearts and eyes through your Word; make us servants of others after the example you have set. Amen.

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

22 … and they left him and went away.

I struggled to see the connection with today’s text and the point that our devotion writer was trying to make. What did it have to do with the text?  The text is about Jesus being tested by a question about whether or not taxes should be paid to Caesar.  How is that similar to receiving bad news from medical professionals? I know today’s text quite well.  It seems that we read it every year and it seems pretty clear.  How many different messages can we get?

But maybe today it is about false comforts. Maybe just when we think we are living a clean and godly life we think that we have earned good health, we are stricken with the truth that even with living well, we are not immune from disease and accidents.  Maybe it is like hearing the truth of the Law where we learn that we can’t be perfect because we are human.  We don’t’ want to hear that we can’t earn righteousness.  So when we hear what we don’t want to hear, we often just go away in anger and don’t want to return.

Just when we think we are doing well and life is good, we learn about tragedy. It proves that we all still need grace and forgiveness.  No one is free.  No one is exempt. We all fall short and need to keep God in perspective and to not get to comfortable and we can’t just walk away from bad news.

Prayer: “God, open my heart to hear the law and the grace of your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Matthew 22:15-22

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Question about Paying Taxes

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16 So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21 They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

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Saturday 2 Timothy 4:5-11

Prayer: Teach me to be a better servant through your Word, O God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Luke, Evangelist

…the time of my departure has come. (v. 6)

Our devotion writer explains that Luke spent a lot of time with Paul. His association with Paul helped him to emphasize the worth of individuals and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Luke wrote his gospel and the Acts of the Apostles.  Leaders in those days did not think the poor and the outcasts of society to be of any value, yet Luke and Paul both emphasize ministry to the downtrodden.

Our devotion writer writes; “Luke witnessed the struggles and trials of Paul’s ministry, of how Paul was being ‘poured out as a libation’ (v. 6). Luke and Paul served those who also struggled. Luke, by remaining with Paul, saw the intense and authentic love, faith, and confident hope that come as a gift from God, who loves all people in Christ.”

So we are called to minister to others even as we may from time to time suffer trials as did Paul. But like Paul, we endure our trials and keep the focus on our ministries and sharing the love of God with everyone we meet through the gifts that God has given us.  God give us hope and inspiration in the face of our struggles.

Prayer: “God, be with me amid the trials and joys of this day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

2 Timothy 4:5-11

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.

As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Personal Instructions

Do your best to come to me soon, 10 for Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful in my ministry.

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Friday 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Prayer: Lord Jesus, strengthen our faith through your Word, so we can tell others about you. Amen.

Imitation, not impersonation

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord,

Our devotion writer asks; “How many Elvis impersonators does the world need? Perhaps one more than we have, since they seem to draw large audiences.” There are impersonators of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and most all superstars.  Most are for fun, some are serious, but most are popular.  Our devotion writer points out; “A good impersonator can make you forget that your are seeing an imposter.  It’s as if they cease to be themselves.”

Paul does not want us to make people think we are Jesus, but to imitate Him. When we imitate we use the gifts God gave us and point to Jesus, to reflect His love.  Our service “does not hide us, but reveals God.”

Paul says that the Thessalonians Christians were well known beyond their borders because of their faith and the example they set by imitating through the Holy Spirit to be good stewards of their talents and treasures.

For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God,

We are called to the same life as the Thessalonians; to be the best imitators of Jesus and the Apostles as the Spirit leads us. To be known by those outside our borders for the love of Jesus Christ that we show to others.

Prayer: “God, help us to use our gifts to imitate you, through Christ. Amen.”

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Salutation

1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace.

The Thessalonians’ Faith and Example

We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

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Thursday Psalm 96:1-9 (10-13)

Prayer: Open our eyes to your truths, O God. In Christ. Amen.

Offer your praise

O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. (v. 1)

Now we know. God wants us to sing with the voice He gave us, because He wants to hear that voice along with all the others. We don’t have to be ashamed of our singing voice.  Our devotion writer’s clever challenge proved that when all sing together and don’t hold back, the worship experience is enhanced.  “Those members who hadn’t been singing because they thought they couldn’t sing decided to go ahead and give it their best shot. The result was beautiful, powerful, and wonderfully uplifting.”

Now why don’t we apply that excuse about singing to sharing what we know about God to others? If it is because our faith isn’t good enough, well maybe we have the faith God gave us and the gifts God has given us is the faith God wants us to use.

Our devotion writer puts it this way; “But when God asks us to use our gifts, the gifts we have been given are exactly what God wants us to share.” We should chew on that for a while.  What are we afraid of?

Our devotion writer again; “It means all of us, trusting what the Creator has given us and thanking God for it by using it.”

Prayer: “Lord, let my words and my actions praise you today, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”

Psalm 96:1-13

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Psalm 96

Praise to God Who Comes in Judgment

O sing to the Lord a new song;     sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name;     tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations,     his marvelous works among all the peoples. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;     he is to be revered above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols,     but the Lord made the heavens. Honor and majesty are before him;     strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,     ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;     bring an offering, and come into his courts. Worship the Lord in holy splendor;     tremble before him, all the earth.

10 Say among the nations, “The Lord is king!     The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.     He will judge the peoples with equity.” 11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;     let the sea roar, and all that fills it; 12     let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy 13     before the Lord; for he is coming,     for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness,     and the peoples with his truth.

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