Saturday Ephesians 1:15-23

Prayer: O God, thank you for the gifts you have given us.  Help us through your Word to use them to enhance your kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Power for Christians

18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

(note: I included all the omitted portions of today’s headline text because I felt too much was left out.)

Where do you get your power? Do you get it from a good night’s sleep? An inspirational speech or sermon?  Do you get it from prayer of others?  Questions asked by our devotion writer.  He goes on to say that Paul promises to pray for his churches in a sustained, focused effort.

Our devotion writer explains; “Paul prays for the believers’ hearts to be enlightened so they might know the great power of God.  For Paul, that power is most clearly seen when God raises Jesus from the dead.  Paul longs for Christians to experience this power in their daily lives.”

So where is this power?  Where do we see it in our daily lives?  We don’t all have big daily emotional experiences that illustrate God’s power like a thunderstorm or a hurricane.  It is a little more discreet, I think.  The resurrection of Christ was not an event that was observed by anyone.  Only the aftermath with the empty tomb.  Christ did not reappear to the five thousand, but only to His closest disciples.  We know it happened, like we know that God’s power is all around us, it just doesn’t show.  Our devotion writer says; “This power might remain hidden from the world, much like when God raised Jesus, but that doesn’t mean it’s now real.  On the contrary, it has profound and lasting effect upon our lives.”

Prayer: “God of the resurrection, share your power with us and help us to be faithful. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Ephesians 1:15-23

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Paul’s Prayer

15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

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Friday Psalm 95:1-7

Prayer:  We give you praise and thanksgiving for your Word, O God. Lead us through your Word, in Christ. Amen.

A call to worship

O come, let us sing to the Lord;

Our devotion writer asks; What are your expectations when you come to worship?”  Have you ever considered that before?  Do you want glorious, classical hymns and anthems? Modern praise rock ‘n roll?  Folk songs?  Are you looking for thought full words and sermons? Prayer and contemplation? The Lord’s Supper? Or a emotional encounter with God?

Psalm 95 call us to worship: “O come, let us sing to the Lord.”  It also tells us why we should worship.  We are His people, we are to thank Him for His gifts and for His creation.  He is “the Rock of our salvation!”

We also worship to bow down and kneel before Him.  We are His sheep. He cares for us. He seeks our love and adoration.

For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

Our devotion writer asks; “Imagine worshippers traveling to the temple, encouraging one another with these words. They’re praising God and making a joyful noise deep in their hearts.  What a marvelous image of worship for us.  Clearly, worship involves far more than rote actions and minds that are sometimes distracted.  We are called to fully participate in the worship experience, and so to love God with our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.”

This is why we offer different services, traditional and contemporary, formal, and informal at different times; to appeal to different worship needs and desires.

Prayer: “God our king, we are in awe of you and all you have done for us, through Christ. Amen.”

Psalm 95:1-7

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Psalm 95

A Call to Worship and Obedience

O come, let us sing to the Lord;     let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;     let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God,     and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth;     the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it,     and the dry land, which his hands have formed.

O come, let us worship and bow down,     let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God,     and we are the people of his pasture,     and the sheep of his hand.

O that today you would listen to his voice!

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Thursday Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Prayer: O God, your Word is holy and holds wisdom for us to learn and discover, share with some wisdom with me today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Good Shepherd

16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed,

It should not be surprising to us to see leaders, politicians, who govern with promises which they never deliver.  They sound so well intentioned, yet we later learn that their promises were empty and misleading.  This was often the case with Israel’s kings.  They became filled with themselves and their own interests and ignored the needs and desires of the people.  The kings were often referred to a shepherds.

Our devotion writer writes; “In this prophetic word from Ezekiel, the Lord takes the shepherds to task for not tending to the flock.  The sheep are scattered, hungry and lost.  The shepherds don’t seem to care.  Instead they feed themselves with fat and clothe themselves with wool (Ezekiel 34:3)

So God declares that he will be the shepherd:

15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God…

22 I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

God promises that He will bring this about with a new king, a new shepherd—a Messiah. He will carry out God’s intentions.  He will be the Good Shepherd!  Even more today we need this Good Shepherd to look out for us.

Prayer: “Good Shepherd, thank you for your constant care.  We need you in our lives. Amen.”

Ezekiel 34:11-24

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

God, the True Shepherd

11 For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. 12 As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

17 As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats: 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet?

20 Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, 22 I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

23 I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.

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Wednesday 1 Kings 22:13-23

Prayer: O God, open our hearts and minds to the truths in your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The truth-teller

17 Then Micaiah said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep that have no shepherd;

King Ahab, in typical fashion, consulted God through his advisors and the prophet Micaiah prior to going to war with Aram.  As also typical even today that advisors tend to only tell their leaders what the leaders wanted to hear.  Ahab was not quite comfortable with Micaiah’s answers and pressed him for more information.  Micaiah finally told Ahab the truth and it likely meant the Ahab would not survive the battle.  But it was the truth.  Must have been hard to hear.

Our devotion writer asks it we have truth-tellers in our lives?  At first I thought this a strange question. The devotion writer also suggests that these truth tellers may be hard to listen to.  You may not like what they say.  Is this how God tells us?  Does God speak to us through them?

I have to agree that this is sometimes how God speaks to us.  We may not like it that we sometimes hear bad news from our truth-tellers.  However, it is important that we hear bad news as well as good news from God.  The hard part is discerning which information comes from God and whether we take appropriate action.  We can tell from experiences of those around us that we don’t get what we want all the time.  It is never all good news and we should pay attention to the truth-tellers even when we don’t like what they have to say.

Prayer: “Thank you, God, for sending truth-tellers.  Give us ears to hear them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

1 Kings 22:13-23

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Micaiah Predicts Failure

13 The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, “Look, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king; let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.” 14 But Micaiah said, “As the Lord lives, whatever the Lord says to me, that I will speak.”

15 When he had come to the king, the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we refrain?” He answered him, “Go up and triumph; the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.” 16 But the king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?” 17 Then Micaiah said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep that have no shepherd; and the Lord said, ‘These have no master; let each one go home in peace.’” 18 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy anything favorable about me, but only disaster?”

19 Then Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, with all the host of heaven standing beside him to the right and to the left of him. 20 And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, so that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ Then one said one thing, and another said another, 21 until a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ 22 ‘How?’ the Lord asked him. He replied, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then the Lord said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do it.’ 23 So you see, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has decreed disaster for you.”

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Tuesday Revelation 22:1-9

Prayer: Almighty God, teach us through your Word. In Christ. Amen.

The New Jerusalem

and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (v. 2)

Our devotion writer points out that based on reading of Revelation one might thing that heave was going to be sparsely inhabited.  “God saves the faithful few, while all the enemies of God’s people receive their just rewards.”

When reading the Revelation, one should not assume the visions explained are literal. Some are so radical as to representative to make a point.  Like having Jesus’ name written on their foreheads. Does this represent a fact, or that it will be so clear to all who see them that these people have come to worship the Lamb.  Whatever it is, I think we can count on the fact that many will come to Worship God.

Our devotion writer explains; “He (John) envisions the New Jerusalem as large.  He describes the number of the redeemed as uncountable. (Revelation 7:9-17). The city is a vast cube, 1,500 miles in each direction.  And surprisingly, it is populated not simply by the faithful few, but by peoples (21:3) and nations (22:2).  We’re not exactly sure what this means, but there’s more room than one might imagine.  On top of everything, the leaves from the tree of life are meant ‘for the healing of the nations.’”

One more observation today is that the New Jerusalem is big and busy.  There may not be any resting in peace.  People will be busy worshiping God and gathering around the throne of God.  And so John emphasizes the importance of worship for us today.

Prayer: “Heavenly Father, create in us a hunger for worship. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Revelation 22:1-9

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The River of Life

22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true, for the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”

“See, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

Epilogue and Benediction

I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me; but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God!”

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Monday Revelation 14:1-11

Prayer: Gracious God, reveal a little more of the mysteries in your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

A pledge of allegiance

and they sing a new song before the throne…

It is interesting to know that The Revelation to John was written at a time when the church was under attack by Rome, when Christians were being persecuted for not worshiping Caesar.  However, what is different in the meaning and the mysteries of the Revelation to those today, or through history, who have been persecuted for their faith in God?  The Revelation indeed reminds us that the Day of Judgment is coming and that the war has been won even though there will still be battles until Christ’s return.

The question remains the same, as our devotion writer answers; “Those who remain faithful to God despite the earthly consequences will see the New Jerusalem.  They will gather around the throne and sing a new song to God and the Lamb.”

Those who bow down to the beast will suffer the consequences of God’s final judgment. The urgency of the gospel is made clear in the Revelation.  We have testimony to the consequences of our allegiance and those we love.  God calls us to share our gifts and show His love to others so they and we will fulfill our pledges and our mission.

12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the faith of Jesus.

Prayer: “God, help us to stay faithful to your and to give you our ultimate allegiance. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Revelation 14:1-11

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Lamb and the 144,000

14 Then I looked, and there was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion! And with him were one hundred forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the one hundred forty-four thousand who have been redeemed from the earth. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins; these follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been redeemed from humankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found; they are blameless.

The Messages of the Three Angels

Then I saw another angel flying in midheaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation and tribe and language and people. He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come; and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

Then another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”

Then another angel, a third, followed them, crying with a loud voice, “Those who worship the beast and its image, and receive a mark on their foreheads or on their hands, 10 they will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger, and they will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image and for anyone who receives the mark of its name.”

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Sunday Matthew 25:14-30

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you Word is healing and soothing to my soul, teach me today. Amen.

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

…to each according to his ability. (v. 15)

Do you consider your gifts, your talents as “insignificant?”  Many of us do.  We have talents and gifts that we may not even know we have, but sometimes we may be called upon to use them, but will we use them, or hold back?  What are we afraid of? Being considered foolish? Being laughed at?  Or even worse, being scorned for thinking you have a talent?

Today’s text is one of my favorites; “the Parable of the Talents.”  We have to consider, as our devotion writer explains; “Not to look for one-to-one correspondence with each detail.”  It would not have been Jesus telling us that God would punish us for holding back in fear, but to encourage us to step out in faith when we are called to use our talents not just for doing good to our neighbors, but for furthering God’s kingdom as God chooses us.

There are other messages in this parable.  It is learning that whatever God has given to us we are encouraged, even commanded, to use them when God calls upon us to use them.  Sometimes the talents require us to work to perfect them, by investing in practice, or volunteering.

Our devotion writer in summary; “…trust that God’s gifts to you are valuable and that God is able to do good through you.”

Prayer: “Lord, help us to use your gifts with confidence to do you work in the world. Amen.”

Matthew 25:14-30

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Parable of the Talents

14 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

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