Thursday Revelation 7:9-17

Prayer: Wondrous God and Father, teach us through your Word, in Christ. Amen.

The Host in the host

…God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (v. 17)

Our devotion writer tells us that Martin Luther once said that the Revelation to John has twice as many riddles as it does sentences. I can certainly identify with that description. Our devotion writer explains that the Revelation was written at a time of deep persecution for many Christians.  “Its words affirm that God is ultimately in charge and is good.”

It also reminds us of the evil that exists for now in the earth and the struggle we must endure until the time that Christ returns and that Jesus has already won the war. It just illustrates quite dynamically what the final days will be like.  When we think about it imagine just how many people around the world on any given Sunday join in the celebration of Holy Communion.  How much of a crowd of people must that be all together at sometimes, or on the same day raise their voices in praise to God but in different buildings and different cities.  There are millions! What a wonderful noise God must hear.

Our devotion writer writes; “When we participate in worship and receive communion, we are united with Jesus and with the faithful of every time and place. We become part of that host worshiping joyfully before the throne of the Host.  We participate in the triumph of life over death, forgiveness over sin, and love over hatred.  We participate in the power and presence of God, who loves and unites us.”

Prayer: “Gracious God, feed me always with the Bread of life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Revelation 7:9-17

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Multitude from Every Nation

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying,

“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 singing,

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 For this reason they are before the throne of God,     and worship him day and night within his temple,     and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;     the sun will not strike them,     nor any scorching heat; 17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,     and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

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Wednesday Psalm 43

Prayer: O God, thank you for another beautiful day to share in your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Real hope

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. (v. 5)

There is a difference between optimism and real hope, our devotion writer declares. He tells us that optimism tends to ignore the negative, while real hope “sees light shining where it is needed, in the darkness that human sin can bring.”

I am reminded about the current arguments over “climate change.” There are many who insist the current trend of warming is caused by man.  Yet science shows that the earth has not been actually warming for the last 18 years, and there were worse droughts hundreds of year ago than we experience currently.

The point is there are arguments on each side and that one would be foolish to ignore science that does not support global warming as being caused by man. Our devotion writer writes; “Psalm 43 speaks of the reality of trouble in the world and our lives: dishonest or hurtful people, doubt, uncertainty, unknowing, depression, and anxiety.  It is faith that allows us to be honest about what attacks and wounds us from without and from within.”

I have faith that God’s creation is greater than man’s ability to destroy it. The wonders of this earth that God has created has built-in corrections.  When it gets too cold it warms, when it gets too hot, it cools.  The history of the earth is about constant changes in climate over long periods of time.

Our devotion writer explains; “Christ, who cried of desertion from the cross, empowers us to name the things that cause fear in our hearts. In the cross, God comes to us in the midst of these fear-invoking things.  God, through Jesus Christ, proclaims life in the midst of death, hope in the midst of despair, and faith in the presence of doubt.  Our real hope is in God.”

Prayer: “God, strengthen me to acknowledge my fears and sense your gracious presence. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Psalm 43

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Psalm 43

Prayer to God in Time of Trouble

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause     against an ungodly people; from those who are deceitful and unjust     deliver me! For you are the God in whom I take refuge;     why have you cast me off? Why must I walk about mournfully     because of the oppression of the enemy?

O send out your light and your truth;     let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill     and to your dwelling. Then I will go to the altar of God,     to God my exceeding joy; and I will praise you with the harp,     O God, my God.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,     and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,     my help and my God.

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Tuesday 1 John 4:1-6

Prayer: O God, the wonders of your creation are awesome, thank you for allowing me to see them. May all the earth praise you name, in Christ. Amen.

Simon and Jude, Apostles

Little children, you are from God…

We are part of God’s creation. Each one of us has a role to play in God’s Kingdom.  Most of us will not be remembered by millions of people, maybe even not by hundreds of people.  Certainly not remembered like Paul, or Peter or the many Apostles remembered in the Scriptures.

Today’s devotion reminds us of the sacrifices of Simon and Jude, two apostles who are barely mentioned in scripture, but who were nevertheless Apostles of Christ. Our devotion writer tells us that Simon and Jude were called to be Disciples by Jesus just like Peter, and Paul, and you and me.

Therefore we are from God and have a mission for which we are called to perform. A mission whether it be large or small is part of the furtherance of God’s kingdom.

We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Our devotion writer writes; “Like Simon and Jude, we can be certain of God’s love for us in Christ and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

Prayer: “God, thank you for bringing us into your reign of Grace through Christ. Amen.”

1 John 4:1-6

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Testing the Spirits

4 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world. Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

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Monday Matthew 23:1-12

Prayer: O God, your Word gives us inspiration and direction as we live our lives in your service. Thank you for your gift, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Learning to learn

…you are all students. (v. 8)

In today’s text, Jesus was very critical of the Scribes and Pharisees. Jesus says they may preach and teach valid concepts, but they do not live by the same rules they preach.  They revel in the notoriety and the respect they command because of their position in society.

But Jesus warns us not to be like them. We should not seek notoriety or fame because of our teaching, but to remain as students humbly learning new things.  Let Jesus and His Spirit and the Word be our teachers.

11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Our devotion writer tells us that we are called to be students, to learn new skills; to learn how to better serve others. He writes; “We learn to learn by continuing in Scripture, by renewing our baptismal birth each day, by receiving Christ’s body and blood with brothers and sisters in Christ, and by mutual conversation and consolation in the midst of Jesus’ followers.”

Therefore we are all students.

Prayer: “Gracious God, help me always to learn from you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Matthew 23:1-12

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Denounces Scribes and Pharisees

23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “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. 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; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

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Sunday John 8:31-36

Prayer: Teach me, Lord, through your Word. Amen.

Reformation Sunday

What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?” (v. 33)

Today we celebrate the Reformation. When Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenburg, he started a movement which called for the reformation of the Church.  Indeed he said “the church must always be reformed.”  It called for the return to basic teachings of Christ and the belief that we are saved by grace and not by works.  That our whole lives acknowledge that we are sinners and in need of repentance.

In today’s text, the Jews who Jesus was talking to were confused by His words because they were not slaves, but Jesus explained that without Him they would be subject to the Law and therefore slaves to sin because they could never perfectly keep the law. Therefore with their belief in Him, they would be free from the law.

So do we now have a reformed church that needs no more changing? Remember those asking Jesus about freedom, they thought things were just fine.  We should be careful about being complacent about the church.  The church needs reform constantly.  Our devotion writer explains; “They (The Jews in today’s text) weren’t completely free, just as we’re not complete in our repentance, faith, confession, and lives as believers…perhaps we can remember that a person does not reform what he or she does not care about.  Reform is a sign of ongoing care. Christ’s reminder that we are not perfect is not condemnation, but a call back to God’s astounding grace.”

This is grace; that which is given in love and not because of what good we do.

Prayer: “Dear Jesus, continue your work in us through the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

John 8:31-36

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

True Disciples

31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

34 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

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Saturday Romans 3:19-28

Prayer: O God, strengthen our wills to follow the path you set for us through your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Personal grace

24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift,

Our devotion writer writes; “Most of us expect to receive gifts at Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, or graduations.” Sometimes we can hide them or return them for something we really want.  But what do we do with gifts that are totally unexpected?  “That’s why the concept of God’s grace as a gift can be a bit problematic or unsettling for us.”

To us humans the gift of grace is hard to accept. What did we do to get it?  NOTHING!  What do we do to keep it? NOTHING!  Furthermore, it is not a gift we can easily hide in the closet.  It is not a gift that we earned.  As our devotion writer explains God’s grace is like a baby; “such a gift needs our attention, even when that means messy diaper and 2:00 AM feedings.”   We are changed by it, and it is a lifetime of change.  We don’t stop changing.

Christ has run the race for us and we have won because He has won. Now we have to learn how to accept this grace that we did not earn.

Prayer: “Thank you, Jesus, for being a gift to us. Amen.”

Romans 3:19-28

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.

Righteousness through Faith

21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.

27 Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.

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Friday Psalm 46

Prayer: Lift our hearts and minds and our voices in praise to you through your Word, Oh God. In Christ. Amen.

Stillness

10 “Be still, and know that I am God!

Our devotion writer remembers October in Wisconsin because of its cool quietness and the fall splendor. I remember living up north how still and quiet it was just after a winter snow storm. The beauty of white snow all around on the ground the trees, even the power lines. What do you remember that brings you silence and stillness?

Most of the time there is noise…all around us. TV, highways, cars and trucks, construction, dogs barking, thunderstorms, wind, birds…all which make life noisy most of the time.  Our devotion writer suggests that we often invite God to show us noisy and flashy.  Our devotion writer today suggests that we also look for God in silence.

We know the value of silent contemplation, prayer, and meditation. I often think I could do more of it to listen to what God wants to tell me.  As our devotion writer puts it; Look at the sky or some other point of beauty or just close your eyes and hear the Lord say, “be still, and know that I am God!”

Prayer: “God of holiness and stillness, quite my heart to receive the gift of your quiet and loving Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Psalm 46

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Psalm 46

God’s Defense of His City and People

To the leader. Of the Korahites. According to Alamoth. A Song.

God is our refuge and strength,     a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,     though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam,     though the mountains tremble with its tumult.Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,     the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;     God will help it when the morning dawns. The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;     he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us;     the God of Jacob is our refuge.Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord;     see what desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;     he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;     he burns the shields with fire. 10 “Be still, and know that I am God!     I am exalted among the nations,     I am exalted in the earth.” 11 The Lord of hosts is with us;     the God of Jacob is our refuge.Selah

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