Saturday Philippians 1:21-30

Prayer: Lord Jesus, teach me to love as you love through your Word. Amen.

Standing firm

I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit…(v. 27)

Our devotion writer relates a story of her grandson’s soccer game where the entire team linked arms and made a wall when defending their goal. They were standing firm!

What is standing firm? Our devotion writer explains; “What a difference it makes when tow or more join together in purpose and spirit. Just as Paul admonished the Philippians to stand with each other as they lived out the gospel, so we need our church family to walk and work side-by-side with us.  Not only do we gain strength from other Christians, but those connections keep us accountable. When we’re linked up with others as we walk in faith, it’s much harder to stray from godly paths.”

This is another good argument for belonging and attending a church. We need the association with our brothers and sisters in Christ to learn, to share, and to be accountable.  We need the linkage with other Christians to help us learn how to be better Christians.  Participation in worship, bible study, choir, small groups and other ministries, we learn, we share, we bond.

According to our devotion writer; “Let’s unite with other Christians to make a wall, and stand firm as we live ‘in a manner worthy fo the gospel of Christ’ (v. 27)”

Prayer: “Lord Jesus, help me to stand firm with my family of believers. Amen.”

Philippians 1:21-30

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

21 For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23 I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25 Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, 26 so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

27 Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, 28 and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. 29 For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— 30 since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

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Friday Psalm 145:1-8

Prayer: Your creation is full of wonder, O God, show us how to praise you through your Word, in Christ. Amen.

God’s wondrous works

…and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. (v. 5)

It is hard today with life on the internet not to see beautiful photographs of the wonders of creation. It is not necessary today to visit Alaska, or the Grand Canyon to see the results of God’s creation because you will likely see them on your computer or on TV.  Although pictures and TV are not the real thing one can certainly get a good look.

Worshipping as our devotion writer attests in the wilds of Kenya, the wonders of God’s creation make themselves obvious and the experience very inspiring. Our devotion writer submits; “Such awestruck wonder deserves only one response: praise.  How can we not praise God, whose ‘greatness is unsearchable’ (v. 3), whose works are ‘wondrous’ (v. 5), and whose deeds are ‘awesome’ (v. 6)?  And God who created the heavens and the earth and all living things, also sent Jesus as our Savior and the Holy Spirit as our Counselor.  Our eternal, all-powerful Lord takes personal interest in each of us, reconciling us through grace and wrapping us in God’s steadfast love.”

What wonders indeed? Everywhere we look we can see God’s wonders. It should cause us to stop and remember just how wonderful our God is.

Prayer: “Lord of all, we praise you and bless you for your holy name, through Christ. Amen.”

Psalm 145:1-8

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Psalm 145

The Greatness and the Goodness of God

Praise. Of David.

I will extol you, my God and King,     and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you,     and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;     his greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall laud your works to another,     and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty,     and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed,     and I will declare your greatness. They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness,     and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,     slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

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Thursday Jonah 3:10-4:11

Prayer: Help us, O God, to focus on you and your guidance for our lives through your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

When it isn’t all about us

…for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. (v. 3)

I do so much identify with Jonah. Like our devotion writer vividly points out; “When you’re in a position of authority there’s nothing more embarrassing than being countermanded by your superior.” At God’s instruction, Jonah proclaimed to the people of Nineveh they would be punished and destroyed.  He at first had refused and run away until God had him swallowed by the fish and then repented and went to do what God told him to do.  But when the people of Nineveh repented, Jonah was so humiliated that he wanted to die.  Jonah just knew that God would change His mind and leave Jonah with egg on his face. So he went to sit in the sun and die.

Jonah learned his lesson the hard way as we often do. Our devotion writer explains; “What Jonah failed to understand, perhaps, was that it wasn’t all about him.  God didn’t set out to make Jonah look good as a prophet, but to save a city and draw the people into relationship with God.”

When we are called to profess the Gospel, it is not about us and how embarrassed we will be, but it is about the message of the Gospel to call the lost and the poor and the sick who do not know God. It is not about us…

Prayer: “Forgive us, O God, when we fail to temper justice with mercy. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Jonah 3:10-4:11

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

Jonah’s Anger

4 But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.

The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

Jonah Is Reproved

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” 10 Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”

 

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Wednesday 2 Corinthians 13:5-10

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

When no one is watching

Examine yourselves…

I am sure that we all examine ourselves often, even daily. Do we past the tests like Paul suggests? When faced with a reckless driver do we curse them? I must admit that I often am critical of other drivers.  Even if I don’t say anything out loud, I can’t stop my thoughts from popping into my head.  Do I dread the knock on my door by a neighbor when I am not wanting company?  Sometimes.  Caller ID has saved me from hanging up on solicitors, but I still imagine my attitude sometimes is not too Christ like.

These were pretty simple and ordinary negative reactions, but what are we like when no one is looking? Don’t we know that Jesus is in us as Christians and God sees everything we do and think.  It is why we need to daily cling to Jesus and ask forgiveness.  We can strive for perfection, but perfection is not in our genes.

I am sure that Paul was more worried about maintaining worship discipline and showing Christian love to everyone in all that we do. That the people in the Corinth Church were sharing, tithing and focused on their ministries and not letting things slide.  To use their God given gifts for furthering the faith of all believers. To accept criticism when they falter.

So we can both individually and corporately examine our successes and the love we show to others. As our devotion writer puts it; “As children of God, we know Christ lives in us, bue the temptation ot sin can be hard to resist…Just as Paul admonished the Corinthians, we can daily examine ourselves to see whether Christ is truly evident in our lives.  May we strive to be obedient to God’s Word, even when no one is watching.”

Prayer: “O God, let your light shine through us wherever we are. In Christ’s name. Amen.”

 

2 Corinthians 13:5-10

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed. But we pray to God that you may not do anything wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. This is what we pray for, that you may become perfect. 10 So I write these things while I am away from you, so that when I come, I may not have to be severe in using the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.

 

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Tuesday 2 Corinthians 13:1-4

Prayer: Let us hear your voice, Lord Jesus, through your Word. Amen.

Third time’s a charm?

This is the third time I am coming to you. (v. 1)

Of course when our children did not promptly comply with an instruction, we might have started counting to 3 thereby giving them an opportunity to act before punishment. So it seems with Paul’s words to the Corinthians.

If you recall, Paul has chastised the church at Corinth for quarreling among themselves. There were factions which sought to discredit Paul’s teachings and authority; and therefore tear the church apart.  Paul threatens his disfavor because they have not listened to his criticism twice before and now a third time in which he would no longer be lenient.

Our devotion writer explains; “Yet Paul’s chastisement was delivered as a parent concerned for his children’s well-being and intent on their coming to maturity in faith. Had the Corinthians been listening all along instead of quarreling, they would have recognize the character of Christ in Paul as he humbly lived and worked among them. Who are our faith examples and teachers?  Are we willing to be held accountable by them when sin creeps in?”

Prayer: “Lord, thank you for teaching us through your holy Word, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”

2 Corinthians 13:1-4

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Further Warning

13 This is the third time I am coming to you. “Any charge must be sustained by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” I warned those who sinned previously and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again, I will not be lenient— since you desire proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.

 

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Monday 1 Corinthians 1:18-24

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

Holy Cross Day

18 For the message about the cross …is the power of God.

Our devotion writer tells us today about George Herbert (1593-1633). He was a man who seemed “destined by birth and education for a career in politics and academia, but he set aside such ambitions and became a pastor…He became a pastor of a small-town church and was known as a good pastor who cared for his congregation’s physical and spiritual needs.  In his spare time, he wrote poetry.”

In his poetry he shares the conflicts humans have between furthering one’s self and proclaiming the gospel. We have a tendency to promote ourselves for fame and fortune instead of proclaiming Christ and the power of the Cross.  This need we have as humans for acclaim or reinforcement of our egos is a trap, but in our insecurities it is hard to give all glory to God.

Today’s text reinforces the message that man’s wisdom is folly. Even the wisdom of the powerful and the educated cannot compare with the wisdom of God, though we continue to try.  It is in our nature and it is our folly.

Herbert explains that in all circumstances we need to say to God at the end of it all; “Thy will be done.”

Prayer: “God, when I feel crossed by circumstances in my life, help me to remember the saving power of the Cross of Christ. Thy will be done. Amen.”

 

1 Corinthians 1:18-24

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Christ the Power and Wisdom of God

18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,     and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

 

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Sunday Matthew 18:21-35

Prayer: Lord Jesus, teach me to forgive as you have forgiven me. Amen.

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

…forgive your brother or sister from your heart. (v. 35)

One thing I have learned is that forgiveness is not forgetting. The important message in today’s text is you not only have to forgive, but forgive from our hearts.  The distinction could be hard to make; to forgive from the heart and to not forget.

Recently a pastor explained to me that we humans can forgive and forgive from the heart, but we always remember particularly difficult and emotional actions. Forgetting is impossible so we have to consciously pray for peace when we face the memories.  These memories come back at inopportune times and become part of our struggle in dealing with others and with our faith.  They are a part of our learning and understanding and self defense mechanisms.  It is about trust.

When someone creates a wrong against you, the first thing to go is the trust that it won’t happen again. Overcoming the loss of trust is the hardest part. It is possible to forgive, and to forgive from the heart, but regaining trust takes much longer. Note that the king in today’s text had not forgotten about the debt that he had forgiven.

Today’s text deals with sin and trespasses and how Jesus commands us to forgive as we have been forgiven. Our devotion writer explains; “we are called to forgive others because God forgives us.  The other person’s attitude and response do not matter.  What is necessary is that we forgive? …from the heart.

Prayer: “Jesus, instill in me the spirit of your forgiving love and help me to forgive others. Amen.”

 

Matthew 18:21-35

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Forgiveness

21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

 

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