Tuesday Colossians 2:16-23

Prayer: Open our hearts and minds to the truths in your Word, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Freedom in Christ

18 Do not let anyone disqualify you,

Rules are good. They help keep us safe on the roads, because most people try to follow the rules we can expect certain behaviors from each other.  Rules standardize actions and establish disciplines.  Rules tell us when the church service begins so we can plan ahead.  Rules tell us when food may spoil and be unsafe for us to be served with it in restaurants, or sold in the stores.  Rules protect us and help us conform to society.

But Paul warns that in our spiritual lives, rules can become the focus, rather than the guide. Sometimes we get so caught up in the rules for living a Christ like life, that we forget the freedom that Jesus has brought us.  Remember the Pharisees and the Scribes?  All the rules they made up that had nothing to do with loving God, and doing His will, but were designed to “show-off” how well you lived a godly life.

We are not called to appear faithful, we are called to “be” faithful. Make up rules and legalistic rituals “have the appearance of wisdom, but are neither Christ-directed nor essential for salvation.”  We should not be judged based upon how well we qualify under the rules of man, but by how well we love others in Christ.

Our devotion writer ends with; “Paul calls the Colossians Christians, and us, to acknowledge Jesus’ saving work on the cross on our behalf as the only essential truth. Through faith in Christ, by God’s grace, we are ‘qualified’ as God’s own.”

Prayer: “Dear Jesus, thank you for freeing me to live as God’s child. Amen.”

Colossians 2:16-23

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

16 Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. 17 These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.

Warnings against False Teachers

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? 22 All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.

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Monday Luke 10:17-20

Prayer: O God, thank you for your mercy and grace, teach me through your Word. In Christ. Amen.

Michael and All Angels

18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.

In our daily lives we don’t often speak of the devil and we don’t hear much about him in our sermons, but our devotion writer reminds us that he is real and more importantly that he has already been defeated. Strangely I see what it happening today in the Middle East and I can’t help but be reminded of the final battle of Armageddon. I believe we are in the last days (last years).  The signs are clear to me and the words of the prophets’ ring in my mind.  It is comforting to know that even though the battle continues, the war has been won by our Savior.

Our devotion writer tells us; “To Jesus and his followers, however, the battle between God’s armies and Satan’s forces was—and continues to be—very, very real. We find references to spiritual warfare throughout the Bible.”

Some can rationalize angels and demons as myths. We can avoid reality, but Christ did indeed already die for us and has won the battle over death and the devil.  We can rejoice in that whatever happens here on earth, we have been claimed by God. Our future is secure and our names in the God’s book of life everlasting.

Prayer: “Mighty Lord, shake us from any complacency about evil. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Luke 10:17-20

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Return of the Seventy

17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

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Sunday Matthew 21:23-32

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

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

31 Which of the two did the will of his father?”

What do you do when your son or daughter refuses to do what is asked, but later changes their mind and does it? Or, the son or daughter who readily agrees to do what is asked, but never does it?  Which do you prefer?

I call the second one simply lip service and it is perhaps the worst kind of disobedience, because it devious. Jesus calls out the Pharisees for giving ‘lip service’ to God, but not living up to their promises to God. Jesus called them hypocrites.  As our devotion writer puts it; “They claimed to be right with God, but their words were pompous boasts.  Imagine the indignation when Jesus declared, ‘the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.’ (v. 31).

Maybe we should consider our own actions relative to today’s lesson? Do we just give lip service to God on Sunday? Or does what we say measure up with what we do?

Prayer: “Almighty One, grant me a heart for humble obedience through Christ. Amen.”

Matthew 21:23-32

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Authority of Jesus Questioned

23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

The Parable of the Two Sons

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

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Saturday Philippians 2:1-13

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

Great minds think alike

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…

To have the mind of Jesus, we need the mind of God. Can we think like Jesus?  I don’t think I can.  I’m human, but I try.  Our devotion writer is making a point that when it comes to others, Jesus humbled Himself and considered the needs of others, before His own.  But in matters of faith and love, Jesus spoke with authority.  He spoke the truth from God.  In this area he was no ‘shrinking violet!’

In today’s text Paul encourages us to look to the example of Jesus. He exemplifies humbleness and love. It helps us be compassionate and sympathetic to the needs of others; putting them first, before our own needs and wants.  To learn how to seek a common mind in ministry and fellowship.

Our devotion writer asks; “However, doesn’t humility go against everything in the world would have us believe? Picture the mad rush at the department store sale, the fervor of fans at at major sporting event, or the last time you cut someone off in traffic. The drive to compete threatens to supersede servanthood at every turn.”

I don’t quite accept our devotion writer’s examples. God gave us the desire to compete.  Competition is not all bad, nor is it necessarily selfish.  It depends upon how we approach it.  The last time I remember cutting someone off in traffic, I didn’t see the person I cut off.  I was truly repentant and did not cut them off on purpose.

However, we can be committed to helping others; our devotion writer suggests “consider one small thing we can do to serve someone else. Let this be the day we recommit ourselves to seeking the mind of Christ.”

Prayer: “Lord, humble me so that I may be lifted up in Christ. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Philippians 2:1-13

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Imitating Christ’s Humility

2 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,     did not regard equality with God     as something to be exploited, but emptied himself,     taking the form of a slave,     being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,     he humbled himself     and became obedient to the point of death—     even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him     and gave him the name     that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus     every knee should bend,     in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess     that Jesus Christ is Lord,     to the glory of God the Father.

Shining as Lights in the World

12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

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Friday Psalm 25:1-9

Prayer: Praise and thanksgiving to you, O God, lead us forward in your Word and in our actions, in Christ. Amen.

Putting the past behind us

Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;

Do you have regrets from your youth?  Our devotion writer remembers how rude and jealous she was when her mother took in an ailing elderly woman.  She acted badly and later deeply regretted her attitude. However she could never go back to the woman and apologize after she passed on.

There are often sins we do while in our youth that haunt us. Sometimes these sins pull at our hearts later in life even after God has forgiven us, we haven’t forgiven ourselves. Our devotion writer asks, “how do we learn to forgive ourselves.”

Today’s psalm has some answers. Our devotion writer; “David not only pours out his confession to the Lord, but also pleads to be instructed in God’s truth and goodness.  When God’s love in

Christ moves us to turn from sin and seek to do what is right, God’s merciful forgiveness abounds. If we insist on clinging to guilt over sins forgiven by God, it becomes just another form of pride. If God is gracious enough to forget our former sins and love us unconditionally, how can we be any less forgiving of ourselves?”

…another form of pride!!! What about that?  If God forgives us why can’t we?  Who are we to judge?

Prayer: “God of grace, I lay my sins before you, trusting in your mercy, through Christ. Amen.”

Psalm 25:1-9

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Psalm 25

Prayer for Guidance and for Deliverance

Of David.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust;     do not let me be put to shame;     do not let my enemies exult over me. Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;     let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;     teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me,     for you are the God of my salvation;     for you I wait all day long.

Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,     for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;     according to your steadfast love remember me,     for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!

Good and upright is the Lord;     therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right,     and teaches the humble his way.

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Thursday Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

Prayer: O God, we pray for your counsel and guidance through your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The blame game

Turn, then, and live. (v. 32)

Our devotion writer relates her experiences with her young daughters when they would quarrel and it led to someone being hurt or something being broken. They accused each other as being at fault.  It is easy to blame the other.  Even as adults, we look for ways to avoid being responsible for mistakes or accidents.  Most adults, though have learned to accept responsibility for their actions. Our devotion writer explains; “What we struggled to teach our children was that to avoid consequences they didn’t like, they only had to confess their part in the conflict, show genuine remorse, and sincerely try to improve their behavior and attitude.”

The problem is pride. We don’t like to admit when we are not perfect and when we are caught breaking the rules, even accidentally.  Accepting responsibility is difficult.  In today’s text God speaks to His people through the words of Ezekiel.  God argues that His ways are the fair ways and for the Israelites to accept that they are responsible for turning away from God and/or bending God’s rules to suit their sinful desires.  They, the Israelites were the unfair ones.

God, like a parent, teaches us that the consequences of sin is death. Therefore, we must accept responsibility for our actions and admit our sins and repent.  Like a parent God wants to grant us a clean heart and renewed spirit. Thank God for Jesus who has taken all our sins upon Him. We are no longer condemned; forgiveness is now complete.  Yet we still must ask.

Prayer: “Grant me courage to admit my faults and turn to you for healing, O Lord, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”

Ezekiel 18:1-4

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Individual Retribution

18 The word of the Lord came to me: What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

Ezekiel 18:25-32

25 Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? 26 When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. 27 Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. 28 Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live.

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Wednesday Acts 13:32-41

Prayer: Speak to me, Lord, through your Word, in Christ. Amen.

Too good to be true?

41Look, you scoffers! Be amazed and perish,

Our devotion writer gets a lot of the same mail I do. There are promises of big prizes, new cars, and prime real estate at dirt cheap prices…seminars that promise the secrets to great wealth.  Obviously there are people who are tempted enough to sign up and take the chance.  I don’t any more…I have learned that offers that are Too Good to Be True, usually are just that.

Our devotion writer asks us to imagine what Paul sounded like to the people at Antioch. “A man raised from the dead, never to experience the corruption of the grave? Forgiveness of sins simply by believing in Jesus? Sounds to good to be true!”

But there is a difference. The offers in our mail and all around us in papers and TV are enticing us with “hype.’ We have to do something in order to win.  Fill out a contest form, or provide a lot of personal information.  Then you can get the possible prize.  There are no guarantees about what exactly you may have won…

Our devotion writer gives us perspective; “Jesus offers forgiveness, salvation, and eternity in his kingdom, all for the ‘cost’ of believing. No hype involved, only the testimony of biblical witnesses like Paul and the other apostles. It’s an offer only a fool would refuse.”

Prayer: “Christ Jesus, thank you for the amazing gift of salvation! Amen.”

Acts 13:32-41

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to our ancestors 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm,

‘You are my Son;     today I have begotten you.’

34 As to his raising him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way,

‘I will give you the holy promises made to David.’

35 Therefore he has also said in another psalm,

‘You will not let your Holy One experience corruption.’

36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, died, was laid beside his ancestors, and experienced corruption; 37 but he whom God raised up experienced no corruption. 38 Let it be known to you therefore, my brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you; 39 by this Jesus everyone who believes is set free from all those sins from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. 40 Beware, therefore, that what the prophets said does not happen to you:

41 ‘Look, you scoffers!     Be amazed and perish, for in your days I am doing a work,     a work that you will never believe, even if someone tells you.’”

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