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.


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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Thursday Jeremiah 31:31-34

Prayer: Help me share your love, O God; teach me through your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Beyond human divisions

…and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (v. 33)

God tells us through Jeremiah that we have been promised that we will be part of the New Covenant which first came to the house of Israel and now expands to all people.  Our devotion writer explains this also as to break down the barriers between Jew and Gentile.  That we all become the chosen people and the divisions that now exist are united under God’s love and grace.

Jesus Christ is the key. Even though we see divisions and differences all around us, the one unifier will be, and is, Jesus and the Resurrection. So we serve God with the knowledge that we are all God’s children and we all have a role to play.

We learn that James of Jerusalem, who is remembered on this day, was a faithful servant in the early church. Our devotion writer tells us that he “was instrumental in proclaiming the grace of God from ‘the least of them to the greatest’ (v. 34)…James, moved by Paul’s witness to what the Holy Spirit was accomplishing among the Gentiles, advised that the Gentiles be seen as part of god’s new community…He is remembered by the church today for his faith that saw beyond divisions.”

And so with all the division we see in this world, the words of Jeremiah that we are united by God and called to promote unity.

Prayer: “God, help us look beyond human divisions to see the unity you give, through Christ. Amen.”

Jeremiah 31:31-34

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

A New Covenant

31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

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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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