Sunday Matthew 22:15-22

Prayer: Thank you, God, for your healing presence; you are amazing and revealed through your Word and the world around us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

22 When they heard this, they were amazed.

The Pharisee’s disciples and the Herodians who were sent to test Jesus. They wanted to entrap Jesus into saying something they could use against Him. This is one of many attempts to destroy Jesus’ credibility with the people. What was amazing, was Jesus skill in knowing why they were there and what they were trying to do.  Jesus also gave answers and often left them with questions of His own.

Our devotion writer did not see why the people were amazed. But many Jews of the time were convinced that God’s Messiah would come to throw off Roman rule. They believed the taxes were an illegal burden and expected that Jesus would have spoken against paying taxes.  But Jesus was not going to give them they answer they expected, but He gave them the truth, that following Roman law did not interfere with following God. They were amazed because Jesus did not speak against Rome and left them speechless.

We are very fortunate in our country that we are free to speak out when we think taxes, or anything else are wrong or excessive. In Jesus’ day speaking out against taxes could have resulted in jail or prison. It is amazing that God has given us this country to live in where we have freedom of speech and will not be arrested for speaking our mind.

Prayer: “Lord, amaze us with your glory and astound us with your love, through Christ. 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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Saturday 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Prayer: Teach me, O God, of your ways and reveal to me the mysteries of your Word. Your will be done, in Christ. Amen.

The frozen chosen

For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you.

Our devotion writer is also a pastor for developing congregations. She spends a lot of time thinking about mission and outreach.  How appropriate and timely for many of us today. How do we fill our empty pews and thus fill the offering plates so we can energize our ministries? For many, we think of outreach, evangelism…which leads to thoughts of cold calling up and down streets.  Thus, the term “Frozen Chosen.”  We are not comfortable with sharing our faith with strangers as our devotion writer says; “The word evangelism can freeze us in our tracks.”

Paul tells us through his words to the Thessalonians, that we ARE chosen. We are chosen and called for a purpose:

so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known,

Our devotion writer explains; “God has chosen us through Jesus. We have received the promise of everlasting life and much more in baptism…The promises we’ve been given are meant to be shared. We are the messengers selected to bring the good news to others. Let us not freeze in the face of opportunities to talk about what we believe with those who are searching for faith and meaning.”

Prayer: “Jesus Christ, thaw our hearts, so that we may boldly share your love with those we meet. Amen.”

 

1 Thessalonians 1

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Salutation

1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace.

The Thessalonians’ Faith and Example

We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

 

 

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Friday Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13)

Prayer: Sing Praises to you, Gracious God, with all our hearts we give thanks! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Fangirling

Worship the Lord in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth.

Remember the crowds of young girls, and many who are older, who swooned over Elvis or the Beatles? Even when I was young, I didn’t quite get it.  Well our devotion writer tells us that there are now Christian music performers who also have become admired for their talent and creativity. She writes; “The thought of meeting him in person made her blush.  Her adoration amused me…’Fangirling’ is the act of swooning in the presence of fame.”  Does the thought of meeting a celebrity leave you speechless?

There are many songs, old and new that cause me to feel emotion—sadness or joy and fill my heart with song or my eyes with tears.  Can you imagine what it would be like to meet God face to face?  What would we say? How would we feel? Like the song “I can only imagine.”

Hymn Fest this weekend! Let us sing before the Lord!

O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples.

Prayer: “O Famous One, thank you for bending low to live among us in your Son, Jesus Christ. In his name we pray. Amen.”

 

Psalm 96

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Psalm 96

Praise to God Who Comes in Judgment

O sing to the Lord a new song;     sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name;     tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations,     his marvelous works among all the peoples. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;     he is to be revered above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols,     but the Lord made the heavens. Honor and majesty are before him;     strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,     ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;     bring an offering, and come into his courts. Worship the Lord in holy splendor;     tremble before him, all the earth.

10 Say among the nations, “The Lord is king!     The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.     He will judge the peoples with equity.” 11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;     let the sea roar, and all that fills it; 12     let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy 13     before the Lord; for he is coming,     for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness,     and the peoples with his truth.

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Thursday Isaiah 45:1-7

Prayer: O God, let your Word shine in my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I lift my eyes

I will go before you and will level the mountains;

Our devotion writer is a flatlander. She does not feel comfortable in the mountains.  This feeling is not helped by the story she shares about driving down the mountains in a van full of teens and the brakes fail. That even would scare me.  Fortunately, she could downshift and keep the van on the road and control the speed.

Mountains are inspirational.  Even the Bible uses the imagery of mountains with grandeur, but also as obstacles to overcome.  In today’s verse, God promises to reduce the obstacles as we go forward in our missions for Him.  As our devotion writer puts it: “God promises to make a path before us, even when the way looks steep.”

Sometimes when we have taken a direction, thinking that God had led us there, we begin to see obstacles like steep mountains and deep rivers.  It is time, perhaps to consider that maybe God is telling us that we have taken the wrong road.  When we are on the right road, God levels the mountains.

Prayer: “God of the mountains and the prairies, make a way for us, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

Isaiah 45:1-7

New International Version (NIV)

45 “This is what the Lord says to his anointed,     to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him     and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him     so that gates will not be shut: I will go before you     and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze     and cut through bars of iron. I will give you hidden treasures,     riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord,     the God of Israel, who summons you by name. For the sake of Jacob my servant,     of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name     and bestow on you a title of honor,     though you do not acknowledge me. I am the Lord, and there is no other;     apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you,     though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun     to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me.     I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness,     I bring prosperity and create disaster;     I, the Lord, do all these things.

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Saturday September 16, 2017

Dear friends,

After more than seven years, a broken arm, hurricane Irma, the inability to type, and totally in adequate speech recognition software, I have decided to indefinitely suspend the daily devotional commentary.

 

In Christ,

 

Gary

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Wednesday Genesis 50: 15-21

Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for keeping us safe and helping us remember that our possessions are not as important as our lives and the lives of our loved ones, through the fury of the storm.

Brotherly forgiveness

17 ‘Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’

Hurricane Irma has passed and my power has been restored life can soon return to normal.  Life can be very uncomfortable in Florida in the summertime without air conditioning.  Our devotion today is about brotherly forgiveness.  I am reminded of the frustrations and anxiety can cause tempers to flare.  As we remember the story of Joseph, Joseph had every reason to be angry with his brothers.

Joseph’s brothers were afraid that Joseph would take revenge against them.  That he would pay them back for the wrong that they did to him.  But god used the terrible thing that they did for a greater purpose.  So, when they asked Joseph to forgive them, he did.  Joseph realized that he had a purpose to fulfill.

20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.

Prayer: “Lord Jesus, teach us and help us to forgive those who do wrong on to us and scheme against us.  Amen.”

 

Genesis 50:15-21

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Joseph Forgives His Brothers

15 Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” 16 So they approached Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this instruction before he died, 17 ‘Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. 21 So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.

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Saturday Romans 13: 8-14

Prayer: Gracious God, keep us safe from the storms a life.  Let your word comfort us in time of trouble.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Unlovable neighbors

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Do you have an inconsiderate neighbor?  Our devotion writer and a friend both of examples of neighbors whom they consider inconsiderate.  They have barking dogs, loud voices, loud noises, and so forth that infringe on your quiet time.  As our devotion writer explains; “A voice so loud you can hear it acres away.”

How about the neighbor of the obviously doesn’t like you?  The one who ignores you, the one who does not say good morning?  Our devotion writer has the nerve to ask;” does God really expect us to love every neighbor as we love ourselves?  Yes.  That’s the short answer.”

10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Prayer: “Lord Jesus, give us patience and tolerance to love and accept our neighbors.  Amen.”

 

Romans 13:8-14

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Love for One Another

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

An Urgent Appeal

11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

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