Thursday Isaiah 41:21-29

Prayer: Teach me more, O God, today through your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Clocks, lists, and grace

25 I stirred up one from the north, and he has come, from the rising of the sun he was summoned by name.

King Cyrus of Persia was selected by God to lead the Israelis out of exile.  He was called like we are called for certain tasks. When so selected, we should also call upon God for assistance.

Our DW wakes every morning thinking of the things she has to do that day from the moment she awakes.  Not typical for me, but she thinks about God calling “from the rising of the Sun.” I confess that may sometimes happen to me too. 

Our DW go’s on: “The lists are long and the days short.  When I’m attentive to the clock, it’s hard to attend to the Spirit. Thankfully, there is grace for that. Tomorrow I can try again. Or what if I started now?  God is present in this moment just as in the morning. God’s love call us in all times and places, and God hears our calls in return.”

Prayer: “God of creation, may the sun’s warmth be a reminder of your constancy, love, and grace for all. Amen.”

Isaiah 41:21-29 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Futility of Idols

21 Set forth your case, says the Lord;
    bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob.
22 Let them bring them, and tell us
    what is to happen.
Tell us the former things, what they are,
    so that we may consider them,
and that we may know their outcome;
    or declare to us the things to come.
23 Tell us what is to come hereafter,
    that we may know that you are gods;
do good, or do harm,
    that we may be afraid and terrified.
24 You, indeed, are nothing
    and your work is nothing at all;
    whoever chooses you is an abomination.

25 I stirred up one from the north, and he has come,
    from the rising of the sun he was summoned by name.
He shall trample on rulers as on mortar,
    as the potter treads clay.
26 Who declared it from the beginning, so that we might know,
    and beforehand, so that we might say, “He is right”?
There was no one who declared it, none who proclaimed,
    none who heard your words.
27 I first have declared it to Zion,
    and I give to Jerusalem a herald of good tidings.
28 But when I look there is no one;
    among these there is no counselor
    who, when I ask, gives an answer.
29 No, they are all a delusion;
    their works are nothing;
    their images are empty wind.

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Wednesday Proverbs 11:23-30

Prayer: O God, share your wisdom with us, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Wisdom for living

25 A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water.

I can attest that there are many people who have shared wisdom with me.  Many have also shared the wisdom we find in Proverbs.  You may have heard them from parents, grandparents, and teachers.  Our DW give an example; “A soft answer turns away wrath” (15:1).

Proverbs is a collection of wisdoms and sayings from Israel’s history.  We have learned that King Solomon was attributed with putting them down, but the origins are really unknown.  They are likely sayings and wisdoms from elders which were passed on to their young people.  Many we consider common sense, but there are many that leave us perplexed and it may be because of a different time and culture.

Our DW explains; “While we thank God for those who compiled and passed Proverbs on to us, we find in Jesus the source of all wisdom.  Jesus told us that loving God and neighbor is the wisest way to live. As Paul wrote, ‘Christ [is] the wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:24).

Prayer: “Jesus, thinks for all who have helped us grow in you, the true source of wisdom. Amen.”

Proverbs 11:23-30 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

23 The desire of the righteous ends only in good;
    the expectation of the wicked in wrath.
24 Some give freely, yet grow all the richer;
    others withhold what is due, and only suffer want.
25 A generous person will be enriched,
    and one who gives water will get water.
26 The people curse those who hold back grain,
    but a blessing is on the head of those who sell it.
27 Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor,
    but evil comes to the one who searches for it.
28 Those who trust in their riches will wither,
    but the righteous will flourish like green leaves.
29 Those who trouble their households will inherit wind,
    and the fool will be servant to the wise.
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
    but violence takes lives away.

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Tuesday Ephesians 4:17-5:2

Prayer: Help me, O God, seek your ways more often. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Reconciling love

22 You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

A seminary professor became a Christian after reading a book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  We know Bonhoeffer was the German Lutheran Pastor who was executed by the Nazi’s in 1945 because he worked actively against Hitler and the Nazi party.  Because of his book, the professor contacted a Lutheran minister to ask about the Christian principles Bonhoeffer wrote about. The professor was baptized after a few days of studying about God’s grace and its consequences and to be part of something greater than himself.

Grace, and/or its consequences, is the very thing Paul writes about to us. Our DW writes; “Before we are moved by God’s grace, we tend to live out of self-centeredness.  After we recognize the gift of God’s grace, we desire to live for others, become a part of something greater than ourselves, put on a new way of life, and be part of god’s grand project to reconcile the world.”

Prayer: “Lord Jesus, your grace clothes us in righteousness and holiness. May we respond by living in love. Amen.”

Ephesians 4:17-5:2 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Old Life and the New

17 Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. 19 They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 That is not the way you learned Christ! 21 For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Rules for the New Life

25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil. 28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

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Monday Psalm 92

Prayer: Thank be to you, O God, for your Word and the wonders of your creation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The habit of thanksgiving

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;

Ahhh, a dentist joke: After telling the boy to brush his teeth regularly, the boy says; “you mean I have to brush my teeth every day?”  The dentist replied, “Only the ones you want to keep.”

Our DW writes; “Like the dentist, the psalmist knows there are certain practices essential to life.  It is to our benefit to follow them and to your detriment if we don’t.  One such practice is regularly giving thanks to God for God’s abundant blessings: remembering God’s love every morning, acknowledging God’s faithfulness each night, some time in spoken words, sometimes with music.  It’s not that God need this from us; it’s that if we fail to make this a practice a habit, our own lives are diminished.  Our thinking might become flawed as we stray onto harmful paths or focus only on life’s difficulties and not on God’s care and help.”

Prayer: “God, remind me of your abundant blessings, that I may give thanks and praise your name. Amen.”

Psalm 92 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Psalm 92

Thanksgiving for Vindication

A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath Day.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
    to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
    and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp,
    to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
    at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

How great are your works, O Lord!
    Your thoughts are very deep!
The dullard cannot know,
    the stupid cannot understand this:
though the wicked sprout like grass
    and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction forever,
    but you, O Lord, are on high forever.
For your enemies, O Lord,
    for your enemies shall perish;
    all evildoers shall be scattered.

10 But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox;
    you have poured over me fresh oil.
11 My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
    my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.

12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree,
    and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
    they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 In old age they still produce fruit;
    they are always green and full of sap,
15 showing that the Lord is upright;
    he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

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Sunday Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Prayer: O Lord, help me understand your teachings through your Word and your Spirit.  Amen.

Time after Pentecost—Lectionary 15

And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 

How many interpretations have you heard from today’s parable? At first, one might think the meaning is simple and direct, but our DW believes that it is easy to oversimplify the meanings. On the other hand, it seems that sometimes people tend to overcomplicate them.

Simply stated the rocky soil is one way, the thorns are another, and we are the good soil because we are here listening and reading and bearing fruit.  Our DW suggests that we focus instead on God.  Consider that God sows his grace abundantly and on all soils and that even on rocky ground some seeds flourish. And even in the good soil some seeds flourish better than others, but again that is not the point. Our DW explains; “The point is that the Sower sows—lavishly, continually. So despite the ‘troubles…and the cares of the world’ (vv. 21, 22), we can trust that the seed, the word of God, will bear much fruit.”

Of course, the text skips over versus 10-17, which disclose the Purpose of the Parables and says:

14 With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. 15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn—and I would heal them.’

Then in Verse 16, Jesus says: 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 

Which is it for you? Consider the final verses that explain the parable.

Prayer: “Lord God, thanks for the gift of your word.  Help it to flourish in us, through Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Matthew 13:1-23 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Parable of the Sower

13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

The Purpose of the Parables

10 Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 13 The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ 14 With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:

‘You will indeed listen, but never understand,
    and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
    and their ears are hard of hearing,
        and they have shut their eyes;
        so that they might not look with their eyes,
    and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn—
    and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

The Parable of the Sower Explained

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

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Saturday Isaiah 52:1-6

Prayer: Teach me, O God, about your kingdom through your Word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

God’s good intentions for us

Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion! … here am I. (vs. 1, 6).

If you ever have felt abandoned by God, you would know what our DW felt and therefore the Israelites, as they lived in exile.  They doubted that God, could, or would, restore them to their homeland and freedom and to economic health.

Here, in today’s text and through His prophet Isiah, God calls and declares his care.  He calls the Israelites to ‘wake up.’ He declares his plans for their freedom and will bless the world through them.

God has plans for us as well. We are all reminded and commanded to “awake” and trust God. As our DW writes; “We are God’s precious children.  Even if we can’t always perceive it, God is active and working on our behalf.  God’s intentions have always been to restore us and all creation.”

Isaiah 52:1-6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Let Zion Rejoice

52 Awake, awake,
    put on your strength, O Zion!
Put on your beautiful garments,
    O Jerusalem, the holy city;
for the uncircumcised and the unclean
    shall enter you no more.
Shake yourself from the dust, rise up,
    O captive Jerusalem;
loose the bonds from your neck,
    O captive daughter Zion!

For thus says the Lord: You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money. For thus says the Lord God: Long ago, my people went down into Egypt to reside there as aliens; the Assyrian, too, has oppressed them without cause. Now therefore what am I doing here, says the Lord, seeing that my people are taken away without cause? Their rulers howl, says the Lord, and continually, all day long, my name is despised. Therefore my people shall know my name; therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I.

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Friday Romans 15:14-21

Prayer: O God,  thank you for your Word that teaches me, in Christ. Amen.

Crucial reminders

15 Nevertheless on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 

Thank God for calendars? Datebooks? How about our cell phones?  I have moved nearly all my reminders, notes and important dates to my cell phone.  My whole life recorded or accessible on my cell phone.  It is truly amazing, but I still get lost and can’t remember where I saved things.  Like our DW, I might ask; “Where would we be without reminders?”  My memory is certainly insufficient to remember everything.

Today’s text, nearing the end of Romans, is an explanation as to why Paul has written “rather boldly.”  He writes to remind them clearly as to his teachings and why he has been called to provide the gospel.  Furthermore, he presents a clear REMINDER: You are saved by grace through faith in Jesus.  In Christ you are given new life.  God’s love is unconditional.  Share this message with others through your words and deeds.”


Prayer: “Lord Jesus, thank you for reminding us of your great love for us.  Help us to share that love. Amen.”

Romans 15:14-21 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Paul’s Reason for Writing So Boldly

14 I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. 15 Nevertheless on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God. 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ. 20 Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation, 21 but as it is written,

“Those who have never been told of him shall see,
    and those who have never heard of him shall understand.”

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Thursday Psalm 65:1-13

Prayer: Show us the ways, O God, to help maintain your creation.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Renewing God’s creation

When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions.

Today’s psalm praises God for the wonders of His creation.  What then does the psalmist mean by inserting “Deeds of iniquity” and forgiveness? I think it means what it says, that we can be overwhelmed by sins that we do, God will forgive.  I don’t know that it has to do with oxygen depletion in the Gulf of Mexico.  It may be an overwhelming problem as to how we care for it, but God is in charge and He will show us the way. 

How about the overwhelming problem of today’s Covid19?  Do we not need to have faith that God will show us the way?  That He will intercede and give us solutions through those who He gives the gifts and talents.  Indeed, He will give us miracles to help us through. Jesus says, “do not be afraid.”

Our DW proclaims we are all responsible for pollution because we partake of God’s bounty through which we have benefited from technology which has caused ecological crises. And that we are to commit to advocate for pollical action to bring about policy reforms to correct them; and to give up using products that come from these polluting policies. That we must support “Green Deals.”

I will agree, however, when he says; “We pray for wisdom and celebrate the mountains and seas, hills and valleys, flocks and grains as God’s gift to the world.”

Prayer: “Through Christ our Lord, we give thanks for the gift of creation.  May we use it wisely. Amen.”

Psalm 65 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Psalm 65

Thanksgiving for Earth’s Bounty

To the leader. A Psalm of David. A Song.

Praise is due to you,
    O God, in Zion;
and to you shall vows be performed,
    O you who answer prayer!
To you all flesh shall come.
When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us,
    you forgive our transgressions.
Happy are those whom you choose and bring near
    to live in your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
    your holy temple.

By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance,
    O God of our salvation;
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth
    and of the farthest seas.
By your strength you established the mountains;
    you are girded with might.
You silence the roaring of the seas,
    the roaring of their waves,
    the tumult of the peoples.
Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs;
you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.

You visit the earth and water it,
    you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
    you provide the people with grain,
    for so you have prepared it.
10 You water its furrows abundantly,
    settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
    and blessing its growth.
11 You crown the year with your bounty;
    your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
    the hills gird themselves with joy,
13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
    the valleys deck themselves with grain,
    they shout and sing together for joy.

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Wednesday Psalm 131

Prayer: Gracious God, show us the way to peace through your Word, in Christ. Amen.

The way to peace

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.

At first glance today’s psalm is one of comfort and peace.  But perhaps we might look a little deeper and consider why weaning in not necessarily easy.

When a baby is transitioned to regular food rather than nursing, at first the baby does not understand.  He/she may complain and cry or turn up the nose  After all they have become comfortable with nursing.  However, soon the child learns that there is a whole new world of tastes and goodness to experience and enjoy.

Consider that we have to change.  Change comes and we are forced to look at things differently. It not always comfortable.  Sometime we might cry and rage and big changes.  Our Devotion Writer then asks; “But what if God is preparing us for even more satisfying ‘food’? God’s love continues, shared in new ways, and we grow into a deeper relationship with God than we previously knew.  We learn to trust all the forms of nurturing care God offers.”

Prayer: “Mothering God, thank you for loving us wholeheartedly and nourishing us with your very self. Amen.”

Psalm 131 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Psalm 131

Song of Quiet Trust

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
    my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother;
    my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
    from this time on and forevermore.

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Tuesday Romans 3:1-8

Prayer: Merciful God, thank you for your steadfast love and unwavering faithfulness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Comfort and challenge

What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar.

Like our DW, many of us may have spent time in Sunday School, or maybe confirmation, where we learned about God through music and teachers and pastors.  Many of the children’s songs, in particular, would proclaim God’s faithfulness and that He would never leave us alone, and we would be protected and He would shepherd us through life. We were also taught to be faithful to God.

Unfortunately, some, like me, took this to heart and found that I could not depend upon God’s protection if I tried to tempt Him.  In other words, I could not jump off a tall building and assume God would keep me safe. So those songs and teachings meant something different.

Our DW writes; “Paul lifts up those same themes throughout his letter to the Romans.  We can take comfort in God’s lavish grace revealed first in the law and the prophets (‘the oracles of God’—v.2_ and then through Christ.  But what if we’re unfaithful?  ‘Will [our] faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means!’ Paul reassures us. And the flip side of such good news is the challenge: to strive anew to be faithful, as God is so steadfastly committed to us.”

Prayer: “Lord Jesus, we give thanks for both the comfort and the challenge of your word. Amen.”

Romans 3:1-8 New International Version (NIV)

God’s Faithfulness

What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.

What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written:

“So that you may be proved right when you speak
    and prevail when you judge.”

But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!

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