Wednesday Matthew 15:21-31

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

Living water

31 so that the crowd was amazed

Our devotion writer remembers a visit to Kartchner Caverns.  These caverns like many others were formed by volcanic action and the power of water.  Water which surges through rock and sediment which create delicate formations of stalactites and stalagmites and carved sandstone and rock floors and walls.  The wonders of wonder nature, which we know as the work of our Creator.

I was moved to think about the power of water and time this year in the mountains of Washington State.  I marveled at the rounded rocks in the Cle Elum river.  Large rocks of granite rounded by years of rolling down the river pushed by rushing waters or by glaciers.  But interspersed with the rounded rocks and boulders were jagged edged rocks which were new, not yet rounded off.  Rocks that were placed there by landslide or earthquake, or volcanic activity.

And so our hearts are molded by God’s Spirit at work in us.  This Living Water we know that comes from Jesus Christ.  This power from God born in water which gives “everlasting life.”  And as our devotion writer explains; “This living water cleanses us, renews us, and empowers us to grow in righteousness.  Witness the power of water!”

I was distracted from today’s text which we have seen many times before, but which does not remind me of the power of water, or caverns.  But it does relate the power of God in Christ Jesus, whose miracles healed and helped many of faith including the Canaanite Woman’s daughter.  Like being amazed with the power of water in God’s creation, people were amazed at the healing power of Jesus, the Living Water.

Prayer: “Living Water, cleanse my heart so that your righteousness and goodness can flow through me. Amen.”

Matthew 15:21-31

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Canaanite Woman’s Faith

21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Jesus Cures Many People

29 After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down. 30 Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, 31 so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Tuesday Hebrews 12:3-13

Prayer: O God, show us the way through your Word, in Christ. Amen.

A special gift

Endure trials for the sake of discipline.

The consequences of our sins can cause pain and suffering.  The suffering these trials can be good discipline.  Sometimes God uses these trials to teach us how to live life better or to live the life with the joy and hope that He brings.

Our devotion writer relates a story of Diane, who suffered with multiple myeloma.  My Mom also died from this terrible cancer.  Diane, however, learned more how to love the little things that she always took for granted.  She learned to cherish every minute.  “She’d never savored food, music, family, friends, conversation, or even colors as much as she now did.  Diane’s cancer was a discipline that kept her focused on God for strength, peace, and joy. In her dying, Diane taught us how to live.”

Unfortunately, with my Mom, I didn’t learn that same lesson. It is such a horrible sickness that brings excruciating pain.  God blessed Diane who learned to live in God’s peace and joy.  I learned enough to know that Diane suffered greatly and her faith kept her strong in the Lord.  That is the lesson I learned today.

How many of us suffer trials and don’t learn? Or do we learn but not focus on the pain, but the goal we seek in serving our Lord?  The writer of Hebrews tells us that the disciplines we suffer may be unpleasant at the time, but later will serve us well in our service to God and to our neighbors.  As our devotion writer teaches us; “Our loving heavenly Father can turn our messes into our message, if we let the Lord do it.”

Prayer: “Lord Jesus, help us trust you to transform our trials into peaceful fruits of righteousness. Amen.

Hebrews 12:3-13

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children—

“My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,     or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves,     and chastises every child whom he accepts.”

Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children. Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. 11 Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Monday Hebrews 11:20-12:2

Prayer: You Word touches our hearts, O God, teach us more today, in Christ. Amen.

Finish the race

40 since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

I have never read this portion of Hebrews in the way in which I see it today.  Our devotion writer does an excellent job of giving an example.  The foot race, the race we are called to run, is a continuation of the race of those Saints and Prophets who have gone before us…But even though they had faith, God has given us “something better.”  What is that better?

Our devotion writer’s example is about being on the starting line for a great championship foot race with hundred’s in the stadium.  In the stadium you see many Olympic champions who are giving you the thumbs up encouraging you to run the race.  The starter tells you to stop looking at them because they have already run their race and now it is your turn.  The race they started will not be finished until you have run yours and you have something better…an advantage.

Our devotion writer explains; “That is the picture painted in this passage.  The giants of faith are arrayed in a great cloud of witnesses.  Each on has carved out part of God’s story in powerful ways.  Now you come along, and the passage says you have something better; the race they ran is not complete until you do your part.”

The something better is Jesus Christ and His resurrection and the example He set for us as to how to run the race without sin.  We have a new perspective from the Saints who have already run their races.  The giants from the Old Testament did not see Jesus, so let’s not dwell on them, they can’t help as much as Jesus now does for us.  This is now our race to run and we don’t have to run it alone. “Ready? Set? Go!”

Prayer: “God, when I feel unworthy, raise the faithful voices to encourage me along the way of Christ. Amen.”

Hebrews 11:20-12:2

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

20 By faith Isaac invoked blessings for the future on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, “bowing in worship over the top of his staff.” 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions about his burial.

The Faith of Moses

23 By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered abuse suffered for the Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, unafraid of the king’s anger; for he persevered as though he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

The Faith of Other Israelite Heroes

29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.

32 And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

39 Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

The Example of Jesus

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sunday Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Prayer: Jesus, share with us your will through your Word. Amen.

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; (v. 6)

We have a saying from somewhere; “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”  I understand that to mean that being clean demonstrates ones faith.  It is a strange saying in conjunction with today’s devotion.  It was obvious that the Pharisees were more concerned with a person’s outward appearance rather than the real person inside. You know, like judging a book by its cover.  Or maybe more to the point, that tradition and behavior were more important than what results from what is inside.

Our devotion writer writes; “Jesus has just fed the masses and walked across the sea.  That’s pretty powerful stuff.  Now the Pharisees, who have been holed up in Jerusalem, show up to complain, ‘why don’t your followers wash their hands? ‘Why do you reject the holy traditions?’  They notice the lack of traditional hygiene, but not the miracles.”

You can’t become holy by using hand sanitizer.  Holiness comes from within.  The Grace of Jesus Christ comes from the inside out.  God can use homeless and those who appear dirty to accomplish His will, and He cleans the unclean like you and me from things we can’t wash away with soap and water.

Prayer: “Lord, scrub me from the inside out and show me your holiness amidst the world’s brokenness. Amen.”

Mark 7:1-23

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Tradition of the Elders

7 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

‘This people honors me with their lips,     but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me,     teaching human precepts as doctrines.’

You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”

Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to God)— 12 then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.”

14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”

17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19 since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Saturday James 1:17-27

Prayer: Lead us, most merciful God, in the way that your Word teaches, in Christ. Amen.

Power of God’s Word

22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers…

How powerful is God’s Word?  He spoke and light became darkness, the heavens and the earth were created and the stars and the planets. If that is great, then how about all the Words about grace and forgiveness and love?  After hearing God’s WORDS how can we go back to complaining and gossip?  How do we not put into practice what Jesus commanded us?

Our devotion writer explains; “James says it is because we hear but don’t live the Word. James is not preaching works over faith. What we give, how we act is a gift ‘from above.’ (v. 17). He reminds us that we were given such wisdom so we could show it to the world (v. 18). Just as God’s Word erupted in creation, God’s Word is to erupt in grace filled living.”

Our devotion writer tells us that the Christians today are being criticized today because it seems that all the words we profess do not seem to make a difference in how we live.  We are just as nasty and angry as everybody else. Of course we are sinners too. James reminds us to live according to the Word because we believe and trust the Word of God.  Why can’t we trust the Word to change our hearts and our tongues?

Prayer: “Living Word, touch not just my ears, but also my heart.   Render my mouth and hands for service. Amen.”

James 1:17-27

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Hearing and Doing the Word

19 You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.

26 If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Friday Psalm 15

Prayer: Speak to me, Lord, through your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

In God’s presence

O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?

Have you ever considered what it takes to be in the presence of the President of the United States?  What do you need in order to be on the red carpet at the Oscars or some other Hollywood event?  How about back stage at the Kennedy Center after a famous performer finishes with a standing ovation?  Or in the owner’s suite at the Super Bowl? You need a special invitation and usually a special social position or a whole lot of money.

But what about being in the presence of God?  What about to be welcomed to the Temple of Mount Zion, there God dwells?  Our devotion writer explains; “the answer is startling in its simplicity: no tickets, no formal wear, no special invitation or credentials.  Instead, the psalm proclaims that those who treat others with dignity, respect, justice, and compassion are already in the presence of God.”

“We stand in God’s presence when we refrain from lies and gossip, when we refrain from doing harm. We stand in God’s presence when we stand by our words even when is causes harm to us. We stand in God’s presence when we look out for the innocent and do no harm.”

We also are in God’s presence when we reach out in prayer and worship, submitting to God’s will and direction.

Prayer: “God, help me to see your presence in everyone I meet and be your love to them, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Psalm 15

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Psalm 15

Who Shall Abide in God’s Sanctuary?

A Psalm of David.

O Lord, who may abide in your tent?     Who may dwell on your holy hill?

Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right,     and speak the truth from their heart; who do not slander with their tongue,     and do no evil to their friends,     nor take up a reproach against their neighbors; in whose eyes the wicked are despised,     but who honor those who fear the Lord; who stand by their oath even to their hurt; who do not lend money at interest,     and do not take a bribe against the innocent.

Those who do these things shall never be moved.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thursday Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9

Prayer: Your Word is powerful, O God, speak to me through your Word, in Christ. Amen.

Because God said so

You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment.

Remember trying to guide your children by saying; “because I said so?”  When explanations are too long or complex, we tend to shortcut the response to get action.  Our devotion writer says; “Because God said so’ often betrays a personal conviction that may or may not be from God.”

God had many good reasons for insisting on His people to follow His commandments.  God did not want His people to be slaveholders like in Egypt.  No they were to be different from the pagans they conquered. Also, by following God’s commandments, they would be reminded about all the wonderful things that God had done for them. (It never occurred to me before but there is very little reference in scripture to the Jews being slave holders. It must not have been a common practice as it was in other countries.)

Anyway, our devotion writer explains; “To forget (God’s good deeds and history) is to lose hold of God’s grace and mercy…When we trust in God, maybe ‘Because God said so’ should be enough.  But this passage reveals that God’s commands are a gracious gift, offering a way to a better life, a better family, a better world.  God says things that matter and make a difference—always.”

Prayer: “God, help me to follow your commands and to trust that your Word is love.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Deuteronomy 4:1-9

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Moses Commands Obedience

4 So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God with which I am charging you. You have seen for yourselves what the Lord did with regard to the Baal of Peor—how the Lord your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, while those of you who held fast to the Lord your God are all alive today.

See, just as the Lord my God has charged me, I now teach you statutes and ordinances for you to observe in the land that you are about to enter and occupy. You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!” For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?

But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children—

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment