Saturday Hebrews 4:12-16

Prayer: O God, help us learn your ways through your Word.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Intense delight

16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness…

Our devotion writer remembers when his daughter, at fourteen, was inspired by a speaker from the British House of Lords.  It was a moving and passionate speech about human and women’s rights which was especially moving to his young daughter.  After the speech his daughter was reluctant to approach the speaker because she was shy, but soon the speaker came to her and noticed that she was interested and further encouraged his daughter to pursue her interest in the movement.

It kind of reminds me about God’s call to us.  God’s Word is moving and often gives us interest in the truths and the ideas for ministry, but we are often reluctant to act.  Sometimes God comes to us and gives us even more encouragement through His angels and His followers.

Have we not been inspired by a sermon, or a worship service, or a Bible study?  After it’s over we go our way with the thought in our mind, but somewhere along the way we are confronted with distractions and the idea is filed away in the recess of our mind.  It seems we forget about it, but sometimes God reaches out to us again reminding us of His calling.

When we are inspired by God’s Word or by His angels, we should not be afraid to approach God boldly.  This is our devotion writer’s message; “This day, boldly approach God, who has approached you first and to whom Jesus has introduced you.  God is interested with an intense delight in what you are doing today.”

Prayer: “Bless us with your grace, O God, that we may experience delight in the world, through Christ. Amen.”

Hebrews 4:12-16

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

12 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.

Jesus the Great High Priest

14 Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

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Friday Psalm 90:12-17

Prayer: O God, share your wisdom and increase our faith through your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hands made for shaking

17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands—O prosper the work of our hands!

Our hands are made for serving God. God uses our hands in order to share His love and grace with others.

We take our hands for granted.  When we don’t have even one for a short time, we feel very handicapped. Our devotion writer’s friend had big, strong hands and the powerful grip to go with it.  So powerful that a handshake was like a big bear hug.  What hands he must have had.  To our devotion writer, the handshake was a way of showing affection and warmth.  So it is with us.

Our devotion writer explains; “Hands—their size and strength…act as extensions of ourselves.  With our hands we wash dishes, check blood pressure, play the piano, pound nails, pick apples, wave hello, touch a loved one’s face, and clap in applause…Treat your hands well this day.  Let them be an extension of your heart.  With your hands, serve others.  For it is God’s work and our hands.”

Prayer: “Dear God, I marvel at your handiwork.  Help me to do your work with my hands, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Psalm 90:12-17

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

12 So teach us to count our days

that we may gain a wise heart.

13 Turn, O Lord! How long?

Have compassion on your servants!

14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,

so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

15 Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us,

and as many years as we have seen evil.

16 Let your work be manifest to your servants

and your glorious power to their children.

17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,

and prosper for us the work of our hands—

O prosper the work of our hands!

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Thursday Amos 5:6-7, 10-15

Prayer: O God, your Word is truth. Share your wisdom today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

A quite reserve

15 Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate.

It seems that Amos was criticizing the Israel’s judges. They had become corrupt and no longer was justice fair. They did not have to live by their own rules because they had double standards.  As a result the poor and disadvantaged suffered as they prospered.

We tend to judge others by our own gauges.  That is to say that we make decisions based upon our own experiences, prejudices, and our vision of right and wrong, good and evil.  Our devotion writer writers about a church janitor who seemed a good worker, but a family man who lacked ambition.  Years later, he learns that the man “suffered from alcoholism.”  The lack of ambition was a result of an ‘illness’ or addiction which might have been considered much earlier.  Maybe instead of judging someone as lacking ambition, that there might be an underlying real reason. Maybe even healing for the illness.

Leave your judgments at the gate.  Don’t bring them into the fortress of God.  Just hate the evil and love the Good.  Seek good and not the evil.  When we judge people we often make wrong assumptions and never seek the truth.

Our devotion writer summarizes; “Today, with a quiet reserve, hate the evils of alcoholism, petty judgments, and gossip you overhear.  Love the good of listening ears, respectful responses, and earnest work.  And love your neighbor as yourself.”

Prayer: “God of justice, bring us back into harmony with you and your ways.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Amos 5:6-15

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Seek the Lord and live,     or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire,     and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it. Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood,     and bring righteousness to the ground!

The one who made the Pleiades and Orion,     and turns deep darkness into the morning,     and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea,     and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the Lord is his name, who makes destruction flash out against the strong,     so that destruction comes upon the fortress.

10 They hate the one who reproves in the gate,     and they abhor the one who speaks the truth. 11 Therefore because you trample on the poor     and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone,     but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards,     but you shall not drink their wine. 12 For I know how many are your transgressions,     and how great are your sins— you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,     and push aside the needy in the gate. 13 Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time;     for it is an evil time.

14 Seek good and not evil,     that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,     just as you have said. 15 Hate evil and love good,     and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,     will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

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Wednesday Luke 16:19-31

Prayer: O God, grant us wisdom through your Word, in Christ. Amen.

Heeding the call

29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’

I must have been sleeping the days where Pastor Henry Muhlenberg was presented.  I have no previous knowledge of that name, but our devotion writer explains that he was a German Pastor who answered a call to the churches of America in 1742.  He is commemorated on the church calendar today.  He was one who brought a zeal and energy of service to the Lutheran Churches in Pennsylvania.

Today’s text is a familiar parable that should shake us awake.  Here is a rich man who ignores the needs of a poor sick beggar sitting outside his mansion’s gates.  Then after they both die, the rich man still asks Abraham for the beggar to be the servant to bring him water to sooth his rich tongue in Hades. Has the rich man learned nothing?  Then he asks that the beggar be sent to warn his five brothers about what happens to those who ignore the poor and the needy around them.

This lesson should be a wakeup call to all of us. What does it take for us to listen to the prophets?  To see those in need that we walk by every day? Just what will convince us that we are being called to service by Jesus Himself?  What is there that we aren’t seeing? And it is not just about giving more money. How about the Bridge Ministry that calls to us for help?  What about the Souper Sunday’s?  The church grounds? The missions and ministries of the church to reach out to our community with the Gospel?  One day it may be too late for us like the rich man who feasted sumptuously every day.  After all we have Moses and the prophets and the Word of God.

Our devotion writer says of Muhlenberg; “He made certain that the people he came across the ocean to serve had ample opportunity to listen to Moses and the prophets and to follow the one who rose from the dead.  We live and listen to his legacy.”

Prayer: “God, open my ears and guide me to heed your call to offer myself to serve. in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Luke 16:19-31

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Rich Man and Lazarus

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27 He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30 He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

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Tuesday Revelation 8:1-5

Prayer: Amazing God, open our hearts and minds to the truths in your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Open our eyes

Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth;

Is God trying to tell us something today?  Are we Christians or our nation being sent a message from God?  Remember the many prophets sent to the Israelites throughout the Old Testament?  God sent them to warn the people that serious problems were coming and they needed to change their ways.  Today we see reports in the news of Christians being killed around the world, yet what do we hear from our church leaders?   And not just Christians, but also others, many others persecuted and in danger to the point that they run to other lands and risk life just trying to get to safety.  So often we simply meekly sit back and “pray about it.”  “Pray for peace” we hear.

Where is our leadership?  Our devotion writer writes about William Tyndale, who remembered today, was known for being a church reformer and Bible translator.  He was martyred because he spoke out against King Henry the VIII, warning him of his sins.  In today’s text, an angel casts down a picture of the “calamity the people of the earth have brought upon themselves.”  A warning that God’s judgment is coming!

What are we seeing today?  We see injustice and then try to rationalize our thoughts so we feel better about not doing anything about it.  When do we hear the warnings?  When do we take action?

Our devotion writer declares; “A martyr’s cry, a crashing censer—do they startle us out of our complacency? God has given us a living faith that we might persevere through the trials and tribulations that befall us.  What is our response? Revelation answers: trust God and sing God’s praise.  By doing so, we shake off our complacency and lean into life with eyes wide open.”

What is God calling us to do?

Prayer: “Lord Jesus, get our attention today and lead us in service to our neighbors. Amen.”

Revelation 8:1-5

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Seventh Seal and the Golden Censer

8 When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.

Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar that is before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth; and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

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Monday Revelation 7:9-17

Prayer: Teach me, O God, through your Word, in Christ. Amen.

Showering praise

Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen. (v. 12)

I hadn’t been aware that the Revelation was a book of passion. Strange, weird, mysterious, apocryphal, are common words that come to mind. Our devotion writer calls it; “an overt expression of the suffering love of God and the Lamb.”

Our devotion writer uses an example of a high school crush and the private praising of a girl he was attracted to as passion-like experience.  He was in love with the girl and showered praises upon her in his own mind. He had passion. To him she was the prettiest, smartest, funniest girl he had ever seen.  “…the suffering love of a stealth crush.”  But is the book of Revelation like this?

Certainly there are many references to the power and the might of our God.  “Words that give the utmost praise to the Good of salvation.”  The writer of Revelation certainly fills the pages with superlative words and powerful phrases, even fearsome power and might.  Pictures of horrible wars and battles that seem unreal. or unbelievable scenes of angels and Christ Followers by the thousands singing praises to our God.

It is, however, a picture of hope and salvation.  No matter how bad we think things are, there are worse; and God is present and able to overcome it all because His power and might are far greater than we can even imagine, and we can celebrate this with praise and thanksgiving.

Our devotion writer suggests; “This day may not bring you opportunity to express yourself with such passionate words.  Trust, though, in the capacity the Holy Spirit gives you to praise God, who guides you to the springs of life.”

Prayer: “Passionate God, receive the words of praise from my mouth and my heart. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Revelation 7:9-17

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Multitude from Every Nation

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying,

“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 singing,

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 For this reason they are before the throne of God,     and worship him day and night within his temple,     and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;     the sun will not strike them,     nor any scorching heat; 17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,     and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

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Sunday Mark 10:2-16

Prayer: Holy Father, we listen for your message in your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.

I am sometimes frustrated when the devotion writer seems to totally skip the text for the day and pursues a history lesson.  Today, for example, we learn about St. Francis of Assisi, who came from wealth and later cherished the poor and the frugal lifestyle.  So I am puzzled as to what the message is.

In today’s text we have the Pharisees testing Jesus by asking Him about divorce.  Divorce is essentially committing adultery against the other party, if the person re-marries.  The sin of divorce is breaking apart what God has joined together.  It is therefore a sin like any other sin.

Our other lesson is about giving children access to Jesus.  In fact, a childlike faith is necessary by all.  As adults we tend to get pretty ‘heady’ in our analysis of our faith.  We get in our own way by trying to reason and approach faith like a science. Jesus tells us that facts and reason don’t lead to faith and trust:

15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

St. Francis dedicated his life to serving the poor and the sick and the animals and birds.  Our devotion writer then explains; “Francis taught that living fully in God’s reign is the richest life possible.  It is the life God invites you and me to live this day.”  It is easier as a child of God.

Prayer: “God, embrace me and welcome me into your presence, so I might live abundantly, in Christ. Amen.”

Mark 10:2-16

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Jesus Blesses Little Children

13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

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