Monday Joel 2:18-29

Prayer: O God, teach us through your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Promised restoration

26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God,

After another period of exile and oppression of the Israelites, Joel brings word to God’s people to remind them of their special status and that they have born special hardships, but that day was going to come to an end.  In fact, not only for them as God’s people, but also to all humanity.

Our devotion writer calls the plague that has destroyed the crops and caused starvation of their animals, as a call to repentance; “Joel interprets this disaster as a call to repentance and calls for a solem fast among the people.  In response, God promises to ‘pour our my spirit on all flesh’ (v. 28)—men women, young and old—and they will prophesy and see visions.  Not only will God’s Spirit will pour down and refresh the people with hope and vision for the future.”

And so we have come to Pentecost to remember the joy of that wonderful day when God’s Spirit was poured out so vividly.  We don’t get much chance to see the Spirit come in that way these days.  It is mostly done for those who don’t already believe, and usually in small groups.  However, we are not stopped from dreaming dreams and having visions to spread hope and peace and love for the future.

Prayer: “Thank you, God, for promises fulfilled.  Renew me daily in faith and hope, through Christ. Amen.”

Joel 2:18-29

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

God’s Response and Promise

18 Then the Lord became jealous for his land,     and had pity on his people. 19 In response to his people the Lord said: I am sending you     grain, wine, and oil,     and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you     a mockery among the nations.

20 I will remove the northern army far from you,     and drive it into a parched and desolate land, its front into the eastern sea,     and its rear into the western sea; its stench and foul smell will rise up.     Surely he has done great things!

21 Do not fear, O soil;     be glad and rejoice,     for the Lord has done great things! 22 Do not fear, you animals of the field,     for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit,     the fig tree and vine give their full yield.

23 O children of Zion, be glad     and rejoice in the Lord your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication,     he has poured down for you abundant rain,     the early and the later rain, as before. 24 The threshing floors shall be full of grain,     the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.

25 I will repay you for the years     that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,     my great army, which I sent against you.

26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,     and praise the name of the Lord your God,     who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. 27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,     and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other. And my people shall never again be put to shame.

God’s Spirit Poured Out

28  Then afterward     I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,     your old men shall dream dreams,     and your young men shall see visions. 29 Even on the male and female slaves,     in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

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Sunday John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Prayer: Teach us, O God, through your Word, enlighten us with your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Pentecost

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth;

As we know, Jesus promised to send, and did send the Holy Spirit.  “The Spirit of Truth.” This Holy Spirit, who speaks for us and fills us and leads us to what is true.

Our devotion writer writes; “As our Advocate, the Spirit comes and reminds us of Jesus’ words and encourages us to remain faithful in our discipleship.  How do we recognize the Spirit’s voice among the many other voices clamoring for our attention?  The Spirit speaks on behalf of the Father and the Son, so the Spirit’s leading always will be in accord with what Jesus taught and lived.  The Spirit will always guide us to love God, love and serve our neighbor, and care for creation.  And when we fail to do these things, the Spirit will remind us of God’s forgiveness and grace.”

Prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit, guide us into all truth, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

John 15:26-16:15

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.

16 “I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.

The Work of the Spirit

“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

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Saturday Romans 8:22-27

Prayer: O God, share with me through your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The interceding Spirit

That very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. (v. 26)

Why don’t we pray more often?  Maybe because we don’t know what to say?  Have you ever felt like you don’t know what say, so we don’t pray?  Today we learn (again) that it doesn’t matter.  We don’t have to pray words.  The Holy Spirit knows what we need and what we mean when we just make any kind of noise or thought.  We just need to pray with our spirit.

Paul, in today’s text, is comparing the pain of childbirth to the pain and perseverance required in the living with the “now and not yet” of salvation.  We have salvation, but it is not complete yet.  We have miles to go before we meet our Savior in the air, or in the New Jerusalem.

In the meantime, we are reminded that we are not alone.  When we don’t know how to pray, the Spirit helps us, “with sighs too deep for words or groans.  The Spirit can convert our feelings and our groans to words that God understands.  In this way we can pray and tell God even better from our inner being.

So next time you want to pray but don’t know what to say, let the Spirit speak for you.  Maybe even sing s song of praise.  God will hear what you need.

Prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit, aid us in our weakness, and fill us with hope, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Romans 8:22-27

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

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Friday Psalm 104:24-35

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

Delight in God’s creation

28 when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.

Our devotion writer writes; “Psalm 104 is a song of joy at the wonders of God’s creation.  It celebrates the abundance, diversity, interdependence, and goodness of all the Creator has made. It emphasizes the great care with which God created all things and with which the Lord continually provides for all.”

Do we not marvel every day at all the wonderful things of God’s creation?  Isn’t it great how they so work together for other parts of creation.  Grass for cattle, trees for birds to live in. Mountains to collect the snow in winter to provide water in the valleys in summer.  Even insects have their purposes.  Oceans help cool the earth and heat it as well.

God also provided and created these things with great beauty and complexity.  He supplies for the needs of all.  Our devotion writer again; God, “also wants us to enjoy and delight in creation.  God gives:

‘wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart.’

Even the whales like to play in the ocean.  God has given all creatures the ability to enjoy creation.  Seems like as we look around we might be in heaven.  Too bad there are those bad people messing it up for us.

Prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit, guide me to care for creation and to delight in it. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Psalm 104:24-35

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

24 O Lord, how manifold are your works!     In wisdom you have made them all;     the earth is full of your creatures. 25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide,     creeping things innumerable are there,     living things both small and great. 26 There go the ships,     and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.

27 These all look to you     to give them their food in due season; 28 when you give to them, they gather it up;     when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;     when you take away their breath, they die     and return to their dust. 30 When you send forth your spirit, they are created;     and you renew the face of the ground.

31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;     may the Lord rejoice in his works— 32 who looks on the earth and it trembles,     who touches the mountains and they smoke. 33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;     I will sing praise to my God while I have being. 34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,     for I rejoice in the Lord. 35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth,     and let the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord!

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Thursday Acts 2:1-21

Prayer: Let your Spirit come lead us, O God, from the pages of your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The multilingual Spirit

11 …in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.

Can you imagine the surprise?  Jerusalem was crowded with visitors; Jews from many other countries were visiting to celebrate Pentecost.  All of a sudden these poor fisherman and ragtag disciples began speaking.  They were also speaking in languages they had never been taught, but were heard and understood by many other present.  All were speaking the Word.  All were proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Peter tells the group that this day they could see the fulfillment of the Scripture of the prophet Joel:

17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions…

God today ensures the continuation of this by using missionaries who know, or learn other languages and teach and translate Scriptures for those who still do not know the whole truth about Jesus.  The Holy Spirit is at work even today.

Our devotion writer explains; “Not all of us speak a second language.  But we each have knowledge of a ‘language’ that can be used for God’s mission: for instance, the language of hospitality, music, education, technology, or medicine.  God’s Spirit has given each of us gifts with which we can serve the neighbor and share the gospel, continuing the work begun at Pentecost.”

Prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit, make me fluent in the sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Acts 2:1-21

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

2 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Peter Addresses the Crowd

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,     and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions,     and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,     in those days I will pour out my Spirit;         and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above     and signs on the earth below,         blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness     and the moon to blood,         before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

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Wednesday Ezra 9:5-15

Prayer: O God, show us your truths through your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Second chances

But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God,

How often do we keep making the same mistakes?  Our bad habits learned over the years can still jump out when we don’t expect it.  In today’s text Ezra is praying to God for his people who were returned to Jerusalem after years of captivity.  God had allowed them to be taken into captivity because they had turned to idol worship.  While they were in captivity, they intermarried and now had spouses who worshiped idols and so they were also tempted to worship the idols.  What is it with these people that they are God’s chosen, yet they so often turn to false Gods?  When will they learn?

Ezra was afraid that because of Israel’s faults and failures, that they were not worthy of God’s mercy.  He prays for mercy because the alternative is God’s punishment.   Ezra is afraid they are making the same mistakes that led to their captivity.

Back to us.  Why do we continue to be tempted to do the very things which we know God hates?  The temptations are all around us, yet we often don’t even recognized them. When we can see what it is we do, or have done, we realize that we are “human.”   We know there is God’s mercy and forgiveness.  Do we rely on it?  Maybe too much?  Do we work harder to do as we are commanded? It is good that God sent us Jesus. It is because of Jesus we  are free from guilt.

Prayer: “Steadfast God, keep the compass of our hearts fixed on you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Ezra 9:5-15

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Ezra’s Prayer

At the evening sacrifice I got up from my fasting, with my garments and my mantle torn, and fell on my knees, spread out my hands to the Lord my God, and said,

“O my God, I am too ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. From the days of our ancestors to this day we have been deep in guilt, and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been handed over to the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as is now the case. But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, who has left us a remnant, and given us a stake in his holy place, in order that he may brighten our eyes and grant us a little sustenance in our slavery. For we are slaves; yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to give us new life to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judea and Jerusalem.

10 “And now, our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments, 11 which you commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, ‘The land that you are entering to possess is a land unclean with the pollutions of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations. They have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness. 12 Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, so that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.’ 13 After all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this, 14 shall we break your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who practice these abominations? Would you not be angry with us until you destroy us without remnant or survivor? 15 O Lord, God of Israel, you are just, but we have escaped as a remnant, as is now the case. Here we are before you in our guilt, though no one can face you because of this.”

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Tuesday Titus 1:1-9

Prayer: Almighty God, your Word is wonderful, teach me more today, in Christ. Amen,

The trustworthy word.

He must have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy…

Being careful about what you do and the example one sets IS important.  Although it is especially true for Pastors, church leaders and staff, it is still important for those who sit and sing in the pews.  This is for what we are called.  We are called to bear witness to the truth and it is a little hard to do when we do not show by the way we live and act.

Paul was telling Titus how he might set up the church order.  Not only pastors, but leaders our important and they should be chosen based upon particular qualities.  Our devotion writer explains; “We know that all people are sinners and are dependent on God’s grace, yet the public sins of leaders can do considerable damage to the church’s witness. Therefore leaders must be chosen with prayer and discernment.  The qualities Paul describes are important not only for bishops, but also for pastors, church council members, and all in positions of leadership in the church.”  This is why I am surprised that some churches do not “install” church council members with a proper service of installation and prayer.

Along with the installation and prayer, there is a need to avoid certain vices, and pursuit of hospitality and love and self-control.  They must also seek study of the Word and an understanding of its basic tenants.

He must have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that he may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it.

Prayer: “Lord God, may your trustworthy Word shape our lives and witness, for Christ’ sake. Amen.”

Titus 1:1-9

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Salutation

1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that is in accordance with godliness, in the hope of eternal life that God, who never lies, promised before the ages began— in due time he revealed his word through the proclamation with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior,

To Titus, my loyal child in the faith we share:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

Titus in Crete

I left you behind in Crete for this reason, so that you should put in order what remained to be done, and should appoint elders in every town, as I directed you: someone who is blameless, married only once, whose children are believers, not accused of debauchery and not rebellious. For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain; but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled. He must have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that he may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it.

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