Tuesday Romans 9:30-10:4

Prayer: O God, show us wisdom and truth through your Word and let it guide us to service for others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Entitlement

32 Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works

It is a common story full of suspense in movies and TV, when the will is read in the attorney’s office and the bulk of the estate is given to strangers and not to the family.  The family thinks they are entitled, but the strangers had given the estate owner’s care and attention, while the family just waited for him to die.

In our text today, Paul tells the Romans that the Jews still have it all wrong.  They may have been the family, but they don’t have to earn God’s grace by doing good works. Now the Gentiles have been invited to the party and they are justified by faith. It is easy for us to begin thinking like the Jews.  We, the ones who go to church, who volunteer, who show up for work parties, haven’t we earned some special dispensation? Well, no! God gave us the dispensation when Christ died and rose and ascended in to heaven.  We have this grace already.  We can’t earn it, so everybody we meet on the street or in the store, all have been invited to the party.  All they have to do is have faith.

Our devotion writer explains; “God seeks a relationship with us through Christ Jesus. We are never entitled to God’s grace, but we receive it anyway.  The Lord pours out love, grace and forgiveness on each of us as a gift. This is what God does because God loves us.”

Prayer: “Thank you, Lord Jesus, for caring for us, even though we have done nothing to deserve it. Amen.”

 

Romans 9:30-10:4

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Israel’s Unbelief

30 What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; 31 but Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law. 32 Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,

“See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall,     and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

10 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

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Monday Mark 10:35-45

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

James, Apostle

44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.

James and John wanted to be leaders along with Jesus.  They did not know what they were asking because they didn’t fully understand what was in store for Jesus.  Jesus let them down gently, I think, by telling them first that even though they would be baptized like Him and would drink from a similar cup, they would not be able to fill the seats of leadership they were wanting because they were looking for glory and honor.  Jesus taught them that they needed first to be great servants of their fellow man.

Our devotion writer tells about the death of Dr. Michael DeBakey, the famous heart surgeon, whose dedication to service of his fellow man regardless of their financial status, was remembered by rich and poor, leaders and homeless as they passed by his casket to honor him.

So maybe you want to be a leader? What are you willing to do to become a leader? Jesus says that we must first be a servant…like a slave to your fellow man. Leadership will come only with the respect from those you have served.  When you have learned their respect, then you may become their leader by acclamation.  Jesus was the servant of all servants.  By his servitude and his knowledge, he attracted followers. He wasn’t afraid to wash the feet of his followers.

And so we have the duty to become servants to our fellow man, as Jesus has shown us by His example. Our devotion writer explains; “whether we wield considerable or negligible levels of influence, we each have the capacity to serve others in Jesus’ name.”

Prayer: “Creator God, forgive me when I fail to recognize the face of Christ in others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

Mark 10:35-45

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Request of James and John

35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

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Sunday Luke 11:1-13

Prayer: Thank you, God, for your Word, let us learn from it and move mountains as your Spirit guides us, in Christ. Amen.

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.

You know? Our devotion writer has a good point; “Often we have not because we ask not!” Think about it.  Our devotion writer reminds us that kids know how to ask, and ask and ask on and on until they get a response.

I also like the story about the parishioner who gave a large sum of money to another church.  When the pastor asked why did didn’t give to his own church the parishioner said “they asked.” Church leaders are afraid of asking.  They are afraid of asking too much, but if you don’t ask, you will often never get.  Some people give without being asked, but you never know if you have maximized their ability to give, or if they wanted to give more, but didn’t know you needed it. Or what else was needed. I can hear it now; “I didn’t know you needed it, because you never asked.

This is about money and talents and time and our ability to ask for what we need.  It also applies to our relationship with God.  We sometimes need to ask God repeatedly. Not that He doesn’t know what we need, but that we may not be certain what we need from God. Or maybe God wants to know how much we want it.

It’s true that not everyone who is asked gives, but certainly it is maybe more likely the next time. As our devotion writer writes; “Nonetheless, experience indicates that the best way to maximize gifts of resources needed for ministry is to ask others to help meet the need. Prayer and persistence are good partners in the work.

Prayer: “Generous God, thank you for hearing us when we pray and for supplying what we need, through Christ. Amen.”

Luke 11:1-13

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Lord’s Prayer

11 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.     Your kingdom come.     Give us each day our daily bread.     And forgive us our sins,         for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.     And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

Perseverance in Prayer

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

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Saturday Colossians 2:6-15 (16-19)

Prayer: O God, make us leaders and followers in the shadow of Jesus. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Tuning in and tuning out

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit,

It used to be that I only believed half of what I read in the newspapers because of the way facts were slanted. Now we have the internet where many times where facts are not even in evidence. Information is incorrect, misleading, or deliberately wrong in order to hurt someone.  We have to be careful what we accept as truth and it can be quite a challenge ferreting out what is true.

Even more dangerous are the false prophets who seem to be teaching us truths, but through deceit they teach falsehoods. They are malicious and often hateful. With the internet they have new channels to millions of people almost instantly. Lies that are repeated often enough often become believed.

Our devotion writer teaches; “Recognizing false teachings is challenging; such discernment calls us to pray, study, and converse with trusted teachers and leaders. It is difficult to separate truth from troublesome half-truths and lies.  It is difficult, but it is important for the well-being of our communities that Jesus’ disciples today call on the Spirit to help us in the work of discernment.”

Prayer: “Eternal God, help us to recognize the truths of your kingdom each day. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”

 

Colossians 2:6-19

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Fullness of Life in Christ

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12 when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, 14 erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

16 Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. 17 These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.

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Friday John 20:1-2; 11-18

Prayer: O God, let us learn from the wisdom in your Word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mary Magdalene, Apostle

18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”;

Not much is known about Mary Magdalene. She was a follower of Jesus and one of a few women who traveled with Jesus during his ministry.  She was a follower after she was healed by Jesus.  She was also at the foot of the cross. Then as our devotion writer explains; “then the resurrected Jesus sent her to tell the others, earning her the title ‘Apostle to the Apostles.’”

Our devotion writer tells us that effective church leadership requires a team. Like Mary was on the team for Jesus, church leaders have a team which support them and work with them to do the work of the church. There are pastors and lay leaders, staff, musicians and janitors.  There are experts in finance, teaching, legal issues real estate and technology.  All important in today’s world to complete the church mission.  It is up to an effective leader to listen to the council God has put forward to help.

Our devotion writer writes; “Jesus had Mary Magdalene on his team. Each of us has a role to fill in the mission of the church.  It may be to lead, or it may be to provide support to those who are leading the work of ministry. May it be said of us that we show up when needed and do what needs to be done.”

Prayer: “Risen Lord, help me to identify my part in your work today, and prod me to get started. Amen.”

 

John 20:1-2

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Resurrection of Jesus

20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

 

John 20:11-18

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

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Thursday Psalm 138

Prayer: O God, we seek your guidance through your Word; what will you tell us today? In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Taming the butterflies

On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.

Having something important to say can make public speaking much less scary.  So our devotion writer explains, and so I can agree. For most people getting up in front of any number of people can make them weak in the knees and nervous.

In addition, maturity, practice and experience also help make a successful public speaker. I think even more important is with God’s help when we ask for it. In today’s Psalm, David too gives God the praise for giving him strength of soul for coming to his aid when asked.  When faced with fears, asking God for help will calm our nerves and allow us to focus on the wisdom and the facts before us.

When we are afraid to speak up, or speak out, we are usually more afraid of what other people think than we are about the message we have been chosen to give.  Our own insecurities get in the way of the mission we have been called to share.  So with God’s help we can focus on the message, or the mission.

It is a lot like singing in the choir or playing in the band.  We are too often more afraid of our mistakes than we are of the message we want to give in the song.  When we focus on the message we pray to God for help in the delivery. It simply works. Praise God!

We all have talents given to us by God.  Let us use them as we are called to share in the mission we are here to promote, whether it is teaching a Sunday School class, joining in a prayer group, sharing Jesus’ love with a friend, or singing in the choir, or cooking at the soup kitchen.

Prayer: “Dear God, thank you for the many ways you respond when we call to you through Jesus Christ. Amen.”

 

Psalm 138

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Psalm 138

Thanksgiving and Praise

Of David.

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;     before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple     and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;     for you have exalted your name and your word     above everything. On the day I called, you answered me,     you increased my strength of soul.

All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord,     for they have heard the words of your mouth. They shall sing of the ways of the Lord,     for great is the glory of the Lord. For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly;     but the haughty he perceives from far away.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,     you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand,     and your right hand delivers me. The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;     your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.     Do not forsake the work of your hands.

 

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Wednesday Genesis 18:20-32

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

Brave and bold

32 Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more.

It is often the case that we will avoid disagreeing with people in power.  Whether it be the “bid Boss” or the supervisor, appearing to disagreeing with them could put your job in jeopardy. Even more we are often intimidated by church leaders, pastors and bishops because they are closer to God than we are.  Or we are less righteous than they; therefore, we have little to say of importance.

Abraham is emboldened when talking to God about Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham realizes that he is being critical of God Himself, yet he speaks up for not destroying the cities because there are some righteous people who would die as well. We can imagine how nervous Abraham could have been, but he was “brave and bold” before God…and God listened.

Our devotion writer cites the example of Rachel, a young woman working in a new job.  When she overheard the boss criticizing a fellow employee, she knew the boss didn’t have all the facts and went to the boss to try to explain.  Fortunately, her boss listened and apologized to the employee.

Sometimes God calls us to stand up and be counted when we see problems or unfairness, or abuses regardless of who is responsible. Our devotion writer asks; “How often do the wrongs we deplore continue because we lack the courage to speak up?”

Prayer: “Holy One, strengthen us to speak up when we witness cruelty or injustice. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

Genesis 18:20-32

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

20 Then the Lord said, “How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! 21 I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.”

22 So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham came near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” 26 And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.” 27 Abraham answered, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 Again he spoke to him, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31 He said, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.”

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