Wednesday John 12:36-43

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

Living in the light

36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.

When children sing in church it is inspiring to see how they sing with such enthusiasm.  They have a lot less self-consciousness and more excitement than us adults.  Our devotion writer asks if it would be more wonderful if we could shine as brightly as our children.

Today’s text reminds us that even some people who heard and saw Jesus’ works and wonders, they still did not believe Him.  Their hearts were hardened and their eyes blinded.  People respond differently to Jesus call to see and live in the light.

Our devotion writer writes; “In this passage, people respond to Jesus’ invitation to believe in the light in different ways.  Some live in the light boldly and shine radiantly.  Others reject Jesus’ invitation and stay in the dark.  A third group believes in the light, but because of outside pressures, decides to hid the lights under a bushel.  Whatever the response, Jesus never stops issuing the invitation to live in the light.”

The question then becomes; how do we live in the light?  Does it show in us brightly? Or, do we keep it hidden until we get to church?

43 for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.

Prayer: “O Light and Life, shine in me and through me, so that the world might bask in your light. Amen.”

John 12:36-43

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”

The Unbelief of the People

After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them. 37 Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

“Lord, who has believed our message,     and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

39 And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said,

40 “He has blinded their eyes     and hardened their heart, so that they might not look with their eyes,     and understand with their heart and turn—     and I would heal them.”

41 Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him. 42 Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.

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Tuesday Genesis 22:1-19

Prayer: Open my heart and my eyes, O God, to the wonders of your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Tests and temptations

After these things God tested Abraham. (v. 1)

What kind of faith does it take to do as Abraham did?  He obeyed God even in the face of the worst possible command from God.  Can you imagine sacrificing your only son?  Your only child?  ….Oh, but God did, didn’t he?

Today’s text is always a challenge for me.  Do I love God that much?  I don’t want to be tested in that way.

Our devotion writer tells a story about a young woman who graduated from the police academy and soon learned to put her training to the test.  She passed her test because her training was effective.  We are tested often in this life.  There are tests of faith and our priorities.  They help to encourage our commitment to a life as a Christ follower.  Our devotion writer explains; “These tests are not meant to cause our demise (those would be called temptations), but to ensure our victory…We might not pass every test.  When we fail, though, we can take comfort in the truth that God is forgiving.  In those situations, the Spirit picks us up, dusts us off, and empowers us to face more of the challenging tests of life.”

Prayer: “Prepare me for the tests I will face, God, and enable me to stay true to you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Genesis 22:1-19

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Command to Sacrifice Isaac

22 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, 18 and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.” 19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham lived at Beer-sheba.

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Monday Genesis 21:1-7

Prayer: Almighty God, we marvel at all your creation, open our hearts and minds to the wisdom of your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Promise kept

21 The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. (v. 1)

Our devotion writer makes an example of sin being late for an appointment.  In today’s case a father’s promise to be present at is daughter’s soccer game.  He arrives just as the starting whistle is blown.  I don’t like the comparison.  As the father attempts to make the beginning on time, there are too many things beyond his control which could have caused him to be late.

The difference to me is that God is in control of everything and He keeps His promises.  He keeps them on His own timetable like He did with Sarah.  He promised her a son, but He didn’t give it to her until she was very old.  When we start comparing our sin with God’s keeping promises, I get a little lost. There is no way for me to keep promises like God does.

Our devotion writer explains; “Promises are part of life.  We make them, and as people of integrity, we try hard to keep them.  Sometimes we fail, though. We are sinful human beings, after all.  That’s the difference between us and God.  God makes promises and always keeps them.”

Again, it is not the same to me.  Yes we are sinful humans.  We break promises, but the people we promise expect that our promises will be kept “today.”  In God’s case, we may not see the results of His promise until we are much older…or then again He might have already fulfilled it and we aren’t yet aware.

I have to agree with one thing, though; “…the Lord is always true to God’s word—even when God has to do the seemingly impossible to keep it.”

Prayer: “Righteous Lord, I place my trust in you, rejoicing that you keep your word, through Christ. Amen.”

Genesis 21:1-7

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Birth of Isaac

21 The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

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Sunday Mark 8:31-38

Prayer: O God, your ways are not our ways, I want to learn your ways through your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Second Sunday in Lent

32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

I am guilty.  Many times have I tried to put my wisdom and vision of how things should happen over what God does.  In today’s text, Peter tries to tell Jesus that it was not necessary for Jesus to die, or that He should not talk about those things.  Jesus told His disciples three times in Scripture foretelling His fate and mission.  Each time they did not understand.

Our devotion writer writes; “When Jesus promises that greatness will be the reverse of what we expect, or when he calls us to give up all we own in order to follow him, or when he sounds more like a harsh law-giver rather than a bearer of God’s love, we may react with dismay.  Does Jesus really mean what he says?”

Our devotion writer explains; “As Jesus’ followers, we do not always understand everything Jesus says, but we stick with him through the hard, puzzling, or risky moments until things become clear.”  Sometimes, maybe often, we don’t quite get it.  The disciples didn’t understand all that Jesus taught them until after the Resurrection—indeed even until Pentecost.  So why do we not allow ourselves time to learn and understand.  God’s ways are not clear to us and we understand them as He reveals Himself to us.  We take what wisdom God has given us and apply it our daily lives.

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Prayer: “Lord God, bless me with understanding and patience. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Mark 8:31-38

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

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Saturday Romans 4:13-25

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I know that you are with me, let me feel your presence through your Word. Amen.

Faith, first and last

16 For this reason it depends on faith…

How often do we catch ourselves thinking that our actions make us right with God?  How often do we try to do the ‘right thing’ in order to earn points for our own salvation?  How often do we get into thinking that in times of adversity, that we are being punished for our sins?  Our devotion today focuses on Paul’s admonition to us to stop living under the law and  start living in faith.

Our devotion writer explains; “Paul’s letters indicate that early Christians had trouble hanging on to the idea that faith alone was the key to salvation.  Paul’s long, careful arguments here and in Galatians, Ephesians, and other places show how tempted those first Christians were to revert back to trusting their own actions—something they could control and measure—to earn God’s favor.”

When we revert back to living by our own control, we have it backwards.  God has already loved us and promised to love us through Christ.  We must learn that God can be trusted and that is the “essence of faith.”  If we miss-behave, God will still love us.  Why are we sometimes afraid that He will not?  His love will never fail…this we need to keep in mind especially during Lent as we examine ourselves.

Prayer: “With Paul, we give you glory, O God, for the gift of your gracious love, through Christ. Amen.”

Romans 4:13-25

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

God’s Promise Realized through Faith

13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 23 Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

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Friday Psalm 22:23-31

Prayer: Praise to you, O God, teach me through your Word, in Christ. Amen.

God by our side

24 For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted;

Most of us at some point have felt that God had abandoned us.  That we were truly alone in our sufferings and a consequence of our own actions. Our psalmist today begins to think so, but discovers that God did not leave him alone after all.

What may be even worse is the one who abandons God.  Even then one eventually learns that God was there all the time.  He is very hard to get rid of once you have been marked by the Cross.  Our devotion writer reminds us that even though God is always around, the affliction or problem may remain.  It doesn’t magically disappear. But God is our companion and is always by our side ready to console us and listen to us in our times of need.

Is God just a ‘fixer’?  Is that what we expect from Him; to fix our problems?  If we think this way we miss an important dimension of God’s love for us.  Our devotion writer writes; “In reality, when our pain is prolonged, we have the time to notice God’s presence and feel the Spirit of God fill us in ways that some false god of the quick fix will never do.”

Prayer: “O God, be my companion in times of affliction. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Psalm 22:23-31

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!     All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;     stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For he did not despise or abhor     the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me,     but heard when I cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;     my vows I will pay before those who fear him. 26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied;     those who seek him shall praise the Lord.     May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember     and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations     shall worship before him. 28 For dominion belongs to the Lord,     and he rules over the nations.

29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;     before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,     and I shall live for him. 30 Posterity will serve him;     future generations will be told about the Lord, 31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,     saying that he has done it.

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Thursday Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Prayer: God of all time, open our minds and hearts to the wisdom of your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Generation to generation

I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

This covenant that God established with Abraham is repeated several times in Genesis.  It promises children and decedents that will be protected and live in faith by God’s gracious guidance.  They will listen to Him and follow Him and be His people.

Our devotion writer asks us what are the most important tasks we have as Christ’s followers?  Something to consider during this Lenten season.  Perhaps this task may be “parents speaking about their faith and living it out are among the most significant factors in determining whether a child will live faithfully and remain active in the church after the teen years.”

We read that God’s promise to Abraham came true.  Has it not also for us? Is it not available to us if we ask for it?  So if we guide our children or even someone else’s by our living our life of faith, God’s covenant will pass to them and they will be called by God to service in the next generation.

Prayer: “Loving Lord, bless all your dear children with a growing and lasting faith. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Genesis 17:1-16

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Sign of the Covenant

17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.”

God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old, including the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring. 13 Both the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money must be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

15 God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

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