Monday Revelation 3:14-22

Prayer: O Father God, your love is great and your mercy is great, let your Word be shared with all the world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sensory invitation

I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. (v. 20)

Jesus’ message to Laodicea is not one that we want to hear.  Are we lukewarm? Are we neither hot or cold for the gospel?  Do we lock the doors of the church all week and open them only on the weekends?  Or better yet, do we lock up our faith in the church and visit it once a week?

Jesus is knocking at the door. Can we hear His knock? Jesus has little appreciation for congregations who sit quietly going through the motions, but never really inviting Jesus in to eat with them.

Our devotion writer explains; “In today’s passage, even as he warns the Laodicieans about the consequences of their actions, Jesus pleads with them to listen for his gentle knock and inviting voice. The sound of their own voices singing selfishly of material wealth has deafened them; by all accounts, they have become estranged from their loving God, unaware of their spiritual poverty. The barriers they’ve erected and the doors they’ve locked tight seem impenetrable.”

Does this sound like your church? Hope not, but Jesus still stands and knocks, we hear Him in worship and in Holy Communion. He calls to us to hear His voice through worship and through prayer and fasting.

Prayer: Most merciful Father, thank you for you Son and for his constant knocking at our hearts. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

Revelation 3:14-22

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Message to Laodicea

14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation:

15 “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19 I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. 20 Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. 21 To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”

 

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Sunday Luke 16:19-31

Prayer: Thank you, Gracious Father, for your Word the guides us, in Christ. Amen.

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed…

Our devotion writer begins; “It’s tempting to sit alone and contemplate the challenges in my life instead of living in spite of them…I don’t need a stately gate behind which I can hide.”  Good words to contemplate! In light of today’s text, this is a little different approach.

The rich man has such a gate and the poor man Lazarus begs at the gate. Consider that the rich man never leaves his house and Lazarus never enters. The distance between feast and famine…between fine linen and festering sores, is never crossed by either. However hard that is to comprehend, the rich man has little cause for redemption because he remained comfortable with his wealth and didn’t care about the poor suffering man just outside his gate. So now the table is turned and it is too late for the rich man.

We can be thankful that we live each day with the chance to cross through the gate and share God’s love and the riches we have been given.

The rich man is alarmed that he didn’t know the consequences of his lack of concern for Lazarus. He wanted to warn his father and brothers to change their ways.  He reasoned that if Lazarus, who died, was risen and went to warn them, they would change their ways, but Jesus reminds them “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets neither will they be convinced even is someone rises from the dead.”

Prayer: “O God, help us close the distance that prevent us from loving our neighbors. 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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Saturday 1 Timothy 6:6-19

Prayer: Lord, let you Word lead us on the paths you set, in Christ. Amen.

More than looking good

18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share,

So do you want to be rich? We often tend to judge people by the signs of wealth; car, house, clothing. Do the drive and expensive car, or live in a big fancy house, or they wear a lot of jewelry and fancy clothes.  Well, looks can also be misleading.  Some of those people are in debt over their heads, because they want to be rich, so they need to show it.  You know, if you want to be something, then you have to act like it and show it off.  Too often lives fall apart from over extension. Our devotion writer writes; “It is so easy to fall into the act of judging others, especially when we only see such a small fraction of who they really are.”

Being rich, however, does not stop one from loving God. But, we might be careful as to what we love more, or which we serve. In this world we often hear wealthy criticized for not paying their fair share of taxes. But those critics never are able to say what a “fair share” is. Without wealth many of us would not have been employed and paid what we are paid. Without wealth, how would we support a church, for example?  But I digress.

The point here is that it doesn’t matter how much we have received, we still must be focused on spiritual matters. It doesn’t matter and we should not worry about “looking good” to others.” It matters more that we do good works in Jesus’ name.  Often doing good works requires the use of material wealth; food, clothing, basic necessities.

We need to look good for Jesus, who knows more about us than what kind of car we drive.

Prayer: “Holy God, give us eyes to see through worldly illusions to the beauty of our neighbors. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

1 Timothy 6:6-19

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

The Good Fight of Faith

11 But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will bring about at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 16 It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

17 As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, 19 thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.

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Friday Psalm 146

Prayer: Gracious God, share with me the wisdom to know your will, in Christ. Amen.

Alone in a crowd

The Lord watches over the strangers.

We all know what it is like to be alone in a crowd.  For whatever reason we find ourselves in a new place where we don’t know anyone.  I get that way sometimes just going to the wholesale club in the weeks before Christmas.  Lots of people, lots of noise after a long day.  We find ourselves alone in the crowd.  That’s when we are the stranger.

Remember when you first day on a new job? Or the first time you attended church in a new city? It can be a lonely day.  God bless those who greet you and offer to help show you around and smile and show you a happy face.

That is what we need more of.  Did you know that visitors judge us when they don’t get a happy greeting?  We can be so selfish sometimes.  I heard a story this summer from strangers who visited a church for the first time.  The greeters smiled and said welcome, but they didn’t ask names or ask where they were from, or if they were new to the area. They didn’t invite them to the coffee hour after the service.  In other words, for them just saying hello and welcome didn’t amount to a proper welcome.

Well, we should remember that as strangers in a strange place, that God is with us and we can call upon Him to help us to show love in our smile.  When strangers come to us, we need to let them see God’s love through us with a proper greeting and a smile.

Our devotion writer explains; “In spite of knowing us in all our brokenness, God watches over us, even when we are alone and feel unloved.”

Prayer: “Loving Lord, renew our hearts and move us to love others fully and without judgment. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

Psalm 146

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Psalm 146

Praise for God’s Help

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live;     I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Do not put your trust in princes,     in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth;     on that very day their plans perish.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,     whose hope is in the Lord their God, who made heaven and earth,     the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever;     who executes justice for the oppressed;     who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;     the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;     the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the strangers;     he upholds the orphan and the widow,     but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

10 The Lord will reign forever,     your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!

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Thursday Amos 6:1a, 4-7

Prayer: Let your word be our guide, O Lord. In Christ’s name. Amen.

God at work

… and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away.

I have often been one who was afraid to step out. When I did it was from a discipline of knowing what I had to do.  I used to procrastinate on term papers and book reports because the topics were hard to decide upon, or hard to decide where to start. I remember one term paper in high school that I finally, reluctantly decided upon a topic the night before it was due and I was up all night writing and then typing it up. I don’t remember what it was about.  I am surprised that I have ended up writing a daily devotion blog, but some days I still struggle with where to start.  Most of the time though, God shows me!

Like our devotion writer, who grew up shy and introverted to later become emotionally connected with other moms, God has worked in my life to help me overcome shortcomings. Amos was an unlikely prophet because he was a “herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees.” In spite of his shortcomings, God called him and he became a prophet proclaiming destruction with all who were at ease and complacent. I seem to remember Moses complaining too that he was not a good speaker, and therefore couldn’t deal with Pharaoh.

Last night I attended my first class to become a Stephen Minister, and I think God called me to this purpose. I know that I will have to lean on Him a lot and that will be good for me.

Our devotion writer explains; “God accomplishes amazing things through unlikely candidates. Where is God in your life? How may the Lord be inviting you to build faint and trust in god by stepping off your current path? You can do it, unlikely candidate though you may be, by leaning into the Lord’s everlasting love for you.  And like Amos, your life just may change completely.”

Prayer: “Holy One, make me brave enough to accept your call to change and to trust. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

Amos 6:1-7

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Complacent Self-Indulgence Will Be Punished

6 Alas for those who are at ease in Zion,     and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria, the notables of the first of the nations,     to whom the house of Israel resorts! Cross over to Calneh, and see;     from there go to Hamath the great;     then go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are you better than these kingdoms?     Or is your territory greater than their territory, O you that put far away the evil day,     and bring near a reign of violence?

Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory,     and lounge on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock,     and calves from the stall; who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp,     and like David improvise on instruments of music; who drink wine from bowls,     and anoint themselves with the finest oils,     but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile,     and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away.

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Wednesday Matthew 9:9-13

Prayer: O God, let your Word lead us to new life and new hope in you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

And he got up and followed him. (v. 9)

One should note that Jesus did not ask; it was a direct statement or a command. Matthew did not speak, but just got up as Jesus commanded. He received a command and then simply acted. Our devotion writer writes; “So without hesitation or delay, Matthew gets up and leaves his entire world behind.” Would it be so for us?  Wait! Has Jesus not called us too?

Matthew’s life is changed but now he is still disliked because he follows a man who eats and spends time with sinners. Jesus is quite clear that He spends time with the sinners because they need the most help. Is that not love?  What kind of example would Jesus have set if He spent all of His time with the Pharisees and other religious leaders?  And so He tells the critics:

12 … “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

And so Jesus accepts sinners with love and mercy.  We are called to do the same. We don’t do this by going to church. Church is where we worship God and connect with God. We serve God by helping the sinners and the poor and the sick and by living in the world giving example of His love. So why do we hesitate?

Our devotion writer summarizes this way; “Thankfully, Jesus comes ‘to call not the righteous but sinners’ (v. 13).  Since none of us are truly righteous or without sin, this means he comes and calls each of us to follow him by living in response to his unconditional love.”

Prayer: “When you call, Lord, may we answer boldly by living in response to your love, through Christ. Amen.”

 

Matthew 9:9-13

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Call of Matthew

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

10 And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

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Tuesday Proverbs 17:1-5

Prayer: Let your Word fill our hearts with hope and our minds with your wisdom, O God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Something about the heart

…but the Lord tests the heart. (v. 3)

Silver and gold are heated so that when they melt the impurities rise to the top and can be skimmed or poured off.  But God tests the heart so that the impurities of our sin can be wiped away.

How has God tested your heart? Our devotion writer’s example is about a friend’s ordeal over an adoption of a child from India. If you have ever known someone involved in adoption of children, especially children from other countries, you may know of the heartache and disappointment that can occur. It can be an emotional roller coaster. In our devotion writer’s story, the prospective mother’s excitement was thwarted at the last minute due to circumstances beyond their control.  Disappointment set in.  Her heart was tested and her faith didn’t waiver.  Then sometime later another opportunity arose and the adoption was successful.  The mother’s heart was tested and now the joy was immense.

We know from our life experiences that there are times of loss and heartache and then times of favor.  We see and admire those who deal with loss and never lose their trust in God. It seems as though when the loss is over and the blessings come that the joy is just so much greater. The test is over and our faith has survived. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: “Holy God, thank you for the testing as well as the blessing. In Christ’s name. Amen.”

 

Proverbs 17:1-5

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

17 Better is a dry morsel with quiet     than a house full of feasting with strife. A slave who deals wisely will rule over a child who acts shamefully,     and will share the inheritance as one of the family. The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,     but the Lord tests the heart. An evildoer listens to wicked lips;     and a liar gives heed to a mischievous tongue. Those who mock the poor insult their Maker;     those who are glad at calamity will not go unpunished.

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