Devotions

Devotions for 4-22-21  “God’s Family ”

Before we begin just a technical note – if you’re used to getting a phone call, text and / or email, we are having issues making that system work right now. We’ve contacted tech support and it seems they are no longer making or updating our equipment or software in favor of their cloud-based system. We are going to have to evaluate how to proceed and will let you know what we find out. Now on to today’s devotions.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Today’s devotions come from the gospel of Luke chapter 8 vss 19-21 and they read:

 “19 Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. 20 And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” 21 But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

This has always been a curious episode to me. When my mom called, you came! Now, obviously, at this point in Jesus’ life and ministry, His relationship with His mother was of a different character and nature than any other mother / son relationship since Jesus had created His own mother, as He’d created all things! But still family comes first.

And I think that is what Jesus was driving at with His reply. Family does come first. The family of God. Jesus is not only our creator, but also our brother – redeemer. He is the One who comes to bring us into God’s family by His crucifixion and resurrection. And this work of redemption that He does for the world, is based on His Word, His holy writ.

For those who reject the word of God, they reject the work of God. They divorce themselves from the family that Jesus came to draw all people into by His word and work. So, when Jesus is told His family is calling for Him, Jesus replies by pointing us to what family is, it’s those who hear His call to the word of God and the doing of it.

For us to be doing the word of God means we take in the grace, mercy, and forgiveness, we take in the whole law and gospel of the word of God that Jesus gives us and then spread that word of law and gospel to others. Sort of like food.

It’s one thing to put something delicious and wonderful tasting in your mouth. It can bring delight and comfort, satisfaction and joy. But if you spit it out after tasting it and don’t swallow it, you get nothing of the benefit, nutrition, or fortification that that food offers. The work the food is do is lost on you if you reject it.

So also, with God’s word. We not only take it in, we also then give it away. We share it, distribute it and feed others with it, so they too may be strengthened by God’s law and gospel, His love, and mercy and grace. If we only take it in and do not share it, we lose out on feeding others on that word of God that gives life. We lose out on enlarging the family of God.

When Jesus returns as He promised to do, let Him find us faithfully hearing and doing the word of God. – Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Good-bye!

Devotions for 4-13-21  “New Wine ”

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Today’s devotions take us to the gospel of Luke. We’re in chapter 5 reading vss 36-38. Listen:

 “36 He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.”

When I was young teenager, long long ago(! Back in the late ‘60’s – the Jesus people days), a group of teens came to our church from Lutheran Youth Alive to lead a week of bible study, singing, outreach and fellowship. That week turned out to be very important for me. In fact, I don’t know that I would be a pastor without that week. I eventually became one of those teens who joined LYA and went to other churches in California to do the same thing.

Among other things that influenced me that week, was the bible study on this particular passage out of Luke. Struggling as I was, as most people do at that age, to figure out what it meant to be a Christian, this bible study flipped a switch for me. It opened my eyes for the first time to grasp the truth that the gospel changes you, you don’t change to receive the gospel. That it does the work of making you a new person, in a new way.

In my own struggle with self-identity this gave me true hope, that I was made new by Jesus. Realizing that the new wine was put in new wineskins was a revelation for me. The new wine of the gospel is what made me new.

Now in the years since then, I’ve come to realize that being made new by the gospel is not a one-and-done thing. We’re being made new each day and being renewed by the gospel of Jesus Christ in His mercy which is new each morning, so Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us.

The gospel daily calls us to repentance and to live and thrive in the grace of God.  To live each day newly refreshed and renewed. There is only one thing that makes that possible and one thing alone.

It is the death of Jesus, dying in my place. It’s the resurrection of Jesus from the grave that gives His victory to all, as we trust Him each new day. And that causes us to say  – Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Good-bye!

Devotions for 4-13-21  “the ‘ites’ ”

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

For our devotions today we come back to Exodus chapter 23 verses 14-33. I’ll read just a few selected verses beginning at vs 20:

20 “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared… 23 “When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, 24 you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them … 27 I will send my terror before you and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you… for I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. 32 You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”

This seems harsh does it not? People are being thrown out of their houses and land. There is no mercy shown. There is no accommodation given. There is no tolerance of other religions or cultural practices. There is to be no civil interchange of ideas or commerce. What was theirs now becomes the Hebrews. And this happens by God throwing the Hebrew’s enemies into confusion and causing them to turn and run away.

Is this not foul and harsh? Where is God’s ‘understanding and compassion’? Why no Christian charity?

Why? Because it’s not charitable to allow people to live in their sin and rebellion against God, that’s why! There is no tolerance for sinfulness. Death is the reward for sinfulness and the rejection of God.

And this is what we deserved. What God did to all those ‘ites’ the Amorites etc., is what comes from rebellion against God. There is no tolerance for sin and corruption before God. And so, just as God brought about the victory for the Hebrews in entering the promised land, so also for us.

By the death of His only son, Jesus Christ, God has delivered to us the victory over sin and the devil that we needed. Is it harsh? Is it unjust? Is it fearful? Is it foul and repugnant? Yes! Yes, to all. And that is what Jesus became for you, that you might not suffer as the ‘ites’ did. That you may instead be ushered into the promised land.

It is the death and most importantly the resurrection of Jesus that guarantees to us a welcome in to God’s presence. And that causes us to say  – Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Good-bye!

Devotions for 4-10-21  “Psalm 145 ”

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

For our devotions on this Saturday, I’m going back a day to yesterday’s psalm reading. But I’m going to read the whole of the psalm. It’s psalm 145. There’s such a wonderful focus on the glory and majesty, righteousness, goodness, and justice of God that it stirs your heart and fills your soul with comfort and the power of the gospel. Listen and give ear to these words of King David:

145 I will extol you, my God and King,

    and bless your name forever and ever.

2 Every day I will bless you

    and praise your name forever and ever.

3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,

    and his greatness is unsearchable.

 

4 One generation shall commend your works to another,

    and shall declare your mighty acts.

5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty,

    and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.

6 They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,

    and I will declare your greatness.

7 They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness

    and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

 

8 The Lord is gracious and merciful,

    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

9 The Lord is good to all,

    and his mercy is over all that he has made.

 

10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,

    and all your saints shall bless you!

11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom

    and tell of your power,

12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,

    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,

    and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

 

[The Lord is faithful in all his words

    and kind in all his works.]

14 The Lord upholds all who are falling

    and raises up all who are bowed down.

15 The eyes of all look to you,

    and you give them their food in due season.

16 You open your hand;

    you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways

    and kind in all his works.

18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,

    to all who call on him in truth.

19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;

    he also hears their cry and saves them.

20 The Lord preserves all who love him,

    but all the wicked he will destroy.

 

21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,

    and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.”

 

All of this we see fulfilled and given to us in Jesus Christ and to this we say amen!

And – – Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Good-bye!

 

Devotions for 4-8-21  “No lie! ”

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Our devotions for this first Thursday after Easter come from Hebrews chapter 1 vss 1-3 and this is how they read:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

This chapter, which focuses on faith and how to understand faith, gives us several things to consider here at it’s start. Faith being both the ‘assurance of things hoped for’ and ‘the conviction of things not seen’ allows us to share the same faith as the people of the Old Testament. I call it the same faith because for them, their hope and conviction was in the word of God of a Savior who was to come.

Our faith is in the Savior who has, has already come. Yet like the people of the Old Testament looked forward to what they had not seen, we look back at the Savoir which we have not seen ourselves either. Of course, the advantage we have is the witnesses that we can rely on regarding the Savior, Jesus Christ who they saw and have given testimony about. And yet the Old Testament believers in God’s promise had only God’s word that He would send this messiah.

We’re to be in awe of our Old Testament ancestors in the faith. They demonstrate a powerful witness to trust in the Word of God as they indeed put their hope and conviction totally on God’s assurance by His Word alone! And that is why the writer of Hebrews says that they, the Old Testament people, have received their commendation. Their commendation gives us something to emulate. That is to trust that God has fulfilled His Word of promise.

And it is God’s word alone that we’re told to have faith in for understanding God’s creation. We’re not asked to prove anything regarding how God choose to create all that He did. We’re simply given to understand, by faith alone, that God made all that is, simply by His Word. It’s the creative and performative speech of God alone that brings to reality all that is, in the universe.

As we trust in His word to create all that we see, we also trust in Him to create in us the gift of faith that assures us of God’s redemption through His messiah, Jesus Christ. We have that assurance because Jesus died and rose again by the power of God, as God’s word promised. It is in God alone that the creation and sustaining of our faith lies. And that, is no lie!

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Good-bye!

Devotions for 4-6-21  “He has triumphed gloriously”

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Today we continue to rejoice in the glory and wonder of Easter. While we know that Easter comes every year, yet every year it never fails to astonish and humble us. It reminds us that every Sunday throughout the year is a ‘mini-Easter’ of rejoicing and renewal in the victorious new life granted to us through the Holy Spirit by God’s grace alone.

In the scripture reading for today out of Exodus, we hear yet another example of how complete is God’s victory over sin that is then given to God’s people by His grace and mercy alone. Listen to the lesson from Exodus 15:19-21.

For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them, but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea. 20 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. 21 And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”

With the destruction of the army of Pharaoh that pursued the Hebrews, God’s rescue and salvation for them was complete! No longer would Pharaoh have the power to oppress or enslave the Jewish nation. And that destruction of their enemy was seen by all the Hebrews! They knew that God and God alone had accomplished this victory. They simply followed the path God made for them between the waters.

That path, for them, was life and salvation. Yet that same path was defeat and death for Pharaoh and his army. So also, for sin. Though Satan believed that he had at last defeated Jesus by nailing Him to the cross, yet that same cross was made into God’s most glorious victory! And it became the total defeat of Satan, sin and death. Easter is the assurance of that victory by Jesus rising again.

Just as the Hebrews passed through the place that the waters cover, so we in baptism are passed under the water that cleanses us and grants us Christ’s victory. We too, like the Israelites, are set free from our captor and released from our bondage to sin. It’s a most humbling and awesome thing to have the Creator God of the universe give you such a gift of freedom!

Such is what baptism grants to us, because of the complete, total, and final victory of Jesus Christ over sin on the cross and given to us in the power of the Holy Spirit by means of His Word and sacraments.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Good-bye!

Devotions for 4-3-21  “A Sabbath Rest ”

Today is Holy Saturday, a day of reflection and contemplation on the events of Good Friday – a day to dwell again on the depth of Christ’s suffering showing us the greater depth of His love, mercy, and grace. Those things are for us for here and now. But what about then? What about on that sabbath Saturday after Jesus had been crucified and laid in the tomb? What would that have been like?

We know the women were planning to go to the tomb the next day to do for Jesus’ body according to custom. And we know that they and the disciples were observing the sabbath rest, especially as this was the Passover sabbath. But what about Jesus?

I was thinking about that as I walked into the sanctuary this morning with it still arranged for our Good Friday service last night. Adorned in black and red coverings and banners and unlit candles and such. I was struck by the thought, “What was Jesus doing in the tomb on that day?

We know that Jesus died on Good Friday and was put into Joseph of Arimathea’s new tomb that afternoon. And that on the third day, Easter, He will arise, behind the rock of that same tomb and descend into hell to announce His victory over sin, death, the grave, and the devil. And He will then appear to Mary and others and on Easter, that first day of the week. He will also visit with the disciples on the road to Emmaus and then to those in the upper room as well.

But what about that sabbath Saturday. And then it struck me. Why do we call it a sabbath? Why is the 7th day set aside? Because of Genesis 2:1-2 listen to those verses.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.  And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

There it is! That is what Jesus was doing! He rested in the grave – on – the 7th day!! What did He say on the cross? It is finished! That’s when the work was done. And when that work was done, just like in Genesis, Jesus rested from completing His work on the sabbath day!

And that is our hope. That is our promise from God. That we too, when our course is done and we’ve finished our calling on earth, we too will rest. That is what we hear in Heb 4:9-10. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God,  for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

As we prepare for tomorrows celebration of Jesus’ victory over death and our restoration to God our heavenly Father, let us rest today. Rest in the comfort of the promises that the Holy Spirit grants to us by the word of God that declares Jesus’ triumph to be the guarantee of our heavenly rest. God’s peace be with you on this sabbath day! Goodbye!

Devotions for 4-1-21  “What we receive on Maundy Thursday ”

Our devotions on this Maundy Thursday come the writings of the sainted CFW Walther, the first president of the lcms. As we are celebrating the institution of the Lord’s Supper this evening at 7pm, Walther’s words on what we receive in this holy meal are a benefit as we prepare to come together tonight. Hear what he says:

The apostle [Paul] wishes to say: Consider, beloved Christians. That when you receive the blessed cup and the blessed bread, each one partakes of the body and blood of Christ; they are both common to all of you. You come into body-and-blood fellowship with one another.

For just as many grains becomes one bread, so in the Holy Supper, you, though you are many, become one Body, one mass, because you are partakers of the one bread and with it one and the same body and blood of Christ.

Because of the presence and participation of the body of Christ, the Holy Supper is a meal of the most intimate fellowship and, therefore, at the same time, the highest love-meal. Just as fervent love is demanded, so fervent love is delivered. We all come together, as children of the same family, to the table of our common, heavenly Father. As great as the distinction between communicants in civic life may be, in the Holy Supper all distinctions evaporate. We are all the same, in that we each eat the same earthly and heavenly bread and drink the same earthly and heavenly drink.

In this Meal, the subject and his king, the slave and his master, the beggar and the rich, the child and the old man, the wife and the husband, the simple and the learned, truly all communicants stand as the same poor sinners and beggars, hungry and thirsty for grace. Although one may appear in a rough apron while another in velvet and satin, adorned with gold and pearls, when they depart, all take with them that for which they hinger and thirst: Christ’s blood and righteousness as their beauty and glorious dress. No one receives a better food and better drink than the other. All receive the same Jesus, and with Him, the same righteousness.

Thus, Walther reminds us so well of what we receive! See you tonight as we gather for this holy meal! God’s peace be with you! Goodbye!

Devotions for 3-30-21  “Thrive under Grace ”

Our devotions on this Tuesday of holy week find us in the third chapter of Hebrews. We’ve been lately hearing about Moses and how the Lord brought about His deliverance for the Jews from slavery. And we know that it didn’t take them long to again turn away from God and cause Him to punish them with 40 years of wandering in the desert. Now in these verses 8-13 today, the writer of Hebrews reminds us of those events in the Old Testament with Moses and God’s people.  Listen to what it says: “do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,  on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test  and saw my works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ 11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

We are reminded in these verses that God still calls us to faithfulness to Himself, the living God of heaven. And we are called to Him by the Holy Spirit through the work of Jesus Christ in dying to pay for the disobedience of mankind. Jesus’ death is what satisfies the law and the terrifying wrath of God against those who break His law and turn away from Him, as did those Jews who left Egypt with Moses and yet forgot His mighty wonders and deeds in delivering them.

So in Hebrews the writer tells us to exhort one another every day to not be hardened by sins deceitfulness. We endeavor to remain faithful and yet we know we fail. And so, we need each other to remind us that the Lord is faithful and He, of His mercy, has forgiven and fully restored us by the blood of Jesus Christ. Without our reminding each other of the enormous sacrifice that God made for us and how we’ve been restored, we might harden our hearts against God’s call to trust in Him through repentance.

Remember always that repentance has two parts. First that we’re contrite and sorrowful for our sin. That we confess our terrible transgressions and so declare God to be right and righteous in His judgment on our sin.

But then the second part of repentance is trust! We can never consider repentance as complete without trust in God’s forgiveness to us in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and His righteous blood that covers all our sins. Through daily repentance we are reminded that sin and its deceitfulness has been overcome in the cross of Jesus Christ.

And that His gifts of restoration and wholeness, poured out on us in our baptism, remains firmly established and steadfast for us against sin and its treachery. We rejoice that we have again today been reminded of the victory that Christ has won and delivered to us through His Holy Spirit that we may live and thrive under the grace of God alone! His peace be with you! Goodbye!

Devotions for 3-27-21  “Moses messes up ”

Today we’re back in the Old Testament reading from Exodus 5. Moses and Aaron have seen Pharaoh and things have gone from bad to worse. And now the Israelite foremen have seen Pharaoh and they get the bad news confirmed for them that they must get their own straw to make bricks with. Here’s what it says: “19 The foremen of the people of Israel saw that they were in trouble when they said, “You shall by no means reduce your number of bricks, your daily task each day.” 20 They met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them, as they came out from Pharaoh; 21 and they said to them, “The Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”22 Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? 23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”

While we know how things transpire and get resolved, Moses didn’t know. Neither did Aaron, Pharaoh, or the people of Israel. All’s anyone knew at the end of this meeting was that the task of making bricks by the Israelites had been made harder. Harder to the point of them seeing nothing but death as what awaited them back in the brick pits.

And Moses! Mighty, wonderful Moses! What does he see? What’s his pressing question to God? … Why? … Why did You send me? Look at what’s happened, God! Not only has Pharaoh increased the suffering and evil put upon the people, but You haven’t kept up Your end of things! Heavens everything I’ve done has only made things worse and Your so-called deliverance, God, hasn’t happened… at all!!!

Pretty bleak stuff here at the end chapter 5. But I wonder… where’s the gospel in all this? When you read this over and over and all there is seems to be stench and death, evil and hardship – where’s the gospel? The only place I can see it is in vs 22 where it says, Then Moses turned to the Lord and said

Everything is going so terribly wrong from Moses, Aaron, and the Israelites point of view. This is not what they’d signed up for. It was supposed be Pharaoh and not the Hebrews who suffered. Moses was supposed to be the rescuer, not the instigator of further hardship according to the word of God from that burning bush.

And yet with circumstances circling the drain, Moses does the one thing he can, to salvage things, he turns to God! And there’s the gospel! There’s the good news, the source of real and true salvation.

Moses is learning that he, of himself, is not the rescuer, redeemer, or savoir; God is. Only God can bring about the results promised by God! And that is indeed good news, not only for Moses and the Israelites but for us as well. May we, in continual repentance, do as Moses did and turn to God! His peace be with you! Goodbye!

 

Devotions for 3-25-21  “He Saved Others…”

Looking today at the gospel lesson from Mark 15 we read the description of Jesus’ crucifixion. And in this account, beginning at vs 29 we hear the passersby and religious leaders mock Jesus. Here’s what it says: “And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now…”

Between those who passed by and the priests, we hear an account of the teachings of Jesus and the works of Jesus summed up. By referencing Jesus’ claim to rebuilding the temple, that reveals that what Jesus had spoken and taught was well known. The word got out and around of what Jesus said He would do.

We of course know He was speaking of the temple of His body, but just the fact that even the casual passersby knew of this, means that what Jesus said and taught was well known.

And then there’s what the chief priests and scribes said. That Jesus had saved others. Isn’t that remarkable? That they testified to the works that Jesus did! They acknowledged that Jesus had, indeed saved others. There were abundant witnesses to His works of healing and casting out demons and even bringing Lazarus and others back from the dead. And this these religious leaders used as a source of mocking Jesus as He was dying on the cross.

But what they may not have noticed is that they were also, in one sense, speaking prophetically. Listen again to their words.  He saved others; he cannot save himself.”

And they were absolutely correct in what they spoke. Jesus could not indeed save Himself if He wanted to accomplish the final work of saving others. Of saving all others. Of saving everyone in the world for all time. This lasting work of the Christ, which they mockingly called Him, could only be finished by God’s true Christ sacrificing Himself there on that cross. He indeed could not save Himself in order to save others.

Never forget those words of the chief priests and scribes spoken in derision are in fact true. They are words that speak our salvation because Jesus chose to save the world, to save us and not Himself. That is what we believe teach and confess. God’s peace and salvation, won by Christ on the cross, be with you! Goodbye!

Devotions for 3-23-21  Moses and Jesus!

For today’s devotions we’re back in the Old Testament and were now at the point where Moses is in Midian after fleeing from Egypt. He’s watching his father-in-law’s flocks when God appears to him from the burning bush. As part of that conversation goes, we learn some curious things, listen from Exodus 2 starting at vs 9: “9 And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

God both sees and hears what His chosen people are enduring in Egypt. And He intends to do something about it! But pause a moment and think, have you ever felt as though God had no clue what you’re going through or suffering with? That He simply can’t relate to your fear, pain, anguish, or misery? This verse puts to rest any doubt that God knows our circumstances or how much trouble we are going through. And just as He heard and saw His people’s suffering, He sees yours as well.

And like with them, He has a way of dealing with it that only He knows how to best put into action. And in Exodus, that involves Moses. Moses has to go and do what God wants him to do. And though Moses protests, yet God’s answer to that is that God promises to be with Moses through all that lies ahead. And He gives Moses a sign that will confirm for Moses that God’s plan is done.

We so often jump to Moses leading the Israelites in the desert for 40 years that we forget, that wasn’t God’s initial goal. Not that God didn’t know that would happen. It’s just not what God told Moses from the burning bush! God told Moses the sign was that he and the people would worship God on this mountain. Moses was to lead the people out of slavery and bring them to this mountain before taking them to the promised land.

We know of course that the people disobeyed God later and were then made to wander for 40 years. But that again was not what God revealed to Moses. Moses was to focus on bringing the people out of Egypt to the mountain of God to serve Him.

Sometimes we find it easy to get focused on the wrong things. Oh, we start out wanting to be made free from our slavery to sin, but then we turn our freedom into license to sin, just as they did. And we end up, like the Israelites, needing a savoir to guide us through our wilderness. What Moses ends up doing in leading the people all those years reminds us that Jesus is our only way through our wandering. And that our Savior will guide us and lead us to the promised land of heaven. Thanks to Moses for preparing us to learn to follow our guide, Jesus Christ.  God’s peace be with you! Goodbye!

Devotions for 3-20-21  Jesus is more than a ‘superstar’!

Do you remember when the musical Jesus Christ superstar came out back in the ‘70s? I do and there was much ado about it. But the thing that stood out for me was reading the libretto and realizing that they were portraying Judas in somewhat positive light. They cast him in the role of the misunderstood enthusiast. It was made to seem as though judas only wanted to force Jesus’ hand and make him come out of hiding.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Listen to Mark 14:10 which says: “10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.”

I bring this up about Judas as we are in the Lenten season and it behooves us to consider the darkness of Judas’ part in the story of Jesus death. Notice from the reading that there were 3 things that tell us of Judas’ doings.

1 He went to the chief priests. Judas sought them out with the intention of betraying Jesus. It says nothing of Judas wanting to help the leaders overthrow the romans by using Jesus’ popularity with the crowds. No, by this point it was well established that they wanted Jesus dead. And now with Judas, he takes this moment to betray Jesus to them so that Jesus would be put to death.

Number 2 he accepted their promise of money. This betrayal was not for any religious or political cause. It was simply for greed. For personal gain.

And number 3 he actively sought out a way to betray Jesus. This betrayal was not a moment of passion or sudden inspiration to brilliance. No, this was a planned thing. Something that needed the help of darkness to make it happen. Something that needed forethought along with the malice to accomplish it.

It’s important to note that Judas acted as it was known he would do. And yet Jesus did not stop him even though he warned Judas that it would have been better for him to have not been born than to betray The Son of man. Such a powerful image to evoke and yet Judas was blinded by greed, malice, and a desire to have Jesus done away with.

Let us learn from Judas. Let’s us learn to hear Jesus’ warning to turn from sin that draws us into its darkness and away from Him. Learn that in Jesus we have life that cannot be had by any other way. Sin never leads to life; it only leads to death. And that in Jesus own death and resurrection from the grave we are given the way of escape from sin to life. Let us learn to turn from the blindness and darkness of sin to the light of hope and the way of restoration that is found only in the light of Jesus Christ. God’s peace in Christ be with you! Goodbye!

Devotions for 3-18-21  Preserve Life!

We now get to the joyful part of this story of Joseph and his brothers.  Remember that God had given Joseph dreams when he was a boy of being ruler over his brothers and father and mother even. And now this begins to come to pass. But not in a vindictive, harsh, or cruel sort of way. Listen again to how Joseph reveals himself to his brothers from Gen 45:4-8: “So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God.”

How long have gone without seeing a brother or sister? Has it ever been long enough that they had grown to adulthood to the point you couldn’t recognize them? It’s hard to imagine the shock that reverberates throughout this story of recognition and reconciliation. The last time Joseph and his brothers laid eyes on one another was as the brothers were selling Joseph to the Ishmaelites when he was just a teenager.

And now here they were, again in Egypt to buy more food and having been forced by Joseph’s demands they had brought the youngest brother, Benjamin along, only to have this man, this ruler of Egypt and ‘father’ to Pharaoh, reveal himself at last as the hated brother they had sold those many years before.

And not only is he their brother, and savior from famine, he is also speaking the word of reconciliation to them through giving God the honor of bringing them back together for that very purpose of salvation! Joseph gives the brothers absolution with these words. He speaks peace to them. He speaks words that remove their guilt and shame for their actions and malice.

God’s purpose could only be fulfilled by what Joseph had to endure through their hardness of heart in betraying him. And as Jesus did in speaking from the cross, Father forgive them for they know not what they do, so also Joseph here again, absolves them.

It is God according to Joseph that has done all that took place between he and his brothers with the purpose of preservation of the family. It’s God’s doing according to what Joseph says three times. God sent me.

So, let me ask you. What might God have sent you to where you are for? What lives are you preserving because God sent you to the family, the job, the school the neighborhood that He did? You, like Joseph, can choose to see your circumstances as God-given and through that, God gives you His word of reconciliation that you speak to those who so desperately need to hear it. God’s blessings to you wherever God has put you! Goodbye!

Devotions for 3-16-21  Israel’s Monday morning quarterbacking!

We return to Genesis and we’re at the story of the famine and how Joseph had prepared Egypt to survive and to help others do so. today’s reading is after the point when Israel’s sons had made their first trip down to Egypt and not recognized the ‘man’ who ruled there. Now they need to return for more food. Here’s a summary reading of Gen 43:1-14: “Now the famine was severe in the land. 2 And when they had eaten the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go again, buy us a little food.” 3 But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ … 6 Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?” 7 They replied, “The man questioned us carefully…Could we in any way know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?” … 11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then … Take also your brother, and arise, go again to the man.”

Surely this is not the first time they had this conversation in the days since the boys returned from their first journey. And yet still, Israel does his ‘Monday morning quarterbacking’ by asking questions about why his eldest son acted so poorly. Why did they have to tell the ‘man’ leading Egypt and controlling the food, about Benjamin?

And as Judah pointed out, again I’m sure, to his dad about how was he supposed to know what the ‘man’ would ask? In other words, Judah is telling his dad, Israel, you weren’t there so you can’t keep up with your ‘Monday morning quarterbacking’!

Of course, we know that all this stems from Judah and the other brothers, not  recognizing the ‘man’ in Egypt for who he was. He was their brother Joseph, whom they’d sold into slavery years before. They simply could not see this man as their brother.

How much like them are we? We also failed to recognize who Jesus truly is when He was among us. He is our brother and yet we to failed to see Him that way.

So, Israel reluctantly sends his beloved youngest son, Benjamin, because that is what the ‘man’ required so they could at least come into his presence to ask to purchase food. Thus, the requirement, the cost for the privilege of seeing the man to buy the food needed to survive, hinged on the one beloved son of Israel leaving his father to go and do what was necessary for their salvation.

So here we have salvation for the nation of Israel coming from sending the one person who was required in order to gain access to the one person who could provide the food of life! the parallel to Jesus is striking for meeting our needs, is it not? He is the One beloved son of God coming to purchase our salvation. Through God sending His child all the children of the world are saved.

We are grateful for what Joseph, Israel, Benjamin and Judah teach us about trusting the word of God in Jesus Christ to grant us the food of life that we need. God’s blessings, Goodbye!

Devotions for 3-13-21  The Art of Faith (from Luther’s writings)

A little change of pace for today’s devotional.

But before we get to that, please remember to ‘spring ahead’ and set your clocks for daylight savings time tonight.

Also, a brief reminder we are having a voter’s meeting tomorrow right after worship to discuss hvac needs in the fellowship hall.

Now! On to today’s devotions which come from the devotional book I sometimes like to use called By Faith Alone which is a collection from Luther’s writings. Todays’ is called “The Art of Faith” and is based, in part, on Galatians 3:23 which reads:

“Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.”

Luther writes…

Grace is present when your heart is restored by the promise of God’s free mercy. Then your heart can say with the author of psalm 42, “O my soul, why are you so troubled and restless? Do you only see the law, sin, terror, sadness, despair, death, hell, and the devil? Aren’t grace, forgiveness of sins, righteousness, comfort, joy, peace, life, heaven, Christ, and God also present? Stop being troubled, my soul. What are the law, sin, and everything evil compared to them? Trust God. He didn’t spare His own Son but offered Him up to death on a cross for your sins”. (If you look up psalm 42 you’ll see that Luther liked to take liberties sometimes to make his point, back to his writing now…)

So when you are frightened by the law, you can say, “Lady Law, you are not the only thing, and you are not everything. Besides you there is something even greater and better, specifically, grace, faith, and blessing. They comfort me, tell me to expect the best, and assure me of my certain victory and salvation in Christ. So there’s no reason for me to despair.”

Whoever truly understands this can be called a theologian. Certain leaders who are always boasting about the Spirit believe that they understand living by faith extremely well.

I, however, and others like me, know that we scarcely possess the fundamentals. We are diligent students in the school where the art of faith is taught. No matter how well it’s taught, as long as we remain in these sinful bodies, we will never finish learning.

That’s a good reminder from our Uncle Martin. As long as we remain in these sinful bodies, we will never finish learning. What will you learn, about the art of faith today? God’s blessings, Goodbye!

Devotions for 3-11-21  Oh, for Joseph’s sake?!?

Our reading today is again in Genesis now 39:1-5. And it reads:

“Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. 5 From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field.”

There’re a couple things I’d like us to take away from this short reading. Notice in vs 3 that it mentions that Joseph’s master, Potiphar, saw that the Lord was with Joseph. We’re not told that Potiphar, knew the Lord, but that he recognized the Lord was with Joseph.

The only way for that to have happened was for Joseph to have lived and spoken in such a way that Potiphar came to the understanding that Joseph’s Lord was prospering all that Joseph did. Joseph would’ve had to be faithful in not only his actions and deeds but in his words and his speaking as well. How else would Potiphar know of the Lord?

So, take away number one is; that how we act and the words with which we speak will give witness of Lord to those around us. Now whether or not that’s a clear witness is determined by the clarity with which we speak of the Lord as we have opportunity to do so. Be encouraged by what Joseph did and how Potiphar understood Joseph, that you too by your words can instruct others about the Lord. And about how He has blessed and prospered you in the riches of the gospel.

And then the second thing to note, is that in vs 5 it says that the Lord blessed the Egyptians house for the sake of Joseph! It wasn’t because of the good job that Joseph did that the Lord blessed the house of Potiphar, but it was simply for the sake of Joseph himself that the Lord blessed the Potiphar’s house.

And so too with us. We are blessed by God simply for the sake of Jesus and who He is! The blessing and kindness of God come to us not because of us but because of the person of Jesus Christ who dwells within us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The house of our body is a temple so says St Paul in 1 Cor 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  And within our house, the Lord Jesus Christ lives by His grace. And so we too, like Potiphar, have the blessing of God upon us, not because of us, but because He who dwells with in us, Jesus Christ, our Lord and savior. Rejoice in His presence and His goodness to you! Goodbye!

 

Devotions for 3-9-21  Death of the old gods.

Today’s devotional reading is from Genesis 35:1-4.  Here’s how it reads:

“God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” 2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. 3 Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” 4 So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.”

That last verse presents a curiosity. Why hide or bury those foreign gods? I did some looking into this and found a few things that help. Remember the context from the first 2 vss. God tells Jacob to go to Bethel and make an altar to God there. And Jacob prepares for obeying this word of the Lord by having his household do 3 things; put away the foreign gods, purify themselves, and change their clothes.

The order of these directions seems deliberate by their wording in the Hebrew. But it’s only the ‘putting away’ of the foreign gods that we see a follow-up to by the hand of Jacob. And that verse, 4, presents a unique word choice in the original language.

When is says that ‘Jacob hid them’ the Hebrew word is not the usual one used when someone is buried. It’s a little used word that may imply capturing by hidden means or a concealed trap leading to death. It’s not the word, qabar, that would indicate a normal interment. One commentator said that “qabar may have been avoided lest the idea be conveyed that the gods were given a decent burial. ‘ An idea that parallels this is these so-called gods can be treated as common objects that can be tossed away.

Following this unceremonious discarding of the foreign god-objects, then the people are now ready to be purified. And with the changing of garments their transformation to being made ready to go and worship the true God at Bethel as He commanded is complete.

They’re now ready to worship the true God, the God who, according to Jacob in vs 3, is the God who answers and Who remains with Jacob wherever he goes! Having tossed away the old ways, the newly purified and clothed arise to properly worship the one true God. Such purification and clothing is what Jesus does for us on the cross.

There’s an almost baptismal quality to this event with Jacob. The old is dead and buried, just as we learn happens in our baptism. We’re taught in answer to the question  What does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. Go and live now in the new life Christ has won for you; goodbye!

Devotions for 3-6-21  Lies and Mercy?

Today’s devotional reading is Genesis 27:1-29 and I’ll encourage you read that on your own. Again, that’s Genesis 27:1-29. This is where Rebekah and Jacob conspire to deceive Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing of the first-born and not to Esau. This is a complicated scheme of deception. There’s lying, conniving, and manipulation of someone old and in a weakened condition. And all this is masterminded by Rebekah, Isaac’s wife.

We tend to cringe when we read this. We don’t like these methods or practices. They’re dishonest and would seem to be fraudulent. How could God honor the blessing that Jacob receives from Isaac? After all God is honest and we’re told how God hates deceit. So again, why honor this blessing?

There are a couple things to bear in mind as we look at this. One is the matter of Esau selling this, his birthright, which is the unique blessing of a father to the firstborn, to Jacob. This is not an inconsiderable issue. Look back in Genesis 25:29-34. We’re told that in selling his birthright Esau ‘despised’ it. Esau did not properly value that which, by rights, was his. And so, when we read today’s lesson bear in mind that Esau had already made a bargain to trade this, his blessing, for a bowl of soup!

The one other thing we have time to point out is, that this outcome is what God had promised Rebekah! In that same chapter 25 we hear the story of Rebekah being barren and how Isaac prayed, and God opened her womb to conceive and she bore twins. When they struggled inside her she asked God what this could mean, and God replied, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”

God had made this promise to Rebekah and in today’s reading we see Rebekah working to that end, that the older would serve the younger. Could God have used other methods or tactics to accomplish His promise? We’re not given that answer. What we are told is only what we read in the text. And so, we’re left to ponder, yet again, the mysterious ways in which God chooses to act.

Throughout all of scripture we see mystery after mystery that God works, and He does so despite leaving us confused and with this question. Do we trust God? Do we trust that; indeed, His ways are not our ways, nor are our thoughts His thoughts. And yet His  ways and thoughts produce for us and in us His righteousness and compassion?

How can we look at the cross and not be left in awe, wonder, amazement and confusion? Why does God take this hated device of torture and death and use it to redeem and purify us? When we can fully answer that, maybe we’ll better understand how God uses and honors this lie of Rebekah and Jacob. God bless you in your struggle with His grace and mercy to you. God’s blessing of peace be with you, goodbye!

Devotions for 3-4-21 God Hears!

Again, today for our devotions we’re in Genesis, now chapter 24. This is where Abraham’s servant is sent to the old country to get a wife for Isaac. But what we’re interested in here is vss 12-15. Listen to these words of the servant.

And he said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. 13 Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14 Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.” 15 Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, came out with her water jar on her shoulder.”

These words of Abraham’s servant are the first recorded instance of prayer in scripture. As such they can be very instructive for us. Look at how he begins his supplication. He addresses God directly, but he does so in the name of his master Abraham. In doing this the servant makes clear to Whom he is speaking and acknowledging that he comes in the name of his master.

For us, we emulate this part by coming to God in the name of our Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. We know that God will hear us for the sake of that name because that is what was promised to us in scripture. So, we too make clear we’re coming to God, the living God of heaven, bearing the name that gives us the certainty of access to His ear.

Next this servant puts forward his request directly. There’s no waffling or equivocating. He asks for success in his assigned task and makes clear that such success would be seen as God’s love for his master. So, he’s asking to see the love of God carried out for the sake of the one he serves. And this we also can relate to.

When we’re asking God for success or guidance in the name of Jesus Christ, we have confidence because we’ve seen God’s love already poured out in Christ’s cross. So, we know, like this servant, that God wants us to trust Him to grant only that which further reveals His love for us.

While there’re other lessons we could take from here I wanted to point out the first words from vs 15, Before he had finished speaking. And then we read how God had His answer already on the way to the servant! What a blessing to see how God loves.

Before the servant was done praying God sent His affirmative answer! Not that God’s answer to what we pray will always be, Yes, we know that. But this gives us a glimpse of God’s mercy in that He is always answering our prayers. God hears us and God answers us! And all this He does out of the love He’s already shown us in sending His son to redeem us and make us His own people! Rejoice that God’s hears you, answers you and loves you for the sake of our master, Jesus Christ. God’s peace, goodbye!

 

Devotions for 6-23-20

Devotions for 6-20-20

Devotions for 6-18-20

Devotions for 6-16-20

Devotions for 6-13-20

https://youtu.be/DuUupI_eUrA
Devotions for 6-11-20

Devotions for 6-6-20

Devotions for 6-4-20

Devotions for 6-2-20

Devotions for 5-30-20 (mis-labeled on the vid… oops!)

Devotions for 5-28-20

Devotions for 5-21-20 Ascension Day

Devotions for 5-19-20

Devotions for 5-16-20 What a Thing to Hear!

Devotions for 5-14-20

Devotions for 5-12-20

Devotions for 5-7-20 Christ the Faithful Sacrifice

Devotions for 5-5-20

Devotions for 5-2-20

Devotions for 4-30-20

Devotions for 4-28-20  Psalms 86: 11-15

Devotions for 4-25-20

Our quarantine does not surprise God

Devotions for 4-23-20

Devotions for 4/21/20
Psalm 26:3 & 8
“Your steadfast love is before my eyes”

Devotions for 4/18/20

1 Peter 1:3-4
Birth with a Bonus!

https://youtu.be/_kWvtbIPDJU
Devotions for 4-17-20