Devotions

Devotions for 10-19-21  “Jesus has come!” 

Today’s gospel reading is from Matthew 14 I’m reading just vss 34-36. Listen,

“34 And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick 36 and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.”

This episode takes place immediately after Jesus walked on the water and called Peter to Himself. That’s significant because of what Peter said to Jesus  before getting out of the boat.  Peter said, if it’s you Lord, command me to come to you on the water. Peter wanted to be sure that this was, in fact, Jesus and not some ghost or apparition pretending to be Jesus. So, Peter got his answer, and we know that he walked out to Jesus but was frightened by the wind and Jesus had to reach out His hand to rescue him.

But here, in today’s reading, when Jesus has crossed to Gennesaret, we hear a different sort of recognition accorded to Jesus. We’re told that when they recognized that it was Jesus who had come to Gennesaret they sent out word about Him!

Here was good news that needed to be shared! Because Jesus being among them meant life for those who were sick or hurt. No different than Peter in many ways. He too, when overwhelmed by the circumstances He found himself in, sinking in that water, found his rescue and salvation in Jesus reaching out to him. So too the people in the area around Gennesaret did as well.

The thing I want to encourage us to take from this is, that like Peter and the people in that town, we too benefit from recognizing Jesus and His presence among us. His saving and redeeming presence. As we see  our help and hope in Christ alone, we do well to imitate the people of Gennesaret and tell others Who has come!

Let us also take the good news of Christ to those around us. Those who are hurting and sick, tired and worn, downhearted and outcast are those who need to hear that Jesus has come! That Jesus has come to them with His grace for life now and for life eternal!

The peace of God through Jesus Christ has come to you.

Share that peace, goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 10-16-21  “Fire and brimstone preaching!” 

Today’s gospel reading is from Matthew 13 I’m reading just vss 36-43. Listen,

“36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”

If you want fire and brimstone preaching here is a good place to start! Jesus makes clear that the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth is in the fiery furnace. And that all causes of sin and all law-breakers will go to that very place! This should rattle us all of us to our core. Who among us is not a law-breaker? Who among us has not participated in sin and given in to its causes?

There is no ambiguity in Jesus’ words here. The angels of God will gather away all causes of sin and the law-breakers. And while this is sure and certain, what also is sure and certain is that we may lay aside our fear of being cast into that fiery place because of the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by His mercy and forgiveness. That is where our hope is. Not in our keeping of the law, which we cannot do, nor is avoiding all sin which again, is impossible for us. But we have the hope of the righteous. We have the hope that comes from the cross of Jesus Christ where our punishment has been nailed.

So, if our hope is in the certainty of heaven, given to us by grace through faith alone, what will heaven be like? Well Jesus here speaks of sunshine in that kingdom. And this is seen as opposed to the fiery furnace where all the causes of sin are relegated to. Can you even begin to imagine what it will be like to have all temptation removed from you? Does it not seem unreal to contemplate such a reality? There will be no, none, absolutely no cause of sin in heaven. Meaning you will have had your heart, mind, and soul, cleansed, and purified of all that draws us away from the love of God!

For the rest of today, give yourself this preoccupation, to ponder on what God’s heavenly kingdom will be like with nothing of the stain of sin clinging to you in anyway. And as you ponder that, remember that it is only Jesus and His cleansing and purifying righteousness from His cross and resurrection that gives us the hope that such a reality is what will come to pass when the kingdom of God comes at the appointed time. To think on that, is to let the peace of God dwell in you. In that peace, goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 10-14-21  “The Holy Spirit in you! ” 

In my devotional book By Faith Alone, (the book of 365 devotional readings from Martin Luther’s works from World Bible Publishers) I was taken with yesterday’s insight regarding the significance of the Holy Spirit living within each believer. Before I read what Luther wrote, listen to 1 Corinthians 6: 17 &19,

“But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him… 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?”

On this Luther writes:

We shouldn’t doubt that the Holy Spirit lives in us, but we should certainly recognize that we are a temple of the Holy Spirit, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:19. If someone feels a love for God’s word and gladly, hears, speaks, thinks, teaches, and writes about Christ, you should know that this doesn’t come from a person’s will or reason but from the Holy Spirit. It’s impossible for this to happen without the Holy Spirit.

On the other hand, where there is hatred and contempt for the Word, you should know that the devil, the ruler of this world, blinds the hearts of the people and holds them captive, so that the light of the gospel, the glory of Christ, can’t shine on them. We see this today in the masses who are not moved by the Word but despise it as if it has nothing to do with them.

But those who have any kind of love and desire for the Word should gratefully acknowledge that these attitudes are poured into them by the Holy Spirit. For we are not born with these attitudes and cannot acquire them through the law. This transformation rests completely and absolutely in the hand of the Almighty. So, when we eagerly listen to preaching about Jesus Christ, the Son of God – who for our sakes became a human being and subjected Himself to the law to save us – then God sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts through this preaching. Therefore, it’s very useful for believers to remember that they have the Holy Spirit.

Thus says Luther. And it’s good he reminds us that our love for the Lord and His Word, is a transformative gift of God. This eternally proceeding gift of the Holy Spirit, sent from God The Father with the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ, is living within us. We indeed thank God for His assurance that we have been brought into fellowship with Him by the powerful gift of the Holy Spirit! God’s peace is with us! Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 10-12-21  “Persistence” 

The gospel reading for today is Matthew 12. I’m reading selected portions. Listen:

““At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “… have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

9 He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.”

Jesus and those pesky Pharisees are at it again! It seems that no matter where Jesus goes, there they are trailing along, trolling for ways to trip Jesus up. We’ve become used to hearing these exchanges and wordplays that nearly always end in embarrassment for the Pharisees. And today we’re told that Jesus entered ‘their synagogue’. So, the Pharisees giving Jesus a hard time are locals. It appears that Jesus knew them and chose to go right into their ‘home turf’ to let them have at Him. And they don’t disappoint. And now it turns from wordplay and underhanded tricks ‘that they might accuse Him’ we’re told, into a deadly serious conspiracy.

This isn’t fun anymore. This is about trying to find a religiously  acceptable way to draw Jesus into a confrontation that they could twist to their own ends to destroy Jesus. And we know that eventually they succeed both on a religious and politicly acceptable level that leads to Jesus dying on the cross.

One point to draw from this for ourselves is that, like the pharisees always lingering around and nipping at Jesus heels and always pressing to get an advantage over Him, so also our enemy, Satan is always on the prowl. He is ever-present and persistent. It’s easy to become accustomed to him and to not take him seriously.

But Jesus never underestimates His foes and certainly not Satan. He knows the purpose of the evil one is to destroy God’s people and prevent them from living under the protection and peace of the Holy Spirit sent from God to guide and lead us. We must remember that Jesus’ death on the cross is where our victory over Satan comes from. Let us be ever persistent, keeping our focus on Jesus’ cross our source of salvation. Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 10-9-21  “booted out” 

The Old Testament  reading for today is Deuteronomy 8:11-20 Listen:

““Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. 20 Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.”

Moses is preparing the people to cross the Jordan and begin to take possession of the land of God’s promise. And as he recounts God mighty works that led the people out of slavery in Egypt, he makes the point that it is God’s mighty hand that accomplished all this. And there is so much more to come in fact, that the people need to be warned against self-delusion. The delusion that they, themselves accomplished all this and all that is coming, when in fact, it is all what God, by His own power, had done and will do.

It’ so easy for us to hear these words and think, how foolish they were. They blew it! God made it easy for them. He made a plan and carried it out. Why couldn’t they just do their part? After all, here Moses warns them what would happen. They’d be uprooted from this promised land and booted out like they are about to do to the people there.

And even with this warning they messed it up. And truth be told, we’re no different. We have not only the law, but we have the gospel as well and yet how are we doing at remembering it is all by God’s hand that we have received mercy? How often do we, like the Hebrews, think it’s because we’re such decent people that God of course will show us mercy? When we think that way, we do well to heed Moses’ warning, lest we trample on God’s grace and put ourselves outside of His mercy by refusing to acknowledge that it is His sacrifice of His Son for the Life of the world by which we are saved. Let us humbly return to God thanks for sparing us from ourselves and granting us His reconciliation that, in Jesus’ name, brings us into the promised land of heaven! In His saving name we do pray, amen – and good-bye!

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 10-7-21  “Sleeping Saints” 

The gospel lesson today is from Matthew 9. The portion we’re focusing on is when the synagogue leader’s daughter died. Listen:

“While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

23 When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, 24 he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. 25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up.”

While most all of us know this story and are not surprised at what happened, I recall when I was much younger, being confused by this. After all, why would Jesus deny that the girl was dead? How could He confuse sleep with death? That used to bother me because it seemed to cast doubt on what Jesus was about to do. And I wondered why Jesus would contradict the reality of death.

But, by God’s grace, seeing scripture from the viewpoint of the proper distinction of law and gospel, helped to lay aside my youthful doubts. Jesus in no way confuses sleep with death, rather for the Creator of all things, He sees death for what it truly is for those who trust in Him! For the person who trusts in God’s gospel and grace, death no longer holds the power to eternally separate one from life with God in Christ.

There is no denying or confusing of death, in this passage, rather it’s seeing death as defeated in Christ’s sure victory over it through the cross and His resurrection. There’s no doubt as to what Jesus is about to do because He is life itself! In Him death has no power to cause us to fear. Listen to Psalm 4:8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

It is in the Lord alone that we sleep in safety. The law shows us that apart from the Lord’s grace and mercy in Christ, we are dead, and we are cut off from God. That’s why it’s proper to fear God, but not death. Because God’s wrath does condemn us to that eternal separation from Him, which is the true sting of death.

But, in the good news of the Gospel, we have the safety to sleep in Christ. The gospel shows us that Jesus’ victory took away the sting of death with its power to consign us to be cut off from God. By the power of the gospel, we need not fear death. For in Christ, death is no longer to be any more feared than sleep. Let us be thankful for this synagogue ruler who came to Jesus, the source of life for His daughter and for all who fall asleep in Christ. For it is in Christ, indeed, that we rest and dwell in safety.

God’s peace is with you, Good-bye!

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 10-5-21  “Psalm 86:1-10” 

Very often when I’m preparing for devotions, I get excited about a particular portion of scripture and how it relates to God’s gifts to us of word and sacrament. And how that can impact our day. When scripture moves you with its wondrous teaching or grants you fresh insight into God and His law and gospel, that gets the blood pumping.

But then there are times like today when I read the chosen psalm, and while there are exegetical gems here to be sure, that isn’t what caused me to read and reread it several times. Rather it was the comforting, quiet expression but the absolute certitude of God’s goodness and grace. It was how it clearly and plainly, with these words, encompasses you with God and who He has chosen to show us He is. I pray you are also calmed and encouraged by these words from the first 10 verses of Psalm 86.

“Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,

    for I am poor and needy.

2 Preserve my life, for I am godly;

    save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.

3 Be gracious to me, O Lord,

    for to you do I cry all the day.

4 Gladden the soul of your servant,

    for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,

    abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.

6 Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;

    listen to my plea for grace.

7 In the day of my trouble I call upon you,

    for you answer me.

 

8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,

    nor are there any works like yours.

9 All the nations you have made shall come

    and worship before you, O Lord,

    and shall glorify your name.

10 For you are great and do wondrous things;

    you alone are God.”

Thus psalm 86:1-10. The wonder of God’s peace is with you, Good-bye!

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

 

Devotions for 10-2-21  “Much more beautiful than the sun ” 

In my reading from By Faith Alone, the book of 365 devotional readings from Martin Luther’s works (from World Bible Publishers) I was taken with the entry for yesterday, Oct 1. I’ve officiated at many funeral and memorial services and this verse from 1 Thessalonians is often brought up in my discussions with family and friends of the one who has passed away. It always brings a measure of comfort and reassurance.

We want to know that not only does our Lord gather our loved ones to Himself when they pass to Glory, but that we will be rejoined with them in His holy presence in His perfect time. This verse from Thessalonians gives us that certain and sure hope. And Luther’s writing on this subject brings his understanding of scripture and his pastoral experience to bear in a most uplifting way. Listen to what Luther says then I’ll read 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

Luther writes:

We will all be taken up to the Lord together at the same time, both those who previously died and those who live until Christ’s coming. In one moment, all will hover together and see each other again. Although we who are still living will have our eyes wide open, we will not see the Lord Christ before those who have died. It would make more sense that we, who are still living should be the first to see the Lord because the dead have long since decayed and, to our thinking, are no more.

But Christ has determined that the dead will rise with us at the same moment and will have beautiful eyes that see as well as we do. God will do for Christians what He did for Christ. He pulled Christ out from the closed and sealed grave in an instant, so quickly that in one moment He was both in and out. So, in the last moment, God will bring together both. He will bring us, who are still alive and have our five senses, together with those who are dead, decayed, pulverized, and scattered all over the world. We will all, at the same time, be drawn to heaven and soar in the clouds. We will be lighter than the birds and much more beautiful than the sun.

So says Luther. And hear now, 1 Thessalonians 4:17

“Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

Thus says scripture. God’s peace is with you, Good-bye!

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 9-30-21  “Prepping for prayer” 

Today’s devotional again is from the gospel of Matthew. This is in chapter 6 and it’s the verses just before the Lord teaches us how to pray the Lord’s Prayer. Take note that Jesus assumes everyone prays! He speaks about the hypocrites and the Gentiles praying.

The hypocrites are the Jews since He refers to them as those who “pray in the synagogues” as well as the street corners. These, Jesus says to avoid being like, since they’re praying to impress other people. They’re not focused on The Father in heaven. In fact, Jesus even says they have a reward! It’s the adulation of people! And that’s all it is. It has nothing to do with praying to God in heaven above!

And then there’s the Gentiles. And again, Jesus says to avoid being like them when you pray. The reason being is they’re focused on their own eloquence or seeming eloquence, since that’s all it amounts to. There’s no substance to how the Gentiles pray according to Jesus. It all about piling words on words, like a massive assault in hopes that some will get through! And again, this is not what Jesus is teaching His followers to do.

Rather, Jesus admonishes us to pray in secret. This would’ve seemed off kilter to them. After all, your religion was to be seen so you would be thought well of. And thereby, since people praised or admired you for your piety, it would follow that God would also like you for those same reasons.

Jesus says no to this. But it’s in quietness and devotion to God in secret where you will be in a proper attitude for prayer. Prayer is meant to be addressed to God and God alone. That is why Jesus said to go into your room to pray. The idea is to pray  in secret, as you will then be focused on The Father in heaven and not on a show of your religion to people. This doesn’t mean that you can’t pray outside, or even in front of people, but rather in your heart, mind, and attitude is where you can be shut away from others so you might be in that private place between you and your Father God to pray to Him. This instruction then, can be a guide for us to setting our hearts and minds to the task of prayer. Listen:

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Thus says our Lord. Now I suggest you pray the Lord’s Prayer and let His peace be with you, Good-bye!

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 9-28-21  “Sermon on the Mount” 

Today’s devotional will be a reading from the Sermon on the Mount. As I read and reread these first 19 verses of Matthew 5, I was again taken aback by how profoundly Jesus taught and continues to teach us to know God and His desire for us for life. I know most of us have heard these words over and over again to the point we feel we have pretty good handle on them. We can be lulled by Satan into thinking, ‘Oh it’s just the ‘same-old-thing’ again. But in truth these words of Christ are never ‘old’, nor do they ever lose their power to teach, instruct and uplift the Christian. By these words we can again hear our Savior express to each of us the fulness of what He embodies and calls us to follow after. I encourage you to go and reread all of the Sermon on the Mount. But for now listen anew to what Jesus Christ says to you today in these verses.

His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them. He said:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Thus says our Lord, His peace be with you, Good-bye!

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 9-25-21  “lame sacrifices” 

Today’s devotional comes out of a combination of Malachi 1:1-14 and Matthew 3:1-17. It always amazes me how God has woven scripture in such beautiful and meaningful ways. While I’m reading only selected portions due to time limits, I’d encourage you to read the whole thing. Again, its Malachi 1:1-14 and Matthew 3:1-17.

“It is you priests who show contempt for my name… “By offering defiled food on my altar.“…8 When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty.  10 …I am not pleased with you,” “and I will accept no offering from your hands. 11 My name will be great among the nations…,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “But you profane it by saying,…, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the Lord Almighty. “When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord. 14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. …11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. …16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

These seeming unrelated readings speak of the imperfect sacrifice of the contemptuous priests of old vs Jesus who is the perfect sacrifice. Jesus is declared  by God as the one He is pleased with. God makes it plain that His Son is pleasing or acceptable to Him. No other sacrifice is needed, required, or even qualifies as acceptable to God. And so, in Christ we have been given the gift of both the perfect sacrifice the for our sins and the assurance that we can bring nothing better to God as a sacrifice. We have nothing of equal or better value. This sacrifice is so far beyond what we could ever hope to produce or provide to God as acceptable.

And it is the mighty name of God that this sacrifice bears in Himself. The great name of Jesus the Christ of God! That name, the name that was made contemptable by man’s sin and lame sacrifices, has now been redeemed! It is now made glorious in the perfect sacrifice provided by God Himself that we may have life and acceptance by that name, Jesus Christ. In His name we have God’s peace now, and forevermore. Good-bye!

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 9-23-21  “ writing my name ” 

Today’s devotions once again, come from the book “A Day in Your Presence” from Bethany House, devotional readings from St Francis of Assisi arranged by David Hazard.

This particular one struck me for how personal St Francis’s words make having our salvation be God’s work. That our names are written by the very hand of God, Himself. And, that God has first worked His goodness in us so we may be equipped for God’s service.

First a reading from Hebrews 1:7 and Matthew 5:16.

From Hebrews “He makes… his servants flames of fire.” And from Matthew “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

St Francis (from his The Early Rule: 17 ) says:

We should all ‘preach,’ but do so by our deeds.

Therefore, in the love of God – whether you actually do preach, or pray, or do works in secret, whether clergy or laity – I beg all of you: Strive to be humble in all you do.

Take this as a warning: Do not allow yourself to take pride in anything you have, in anything you are, or in anything you do. If you become ‘puffed up’ inwardly about good works, you will push right out of yourself the knowledge that, in fact, God has first had to do a work in you, so that He may occasionally do or say anything through you.

If you remember this at all times, you will be in keeping with what the Lord says: ‘Do not rejoice, even if the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven’ (Luke 10:20).

… Seek holiness in the inner being, in the depths of your spirit…

We pray. “My Father, thank you for writing my name, with Your own hand, in the Book of Life!

Help me to keep You before me… bright-burning, pure and clear… as my highest vision… my best reward.”

To these words and prayers of St Francis we say amen. Good-bye!

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 9-21-21  “Heavenly training ” 

Today’s devotional comes out of 1 timothy 4, selected portions. I gravitated to this reading today as it helps to answer some of my concerns that I mentioned the other day regarding talking about heaven. Listen.

“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come… 10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.

… set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. …, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. …15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, …Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them.”

Paul gives Timothy many things to help guide him in his being a pastor in this passage, but he also speaks of why, why this encouragement for Timothy to be diligent in training. He says, physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

That last phrase is where I find my fears of talking about heaven eased because it speaks of the value that godliness is for both now and in heaven, in the life to come! So, there are things we can train ourselves to focus on that will remain with us in that life to come. In other words, not all will be lost or forgotten in heaven. Paul speaks of godliness in this way.

And godliness gives us hope, not because of what we do, but godliness is a gift because our hope is in the Living God Paul says, and that Living God is our Savior! As we labor and strive toward godliness, we see everything around us in the world differently. We see what really has value. And some of those things Paul mentions, like; how we speak, and act, how we set an example of love, faith, and purity. And all this finds its source in scripture. And the  preaching and teaching of it. These are things that will guide our doctrine, our way of living, as we are diligent in keeping our focus on godliness.

It’s such a relief to know I don’t have to accomplish anything to have the certainty of hope both now and forever. We have the gifts of God’s word and sacraments to be our source of certainty.

It’s equally a joy to know that we are being trained for heaven here and now! And, as Paul encouraged Timothy, we too, as we persevere in God’s gifts, will grow in godliness, which, as he said holds, promise for both the present life and the life to come! Rejoice that your future is secure in the living God, who is the Savior of all people!

God’s peace, be with us now, and in heaven, good-bye!

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 9-18-21  “ The way Jesus sees me” 

First off, Lou came through surgery yesterday and is doing well but needs rest. Prayers of thanks and for his recovery we offer to our gracious God.

Now, today’s devotion comes to us from the book “A Day in Your Presence” from Bethany House. These are devotional readings from St Francis of Assisi arranged by David Hazard. After I read this, I have a confession to make. But first listen to this one line that Jesus says in the sermon on the mount from Matthew 5:44 and then what St Francis has to teach about it. Jesus says –

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Hear now St Francis’ comments.

The person who wants to fulfill this command must learn the right way to love his enemy. Very simply, you must learn not to be upset over an injury because it is an offense to you. Rather, out of your love for God, train your thoughts on the harm that your enemy is doing to his own soul with each sin or offense he commits.

Then it will become easier for you to show your love for the “enemy” by responding not out of anger but in godly kindness. Nothing should upset the servant of God except sin. No matter how heinously another person may sin, if you allow yourself to become upset by the action and not because, in love, you see how he is damaging his soul, then you are just as guilty. Beware storing up this kind of judgment against yourself! (Rom 2:5)

The servant of God who trains himself to live in this way – to become free from anger or upset at anything – lives and demonstrates a just life. He will become free from the oppression of trying to defend and protect anything as his own.

My Father, take out my stony, self-protecting heart, which so quickly takes offense. Let me love so much that I do not even see wrongs done to me. Let me feel only your grief for others when they fail.  So says St Francis.  

(First, let’s set aside the idea of living a ‘just life’. We’re made just by the grace of God poured into us by God’s mercy alone) So, my confession is, I resisted sharing this devotion with you, as I am not there. I’m not as I should be in this regard. In fact, I’m rather as he describes it, ‘storing up this kind of judgment’ against myself! I need to seek further training as he says, to see the offense and sin of others, not as an affront to me, but as an assault on their own soul. And to not become so quick to anger and judgement. St Francis cautions me to learn from Jesus to pity the sinner, not revile him.

I’m glad Jesus sees me that way. I’m grateful that Jesus pitied me so I might receive His mercy. May you and I grow in that mercy and see others through that same lens. And then show them the mercy God in Christ has shown us. We’re not doing this as anything that can earn our worthiness, I’ve just confessed I’m not worthy, but I have received mercy. What good does that do if I fail to use it in service to others, who , like me, need God’s grace? I pray you and I would grow together in learning to truly ‘love the sinner’ while not succumbing to the sin! God’s peace, be with us all, good-bye!

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 9-16-21  “ Jesus is already there” 

Remember to keep Lou in your prayers – tomorrow is his surgery to implant a defibrillator for his heart. And tomorrow is also noddle and roll making day at church – come and join in the fun! We start around 9 AM Now today’s devotional reading is from Colossians 3:1-4 and it reads “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

I’m going to let you in on a secret. Your pastor is sometimes afraid to think about heaven! Can you believe it? It’s true! I sometimes think about how different heaven will be from what I know here on earth and that’s a bit off-putting. I know it’ll be glorious and overwhelming and beautifully bright and holy… and that’s part of what makes it scary. I know what’s beautiful here – sunsets and oceans, mountains, rivers, lakes and such and I like all those things, but will I miss them in heaven?

Another thing that’s scary for me to think about regarding heaven, is that because God is there,  it is holy and glorious and pure … and I’m so very much not! That’s why I need what Paul says today, I have died with Christ, and now my life is hidden with Christ in God. It’s He who has the life I will be given that will conform me to heaven. It will seem right then, because in Christ, alone, I am made to then be there and fit there. So, maybe I need to think about heaven differently. That’s what Paul’s driving at in these 4 vss.

Heavenly things are what he tells us to set our minds on. But nothing in what he describes contain any of the sorts of things I talked about liking here on earth. Paul tells us that the content of heaven will be Christ! Christ above all. Christ seated at the right hand of God. Christ who has our life hidden with Himself. And when Christ appears to us, He will be life and glory itself. It helps to remember this. So, I need not fret over what I will miss. Look at what Paul says I’ll gain in Christ, eternal life with Him!

There’s a story that helps me with this. It tells of a sick man who said to his doctor, “Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side.” Very quietly, the doctor said, “I don’t know.” “You don’t know? You, a Christian man, do not know what’s on the other side?” The doctor was holding the handle of the door; on the other side of the door came the sound of scratching and whining, and as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room and leaped on the doctor with an eager show of gladness.

Turning to the patient, the doctor said, “Did you notice my dog? He’s never been in this room before. He didn’t know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master was here, and when the door opened, he sprang in without fear.  I know little of what’s on the other side of death, the doctor said, but I do know one thing…I know my Master is there and that is enough.” I like that story; it reminds me that Jesus is already there in heaven, where I will be. In Jesus’ name, amen. Pray for Lou! Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 9-14-21  “Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God” 

Today, before I read the passage for our devotions, I want to point out a few things to listen for and how we see the gospel displayed clearly in the Old Testament. This reading is from 2 Chron and is about the king Manasseh. It is grievous to hear what this king did and how far astray he led his people from God, even to the point of sacrificing his own sons to false gods. And yet, following his repentance, after God had had him forcibly removed from his throne and land, it was God, and God alone who restored Manasseh. And in doing so Manasseh learned who the true God was, just as we learn who God truly is through His grace to us in Jesus Christ. And how Jesus covers over all our atrocious and most grievous sin by His choosing to have mercy.

Listen now to selected portions of 2 Chorn 33:1-20: “Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. 2 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel… he rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had broken down, and he erected altars to the Baals, and made Asheroth, and worshiped … and served them. 4 And he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem shall my name be forever”… And he burned his sons as an offering … and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and…He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. 7 And the carved image of the idol that he had made he set in the house of God, of which God said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever, 8 and I will no more remove the foot of Israel from the land that I appointed for your fathers, if only they will be careful to do all that I have commanded them, all the law, the statutes, and the rules given through Moses.” 9 Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel. 10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. 11 Therefore the Lord brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh… and bound him with chains … and brought him to Babylon. 12 And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13 He prayed to him, and God … heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God. 14 Afterward … he took away the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the Lord, and all the altars that he had built on the mountain of the house of the Lord and in Jerusalem, and he threw them outside of the city. 16 He also restored the altar of the Lord and offered on it sacrifices of peace offerings and of thanksgiving, and he commanded Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel.” Thus, our reading. Now, surely the forgiveness of God in Christ covers all your sin and my sin as He chose to do so for Manasseh!  In Jesus’ name, amen and Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 9-11-21  “Ps 44:1-8” 

Before today’s devotions, one last reminder – tomorrow is worship in the park at 10:30 followed by a potluck. And again, if you’re not wishing to potluck, please do come for the worship service!

Today’s devotional reding is the first 8 vss of psalm 44. As I started to read it on this 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I marveled at how it applied to this day. When we review the Psalm, we learn the first 3 verses are a reminder, by David, that God, and God alone, rescued Israel and brought them into their land by His own mighty deeds, driving out before them those who were there. Israel was planted in the land of Canaan by God’s choosing and by the power of His right hand. It was He who won the land for them.

Then in vss 4-8, David makes clear that it is in God’s name that we have success over our opposition. And vs 6 makes plain that David trusts not in himself but in God for salvation from Israel’s foes and those who hate them.

What struck me first about this psalm and the attacks 20 years ago, is that those attacks could have been worse if the full plan had been carried out. We later learned that originally 10 planes were planned for. And even being reduced to 4 planes, still one of them was prevented from reaching its target, thought to be either the White House or the Capitol building in Washington DC. Like David, gave thanks to God for His saving power so we too must give God thanks for His restraining power on the evil planned for us.  And while we mourn and remember those who lost their lives that day, we do so trusting in God’s mercy to be with us all on this day of commemoration and especially with those families who lost loved ones.

But the second thing that struck me when I was rereading this passage, was that it’s not the foes against our country (we’re certainly not the promised land) or even the foes against Israel in David’s day that God has defeated for us. No, it is the unholy enemy, Satan, that God has saved us from. It is not our arm, or sword or bow that can defeat the devil. Only the name of the Lord God, Jesus Christ, can gain the victory for us. Because of His deed’s in dying on the cross and rising to life again, He alone ordained salvation.  And then only by His grace are we then given that salvation for our victory. Let us focus, as David said, on boasting in God and giving thanks to His name forever.

Listen now to the psalm:

“O God, we have heard with our ears,

    our fathers have told us,

what deeds you performed in their days,

    in the days of old:

2 you with your own hand drove out the nations,

    but them you planted;

you afflicted the peoples,

    but them you set free;

3 for not by their own sword did they win the land,

    nor did their own arm save them,

but your right hand and your arm,

    and the light of your face,

    for you delighted in them.

 

4 You are my King, O God;

    ordain salvation for Jacob!

5 Through you we push down our foes;

    through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.

6 For not in my bow do I trust,

    nor can my sword save me.

7 But you have saved us from our foes

    and have put to shame those who hate us.

8 In God we have boasted continually,

    and we will give thanks to your name forever.”

In Jesus’ name, amen and Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 9-9-21  “word and water” 

Before today’s devotions, another quick reminder – this Sunday is worship in the park at 10:30 followed by a potluck. If you’re not inclined to potluck, please do come for the ‘al fresco’ worship service in what looks to be good weather! Now, Today’s devotional reading is from 2 Kings 5:9-14  it’s the rest of story of Naaman. Listen :  “9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana[c] and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”

I like how this story goes. You are in this story. Because, just as Elisha used a messenger to send the word of healing to Naaman, so also you and I are sent with the message of God’s healing Word of the gospel of Jesus Christ to our friends and family.

And then there’s Naaman himself. He wanted a magic show of arm-waving and incantations, but what he got was the Word of the Lord from the Man of God. And he got God’s healing. Now, he refused it at first. He thought he knew better than God! And people still react that way when they encounter the gospel of  Christ. It’s not magical or mystical, it is plain and clear – we have salvation only in the name of Jesus. By His death and resurrection, we are given grace, mercy, and redemption.

Naaman had to be encouraged by his companions to listen to the word of God from the prophet, which he did. Again, he’s a good example of what happens when we share the good news with others. They may refuse it. They may get in their chariot and drive away. But the planted seed may yet sprout and grow. It is the holy word of God after all, and He does not send forth His word only to have it return to Him void of doing its powerful job! It may be that the person you share the gospel with needs more encouragement as did Naaman.

It was the word of God combined with the water that healed Naaman. Sound’s familiar, yes? It is the word of God, combined with water, that heals us of our sinfulness and rebellion. It is the word and water by which we are baptized and like Naaman made clean. Thank God for Naaman and the lesson he teaches us that God’s word of command tied to water in baptism, brings healing and wholeness to us. And it does so in In Jesus’ name. amen and Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 9-7-21  “Not thus and so” 

Before today’s devotions, a quick reminder – this Sunday is worship in the park at 10:30. Now, Today’s devotional reading is from 2 Kings 5:1-8  Listen to selected portions of these verses “Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man … because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel. “And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So he went…And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?…But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.”

I like this story because it teaches us many things. One is to be clear and faithful in telling and retelling the gospel of Jesus Christ. When the Hebrew slave girl told her mistress of the prophet in Israel, she was clear and plain, the prophet in Israel could heal Naaman. But when Naaman retold what the girl said, we’re only told he said, ‘thus and so’ to his king. Not a faithful retelling of what the girl said. He was not clear or plain! And based on that unclear information, Naaman’s king sent a letter to the king of Israel asking him to cure Naaman! Oops! Wrong person according to what the little girl had said!

We never want to be vague, unfaithful, or unclear when we speak about the gospel. The gospel is the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Not some undefined deity ‘up there in the sky.’ It’s not the gospel of the ‘big man upstairs.’ No! It’s only Jesus, and Him crucified and risen from the dead and ascended to heaven, that comprises the unshakeable, indisputable core of the content of the gospel.

One other thing of note from this story is that God uses ways and means that we may not always catch on to right away! This is a slave girl whose word is being listened to and heeded! And in this girl’s word is healing and life for her mistress’s husband.

We want to be prepared to see God use people and circumstances beyond what we might expect in the sharing of His good gospel. Let us take a lesson from this story that helps to open our eyes to unexpected opportunities God may give us to be clear and faithful in our sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name, amen and Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 9-4-21  “The gift of Christ’s grace ” 

Today’s devotional reading is from Ephesians 4 vss 1-12  Listen to selected portions of these verses “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,  and he gave gifts to men.”… 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

There is so much in Ephesians that is good to pour over and ponder for our edification and growth in the Lord. And this passage is a standout in that regard. Consider all the ‘ones’ that apply to us as Christians. One body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, God and Father and grace given to each ‘one’ of us!

We do not have multiple God’s. We have one God, who is at the same time 3 – Father, Lord and Sprit. Paul puts it beautifully here for us to know that this 3 in 1 is in Whom we find our unity in the bond of peace. And He has given us gifts as well!

And such gifts He gives! Apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds (pastors), and teachers. Notice these gifts are not given to provide for a person’s ease or earthly comforts. No, these are gifts that the one body of Christ on earth needs.

You might think you’re off the hook since you’re not a pastor, teacher or one of the other roles Paul mentions. Ah, but he did mention you – you specifically! All these gifts have the one purpose of equipping the saints for the work of ministry! And that’s you! You are the saints of God in the body of Christ who are called for the work of ministry.

And these gifts are given to help you! To equip you for the doing of ministry. You are not called to sit back and wait for others to do things for the upbuilding of the body of Christ  You do that. That’s your call as saints of God. It doesn’t say the saints are equipped to stand by and watch others. Or to hunker down and keep others at arm’s length till the Lord returns. No! The saints are equipped for the one purpose of the work of ministry.

So, how’s that going? If you feel you lack the preparation or equipping mentioned don’t let that feeling fool you. You have been given the one’s, the one body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, God and Father and grace. And these things are what you have been built up in so that the work of ministry is what flows from you to others! Yes, sometimes it means doing the hard things, the mundane things, the little things that don’t get noticed or recognized. But recognition isn’t what we are called to.  It’s the work of ministry that we’ve been equipped for. Now go and do as you’ve been given the measure of Christ’s gift of grace to do! In Jesus’ name, amen and Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 9-2-21  “PRAY ” 

Once again in my devotional reading from the book, By Faith Alone there is great encouragement to be had in Luther’s words. he references psalm 51. Listen to the first 5 verses “ Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,  and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

Luther writes.

We naturally think, “I’m frightened by the sight of God, so I can’t look to heaven for help. I know that I’m a sinner and that God hates sin. How can I pray?” With these thoughts, an intense battle begins inside us. Because we know we are sinners. We may think we have to postpone praying until we feel worthy. Or we look for other people to assure us that we have done enough good works to have confidence in our own worthiness. Only then do we pray, “God have mercy on me.” But we were born in sin. If we have to wait until we felt pure and free from all sin before we prayed, we would never pray.

We must shake off these kinds of unchristian thoughts. When surrounded by our own sinfulness – even while drowning in our sins – we should cry out to God, just as David did in this psalm. Then, we won’t have to postpone our prayer. What purpose do the words, “Have pity on my, O God, in keeping with your mercy,” serve if the only people who pray them are pure and don’t need any mercy? No matter how sinful we feel, we must encourage ourselves to cry out to God, “Have mercy!”

I have learned from my own experience that praying is often the most difficult thing to do. I don’t hold myself up as a master of prayer. In fact, I admit that I have often said these words coldly; “God have mercy on me.” I prayed that way because I was worried about my own unworthiness. Yet, ultimately, the Holy Spirit convinced me, “No matter how you feel, you must pray!” God wants you to pray, and He wants to hear your prayers – not because you are worthy, but because He is merciful.”

So says Luther. And like him, I too admit to hiding from praying to God when I feel downcast or frightened of my sin. And it’s only God’s grace, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that I am drawn to, as Luther said, cry out to God, “Have mercy”.

It is in His mercy I find hope, comfort, and peace. I pray we learn from Luther and one another that God’s mercy, in hearing our prayer, is where release from sin and restoration to wholeness overcomes our fear and shame. It’s why Jesus died on the cross, that we may indeed be confident we are heard by God our merciful heavenly Father! in Jesus name, amen and Goodbye

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 8-31-21  “more than a miracle” 

Sometimes it seems it takes more than a miracle for people to understand God’s word is true. We hear an example of that in these portions from 1 Kings 17:8-24.

“The word of the Lord came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath… and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he arose and went …. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, … “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it … and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.

After this the son of the woman…became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!” And he said…, “Give me your son.” And he took him… and carried him into the upper chamber … And he cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”

The reason for choosing this reading is to point out that it wasn’t the miracle of the flour and oil not running out that caused this woman to acknowledge the truth of Elijah’s word as being God’s word. But it was the raising of her only son from the dead! That not only validated the miracle of flour and oil, making bread to sustain life, but in raising the boy from the dead, God used Elijah to reveal to this woman, and to you and I, that God’s word to us through the prophets is trustworthy and true.

And it was by raising God’s only son, Jesus, from the dead that God has shown us that He is the true and Living Word of God. That this living Word, Jesus Christ, is also the bread of life for the world! In Him is our food that never fails or runs out!

Let us join the widow of Zarephath and acknowledge that the word of the Lord to us, Jesus Christ is true!  In His name, amen and Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 8-28-21  “Wiser than Solomon”

Today’s devotional readings, again, contain a parallel. Though this time, the Old Testament lesson is providing a very clear picture of what the New Testament lesson says not to do! This is so sad as it, again centers around Solomon but this time he’s demonstrating how thinking we know better than God can lead to unfaithfulness. Especially when coupled with lack of self-control. Listen to portions from 1 Kings 11:1-10.

“Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh:… women, from the nations… which the Lord had said…“You shall not enter into marriage with them… for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love… And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father… So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord… Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh…and for Molech…, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. 8 And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.9 And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from…the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded! “This is so sad to hear. It also startles us from the standpoint that God had deigned to appear to Solomon 2 times about this to warn him not to be turned away from the Lord God by these foreign wives! And yet that is exactly what Solomon did. We have to recognize what extreme mercy God was showing Solomon in coming to  him and giving him a direct warning. And still… he failed. And we too are given a word of warning in the parallel verses today. Again we hear  from St Paul from 2 Corinthians 6:14-17

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said… Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them.

And here is the antidote for Solomon’s problem. In vs 15 Paul asks, What accord has Christ with Belial? And in vs 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols?

Jesus Christ has no parallel! There is no god aside from the Lord God of creation! Idols, cults, or worship of nature, none of these deserve or command our attention! And those who would turn us toward such false and perverse ways, we are not to be bound together with in any fashion. Let us learn to keep our relationship with God undiluted by things that would draw us away from Him. To think we are wiser than Solomon and can handle such temptation is to endanger our relationship with God. Is anything worth that? Of course not. But thanks be to God that in Jesus Christ we are made safe and sure of His protection and our redemption. In Jesus name, amen and Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 8-26-21  “weak vessels ”

Today’s devotional readings contain something of a parallel. In both readings there is a comparison of something earthly that is shown as inadequate of God’s majesty and holiness and yet God chooses to use both of these things to make known His name and His surpassing glory to all people.

From 1 Kings 8: 26-27 where Solomon is praying a prayer of dedication to the Lord of the newly completed temple that he had just finished being built, he says these words.

“26 Now therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you have spoken to your servant David my father.27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” So Solomon acknowledges to the Lord God that God does not dwell on the earth with men and that the house that Solomon has built for God’s name in no way to be seen as adequate to house the holy God of heaven, when even heaven itself cannot contain God! And later, as he is giving the closing benediction he says,

59 Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, 60 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.

And here Solomon declares the truth that it is through the people of Israel that all peoples everywhere are to be made aware that only the Lord God is true God over all the earth. So it is that in this house built by Solomon that God the Lord put His name so that all Israel would bear that name to others. Now compare that with what St Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:5-7 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

Here it’s not a temple built with human effort that is at issue, it’s human flesh itself, jars of clay so to speak, that are to reveal that God’s power can be seen even through such weak vessels. The treasure held within the human clay of Paul and of all Christians is the knowledge of the glory of God in Jesus Christ! And that is only so that God can show His surpassing power that again cannot be limited by man himself or, in the case of Solomon, anything a man builds.

God’s power and glory are what Solomon’s temple and Paul’s jars of clay cannot enfold or confine. On the other hand, both the human built temple and the temple of a human body are things that God has chosen in various ways to use to show His surpassing wonder, might, glory and power since He is the Creator of all things. Rejoice that this Creator has chosen, through Jesus Christ, to make His dwelling with you by the power of His name, the name that you bear, of Christian. In Jesus name, amen and Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 8-24-21  “ God in Christ always leads us ”

Today’s devotions come from 2 Corinthians 2:12-14. Listen:

“12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”

This brief reading focuses on Paul and Titus’ shared ministry to the Corinthians and others in the vast area around the Aegean Sea. Paul had sent Titus to Corinth to help with issues they were having. For Paul, Titus was more than a friend, he was a valued and trusted brother in the gospel. So, when Paul came to Troas and Titus had not met him there, supposedly he was still in Corinth, Paul was unsettled in his spirit. We’re not privy as to why Paul may have hoped to see Titus there, regardless, this left Paul uneasy. So, he went from Asia, where Troas is, over to Macedonia, which was on the way to Corinth.

Why this geography lesson? Because Paul attributed to God, in a round-about fashion, this uneasiness of his spirit. Paul saw it as God’s hand moving Paul on from where he was as he said in vs 14, But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us.

There are times in our lives where we too, like Paul, have an unsettled notion in our hearts and spirits. We often times overlook these and most of the time that’s probably fine. But there are moments when we would do well to pause and give thought as to why are we uneasy or out of sorts. Perhaps there is something God would have us consider as an alternative to what we had intended.

I can remember a night I left a nursing home after visiting with a family following a member’s passing and driving by the hospital where I knew another member was whom I had visited earlier. It was after midnight, but I still felt, I should just stop in. I didn’t. And within an hour a family member called me to the hospital as things were not going well.

I’m not saying I did the wrong thing, nor that God didn’t have His reasons why I didn’t stop, but perhaps if I had… well there’s no knowing what may have happened. The point being, even in my not stopping, I need to trust that, as Paul said, God in Christ always leads us. There have been other times in my life where I did follow such intuitions or notions and was glad of it.

We never want to be led astray from God, so we need to ‘test ourselves’ Paul says later in this book (2 Corinthians 13:5) and John in his first epistle tells us to test the spirits to see whether or not they are from God. And by all means we need to do that. But having done so, if it still seems good to follow such an inclination, perhaps God is taking you to an opportunity for the gospel to be shared or someone’s burden eased by your presence. We never know when God may use us to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. God’s peace and guidance, through the power of His Holy Spirit be with us all. Goodbye. Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 8-21-21  “why David prayed ”

Today’s devotions come from 2 Samuel 12:15b-23. Listen to selected portions:

“And the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick. 16 David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted … and lay all night on the ground… nor did he eat food…18 On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “…. How … can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.” 19 But when David saw that his servants were whispering…, David understood that the child was dead. And David said…, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.” 20 Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate. 21 Then his servants said to him, “…You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” 22 He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23 But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”

This part of David’s story of presents us with a compelling view of faith. This is true faith that trusts God completely. This story tells us that when God gives you an answer to prayer that is what you act on. David prayed. He prayed for mercy and for the life of his child. He trusted that God would hear him and also that He could raise up that child, if God so choose. And when the child died, David received that as the Lord’s answer. God said no. And with that David responded. He accepted this answer from God as full and complete. There was nothing more for David to do. And so, taking God at His word, David moved forward. He got up, went, and washed, worshipped, and ate.

Again, David never doubted that God heard him. In fact, David trusted fully that God heard his petitions and cries. And in trusting that God was listening David trusted also in God’s answer, harsh though it was. It did not stop David from trusting in God nor did David blame God for what happened. Nathan had told David that this was to be the punishment for David’s sin of murdering Uriah the Hittite and taking Bathsheba as his own wife. David accepted this punishment. So why did David pray?

Because he understood God as merciful and just and kind. That’s why David prayed. David didn’t know the mind and will of God, and so he prayed. As he said to his servants, he didn’t know whether or not God would have mercy on the child.

Since God carried out his promise, David received that answer and moved forward in faith and trust in God. So, we learn from David to petition and plead to God. David also shows us that when God answers you receive it, no matter how God chooses to answer, and you continue in your life of faith in God. We rejoice that God always hears and always answers our prayers for the sake on His Son who died to take our punishment for our sin.

Goodbye. Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 8-19-21  “Vergie’s Final Wishes ”

Today’s devotions come from Hebrews 4:8-16 This passage was significant for Vergie, Annette’s mother who passed into eternal rest in Christ last night. We have been blessed to have her with us here at Zion for the past few years and we mourn with Annette and her family their very great loss. We rejoice that Vergie was given length of days beyond many and was able to upbuild and strengthen her family by her example of a living and vibrant faith.

How I know Hebrews 4 was a significant passage for Vergie is because she left a rather complete statement of her last wishes regarding her funeral service (which will take place in Kansas) Let me quote a portion of what she said.

The funeral service should be a worship service, like Dad’s, not a memorial to me, a forgiven sinner. I know the gospel will be preached.” She goes on to list the hymns she wanted as well as the readings which include as she said, “Psalm 121 KJV, Psalm 91, KJV (it brought my grandson home from Iraq – 3 times) Hebrews 11:1-4 and 6-8 which is very special to me, Hebrews 10:19-25.” Regarding the sermon she said, “I want it all from Hebrews, the verses about the 7th day of rest, Chapters 3-4, verses 8, 9, 10, 12,16. Our great high priest chapter 5.”

I asked Annette’s permission to share this with you all, as it so warmed my heart. For any pastor to hear such a mighty testimony of God’s grace and promise living through one of God’s children is a great comfort. It also gives anyone who hears it a great example to follow of faith in God’s Word. Vergie was such an example. Which is why I wanted you to hear this in her own words. And now as she desired for the gospel to be preached, listen to her chosen text from Hebrews 4 verses 8-16.

“8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  We rejoice that Vergie is at rest in her great high priest who has drawn her near to Himself, our Savoir Jesus Christ.  Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 8-17-21  “Temptation to sin will come”

Today’s devotions come from 1 Corinthians 10:6-13 listen:

“6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

These are strong words. But they are also words that offer us comfort, hope and peace. In vs 6-11 we hear recounted some of the events that took place as the Israelites were fleeing from slavery in Egypt. These verses serve to set up Paul’s point that even as they were led by God through the wilderness the people disobeyed and gave in to various weaknesses. They took up idolatry. They indulged in sexual wrongdoing. They tested God.

And of this Paul says God has kept a record of for our benefit. We are to learn from their terrible example of how not to follow God! This is crucial, he points out, because we are at the end of ages. How much closer are we to that eternal end of time! And still the record of the Israelite’s failures is there for us to learn from, by God’s grace. The lesson for us is in vs 12.  Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

In other words, don’t think the same can’t happen to you! You too can become as arrogant, craven, and disobedient as those who fell in wilderness. In fact, apart from Christ, we do fail and fall! But then comes one of my most favorite vss. 1 Cor 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it

Temptation to sin will come, and when it does, we are promised, promised, that God will be with us so we may endure! How often have we willingly turned toward sin, and at the moment of it, stopped short with, I shouldn’t be doing, acting, or thinking this way. That’s the Holy Spirit doing exactly as is promised here. Not letting you be tempted without His warning presence. Yes, we do sometimes give in. We then in repentant confession, return to seek God’s forgiveness and restoration. But there are times when, with this very help from God, we resist temptation! What joy that brings! To know that God, by His word and Spirit has strengthened us to grow in obedience to Him. This shows us just how dependent we are on God’s word day by day. Rejoice then, in His great love toward us that provides us with His presence to endure all that comes our way. Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 8-14-21  “Spirit, Open Our Eyes ”

Today I’m returning to a devotional book I enjoy called “A Day in Your Presence” published by Bethany House. These are devotional readings from St Francis of Assisi arranged by David Hazard. This is number 4 titled ‘Spirit, Open Our Eyes.’ This one begins with 2 quotes. The first is John 6:65 which reads

“Jesus says, “I have told you, no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”

The second is Ephesians 1:17 which reads

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.”

St Francis writes:

The Lord Jesus says to His disciples: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to The Father except through me… From now on you do know him, and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7)

Philip says in reply to this: “Lord show us The Father and that will be enough for us.” (vs8)

Jesus answers: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”(v.9)

We understand Philip’s confusion, you and I, because in truth God our father lives in light which the flesh may not enter, nor even approach (1Tim 6:16). We know that God is Spirit (John 4:24), and that no one has ever seen God with human eyes (John 1:18). Therefore, God cannot be seen – unless one is seeing with inward eyes, by the Spirit of revelation.

Only the Spirit of God can reveal God to a mere man. As the Scripture says, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing” (John 6:63).

All those who only saw the Lord Jesus according to His humaneness – who refused to “see” and believe according to the Spirit and the Godhead that Jesus is The Son of God – these were condemned….

Therefore, “do no let your hearts become hardened” (Psalm 95:8).

This is an excerpt from The Admonitions: 1 St Francis concludes with this prayer.

My Father, today I set aside all my “imaginations” about you, knowing that human imagination cannot conceive of anything beyond human limits. By your Spirit, quiet me now … Come near me in your bright love and holy purity.”

To this we say Amen and Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 8-12-21  “ through His word alone ”

Today’s devotions present us with a difficult and uneasy section of scripture. It’s 1 Samuel 28. Here are portions of vss 3-19:

“Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him… And Saul had put the mediums and the necromancers out of the land… When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid… And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. 7 Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may inquire of her.” his servants said, “Behold, there is a medium at En-dor.”8 So Saul …came to the woman. And he said, “Divine for me by a spirit and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you.” … the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” He said, “Bring up Samuel.” 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out… And the woman said, … “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel…

15 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul answered, “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more,… by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.” 16 And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? 17 The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to, David. …19 Moreover, the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me…”

It’s tempting to wish this away and not deal with such a gloomy or strange topic. But this too is scripture and God’s word, and we must learn from it. One thing to learn is that there seems to be no end to the wiles of the devil. Such things as necromancers, who summon the dead to communicate, and mediums, can be used to deceive people.

And here we see Saul, who because of his unfaithfulness has been rejected by God as king, using these deceptive means out of desperation. He’s desperate to hear a word from the Lord, but he has turned to these devilish means to try and learn what God would have him do. Just how wrong this is! He cannot please God by using means that deny God’s ways! And even in this, God is still sovereign.

Not even the tricks used by Satan can thwart the plans of God. Yes, Samuel in some way is allowed to communicate with Saul, but even in the midst of this horrible violation, God makes His will known! Saul gives us a frightful example of how terrible it is to be rejected by God. People today still try use false ways like horoscopes, crystals, psychics, and even preachers who deny God’s word, to try and manipulate God for their own ends. God will not have it. Instead, God uses His means of grace through the cross of Jesus Christ to bring us to know through His word alone that His good and perfect will is mercy. Mercy that’s purchased on that cross and given freely to all who trust in this one way of God to grant us wholeness and restoration to Him. God’s peace is with you! Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 8-10-21  “again, Apollos”

For today’s devotions we’re staying in 1 Corinthians with St Paul. We move ahead to chapter 4 vss 4-7 which read:

“4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”

In the first part of this reading Paul makes clear that his own judgment about himself is of no value. That he is not acquitted before God just because he’s unaware of his own failings. Because, he says, it is the Lord who judges him. And that is the only judgment that counts!

It doesn’t matter how good a life we think we’ve lived, we’re still under the judgment of God who sees and knows what’s hidden in our hearts. But we also have the commendation of God! And we learn that is ours in the gospel of God in Jesus Christ. It is Jesus alone who is the living word of God who, by His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead makes us clean and grants to us, and again Apollos too, as Paul says, the commendation of God.

But this commendation comes only one way, by what is written in scripture. That Paul tells in vs 6 is what we are bound to. And we’re not to try and go beyond it. We are not to seek any glory or pride for ourselves, as if we had anything to do with making ourselves commendable to God!

No, of course not. It’s a gift that we have received. We did not come up with the idea of redemption, so we can claim no credit for our salvation! It is given. It is gift. It is what comes to us from God’s word. There is nothing more that can be added. And that gives us peace!

We are gifted, from the word of God alone, no different than Paul or Apollos, with this holy precious gift of grace. And that is what we seek to share. That alone. Heaven knows I’m not worthy of such mercy and neither is anyone else. That is what we want others to hear and know.

That in God’s holy word we are given God’s holy gift of life. Let’s pass that along to others as we are given the opportunity to do. God’s peace be with you in sharing His good gift of grace in Jesus Christ! Goodbye. Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 8-7-21  “imperfection”

I’m going to pull a double clutch on you and move back into the New Testament reading for today’s devotions. I can’t resist what Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his first letter to them. This is from chapter 1 vss 10-16. Paul says:

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.).”

Now the opening topic is important, being united in Christ! We’re admonished by Paul’s words to be mindful that it is only in Christ we are made one. And that we need to avoid quarrelling over who we follow. We follow no one but Christ alone. Not Paul or Cephas or Apollos. It’s clear that only Christ is the one in whose Name we are baptized, and it is He alone that was crucified for us. Not Paul nor anyone else.

The name Apollos should be familiar as we spoke about him a few weeks back. And here we see Paul referring to him as an equal with himself and Peter (Cephas). And we are again reminded that Christ used more than Peter and Paul to spread the good news to the gentiles.

But the thing I couldn’t resist in this short passage is how it reveals just how human Paul is! Paul mentions, as an afterthought, of having baptized the household of Stephanas, but then goes on to say he can’t recall if he baptized others! I take great comfort in seeing this from Paul. Yes, it’s important that Paul mentions Crispus and Gaius, but it’s just as important that he takes the time to mention his lack of recollection.

It’s not that baptism was unimportant to Paul, we know that it was, just that he was so focused on his calling as an evangelist that he could lose track of the parallel duties of a pastor. Sometimes we too can lose track and have to confess our lack of recollection. That’s just human failing, but it is not sin! We can become discouraged at times when we fail or fall short of what we think we should know or remember.

Let Paul’s confession here comfort you and put a smile on your face! After all, no one’s salvation was lost by his lack of memory. Neither was Jesus’ blood and righteousness taken away from anyone because Paul had human shortcomings! No, Paul made clear that Jesus alone is who was crucified for us and that it is in Jesus name alone we find peace in our baptism! Let that be encouragement for us as we seek to share, often imperfectly, the good news of Jesus Christ. Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 8-5-21  “God’s steadfast love”

As we’ve been reading about king Saul and David and we’ve come to the point where Saul is seeking to kill David after which the Lord places David on the throne, I thought it might be good to read a bit of one of the psalms of David.

This is psalm 21:1-7. As you hear this listen for what David identifies as what comes from God and not himself. David ascribes to God strength and salvation. David knows that his very life was saved by God from the hand of Saul. And it is for us also that the hand of God has saved our very lives from the death of sin. Like David our salvation is ascribed to God alone!

In fact, David 2 times in these 7 verses, credits God with salvation. And the second time David makes clear that David’s glory is great only through God’s salvation. And he goes on to declare that God has not only given him salvation, but also so much more seen the splendor and majesty God gives to him. Do we not recognize in our own lives that God has also blessed us with salvation and so very much more each day?

We have, as David says in vs 6, the joy of the presence of the Lord! David says that it is the Lord’s presence that makes him glad. When we find ourselves down or discouraged, rely on these words of David to remind you of God’s great grace in our salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit that remains with us all throughout our days.

In the closing verse, David says that he will not be moved because, because, of the steadfast love of the Lord. That is for us as well! In the cross of Jesus Christ, we see that steadfast love of God poured out for us. Let this psalm, cause us to rejoice with David and, like him, trust in the steadfast love of the most high God! Psalm 21:1-7

“O Lord, in your strength the king rejoices,

    and in your salvation how greatly he exults!

2 You have given him his heart’s desire

    and have not withheld the request of his lips.

3 For you meet him with rich blessings;

    you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.

4 He asked life of you; you gave it to him,

    length of days forever and ever.

5 His glory is great through your salvation;

    splendor and majesty you bestow on him.

6 For you make him most blessed forever;

    you make him glad with the joy of your presence.

7 For the king trusts in the Lord,

    and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.”

Thanks be to God for these words of His daily comfort and assurance. Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 8-3-21  “God’s champion”

Today’s devotions come from 1 Samuel 17:48-51. And they read.

“48 When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.

50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. 51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.”

This young man David does for Israel what king Saul was afraid to do: Face the enemy. David, if you’ll read earlier in this chapter, is offended by the slander of Goliath towards God, the living God of Israel, in whom David trusted. And who had given David deliverance from both bear and lion when David was protecting his sheep.

Now the description of David in Hebrew, is that of a young man who is not yet 20. But he has a heart that’s devoted to God and takes offense at this Philistine who taunts the men of God. And we’re told David runs. He runs to the battle. He runs toward the danger, and he does so confident in the Lord God.

He does for the Hebrew army what Jesus has done for us and the world. Jesus has run toward the danger and put Himself in harms way for us. As David trusted in God and acted, so also has Jesus. Jesus trusted in His Father, the maker of heaven and earth and He took on the enemy of God and His people; death, sin, and the devil. And like David, Jesus prevailed over that enemy.

Remember when man sinned in Genesis, Eve was promised a redeemer, one of her offspring who would defeat Satan. And God said to the serpent how this would take place. Verse 15 of Gen 3 says, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. That enmity, that hostility between the people of God and the devil, is what we see on display between Goliath and his taunting of God’s chosen, Israel.

And as we’ve noted, David is indignant at this and runs to defeat this enemy of God. And how does he do that? With his sling and a stone. And where does that stone land that David slings at Goliath? Right in the head of that enemy of God! And from there his head is indeed bruised, it’s crushed and separated from his body by God’s champion.

And so, in what we see David do, we get a foreshadowing of the ultimate victory of Jesus over Satan. Yes, Satan bruises the heel of Jesus on the cross, but that same heel, like David did in standing over his vanquished foe, that heel has defeated Satan for us and in so doing Jesus has redeemed all creation. What a picture David gives us of Jesus, God’s  ultimate Champion! His victory is yours by grace through faith in Him alone. Goodbye. Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 7-31-21  “the chosen king ”

Today’s devotions are from portions of 1 Samuel 16:1-3. And they read.

“The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” … invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do. And you shall anoint for me him whom I declare to you.”

This from this point on Saul’s kingship is effectively over. There are still things to take place with Saul, but the word of the Lord to Samuel makes clear that there’s another who will be king in place of Saul. And the reason is plain, it’s what God had chosen.

God has chosen a new king for His people Israel. And it is to be Jesse’s youngest son, David. If you’ll read the rest of 1Sam 16, you’ll see how this takes place. But we want to focus on the words of God to Samuel here, . I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.

These words speak to Samuel’s the time in history while at the same time, being prophetic as well. It is God’s choice to have David, the son of Jesse of Bethlehem become king in Saul’s place. God chose this boy from Bethlehem to become the king that God wants. No one else was consulted or another opinion sought out. God wanted David. God chose David. And God chose another ‘son of Jesse’ also to be king, Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ earthly family traces its heritage through David to Jesse from Bethlehem by God’s design. Just as God wanted Abram to be the father of His chosen people, so God chose their king and our king as well. In the case of the Hebrews, David was the one anointed by Samuel at God’s direction and declaration. And Jesus was the chosen son of Jesse to become king over all.

For us there is significance in that as Jesus has become our king in place of ourselves, just as David was to become king in place Saul! It is by God’s choosing that we have a king that we can rely  on to lead us by His victorious rule and reign. It was good to replace Saul as he was unfaithful to God’s word and forced himself into the role of priest and prophet, where he did not have the right to go. Read 1 Samuel 13 to get the details. And there are other things that Saul did that betrayed his insolence toward God and His word.

So as God chose David, the son of Jesse of Bethlehem to be king, so also has God chosen Jesus Christ to reign over our hearts, minds and lives – faithfully. We like Saul could not be trusted to be faithful in all our ways and so we need not fear. We rely on the chosen one of God. He and He alone is our redeemer-king and the One in whom we trust. Thanks be to God we need not trust in ourselves, but we rejoice in God’s choice for us; the son of Jesse and the king who sits forever on the throne of David and the throne of our hearts, Jesus Christ. In Him God’s peace is with us. Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

 

Devotions for 7-29-21  “devoted to destruction”

Today’s devotions come from selected portions of 1 Samuel 15:1-9. And they read.

“And Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel… Thus says the Lord, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” So Saul summoned the … men of Judah And came to the city of Amalek … And defeated the Amalekites … And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive and devoted to destruction all the people with the edge of the sword. 9 But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.”

This is not an easy passage to hear. All this destruction and killing, even of the infants! And this is what God commanded? Why would God be so unsparing and savage?

First off, the Amalekites, as God noted, have opposed the Israelites ever since they came up out of Egypt. Secondly, this idea of devoting to destruction every living person and animal of the Amalekites shows how deeply sin has corrupted God’s creation. If the Amalekites oppose God’s chosen people Israel, as sin opposes God’s good creation, we get a hint of just how great is the cost that Jesus paid on the cross. How His being ‘devoted to destruction’ for the sake of taking away sin, is a price we can only begin to fathom when we see how God demands that those opposing Israel be utterly destroyed.

We also see here that man chooses to not obey God and do what’s necessary to put sin away. Saul and his men did indeed, destroy the people, but not their king, Agag! And even more, they kept the best animals. It says All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction. Saul and the people were greedy! They did not do as God required. Instead, they only destroyed the things despised, the worthless things in their eyes. But they kept things they coveted including Agag. They did not do as God told them and destroy everything, thus keeping for themselves the spoil of temptation and greed.

How hard and how utterly impossible it is for us to ‘succeed’ at obeying all the   commands of God. And yet that is what Jesus has done. He has taken on the hard and terrible requirements of obedience to every command of God. And having done so He then lays down His life as the sacrifice needed for the redemption of the world.

We dare not think it an easy thing that Jesus does in His obedience in our place. We dare not take lightly His being destroyed in our place because of our sin. He is the infant whose flesh was pierced for our transgression and the Man who died on the cross and rose again for our peace with God. It’s with most humble hearts that we give eternal thanks to God for His having sent His Son to do for us what we could never ever accomplish. Rejoice in the victory of Jesus’ sacrifice  over sin and His redeeming work for us and all of creation. God’s peace is with you. Goodbye. Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 7-24-21  “There shall be a king”

Today’s devotions come from 1 Samuel 8, selected verses. Here’s how they read.

“Then all the elders of Israel… came to Samuel and said, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king… like all the nations.” … And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people … He said, “These will be the ways of the king … he will take your sons … He will take your daughters … He will take the best of your fields and vineyards … He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards … He will take your male servants and female … He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations…”

The Hebrews had a king whom they rejected. It was the Lord God who’d rescued them from slavery in Egypt. It was His Passover and grain offerings they celebrated yearly. It was His law they were to live by. And all this they rejected. They rejected God, and His ways, His prophets and judges. God told Samuel they were not rejecting Samuel but rejecting Himself. All because they wanted to be like everybody else around them.

They’d forgotten why God had chosen them. They were to be the sign and signal to the world of how God loved His creation and the people He created to inhabit His world. But they turned away from being His Chosen and Beloved. So they, instead, could be like everyone else. And through Samuel, God warned them what the result would be.

They would be like everyone else. They would become slaves… again! They were choosing the slavery of everyone else in the world. They wanted to be ruled over in cruel and unfair ways rather than live under the protection and love of the Lord God their king.

It’s not hard to see ourselves in their words and actions, is it? How often in a day do we reject God’s ways for us? How quickly do we want to have what others around us in this world have… at the cost of turning away from the cross of Jesus Christ?

We know the Hebrew story well, but do we learn from it just as well? Take heart dear friends. God has not abandoned you to your own selfish desires and left you to be slaves again to temptations of evil, sin, and the devil. Just as He redeemed Israel over and over, He has in the cross of Christ our King, redeemed you once and for all, now and forever. This He’s done in His great love and compassion for you. Learn from that and live in that. God’s peace is with you. Goodbye. Peace, Pastor Tom Rhodes

 

Devotions for 7-22-21  “Apollos Who?”

Today’s devotions come from Acts 18: 24-28. Here’s how that reads.

“Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”

It’s easy to think of the later half of the New Testament as St Paul’s travelling salvation show! But with Timothy, John, and Peter’s writings we know that’s not true. And here we have another traveling evangelist, Apollos. Though he’s little known to us other than here and when Paul speaks of him to the Corinthians and Titus.

The reason to focus on him today is that, while he’s little known to us, to those that were evangelized through his ministry, he was the conduit God used to bring them the word of life in Christ. Further, that he was a teachable evangelist. In our passage today we learn that he is willing to learn and grow in the faith and in God’s word.

Apollos didn’t just fall from the sky, a fully-fledged and equipped man of God! No. He was learning the faith. And as he learned he also shared what he knew. That’s what any Christian does, they pass along to others what they have learned and been convinced of by the Holy Spirit in the saving word of God. Again, in our reading we see that he was growing in that word by God’s using of Priscilla and Aquila. And here’s a lesson for us. Simply put, we need not be a Paul or Timothy or an Apollos even in order to share the Word of God with others who will perish eternally without that life-giving Word.

We need to be, like Apollos, learning and growing in God’s Word and then sharing that Word. But unlike Apollos, we need not travel far to do that sharing. And yet the result will be the same as what happened with Apollos. And that is that others, people we know and love, will hear and be given the opportunity to receive the love of God in their lives. It wasn’t up to Apollos to change anyone, but it was by His giving away the gospel that the gospel of God changed those who heard him.

And that’s all we can do as well. Let’s learn from Apollos to grow in God’s word and to share that word. We need not concern ourselves with whether or not we’ll be remembered like Paul. In fact, I would guess most of us would shun that. But never let that stop us from sharing the life-giving gospel that has been given to us through such evangelists as Apollos. Who knows who will be in heaven as a result of your sharing the gospel with them? Let’s focus on that learning and sharing the word of the gospel and leave the results up to God.  God’s peace be with you. Goodbye. Peace, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 7-20-21  “Prayer medicine”

It was good to have some time away with family for vacation. It’s also good to be home and return to being with you all again. One of the devotions in the book By Faith Alone from Luther’s writings from the time I was away I wanted to share with you is from July 16th and it’s based on Isiah 37:14-15. Here’s how that reads.

“14 Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord.”

Luther writes:

“This chapter of Isaiah contains an interesting story about King Hezekiah. The Assyrians were attacking Jerusalem with a large army and beginning to overpower it. The situation looked hopeless. King Sennacherib ridiculed Hezekiah mercilessly. Sennacherib made fun of Hezekiah’s misfortune and by writing him a letter filled with insults about God in order to make the devout king lose all hope. Instead of losing hope, Hezekiah went into the temple, spread out the letter in front of God, bowed down with his face touching the ground, and prayer a heartfelt prayer.

Learning to pray when there’s an emergency or when something is frightening us requires a lot of discipline. Instead of prayer, we tend to torture ourselves with anxiety and worry. All we can think about is trying to get rid of the problem. The devil often tricks us when temptation or suffering first begins, whether dealing with spiritual or physical matters. He immediately barges in and makes us so upset about the problem that we become consumed by it. In this way, he tears us away from praying. He makes us so confused that we don’t even give a thought about praying. When we finally begin to pray, we have already tortured ourselves half to death. The devil know what prayer can accomplish. That’s why he creates so many obstacles and makes it so inconvenient for us that we never get around to prayer.

On the basis of this story in Isaiah, you should get into the habit of falling on your knees and spreading out your needs in front of God the moment you have an emergency or become frightened. Prayer is the very best medicine there is. It always works and never fails – if you would just use it!”

So says Luther! And I would add, that we would do well to form the habit of laying all our days and needs before God in prayer, so that when we are confronted with the unexpected, out first response is not panic or confusion, but prayer.  God’s peace be with you. Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 7-3-21  “The Limits of Government”

As tomorrow we celebrate our nations Independence Day, I thought it would be good to share again from the devotional book of Martin Luther’s writings, called “By Faith Alone”. This is the entry for the 4th of July titled ‘The Limits of Government’.

Before I get to that however, just a note to let you know that I will be on vacation for the next 2 weeks and will resume these devotionals when I return on Tuesday the 20th. Also, we will not have Holy Communion on Sunday the 18th as usual, but will celebrate that on the 25th instead. In the meantime, for your devotions, I’d encourage you to continue reading the book of Joshua where we’ve spent some time and enjoy his story. Remember when reading Joshua that Joshua is Jesus’ Hebrew name and that he’s a forerunner of Jesus in many ways.

Or you could read ahead in 1 Samuel which we will be drawing on at times when I return. Till then, have a safe 4th of July and enjoy the summer weather!

Now, on to our devotions for today. We read 1 Peter 2:17

“Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”

Luther writes:

“The secular government doesn’t extend any further than external and physical matters. God can tolerate secular government because it doesn’t concern itself with sins, good works, or spiritual matters. Instead, it handles other matters, such as guarding cities, building bridges, collecting tolls and taxes, providing protection, defending the land and the people, and punishing criminals. So Christians should obey government officials as long as these officials don’t command them to do something against their conscience. Christians obey without having to be forced because they’re free in all matters.

If an emperor or prince were to ask me about my faith, I surely would tell him, not because of this governmental authority, but because I should confess my faith publicly. If, however, he ordered me to believe this or that, I would say, “Sir, take care of the secular government. You have no authority intruding on God’s kingdom. I will not obey you . You cannot tolerate anyone intruding on your domain. If someone oversteps their boundary without your permission, you shoot him. Do you think that God should tolerate your desire to push Him off His throne and seat yourself in His place?”

Peter calls the secular government merely a human institution. It has no power to interfere with the way God has arranged the world. It has no power to give orders about faith.”

So says Luther!

Again, a safe and happy 4th of July, and I’ll be back on the 20th! God’s peace be with you. Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 7-2-21  “a terrible cost”

Today’s devotions are from portions of Joshua 7:19-26 “Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done.” And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent.” So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and, it was hidden in his tent. And they took and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the Lord. And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan, the silver, the cloak, the bar of gold, and his sons, daughters, oxen, donkeys, sheep, tent, and all that he had and brought them to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger.”

Hearing this, you wonder, where is God’s mercy; His forgiveness and grace? Achan confessed his sin, why did he, his children, livestock, and all he owned have to be stoned and burned? How extreme and vengeful on God’s part this all seems to us. But that’s because I didn’t read the whole chapter. Listen to vs 1. But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan…took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel. And then vss11&12 shed further light on this severe punishment when the Lord says, Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. 12 Therefore Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They… have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you.

So now we understand how God shows His mercy in the gruesome description of the house of Achan’s total destruction. Had they not done so, God’s burning anger would have continued against the whole house of Israel due to Achan’s sin. In his punishment, Achan serves as type of Christ for us. It’s unfair that Jesus pays the price of total destruction for us, in our place! We’re the ones who, like Achan have sinned. And like Achan we deserved total destruction for our turning from God to our own ways. But Jesus came and, just as Achan and all he had suffered the punishment for sin to turn God’s wrath away from the house of Israel, so Jesus has done for your house and mine! When we read this terrible and vivid account of innocent family members and animals stoned and burned, we’re scandalized and indignant. And then we’re shamed and horrified because that is what our sin deserves. And so now, now, we’re grateful and humbled by the generosity of Jesus coming and paying such a terrible cost to wipe away God’s wrath on our sin. So as Joshua told Achan, we too give glory to God and praise to Him. Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 6-29-21  “Remember and Rejoice  ”

Today’s devotions are in the 4th chapter of Joshua. I’m reading vss 19-24. “19 The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they encamped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. 20 And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. 21 And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, 24 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

The twelve stones were to serve 2 functions. To remind the people of the hand of the Lord who led them on dry ground across water barriers twice. And secondly, they were a lesson for the world that the mighty hand of the Lord God saves.

These twelve stones recalled not only the event of crossing the Jordan but served to recall to the minds of the Hebrews, the work that God did in crossing the Red Sea when they were fleeing from Pharoah more than 40 years before. Then they were trapped between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army that was coming to destroy them. The Sea was what God pushed aside so they could escape and be free.

And now, they were the ones who were coming to take possession of the land of promise, but the river Jordan was holding them back from doing so. And again, God moved the waters, though this time it was by stopping them up, so the water waited while the army of Israel crossed over. Again, it was the hand of God made a way for the people of Israel to move through the water. It was God hand that made the water do what was needed for the salvation of His people.

And in seeing this salvation of the Hebrews, the world learns the lesson that it is the hand of the Lord almighty that does salvation. Those twelve stones, that altar of sorts that Joshua built, was to be a reminder of the salvation of God. And we too have an altar to remind us also of the sacrifice of God in Jesus Christ for our salvation. Our altar reminds us that God’s hand alone saves.

And along with having an altar, we too pass through the water and so are saved just as the Hebrews were. In our case it’s the water of baptism that we pass through. But just as with the Hebrews, it is God alone at work in the water to save us. For us, the water becomes, not a barrier, but a cleansing flood. A washing of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit so we’re told in Titus 3.

The testimony of the water and the altar are good reminders to us that we share with the world the story of God’s salvation. It is through the word and work of God in Jesus Christ that world indeed will come to know that the hand of the Lord God is almighty to salvation! Remember and Rejoice in Him today! Goodbye.

Devotions for 6-26-21  “Fulfillment ”

Today’s devotions take us to the first chapter of Joshua. I’m reading just selected portions. “After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, … into the land that I am giving to them… 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses… Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. …Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you… 12 And to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh Joshua said, 13 “Remember the word that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, … Then you shall return to the land of your possession … the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.” 16 And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do… 17 Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses.”

All these verses have one name in common, Moses. The name of Moses is spoken by God, by Joshua, and by the people. God referred to him as, ‘my servant’. And as the one that God was with. Also, Moses is spoken of as the one who made promises and who taught the people the law. But it’s those first words of God to Joshua that stand out. Moses my servant is dead. There’s no fudging the truth. No trying to soften the language or use some euphemism or more tame wording. No! Moses is dead and that’s it! Or is it?

Yes, Moses died. But his work didn’t die with him! God makes that clear to Joshua that there’s work to be done that Moses started. The law given by God through Moses is yet to be obeyed. That too didn’t end when Moses died. Then Joshua speaks of the promises of Moses and how those are yet to be fulfilled after the work of moving into the promised land is accomplished. Just because Moses died, those promises didn’t die with him. And then there’s the people saying they will obey Joshua just as they obeyed Moses. Again, though he died, the people will continue in their faithfulness just as they had obeyed Moses.

We see where this is going yes? Just as Moses was gathered to God after His death. So also, Jesus returned to God after His death and resurrection. And, like with Moses, still the work of Jesus goes on. We still hear the command, though now it’s the new command to love one another as Jesus as loved us. We still don’t tame down the wording. Jesus died! He died for sinners. And He rose! And in His resurrection, we have the promise, yes again, the promise He left us of new life with Him. We thank God for Moses and what he taught us and how he modeled what was to be fulfilled in the coming of not just the servant of God, but The Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. In Him we have the completion of the law of Moses and we have delivered to us the promise of God of life eternal with Him through His Son! Rejoice in Him today! Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

 

Devotions for 6-24-21  “Belief”

Today’s devotions are again from John the last vss of the book, chptr 20:26-31 “Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Once more, this is a reading most of us know well. And it is among the most comforting of readings. John’s juxtaposition of Jesus and Thomas’ conversation with John’s final admonition paint a vivid life-changing picture for us.

In the previous vss Thomas has said he will never believe that Jesus is risen until he himself touches Jesus’ wounds. Thomas is not going to be taken in. And that in itself should tell us that belief is not an easy thing. Simple, yes, but not easy. Thomas knows death. But he’s also seen Jesus raise the dead and still he refuses to trust the word of his 10 friends and all the others like, Mary, who’ve said they’d seen and talked with Jesus.

Then this episode where Jesus meets Thomas’ demands and does so using Thomas’ own words of requirement for belief. To which Thomas utters those familiar words, My Lord and my God! And then Jesus speaks of those who believe and yet have not seen, as Thomas has seen. Thomas is the witness we all would like to be.

Then John’s final words open the door to faith for us, and for the world. Jesus has just said Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed and then John tells us that what he’s written about the words and works of Jesus is done with the purpose of belief in Jesus. That Jesus is, indeed, the One sent by God who is God in the flesh! And He is the One, the only One whose Name alone gives life. That life comes through trust in the name of Jesus.

Yes, we understand it is simple, but like Thomas, there are many who will refuse, deny, and reject Jesus simply because they have not seen for themselves. And yet, here we have Thomas, the witness, who answers that very need. And John’s words then make clear that, trust in Jesus, in the Name of the crucified and risen Lord and God, as Thomas has identified Him, is what grants life.

It’s easy to make Christianity hard. But in truth it is simply this. Belief, as Thomas said, in Jesus, my Lord and my God! God’s gift of life be with you. Goodbye. Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

 

Devotions for 6-22-21  “Sour Wine ”

Today’s devotions are again from John this time chapter 19 and just vss 28-30: “28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

And again, we all know this story, as well we should. It is the Story of stories. Because it’s the Story that gives us life! We have life through the death of Jesus Christ.

When we’re told that Jesus said it is finished after drinking the sour wine to fulfill scripture. That scripture is ps 69 vs 21 which reads, “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” It never fails to amaze me how God planned the story of salvation, not just in broad strokes, but in minute details as well!

It isn’t in scripture that He was to drink, or even drink wine, but it was to be sour wine! By the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, about 1000 after the ps was written, sour wine had become the common drink of the Roman soldier. In our text today it says, A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. Indicating that it was customary for that jar to be there.

The significance for us in that is, that Jesus’ crucifixion, in some ways, was just another ordinary event in the lives of those soldiers who put Him to death. This was just another ‘day at the office’ for them up to that point. It seems they were used to having that jar there and perhaps they thought they were being kind in sharing their sharp, sour, drink with the dying. Then again, it could’ve been a malicious thing in helping to prolong the suffering of those on one of the crosses in their place of business. We don’t know.

What we do know is, that it’s a comfort knowing that every detail of Jesus work of salvation was planned by God from before the world began! Even down to the wine that Jesus would be given as He died for the guilt of sin. Yes, for the soldiers and many others, this was just another dying common criminal getting the drink of the common man. And that again astonishes us. God uses the common for His holy purpose.

And still today He uses common water, wine, bread, and written Word to touch us with His uncommon holiness and grace! The details of God’s grace to us, such as that jar of sour wine standing near the cross of Christ, can fill us again with awe and wonder at how God chooses to make Himself known to us. And that draws us to be ever-grateful for His great mercy.

When next we come to holy communion, in the taste of the wine, if you detect a note of sharpness or sourness, let that remind you of how God planned every detail of your salvation that is given to you in His sacrifice of love! God’s peace is with you. Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 6-19-21  “Malchus ”

Today’s devotions are from John 18. I’m reading portions of  vvs 3-11 : “So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus… came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them… he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.”…Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Most of us know this story rather well. And some of us may’ve remembered the name of the high priest’s servant was Malchus. This guy was in the wrong place at the wrong time we might be tempted to think. But remember he came with the betrayer Judas, and with those who came with weapons. So, he’s no simple innocent by-stander.

Now whether or not Malchus had a weapon, we’re not told. But he was with those who did. And Peter decides to protect Jesus and begins to do so by pulling his sword and the first guy he comes to is Malchus and cuts off his ear. Now either Peter was too scared to be accurate with his sword, or just not used to close combat, but whatever the case, Peter only causes relatively superficial and not lethal damage.  And if you look in the other accounts of Jesus’ arrest, after Peter cuts off Malchus’ ear, Jesus heals him!

This stuck out to me in reading this today because one, it shows Peter again trying to do with human strength and wisdom what only Jesus has the Godly power and mandate to do, save sinners! Peter apparently thinks that by ‘protecting’ Jesus, Peter can keep Jesus alive so that He can bring about the restoration of the Hebrew nation.

And this in turn would be God’s blessing to the world. And, like before, when Peter tried to dissuade Jesus from going to Jerusalem, after coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus corrected Peter when He said that He was to drink the cup that His Father had given Him to drink. That being the cup of death so that He might swallow up death forever and, in this way, so save all people according to God’s will.

But also, it ‘struck’ me that Jesus heals Malchus as Malchus was coming to arrest Jesus! Jesus will have nothing stand between Him and the cup of death in its fullness, not even the shedding of the blood of His enemies! God’s profound goodness and mercy is seen in Jesus’ compassion on His enemies. In fact, that is precisely why Jesus comes to the cross, to bear on His body the wounds required of sinful man, required of you and I. We see a microcosm in Malchus, of what Jesus does for us all. All of us are wounded. In fact, all of us are dead in our sins and its only Jesus who touches and heals and restores us. I like to think that Malchus is among the restored saints of heaven who will greet us when Jesus comes again in power to take us home. God’s peace be with you. Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 6-17-21  “Sweet and Holy Father ”

Today’s devotions are from a book I like to use every so often “A Day in Your Presence” published by Bethany House. These are devotional readings from St Francis of Assisi arranged by David Hazard. This is number 19 titled ‘Sweet and Holy Father.’

It begins with a quote from Psalm 62:5-6a and it reads : “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation.” 

St Francis says:

God alone is our salvation. Apart from the Lord, all is lost in darkness.

Day and night, our prayers rise to Him, and He hears even the deepest silent cry of our souls (Ps 87:2). To think of it! – The Almighty One, the powerful Creator of all things, it is He and none other who bends low to listen tenderly to our cries!

This one who cares for me and you has also paid a great cost to purchase our souls from the dark kingdom of the Enemy. So why do we worry and fear, as if He will forget to save us from every enemy we must face in this world? (Ps 68:19)

After all, it was God who drew me gently from my mother’s womb. From my first day, before it was possible for me to know Him, He was the Hope of my life just as surely as I suckled life at my mother’s breast. He is the giver of life, and my soul began to long for Him from the day I came forth into this world. (Ps 27:10)

From my first days, He has been my God before I strayed from Him, and had to return to Him in shame and disgrace. But He never departed from me, and never will He leave me! (Josh 1:5)

… He hears my cries of confusion, but He is never confused. He as seen my disgrace, but He will crown me with honor. (Ps 8)

Among men, we may search for someone who can understand our heaviest griefs, but will find no one. We may long for a friend who can be always present, giving words that console and comfort, but we will look in vain. (Ps 69:18-20)

… He alone is our sweet holy Father! He is also king, God of the whole creation. And He stoops to listen … (and) comes to our help. (Ps44:4-8)

St Frances closes with this prayer. My Father, you who know me completely; I will still myself now and rest in your arms. I know that you have heard my deepest cries… even those most secret, coming from the silent places of my heart. Today, Father, I will quiet my soul’s infant cries… and wait with wonder for your help and salvation.

Such good words from St Francis, I pray God’s sweet peace be with you as you ponder these thoughts, Goodbye.

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 6-15-21  “Scatter the Seed ”

Before I begin, just a quick reminder that if you’re able to come and help with preparing for the rummage sale that would be greatly appreciated. 9 am daily.

Now for today’s devotions we’re going to look back to Sunday’s gospel lesson from Mark. We’ll look at just vss 26-29 of chapter 4. This is how they read: “And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

I come back to this reading today because in our Sunday school class we talked about this parable quite a bit, and just how rich it is in growing in our understanding of the kingdom of God. First take note that the kingdom of God in this parable ripens on its own. That is, there’re no artificial or outside influences that make the kingdom come to ‘ripeness’ apart from its own, proper, fulness of time. Man cannot make the kingdom come by our own efforts. Only God knows when it’s time to ‘put in the sickle’.

However, man does one thing. He scatters the seed. But that’s his only part in this process. And it’s the part God ordained for man to do. While the growth and health of the kingdom is God’s purview alone, He’s chosen to use His followers to spread the seed, to spread His word of the kingdom of God come to earth in Jesus Christ alone.

In a recent sermon I mentioned an old legend that says, after Jesus ascended into heaven, the angel Gabriel asked Him, “Who is going to carry on Your work now?” And Jesus answered, “I have left it to John and Peter and Andrew and the others.” Gabriel then asked, “What if they don’t do it?” Jesus answered, “I have made no other plans.”

Looking back again in this parable, like we said, the growth and health of the Kingdom, is for God, and God alone to know. We learn this because, while the man scatters the seed, as the parable says, he has no knowledge of how it grows. And when as it grows, we’re told,  it does so in an ordered fashion. These are things that man does not know, cannot know, nor has the capacity to know. The science of agriculture has shown us in wonderful detail the stages that Jesus describes of a seed’s growth. But science has not the ability to describe why a seed grows in the fashion it does. Only God knows because God designed it that way.

So also, with God’s kingdom. It grows according to His plan and design. It grows according to His timing. And ultimately only God knows the right time for the second coming of Jesus Christ. Who will bring with Him the fullness of the kingdom of God for all the world to see. While it’s a great and mysterious wonder, let’s not forget that God has ordained that we’re to scatter the seed of His word. We need not fear if it will grow or how it will happen. Those things are God’s to know and do. We get the joy of knowing that He knows. And that is more than enough for us. God’s peace be with you in your scattering! Goodbye.

Devotions for 6-10-21  “The Washing”

Our devotions today come from John’s gospel the first 18 vs of chptr 13, listen:

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’

Peter tells us how he felt about receiving the washing from Jesus. But I wonder… how did Judas feel? We’re told that it was already in his heart to betray Jesus. After all, in that exchange with Peter, Jesus told them that one of them would betray him, yet they didn’t know it at the time. But Judas did. Even as Jesus gave him the washing also. Jesus then goes on to tell the disciples that He’s set them an example in this washing. But do we see that that example includes washing the feet of your betrayer?

Jesus knew that, and still, He served Judas from His heart in love, even as Judas has betrayal in his heart. Jesus then also refers to psalm 41 to the lifting up of the heel by the betrayer against Him. This fulfills what God said to Eve and the serpent in Gen 3 on the day man sinned and God promised a redeemer. Here, in Jesus, is that promised redeemer whose heel is bruised, and yet by that same heel Jesus crushes Satan for us and for all time. This is God’s gospel, wash other’s feet in it! Goodbye. Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 6-8-21  “He isn’t angry”

One of my favorite bible vs is John 3:17. In my reading in the book By Faith Alone, I came across this verse in yesterday’s entry. This book is a compendium of Luther’s writings put into a devotional format. Let me share this verse and what Luther said about it as it speaks not only to this verse but also, he speaks to what we’ve been going through in these pandemic days. The verse first:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Luther says:

“A father and mother don’t scold, spank, or punish their children because they wasn’t to see their children die. They discipline their children so that they won’t fall into the hands of the executioner later. In the same way, God doesn’t want us to run wild. He directs and disciplines us in order to restrain us and keep us from being punished. Instead, God wants to protect us and make us heirs in the kingdom of heaven.

God disciplines His chosen ones and even sends them many trials and troubles. When you find yourself thinking, ‘Oh, God is so angry with me,’ then, say to yourself, ‘ I believe in You and Your Word. You won’t deceive me. Even if You send me many troubles, it’s not because You are condemning me. You will never throw me out. As Psalm 143:2 says, ‘Enter not into judgment with your servant,’ for You haven’t been sent to judge the world.’ Even if God were to send plagues, don’t think that He wants to destroy everything. When the Corinthians behaved foolishly at the Lord’s Supper, and God allowed many to become ill and die, Paul declared, ‘But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.’ (1 Cor 11:31-32)

We should understand that God disciplines us so that we will be saved, not condemned. By disciplining us, He hopes to pull us back from the condemnation and judgment reserved for the world. He doesn’t want us to be judged along with the world. Christ didn’t come to judge. We shouldn’t look on Him as an executioner. He isn’t angry. He doesn’t want to condemn  us. Instead, Christ want to help us. 

So says Luther. It’s always good to be reminded of Christ and His saving purpose expressed in these 3 short sentences of Luther. Christ didn’t come to judge. We shouldn’t look on Him as an executioner. He isn’t angry.

That is good news for us today and every day! Pass that along! Good-bye!

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 6-3-21  “Holy Works ”

Today’s devotions come from John 10:31-42  Listen:

The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.

Two things I’d like us to ponder today. Jesus said that the works He did are what demonstrate that He and The Father in heaven are one. The Greek word for ‘works’ here is where we get the word energy from.  It was ‘holy’ energy that Jesus was displaying by what He did! It was the work that He did that testified to the truth of what He taught, and to the truth that He was sent by God into this world. His teaching was holy because He was holy. And His works were the evidence He gave for the world to see that He indeed was sent from God. That He was holy.

And for Him claiming to be holy was what condemned Him in the eyes of the Jews and of the world for that matter. We don’t like holiness around us. The perfection of holiness shines a light on our sinful and detestable works. It’s our works that reveal that the energy we expend is unholy. Whereas Jesus’ works testified to His righteousness and holiness. And thatholiness is what He gives to us by His grace. In His final work of atonement for the unholiness of this world, Jesus died on the cross and so took the penalty for our wasted ways, our faithless energy. And because of the gift of the Holy Spirit, we believe in Jesus through His holy word and holy works.

That brings us to the second thing. It says that Jesus went to the place where John baptized and that many came to Him there. And many of those people made the connection that while John did baptize, he did none of the works or signs like what Jesus did. And because of what Jesus did they believed in Him. We’re encouraged by the testimony of those who were there, that what Jesus didrevealed that He indeed is holy. And that the evidence Jesus spoke of, His works, put on display the Holy power of God come into this world in Jesus Christ for our salvation. God’s holy peace to you, Good-bye!

Devotions for 6-1-21  “we go beyond Sheol”

Today’s devotions are from Ecclesiastes. This is not a book that always lends itself to peace and joy, but rather sees the plight of all people as everything from tedious and difficult to frivolous, vain, wasted, and yes, even sometimes happy. However, today’s reading is about the common enemy of all people, death.

And for some reason I found it to be strangely comforting! Now before I read this, I think I found it comforting because we know that Jesus has overcome death and brings us to new life in Himself, beyond the grave and Sheol! When you hear this with that in mind, it gives a sense of relief and freedom even. We are made new in the blood of Christ who suffered the pangs of death on the cross for all people so that we might not see our life’s end as the end in Sheol, as the preacher of Ecclesiastes presents it.

No, in Christ we are free to see past the ‘place of death’, Sheol, as a place with no hope. However, this same knowledge should spur us on in our need to share the gospel. Because for those without Christ, what we’re about to hear is indeed frightening and terrifying. Therefore, we want to do all we can to proclaim the love of Christ to them so they too might share in the living hope of salvation and restoration that, in Jesus, takes us eternally beyond these words of Ecclesiastes 9:1-10. Listen:

But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. 2 It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. 3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. 4 But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. 5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.

7 Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.

8 Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.

9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

So says the Preacher, King Solomon. But take heart my friends for in Christ we go beyond Sheol! God’s peace is with you today, Good-bye!

Devotions for 5-29-21  “Faith and Facts”

Today’s devotions are again in Luke, now chapter 24 with the account on the Emmaus Road. Listen to just the portion in vss 16-25:

But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!.”

Cleopas and his walking companions do us a great service. Yes, their eyes were kept from recognizing Jesus, so we can understand their not knowing it was Him. But the service they do us is in the fact they knew all the facts about Jesus.

They knew His life and powerful public ministry, having been with Him those three years. They spoke of the treachery of those that put Jesus to death on the cross. They knew what their women spoke of regarding Jesus and the angels telling them Jesus was alive. They knew that Peter and John went to the tomb and confirmed what the women reported. They knew the facts! In fact, they point out to this ‘Stranger’ they’ve stopped to talk with, that He must be the only man in town who didn’t know about what happened with the Prophet Jesus. This points out to us that what happened with Jesus, three days before, was indeed a public spectacle and well known.

But none of that knowledge translated into faith! A person can know the facts and still not believe in Jesus. Someone may posses the details and study the accounts of Jesus  and yet remain blinded to Him being the Christ, the redeemer of the world!

It’s not our job to create faith in others. It is our calling to proclaim, as well as the Emmaus Road disciples did, the truth of Jesus’ life and ministry. And of His death and resurrection. That is our task. It’s the task of the Holy Spirit to open their eyes and heart to trust in Jesus. It’s through faith by grace alone that a person believes. But they must be told whatoccurred so they may be led tobelieve. After all it was only later, after Jesus breaking the bread, that even Cleopas and friends had their eyes opened to Jesus. God’s peace in Christ be with you today, as you declare His words and deeds. Good-bye!



Devotions for 5-27-21  “Washed Clean ”

Today’s devotions take us to Luke 23 where Jesus is standing before Pilate again after having been returned from being sent to Herod. Listen:

Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.” 18 But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” 19 (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.) 20 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21 But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” 22 For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.” 23 But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.”

Such is the way of this world toward God. The world deceives and caters, it seeks to justify itself and in the process condemns the innocent. Pilate knew what the Jewish leaders wanted, Pilate claimed that Jesus was innocent, Pilate tired to pawn the problem off on Herod and ultimately… Pilate caved. He gave in to the will of the crowd, though knowing it was unjust. Pilate did what this world always does and condemns God unjustly.

We know from the Matthew account Pilate tired to ‘wash his hands’ of the guilt of condemning Jesus to death. And again, this is what the world does, it condemns God and then tries to shift the blame. Pilate gave in to the crowd. We all know how easy that can be to do. We don’t often admit it to ourselves but we can all recall times when we have ‘gone along to get along’ …knowing it was wrong.

And that’s why we needed Jesus to come and suffer in our place. He unjustly took on our guilt for having done all the things Pilate did. For allowing the innocent to suffer, for trying to pawn our wrongs off on others, for caving in because it was easier to do. We can’t wash our hands of the guilt of Jesus.

But He has! By His innocent suffering and death, He has washed us clean because of His love for the Father and for us. Let us not be surprised by how the world treats Christ and His followers. Rather let us pray for them and seek to show them and tell them of such great mercy that God has washed them in, in the innocent blood of Jesus Christ. God’s peace is with you today, Good-bye!

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 5-25-21  “What would the donkey say?”

Today’s devotions come from Numbers 22:26-34. So many things to see and hear in this passage from the angel of the Lord to the talking donkey to Balaam sin. Listen:

Then the angel of the Lord went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” 30 And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?” And he said, “No.”

31 Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face. 32 And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live.” 34 Then Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in your sight, I will turn back.”

Let’s consider a few things. Like, how marvelous it is that God used this donkey to teach Balaam humility. I don’t know about you, but if a donkey started speaking to me, I’m not sure I’d have the presence of mind to carry on a conversation with her! And yet she speaks to Balaam of their life-long relationship and how she has treated Balaam with care for all that time.

This can lead us to questions of how we treat God’s creatures on earth. And how God uses those same creatures to teach us many lessons regarding care and service, foolish pride, and impulsive actions. Sometimes pets and animals are what God uses to open our eyes to His care for us. It amazes me, the vast variety of ways God has created all things and uses them all for His good will in redeeming His creation from our sin!

Another thing that this episode brings to mind is when Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem on the day of His triumphal entry at the beginning of Holy Week. That donkey carried Jesus to His death. While today, Balaam’s donkey carried Balaam away from death at the hand of the Lord!

The Lord used a donkey to spare Balaam’s life and to take Jesus to His death on the cross so that our eternal life might be spared for us. In light of Balaam’s donkey speaking words of relationship and care, I wonder what God would have the donkey who carried Jesus to Jerusalem say to you and I?

God’s peace be with you today as you ponder that, Good-bye!

Peace in Christ, Pastor Tom Rhodes

Devotions for 5-22-21  “Psalm 116”

Some days you’re holding your breath, but you don’t realize that that’s what you feel like. Then you read a psalm or portion of scripture and you gain a sense of cleansing relief, or of hope, or an- ahh yes! that’s what I didn’t know I needed to hear.

For me that was the psalm reading today. I use an app from Concordia Publishing House called pray now for my daily devotions and that’s what I share from. And some days in those readings I’m slow to see something to share. So, I’ll look at other days like I did last Thursday.

But today even though all of the readings had wonderful gospel in them that would be great to share today, it’s the Psalm,116, that I kept going back too, because, like I said, it felt like a release of something held back unknowingly. And though what’s in the app has only portions of psalm 116, when I went and read the whole psalm it simply increased my wonder at how God speaks and comforts us with His word. Some of this will be familiar as we use parts of this psalm this in our liturgy  Listen:

The I love the Lord, because he has heard  my voice and my pleas for mercy.

2 Because he inclined his ear to me,

    therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

3 The snares of death encompassed me;

    the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;

    I suffered distress and anguish.

4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:

    “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

 

5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;

    our God is merciful.

6 The Lord preserves the simple;

    when I was brought low, he saved me.

7 Return, O my soul, to your rest;

    for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

 

8 For you have delivered my soul from death,    my eyes from tears,

    my feet from stumbling;

9 I will walk before the Lord

    in the land of the living.

10 I believed, even when I spoke:

    “I am greatly afflicted”;

11 I said in my alarm,

    “All mankind are liars.”

 

12 What shall I render to the Lord

    for all his benefits to me?

13 I will lift up the cup of salvation

    and call on the name of the Lord,

14 I will pay my vows to the Lord

    in the presence of all his people.

 

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord

   is the death of his saints.

16 O Lord, I am your servant;

    I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.

    You have loosed my bonds.

17 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving

    and call on the name of the Lord.

18 I will pay my vows to the Lord

    in the presence of all his people,

19 in the courts of the house of the Lord,

    in your midst, O Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord!”

Praise the Lord indeed, Good-bye!

Devotions for 5-20-21  “Matching wits with God”

I’m borrowing the gospel from tomorrow’s devotions for today. It’s Luke 20:19-44. We’re using just portions of the story of rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Listen:

The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on … 20 So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. 21 So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. 22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” 23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.”

These spies did not believe Jesus was of God, or that He was God in the flesh. We know that, by the contempt with which they treated Him by thinking they could deceive Him and set a trap for Him so they might gain the upper hand on Him with the people and the government authorities. And look at what they said in asking their question, we know that you speak and teach rightly and teach the way of God.

They outright lie in the asking of their question. They’re simply out to get Jesus, pure and simple. They neither trust nor believe that Jesus teaches rightly or of God! If they believed that He taught rightly of God, how would they have the temerity to think they could trick Him? How much like them are we; am I? Do we think God can be tricked? How foolish to think we can ‘match wits’ with God when we lack any measure of wit.

And Jesus turns the tables on them, with His answer of rendering to Caesar those things of Caesar’s to God the things of God. And that turning of the tables, is just like He’s done with Satan and like He’s done with us.

Satan thought He’d tricked Jesus for good when he nailed Him to the cross. But instead that is what Jesus used to render to God the death that was required and so paid the debt that Satan though he’d escaped by killing Jesus. Now Satan is defeated in Jesus’ death and Satan can never again threaten God’s creation with death and damnation.

Jesus turns the tables on us too when we think we can come to Jesus and offer Him ourselves and so gain favor or an upper hand with Him. How foolish! No, Jesus turns the tables on us as well. With His victory over sin, Satan, and death He comes to us to give us His victory in exchange for our deceitful and selfish ways. He turns the tables on us by taking all our sin, guilt and deception and washes them away in the holiness of His blood shed from the cross.

Rather than try to match wits with God, let us rather accept His unmatched grace that we’re given by faith. Faith which comes in Jesus’ truly right teaching that comes from God in the flesh; our savior Jesus Christ. In His name; amen and Good-bye!

Devotions for 5-18-21  “judgment and hope”

Today we read Numbers 14:26-35. This is after the people have grumbled against Moses when the spies returned and 10 of the 12 said in fear, they could not take over the land. So, the people rebelled once again against God and Moses. God told Moses that He would destroy this people and make a new nation out of Moses. Yet Moses pleaded with God to not do so. After agreeing, God issued the following punishment instead Listen:

And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, “How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the Lord, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have rejected. But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, a year for each day, you shall bear your iniquity forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.’ I, the Lord, have spoken. Surely this will I do to all this wicked congregation who are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall come to a full end, and there they shall die.”

It is amazing to see God’s grace, yet again, to His chosen people! After repeated grumbling and revolt against God, He issues them a promise of judgement and hope.

The judgment is not pleasant – it’s that you who have rebelled will die in the desert as you feared. But it’s a judgment that the people can truly live with! Rather than swift execution there is to be a lifetime of wandering and teaching. They will teach their young ones of the works of God and to raise them in the promise of hope!

They are promised that their offspring, 19 years old and younger, will indeed enter the land that they rejected. And along with them Caleb and Joshua, which is Jesus’ Hebrew name, will also live to enter that land. And Joshua will be the one who leads them in! What mercy God shows His stubborn people! Yes, for each day they spied out the land, the people will wander a year. In His wisdom God gives judgment and hope.

And in His kindness, He grants to us also judgment and hope. And like He did with the Hebrews it’s undeserved kindness. It’s Jesus who bears our ‘wandering judgment’ on the cross. He is left to die outside the walls of the city on the edge of the desert while we are given entry into the promised land of heaven! Jesus is our Joshua who leads to our heavenly home of promise. Such goodness God shows! Have a hopeful day. Good-bye!

Devotions for 5-15-21  “lifted up ”

Today’s devotion is from Luke 18 vs 9-14. It is the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Listen:

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed[a] thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”.

It’s very easy in this parable to get caught up in our eagerness to see ourselves as the tax collector, since we want what Jesus said of him to be true for us. That we are justified by God. And that is laudable. However, don’t overlook why it was that Jesus told this parable.

Vs 9 says that  He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt. We can sometimes become so ‘familiar’ with God that we’re in danger of treating Him with contempt. We take for granted that because it’s me coming to God, of course He’s going to hear me.

On the other hand, we can be so eager to see ourselves as the humble tax collector we can go too far that way and put our trust in ourselves again, but this time, we trust in our own unworthiness. Luther wrote about this and this is what he said:

Some say, ‘I would feel better about God hearing my prayer if I were more worthy and lived a better life.’ I simply answer: If you don’t want to pray before you feel that you are worthy or qualified, then you will never pray again. Prayer must not be based on or depend on your personal worthiness or the quality of the prayer itself but on the unchanging truth of God’s promise. If the prayer is based on itself, or on anything else besides God’s promise, then it’s a false prayer that deceives you – even if your heart was breaking with intense emotion and you were weeping drops of blood.

We pray because we are unworthy to pray. Our prayers are heard precisely  because we believe that we are unworthy. We become worthy to pray when we risk everything on God’s faithfulness alone.

So go ahead and feel unworthy. But know in your heart that it’s a thousand times more important to honor God’s truthfulness. Yes, everything depends on this alone. Don’t turn His faithful promise into a lie by your doubts. For your worthiness doesn’t help you and neither does your unworthiness hinder you.

That’s a good reminder by Luther that it is God alone who lifts us up.  That it’s God’s faithfulness to us in Christ alone that we rely on for our worthiness. Good-bye!

Devotions for 5-13-21  “The Ascension of Our Lord ”

Today in the church calendar, is Ascension Day. Listen to the account of Jesus ascension into heaven found in Luke:

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

I so appreciated and wanted you to hear a part of District President Hagen’s reflection today that he’s written on the district Facebook page where he says:

The last verse of Luke’s Gospel is often forgotten.  We tend to focus too much on either the beginning of Acts or the end of John’s Gospel and miss the way that Luke ends his account.  Jesus has gone and yet the disciples have great joy.  They had been blessed by the blessed one.  They had been blessed by the forgiveness of all of their sins.  They had been blessed by receiving Christ’s own body and blood.  They had been blessed by being restored and reconciled to God through Christ.  They were truly blessed!  And that is why they are filled with joy.

The life and ministry of Jesus fills His disciples of every age with joy and move us to worship and praise.  Jesus’ ministry was one of calling, healing, sending, restoring, forgiving, and blessing.  And the abundant blessings that He gives fills His disciples with joy.  The joy of sins forgiven.  The joy of paradise restored.  The joy and certainty that just as Christ died and rose again and then went to be with His Father in heaven and so shall we.

I thought those were such good words for us all to be blessed by on this Ascension Thursday! I pray God’s eternal joy and blessings remain with you today and always , Good-bye!

Devotions for 5-12-21  “Thank God for Hobab”

I apologize for missing yesterday – please forgive me, I got caught up in sermon preparation till it was too late. Now today, Wednesday the 12th we read from Numbers 10 about a rather obscure man Hobab. This is the only time we hear what he does. It’s an unusual but important detail in the travels of the Jews toward the promised land. Listen:

And Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out for the place of which the Lord said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will do good to you, for the Lord has promised good to Israel.” 30 But he said to him, “I will not go. I will depart to my own land and to my kindred.” 31 And he said, “Please do not leave us, for you know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you will serve as eyes for us. 32 And if you do go with us, whatever good the Lord will do to us, the same will we do to you.”33 So they set out from the mount of the Lord three days’ journey.”

Hobab is asked by Moses to serve as a sort of scout or guide as they begin their trek to the land of Canaan. Hobab stayed with them after the Lord sentenced the people to wander for 40 years after disobeying God by not going up to take possession of the land after the spies returned that Moses sent out. But it’s the arrangement that Moses makes with his brother-in-law that we’re interested in.

The idea of Moses is for Hobab to use his expertise in knowing the lay-of-the-land to give Moses advice on where to camp along the way. We know from the previous chapter that the Lord guided the Hebrews by the pillar of cloud and fire as to when to go, when to stay, and the direction they were take. But God, it seems, used Hobab as a sort of ‘tour guide’ to give advice on the best place to make camp when God wanted the Hebrews to stop for the night or for as long as the pillar remained in one place.

It’s the humility of Moses that strikes me as important. Moses is not too proud to admit he needed help in guiding the people. This is both administrative type help as well as expert knowledge. Hobab, this foreigner to the Hebrews it seems, knew more about how to go about finding the good places to rest.

Afterall, God gives us this record of him and what his task was. He was not a Jew, yet Moses promises him that whatever good God does for the Jews will be done for Hobab. In fact, the only other mention of Hobab comes in Judges that speak of the descendants of Hobab and where they had been settled in the promised land.

Just as Moses relied on the foreigner Hobab, to guide the people home, so we too rely on a Foreigner to guide us home – to heaven. Jesus is our Hobab. He is foreign to us, having come from God, and yet He comes with the ‘expertise’ that we need in our travels through this life. And ultimately, like Hobab was given a portion in the promised land for his descendants, we, descendants of Christ, are given His portion of a place of rest for us in heaven. Thank God for Hobab and thank God for Jesus Christ. God’s blessings as we journey on, Good-bye!

Devotions for 5-8-21  “Mother’s Day ”

In honor of Mother’s Day tomorrow, I thought it good to hear of Mary from Luke 1

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones  and exalted those of humble estate;53 he has filled the hungry with good things,  and the rich he has sent away empty.54 He has helped his servant Israel,  in remembrance of his mercy,55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.” A blessed and happy Mother’s Day to you, Good-bye!

 

Devotions for 5-6-21  “That’s Gospel ”

Today’s devotional focuses on Jesus healing a woman in Luke 13. Listen.

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”.

So much rich gospel here! It was Jesus who initiated healing this woman. (Like the owner of the donkey goes to, to care for.) When Jesus saw her, He called to her, not the other way round! That’s gospel – Jesus sees our broken condition and He initiates our healing. He laid hands on her and spoke the words of restoration and healing. And so, with us. He comes to us in our flesh to bring us the healing word of God! That’s gospel!

The ruler of synagogue rejects the healing Jesus brings for someone else. How telling is this, as a type or example of how Jesus was treated all throughout His ministry by religious leaders. This synagogue ruler tried to exclude the healing of Christ from people under the guise of religious propriety. Satan still uses ‘propriety’ and ‘proper social graces’ and ‘political correctness’ to prevent people from hearing Jesus words and receiving His healing touch in the sacraments! That’s law!

Then Jesus delivers His judgment on the law and the hypocrisy that tries to block the world from His grace and mercy. He points out that they all do so-called ‘work’ on the sabbath by releasing their animals from being bound so that they make take them to get water. And yet this leader tries to prevent Jesus from freeing this woman from her bondage under sin. Jesus will not allow that! That is gospel!

He comes to His creation. God persistently comes with His sons and daughters healing in the words and works of Jesus. Jesus comes in the flesh and touches us and heals us by His choosing to be bound by nails to the cross and so free us from our penalty of breaking the law.

And that precious and costly freedom He then comes and gives to us by grace alone! And again, that is gospel! Rejoice in your freedom. Rejoice in being given the touch of Jesus that heals and straightens, that waters and welcomes us and strengthens us to share the gospel with others, who like us, need that healing touch of the gospel in Christ.

God’s peace is yours today! That’s Gospel! Good-bye!

Devotions for 5-4-21  “rest”

Today’s devotional draws on all three readings for today – Psalm 127, vss 2, Leviticus 23:3 and parts of Luke 12:22-31. Here’s how those things read altogether.

2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. 3 “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places. And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life… 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? … And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried… 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

Don’t we sometimes think we can get a ‘leg-up’ on God? If we worry enough and work hard enough, we can get God to like us more. We can outsmart God. Maybe if I just pretend to rest but really get some work done, God will see how good I am at taking the initiative. It’s not that I can outsmart God, but I just want to do enough for Him to see my gumption. I can impress God if I put in more hours than He thinks I should. What can it hurt if I take on more, won’t God be surprised by how much I can do?

It’ll make God happy if I work extra because I want to show how good I am and how much I love God by going about all the things I think will please Him. After all, I want to do all I can to assure myself a seat at God’s banquet table.

No. no to all of this. This is not showing God love, this is law. This is not His grace but my greed. Yes, we are to work and do and be effective with our effort. But that is all to be done within the context of the Word of God. It’s His revealed will that we are to live by. It’s His word and provision, and trust in His ways that are best for us and not our own made-up standards.

We are told to rest. To cast our cares on God. To sleep when its proper to sleep. To do otherwise is to tell God what He desires for us is not really all that good. His will is ok for others, but not for me. I need to show Him how I think it should be done. Again, we’re trying to impress God with our effort. And when has that ever worked out well?

After all, if we could accomplish the work of God on our own then why do we need Jesus? What good is a savior to those who can save themselves? We are to rest. To rest in the resurrection victory of Jesus over the cross, death, and the grave which grants us entrance to the kingdom of God that Jesus tells us to seek after.

So, it may be seen as an act of faith to… relax. It’s pleasing to God to rest when our tasks are done for the day. We get no ‘points’ for our worry or anxiousness. Allow what God has done to be our focus at the end of the day and week. Let the peace of God which passes all understanding be what we understand as His gift to us. Now go and do what God has called you to do, and then, afterward, rest! Rest in His great provision and grace to you. God’s peace. Good-bye!

Devotions for 5-1-21  “Vaccine”

There’s been lots of talk about inoculations and vaccines in light of what’s happened around the world with covid 19. And that’s good. We should be aware of steps to help with curtailing this pandemic and use them. All the things like masks and social distancing are seen as helpful, used properly.

But there’s another inoculation that I think would be of even greater benefit. There is a practical protection from the spread of a virus that travels from person to person that we should each apply and be sure to use. This infection is what happens when watching a news broadcast or reading the paper or looking at news on-line.

It’s the pandemic of despair. It’s the virus of gloom and doom. It’s the infection of weariness from being worn down by all the bad things people do. And the inoculation is found in the devotional psalm reading for tomorrow. It’s psalm 37. Please, please, take the time to read the whole of it on your own. I’m going to give you your ‘first shot’ of the vaccine by reading vss 1-9 and 39-40.

The after-effect of this ‘first shot’ will be to give you the desire to take the next step of reading the whole of psalm 37 and seeing there that the Lord guards and uplifts His people  in the midst of wickedness and depressing events. It can be easy to take in the apparent decline and decay of our world, our nation and even our town and want to wash our hands of the whole mess and turn away.

But read the words of God in this psalm of David. Let these words give you the protection and immunization that can lift your eyes to God in heaven and see the justice and righteousness that has come to us in Jesus Christ. We know that nothing, no – one – thing, or all the bad things we see evidence of in this world, will overwhelm or tear down the goodness of the Lord.

Hold still, now! This won’t hurt. And be sure to follow-up with the second dose of reading the whole of psalm 37 as soon as you can! Listen:

 

“Fret not yourself because of evildoers;

    be not envious of wrongdoers!

2 For they will soon fade like the grass

    and wither like the green herb.

3 Trust in the Lord, and do good;

    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

4 Delight yourself in the Lord,

    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the Lord;

    trust in him, and he will act.

6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the 

   light, and your justice as the noonday.

7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for

  him;  fret not yourself over the one who

   prospers in his way,

    over the man who carries out evil devices!

8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!

    Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.

9 For the evildoers shall be cut off,

   but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit

  the land.

 

39 The salvation of the righteous is from the

    Lord;

    he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.

40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;

    he delivers them from the wicked and saves

    them,  because they take refuge in him.”

 

That wasn’t so bad, was it?! Good-bye!

Devotions for 4-29-21  “Be my neighbor”

Again, today’s devotions come from Luke this time vss 25-37 of chapter 10. Listen:

 “And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

This familiar parable shows compassion in action. But why Jesus tells this parable is important. The lawyer asked Jesus , who is my neighbor, so he could ‘prove’ he was fulfilling the law of loving the Lord and your neighbor. That’s when Jesus tells the parable.

And then, who does the lawyer identify as the neighbor? It’s not the injured and beaten man, it’s the one who showed mercy. That’s who Jesus confirmed was the neighbor. He was the neighbor to the one, TO the one, in need. And upon the lawyer having correctly answered that the neighbor was the one who showed mercy, Jesus concludes with “You go, and do likewise.”

Loving the one in need is what makes a person the neighbor. Wouldn’t it be a better world if we could all be neighbors? If we could all show mercy to the needy, injured and forgotten ones on the side of the road. However, we fail to always show the mercy we should because we fail at keeping the law. After all it was a lawyer who asked the question, and it’s the law that we fail at. And because of that, because we fail to show mercy, we fail to act compassionately, we fail at keeping the law, Jesus came to be our neighbor! He is the One to show us the mercy we needed by His crucifixion and resurrection victory over sin.

And more than that, He supplies us, by grace alone, with the mercy that is now ours to give away, and in His name, we’re made into good neighbors! As Jesus said, Go and do likewise, neighbor!  Good-bye!

Devotions for 4-27-21  “we are beggars. this is true”

Today’s devotions come from Luke 9: 38-40, 42b. Our vss read:

 “And behold, a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39 And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out. It convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and shatters him, and will hardly leave him. 40 And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”… But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.”

When I read these verses, this man with the spirit possessed boy reminded me of Luther. Two times this man uses the word ‘beg’, and that put me in mind of Luther whose last written words, found on a scrap of paper were, ‘we are beggars, this is true.’

I looked this up online and discovered that he wrote this in both Latin and German. Latin, the language of the church and scholarship, and German the language of the people and the language in which Luther preached the good news of the gospel. All of life is encompassed for Luther in these languages.

Another thing I wanted to share with you comes from a website titled 1517 whose stated mission is “to declare and defend the Good News that we are forgiven and free on account of Christ alone.” This is what I found written there by a Pastor Craig Donofrio of the lcms who serves St James Lutheran church in Cleveland. He writes:

Those who begin to know even a fraction of their sin know what the proper posture is that we should take before the one true God… we are empty-handed and laid low. When met eye to eye by our sin – with those nasty things that we don’t acknowledge or talk about – we are broken, humiliated, humbled and, with terror, we beg for mercy…

God in His mercy is a God for beggars. He sent His Son, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords into our meager, beggarly existence. He laid aside His glory and His might to become a beggar who didn’t even have a pillow for His head. He descended into our poverty when He submitted Himself to be baptized in the filthy waters of our sin and emerged for us breaking the bonds of sin and death.

God isn’t interested in your sins. He isn’t interested in keeping score, making sure that you keep at least one more good work than bad in your ledger… Instead, He is kind, gracious and whatever the superlative word for generous is – He’s that, to and for beggars, to and for you.

Christ isn’t interested in keeping you in the gutter, but instead, Christ clothes you in His perfect righteousness through the baptismal washing of regeneration and in faith. He credits the riches of His eternal kingdom to your empty hands and frees you to be generous with His wealth, which He freely entrusts into your care. And most importantly He forgives you and raises you new in His death and resurrection.” I wanted you to hear what Pr Donofrio said. God’s peace to you fellow beggar, Good-bye!

Devotions for 4-24-21  “Cloud and Fire ”

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

Today’s devotions take us back to Exodus chapter 40 vss 34-38 when the Jews wandered in the desert following the tabernacle of the Lord. Our vss read:

 “34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 36 Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.”

Haven’t you ever thought that it’d be nice if God did that sort of thing today for you? Just show me the pillar of cloud and fire and I’ll follow that.

Well, consider this when pondering that idea. The Hebrews only moved when the pillar moved. They were made to wait or walk according to the pillar.

We’d like to think that about ourselves that way, wouldn’t we? Afterall I’m a good Christian so I’d be happy and obedient to simply follow that plan. Just give me the outline, the blueprint, the schematic like the pillar of cloud and fire You gave the wandering Jews and I’ll be good to go!

That’s not a bad thought because that takes the guesswork out of living. We just have to do the right thing. Hmm. If you think about that, can we really do that? Can we be obedient and faithful? Can we do the simple thing of always doing the right thing? We know the answer to that is, no.

We also know, that was what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. He takes the guesswork out of wondering if I’m correctly following God. Because He has accomplished all that’s needed for us to have assurance before God that all we do or have done will ultimately be made righteous by Jesus’ righteousness alone.

So, in one sense we do have that pillar of cloud and fire. That pillar is Jesus! He’s the One we follow because He is the Glory of God and the Light of the world. Through faith In Him alone we are given the way to go because, He is the way, the truth, and the light for us and for all the world. Because, Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Good-bye!

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!