Category Archives: Devotional

Proclaim Something Worth Proclaiming

READ
Matthew 9:35-10:23

REFLECT
I am really bad a proclaiming the Good News – or at least making it a priority in my everyday life. I have to admit it. I become distracted and do a great job at proclaiming other things – mostly what I think about things.

We all do a good job at proclaiming what we believe about society, culture, politics, about this or that asinine things a celebrity did or said. We have our opinions on which sports team is best, who deserved or didn’t deserve the Oscar – whether Apple or Microsoft is better. Iphone or Android. You get the picture.

The reading from Matthew reminds us what we ought to be proclaiming in word and deed – The Good News. We who believe are the ones Christ is expecting to be the laborers in the ripe fields.

The next time you want to spout off (or I want to spout off) with some great life-changing, world-saving bit of wisdom about things that will pass with time take pause. Proclaim rather that which is really important and that which is eternal: Christ died for your sins so that you might be with him for eternity.

PRAY
God, by your Spirit come to me and guide my heart and my mouth to proclaim the greatness of you and the greatness you have shown to mankind in the salvation the Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to be laborers and proclaim that which truly matters, AMEN.

The Real “Never Ending Story”

READ
Matthew 28:16-20

REFLECT
The story of Christ is a hard one to tell chronologically when you try to fit it in the church year. It would be nice if we had a way to fit Jesus and the Gospel into the traditional form of a story: beginning, middle, and end. But when we hear of Jesus throughout the year it just doesn’t work that way. It’s all jumbled up.

The year begins with Advent – great. We are awaiting the birth of the King, the Messiah, Jesus. But we are also looking toward the return of Jesus – the second coming of the King. We also have John the Baptist proclaiming the Messiah – so Jesus is already born and an adult. The timeline is all out of whack here. Okay, let’s start at Christmas. We go along good for a bit: baby in the manger, but closely linked to his is the story of the Magi at Epiphany – which is really three years or so after Jesus is born.

This could be very frustrating if we are hoping to see the Gospel as a story, like some novel, but it is not. It doesn’t begin at Christmas and end at Easter. Jesus does not “ride off into the sunset” so to speak. It doesn’t end at the Ascension, because Pentecost comes and Jesus – though his earthly ministry is finish – remains with us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Be God’s grace he comes to us physically in the Lord’s Supper.

The story never ends. It is ongoing AND IT IS ONGOING IN OUR LIVES. The “book” is never closed and put back on the shelf, and we are not simply readers but participants. The Great Commission in Matthew 28 and Jesus admonition to “Go, Make, Baptize, and Teach” calls us into the story with Jesus. We are in this together.

PRAY
Lord God, by the power of your Holy Spirit help me to always remember that I am part of the Gospel story and that the Gospel is really not a story at all. It has no beginning, middle, or end – it is eternal, just as you are eternal. Help me to participate fully with Jesus in making the world know your grace and mercy. AMEN.

What They Received, so Have You.

READ
John 20:19-23

REFLECT
Breath: without it we die. One of the life-saving measures we learned in the military was restoration of breathing. If a person could not breath it was of paramount importance to get air into their lungs less they suffer brain damage and ultimately death. It was as equally as important as stopping bleeding, covering wounds and treating for shock.

When babies are born, medical techs clean out their airways – not sure if they give them a slap on the backside – so important is it to get them breathing.

Breath is life. God breathed life and all Creation into existence.

By breathing up His Disciples – His Church – Jesus gave a different kind of life. He gave eternal life. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we have faith, and by faith we are saved.

PRAY
Lord, breathe anew your Holy Spirit into my life daily, no hourly. Not hourly, but constantly. Give my your life-saving breath so as to keep me in the true faith, with you, your Father, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

The Church Wins!

READ
John 17:1-11

REFLECT
The church has seen a lot of dark days over the past 2,000 years, in the form of persecution. We have all heard the stories of Christians being burned alive as “Nero’s Torches,” illuminating the City of Rome. We have heard (and seen in movies, at least) Christians being thrown to the lions in the Great Coliseum. Today, – though mostly ignored by the Mainstream Media and the “mainline Protestant” denominations, the most vile and violent persecution of Christians is taking place in the Middle East at the hands of the Mohammedan – nothing short of genocide. Europe has been purged ideologically of Christianity and the United States is feeling the same evil wind blowing our way as the faith is publicly mocked and marginalized and in some cases attacked in court.

It all looks rather bleak for the faith…but it is not. The one things the Mohammedan, the secularist, the Cultural Marxist, and others have forgotten, as they gloat like ravenous jackels over wounded prey, is we are not alone in the fight, and ultimately the victory belongs to God and HIS people. The individual Christian might well perish – and as a martyr enter into glory – but the church, which is the body of Christ, is eternal and under God’s protection.

This protection is a certain and sure one because it is asked for by none other than Jesus.

“Holy Father, protect them in your name, that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

The individual might die but the church lives on and ultimately the church on earth will be triumphant. The church will be vindicated and avenged, when Christ returns in his glory, his enemies are destroyed and the nations made his footstool.

In the words of Martin Luther, “Were they take our house, goods, honor, child, or spouse, though life be wrenched away, they cannot win the day. The kingdom’s ours forever.”

Do not be discouraged. Pray and be of good cheer.

PRAY
Lord Jesus Christ, we trust in you to protect your Church. Helps us, your people, to remain faithful and joyful in the face of marginalization and persecution. Help us who can speak and act on behalf of our oppressed brothers and sisters to do so. By the power of your Holy Spirit, sustain and strengthen those who suffer for the faith.  AMEN.

Jesus Teaches and Calls us to Him

READ
Luke 24:13-35

REFLECT
Jesus has something to teach us, perhaps this is why it took him so long to reveal himself on the Road to Emmaus. All that Jesus wanted the two disciples in the story to know about him and what he wanted those at table to know about him was of utmost importance and it needed time to be told. Had Jesus revealed himself prematurely the revelation would have likely become a distraction for those he wanted to inform. Yet Jesus did reveal himself, and he chose to do so in the breaking of the bread.

Today’s Gospel account tells us two things: firstly, Jesus wants us to know about him. Secondly, Jesus is telling us where we can find him – where he is certain to be with us, without question. Thus, we are to study the Word and engage with him in prayer and we are to come to the table of the Lord regularly so that we might be in constant corporal and spiritual  communion with him.

So much for the idea that one can be a Christian and never engage with the Word, never pray, never attend worship, and never commune.

PRAY
Lord God, by the power of your Holy Spirit, keep us ever desiring to know more about you and about the precious gift that is Jesus Christ. Help us to seek you in Word, worship, prayer and the sacraments, increasing our faith and drawing us into closer relationship with you. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.

The Open Arms of God

READ
John 4:5-42

REFLECT
People often become “wrapped around the axle” so to speak, regarding the aspect of living water in this Gospel reading. They like to go into examples of being thirsty, the importance of water, “living water” as baptism, and what it means to thirst spiritually. While these are all valid points and should be considered there is the underlying message we often miss.

The fact that Jesus initiates a conversation with this unknown Samaritan, and a woman at that, shows there will be an in-gathering into the Kingdom of God. Jesus reaches out to those the established religious view said were not part of God’s people. Jesus says different. Jesus foretells this in-gathering when he says, “A time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.”

The same is true today. The Gospel message is for all, though be assured I am not saying all will be saved, for some will reject this gift. But it is still offered to all. No one is outside of the love of the Father, if he but repent and embrace what is being offered.

If God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, can offer such love to those who do not know Him, how much more will He love, forgive, and draw closer to Himself those who are of His fold.

PRAY
Lord God, I am often beset by doubts and fears: I fear that I cannot be forgiven; because of my falling to sin I doubt my faith. Help me to trust in you by the power of Your Holy Spirit. When Satan says I am a fake and I am not worthy of your love, when he assails me and causes me to question whether or not I even trust in you, be my protector causing the Devil to flee and help me to run into your loving arms. This I pray in Jesus name, AMEN.

Frederick the Failed Pharisee

READ
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

REFLECT
I have to admit it. I am a lousy Pharisee. I tried to be all holy once, to perfectly live so my outward behavior would be a representation of God’s ability to change the human heart. I failed at it and truth be told I continue to fail at it. I am not saying I do not want to live a Godly life, to keep Jesus commandments and to do good works – as the fruit of a new obedience to God. I do pretty good for a while then I do or say something – often say something in jest – and blow it all. Other times I let my emotions get the better of me.

Basically I stink in the Pharisee department. But maybe because I am lousy at it and know it I have a chance  of not really be one. Perhaps that is my saving grace. Were I better at keeping the outward appearance of a holy guy (all the while failing inside) I could become a “joy” to be around (not!). In the end I know I am a failure at being holy and so all I can do is rely on Jesus for my forgiveness. All I can do is have Jesus as my righteousness – as I have none of my own.

I know there are those who do not think I am “saved” or a plethora of other holy things (maybe even not much of a pastor) because of the failed and sinful flesh encasing the heart – a heart that wants to live for God. Oh well! All I can do is my best, which isn’t much. That is all anyone can do and ask for God’s help and forgiveness. We we have done all we can, cry out to Jesus, “I am a sinner. Save me.”

PRAY
Lord God, I try but I fail, miserably so. I want to live for you and be a shining example of your love in this world, but I am weak, prideful, thoughtless, self-centered, heartless, in a word “sinful.” By your grace in Jesus Christ, save me, for I cannot save myself and help me to live as you would have me live. AMEN.

Walking around with Ashes

READ
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

REFLECT
The Gospel message for Ash Wednesday is somewhat perplexing in the context of the usual way people observe this day. Perhaps the fashion has fallen out of favor, but when I was a kid it was not uncommon to see people walking about “wearing their ashes,” as Ash Wednesday services were at noon. In many places this is still the case, but wait! How does this square with Jesus telling us to “beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them”?

Does this mean that what we do as Christians should be hid from the world for fear of being like the hypocrites or the Pharisees? Are we never to tell anyone of what we have done for the Lord? Some would certainly say so, but I say No! Doesn’t Jesus tell us in Matthew 5 that a lamp is not lit and put under a basket but rather is put on a lamp stand in order to illuminate the whole house. He tells us that we are to let our light so shine (I say this includes our faith) before others so that they see our good works and give glory to God.

It is all about context. Walking around with ashes on your forehead once a year to show your piety is what Jesus is speaking against in Matthew 6 – showing up to church a few times a year to be seen like some washed-up actor appearing at the Oscar just to say, “Look at ME!”

Jesus wants us to live a life in him all year, exhibit faith and do good works, not for our glory but for God’s If you have been disconnected from the Body of Christ for sometime there is no better time than Lent to come home and begin living for God, rather than self.

PRAY

Heavenly Father, how foolish we are to think we can be Christian without being part of the body of Christ. How can an arm call itself part of the body without being part of the body. In its detached state it is useless; it will wither and die. By the power of Your Holy Spirit , spark new faith in those who have strayed, or have never believed, so they might live a life for You and for others. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.

Be Transfigured

READ
Matthew 17:1-9

REFLECT
Do you ever wonder what it was like to be Peter, James or John to see Jesus transfigured. It must have been amazing, not just amazing but awe-inspiring. Hearing God speak at the same time…. WOW!  These things just don’t happen everyday.

The closest thing I can imagine to the joy of seeing the transfiguration is the joy one gets when they see their child really happy. I get that joy when I see my wife overwhelmed by sparkly thing and rainbow unicorns (yes, she loves sparkly things and rainbow unicorns.)

For all the emphasis we put on the transfiguration of Jesus we might want to think about another miracle – the way Jesus transfigures us. Life in Christ is truly a transfiguration brought about not by what we do but by the work of the Holy Spirit – giver and perfector of our faith. Often, though, we work against the Spirit because we want things the sinful way we want them.

Rather than working against the Spirit why not submit and see what happens. It will be miraculous.

PRAY
Heavenly Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit, increase my faith in the Son, so that I might be transfigured as you would have me. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.

Tit for Tit… Not tit for TAT and yet another TAT and yet ANOTHER….

READ
Matthew 5:38-48

REFLECT
I am not sure anyone can read this bit of scripture as purely as Jesus intended it. We come to all scripture with a bias – as was said in the seminary, “we read though a ‘lens.’ I guess they meant a colored lens, rather than a magnifying lens as they were using this allusion to point out bias – and they should have known about bias. The profs had lots of them, but that is another story.

So I will tell you up front my bias: I do not believe Jesus expects you to be victimized by abusers and criminals. You are a precious creation of God and when someone does wrong to you without warrant they are violating the image of God in which you are made.

What I do believe Jesus is talking about is proportionality – basically don’t go “up side the head” of someone with a baseball bat because they insult you. The Old Testament scripture (Leviticus 24:19-21) plays this out. Justice is to be meted out kind for kind in proportion to the offence. God calls us not to do more than is proportionate as this would be revenge and that is the purview of God. This also causes our neighbor to seek revenge on us. It then becomes a never ending down-spiral leading to hate and more misery than the original offense.

Much trouble in life can be avoided if you just let some things go and not respond to them. This seems to be the underlying message here. Not everything has to be a fight and even in a fight you do not have to hate your enemy but love them enough to act proportionally and pray for their well-being. Is this not how God deals with us?

God had/has every right to “go upside” our heads with a cosmic baseball bat but because of His love he sent Jesus to take our punishment. Jesus took “the bat” for us so that we could be reconciled to God.

PRAY
Help us to turn the other cheek, not to let slights escalate into fights. Help us to love all around us, even our enemies and in times of conflict with them wish them well and do them the least harm. Likewise, we pray that our enemies will respond to love shown and turn to your in all things. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.