Category Archives: Devotional

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.

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Don’t Be a Dusty Bible

READ
Matthew 4:12-23

REFLECT
“Jesus Begins His Ministry.”

That is what the subtitle says in this section of the Gospel in my super-duper 500th Anniversary of the Reformation ESV Bible (with genuine leather cover and gold-leaf edging – thank you very much). It is truly a wonderful thing to behold – not quite an illuminated manuscript, but Hey! I didn’t have years to wait and didn’t have any unemployed monks handy.

Bottom line is the Word of God rest in nicely appointed covers with nice shiny edges on the pages. In Jesus, God’s Word found a far more beautiful home, for He was the Word Made Flesh – the eternal Word of God, truly God and truly man and much more fantastic than my anniversary edition of the Bible. Why? Because Jesus didn’t keep the Word contained. That is what ministry was all about – making God’s Word known to those who so desperately need to hear it. This is what Jesus calls us to do.

We can either be like my Bible and keep the Word locked up within us or we can be like Jesus and preach that Word to the world that needs it. That is what ministry is all about, at the end of the day. Feeding, clothing, paying rent, giving food vouchers, whatever it might be are all nice things but are part of something bigger: Making God’s Word Known.

So go be like Jesus and not like my super-duper 500th Anniversary of the Reformation ESV Bible (with genuine leather cover and gold-leaf edging). By itself that Bible could just lie on the table and gather dust. Jesus on the other hand didn’t sit around gathering dust.

Be like Jesus.

PRAY
Your Word tell us that, “In the Beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” By the power of your Holy Spirit, O God, help us to be proclaimers and doers of Your Word, rather than dusty containers upon a shelf. This I pray in Jesus’ name – AMEN.

Call and Response

READ
John 1:29-42

REFLECT
In music there is something called “Call and Response.” It is a succession of distinct musical phrases played by two different musicians or sung by two different singers. As you would imagine the second phrase is a direct response to the first. Have you ever heard of it? Have you ever heard it? I bet you have and never knew it. Anyone who has ever been in the military has sung a call and response. Remember this one:

“Hey, Hey Captain Jack
Meet me down by the railroad track”

Yup, that is “Call and Response.” It also common in popular music. Remember the Banana Boat Song?

“Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home
Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home”

In the church we also use “Call and Response” in both prayers and music. When a church sings the Psalm antiphonaly it is using “Call and Response.”

In our relationship with God there is likewise “Call and Response.” In this week’s Gospel John proclaims Jesus as the Lamb of God, but if we look at what is happening – not only in the Gospel but in the Old Testament reading (Isaiah 49:1-7) and in the Epistle (1 Cor. 1:1-9). Isaiah is called and likewise Paul. In the Gospel reading the first disciples are called to Jesus by what they have witnessed.

It is not enough to know who Jesus is – not enough to know that He is the Lamb of God. He is calling you to be His disciple – His Call, your Response. The question is will you answer the call or will the beautiful song of God that is His offer of a relationship and salvation have no response from you.

PRAY
Heavenly Father, you call us to greater things than we can ever imagine. You have given us so much in the person of your Son Jesus Christ. Help us by your Holy Spirit to join in the song of new life, service, salvation and eternal life in Jesus – AMEN.

Lead By Example

READ
Matthew 3:13-17

REFLECT
The best leaders lead from the front. The worst lead from the rear. That is sort of sarcastic but makes a good point – you cannot lead from the rear and if you are in the back and think you are lead think again. You have to be out front – that is why they call it “leading” and not “pushing.”

The best leaders we have when I was in the Army where the officers and N.C.Os who where not afraid to get their hands dirty, the ones who suffered the cold, the wet, the heat – all of it.

In this Gospel account from Matthew Jesus is not afraid to get his hands dirty – so to speak – to show that He too is subject to the will of God, even though he needed not baptism for either repentance or to be made a child of God. He did it as an example of humility. This is the same humility we are called to exhibit.

PRAY
God of all mercy, come to us by the power of your Holy Spirit that we might be as humble as Jesus in all that we do. Empower us to have fellowship with all your people and forgive us when we hold ourselves above and before others. In Jesus’ name I pray – AMEN.

Proclaim Salvation!

READ
Luke 2:15-21, Luke 22:22-32

REFLECT
It is funny how people like to use words to obfuscate, to skirt around things they not like. Take this upcoming Sunday – what some like to call the “Naming of Jesus.” Pretty bland is it not? It says really little about Jesus we do not already know.

We already know he is “Emmanuel – God with Us” and Jesus or Joshua in the Hebrew means, “He saves.” Both of these names tell us who Jesus is and what he will do: God will be with us and will redeem us through His Son.

This coming Sunday was traditionally known as the “The Feast of the Circumcision of Christ.” It is a shame we downplay this in favor of the naming. Perhaps for certain segments of the church Jesus’ circumcision is “too male” and  an uncomfortable reaffirmation of Jesus masculinity.

Focusing on the circumcision has significance: it is the first instance of Jesus’ precious blood being shed. The shedding of this blood tells us two things – firstly, Jesus is fully human – affirming that Jesus is “with us” in all aspects. He fully shares our humanity. Secondly, he is (at this point through the faithfulness of his parents) obedient to the Law and the will of God.

Of equal significance and something left out of the lectionary reading for this Sunday is the witness of Simeon and his subsequent song:

“Lord, now you are letting your servant[a] depart in peace,
    according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
    that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

Simeon affirms the salvific mission of Jesus and his messianic personage. Additionally, his proclamation does not limit the redemption Jesus will bring, for he is “a light for revelation to the Gentiles.” The knowledge of God and salvation are available to all and through this salvation God will be glorified.

PRAY
Gracious and Merciful God, we give you thanks for the salvation you have brought to the whole world through your Son Jesus. We know that some will reject this gift, yet we also know we are to extend this gift to all. Help us to be givers of your Word and help us to be like Simeon so that we might boldly proclaim salvation in Jesus name – AMEN.

Give the Gift of God’s Word

READ
John 1:1-14, Isaiah 52:7-10

REFLECT
What is Christmas all about? I am not going to get down on the whole secular Christmas deal. I love trees, lights and jingle bells as much as the next guy – so I am not going there. So the question I ask what is Christmas about? It’s Jesus birthday comes to mind. It is a time of peace. Christmas is about giving, about family. There are probably a lot we can say Christmas is about.

Ultimately Christmas is about the Word of God. That is what Jesus is: the Word of God incarnate – that is “in-the-flesh.” The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” John says.

Okay. Fine, well, and good. But what then. Well, we know that God sent his son to save us from sin, death, and the devil by His precious blood upon the cross, but what then? What do we do with the Word – not just this Word made flesh, but subsequently the written Word of God – Holy Scripture.

Isaiah tells give us an answer.

“How beautiful upon the mountains
    are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
    who announces salvation,
    who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

We often think about what we can get or what we got because of Christmas. We think of salvation (or maybe some choice Christmas presents). Isaiah refocuses us to what we are to do and not what we get. Isaiah tells us that the righteous, the blessed, the ones pleasing to God are those who bring His Good News. Jesus is the Good News and we are called to announce Him and His peace, His Good News and His Salvation, which is for us.

So this Christmas give the gift of God’s Word and continue to do this throughout the year.

PRAY
Heavenly Father help us to bring the message of peace, Good News, and salvation to all those with whom we come in contact, the same we you brought us the these things in the person of Your Son. This we pray in Jesus name. AMEN.

Sometimes it’s “Right” to be “Wrong”

READ
Matthew 1:18-25

REFLECT
People love being right. It is only natural. Even the most good-hearted person doesn’t like to be wrong – though the good-hearted person might give up being right for the sake of others. Some years ago I read a book entitled, “As a Gentleman Would Say.” It advised that it is often better to relinquish being right and save ones honor and that of others than to press one’s “right” to the detriment of all.

I think one could say that Joseph was truly a gentleman – not in the phony Victorian way based on birth but rather based on character. Joseph could have had Mary put to death, but even before the dream that assured Joseph of Mary’s purity, he chose to do the honorable and kind thing toward her.

Too often in this world people will fight to the death when they are right (or think they are) and often for the most mundane things. Bottom line is you need to – “Know when to hold ’em; know when to fold ’em.” You pick your battles. You don’t always have to be right. Sometimes the “right” thing to do is give the other person the privilege of being right even when you know they are wrong.

Joseph could easily have exercised his right to be right and saved his honor by publicly denouncing Mary for what he believed to be her infidelity. No one would have disputed it or faulted him for it. Yet, he chose not to do what was right and acceptable in the society, choosing rather to do what was right, even though to some it might have looked like the wrong things to do.

PRAY
Heavenly Father, help me to be gracious in all things, to do the right thing always, to think of others before myself, as Jesus thought of others when he gave his life to redeem us. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.

Are You a “Reed” in “Soft Robes.”

READ
Matthew 11:2-11

REFLECT
Kindness, gentleness, compassion and so forth are really great virtues. Spinelessness is not.

Western Christianity is plagued with spineless men – sadly many of them (largely in Mainstream Protestantism) are touted as church leaders. You know the sort: men who speak in breathy, emotive tones, who cry for everyone, and who will embrace any harebrained theology that comes down the pike – so long as it is not judgmental, exclusive or… Biblically based. Lest anyone think I am sexist there is plenty of spinelessness if Mainline Protestantism, in which the ladies indulge. Spinelessness (and folly) is – if nothing else – egalitarian.

Oh how I long for the day of learned churchmen like Luther, who were not afraid to call a “spade a spade” or the pope an ass, men who were not afraid to stand up for God, to proclaim Jesus Christ as savior and the only way to God, men who would not equivocate and would publicly proclaim that outside of Christ there is no salvation and no matter how “nice” you are you are damned to eternal Hell, unless you believe that Jesus died for your sins.

Much of the mess Western Christianity finds itself in does not stem from being too dogmatic, but rather from the fact that too many modern leaders were/are not dogmatic enough – they stood for little, if anything. They proclaimed nothing of value.

Jesus speaking of John gives us an idea of what people must have been saying – the misgivings they must have been having about this “wild man.” Perhaps he was too opinionated, too emphatic, too rigid, unbending in his certainty regarding the Word of God and His promise of a Messiah?

“What did you go out into the wilderness to look at,” Jesus says. “A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in the royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.”

John was a man who stood tall and unbending against the wind of conformity. He endured hardship, rather than embracing softness. This is what Jesus calls us to be – not just men but women as well. Stand up, be counted and regarding the things of God be as inflexible as John

PRAY
Mighty Lord, make me an oak rather than a reed. Help me to stand up for you and your Word and be counted among your saints who strive for your Kingdom rather than those people who keep company with the spineless who sway to and fro and who are blow like leaves along the ground – captive to the winds of the moment. In Jesus name I pray. AMEN.

Be the Outsider

READ
Matthew 3:1-12

REFLECT
Society doesn’t take very kindly to outsiders. Society would like you to conform to whatever it is that a particular society wants you to be – what it deems good and right. This is very dangerous, not only to the body but to the spirit and especially the soul.

Recently the foul and evil dictator Fidel Castro (darling of the American Left) died. I am sure (short of some miraculous conversation) he will roast in Hell. May God forgive me, but I have to say, “couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.” He and his ilk were/are all about making people conform and they went/will go to the most drastic and draconian measures to do so. Why? Because systems opposed to God and His will do whatever they can to remain in power. In essence the state becomes God and all must bow down before it.

Outsiders are important. Many of our great churchmen could be called outsiders: Martin Luther would rather conform to the Word of God rather than the concoctions of Rome, Dietrich Bonhoeffer chose to conform to Word of God rather than the religion of Nazism. Both men proclaimed greater truths than those being proclaimed by those who defined society for the masses. Notice that both of these men and other were not anarchists, iconoclasts or ideological non-conformists. The chose to conform to the greater thing.

John the Baptist was an outsider, figuratively and literally; in his dress, his habitation and his proclamation of God’s Word. John chose to conform to the Word of God  and proclaim the coming messiah rather than conforming to the society and its dominant religious view.

In a world that is increasingly becoming homogenized, pre-packaged and auto-tuned; in a world that presses people to conform to its vapid and vacuous humanism be the outsider. As Saint Paul says in Romans 12:2, “ Do not be conformed to this world,  but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect”

PRAY
O God, by the power of your Holy Spirit, strengthen me to put off the things of this world and take upon myself those things you would have me do and desire. In the world that rejects you help me to be the outsider who proclaims you boldly. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.

 

Remembered, Known, Loved

READ
Luke 23:33-43

REFLECT
It is nice to be remembered. Who has not felt really bad when their birthday has been forgotten? Who has felt really good when someone you haven’t seen for years remembers your face and name when passing on the street?

No one wants to be forgotten, which is probably why we have tombstones and monuments and other such things. This probably why we name things after people – not just to honor them but so who they were and what they did can be remembered.

The thief on the cross wanted Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom so that he might be with him (lot of pronouns there – but you get the idea). This is good. But what is even better is this: Jesus remembers His faithful not just in His Kingdom, not at some latter time when the Kingdom is fully realized. No matter where you are or what you have going on in your life Jesus remembers you now. He knows you now. He is with you now.

Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. As such the Word of God was with God in the beginning and through Him all things that were made were made through him. From the beginning to the end you are known and remembered and most importantly loved.

 

PRAY
Lord Jesus, I give thanks you know me and that you are my king. Keep me steadfast in your way so that I might realized, at last, eternal life and joy with You in Your kingdom and be with me all the days of my life from now until then AMEN.