Category Archives: Devotional

In to Our Hands is Placed a Treasure

READ
Matthew 24:14-30

REFLECT

As Christians our Lord and master, Jesus Christ, has left us with a precious treasure. In our hands He placed not only His Gospel message; but also the commandments to love God and neighbor and the Great Commission. It is not only a duty but a privilege to be tasked with bringing forth and increase on behalf of God.

The Lord does not call us to bury what we have been give, in essence to keep it for ourselves. Rather, we are called to bring forth and increase for Him, for what we have been given is does not belong to us but has been give to us to hold in trust.

PRAY
Heavenly Father, help us to see that all we have is held in trust for you. All that we have been given comes from you. All our time, talent and possessions are to be used to your glory. The most important these things given in trust is the Gospel message of your son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Let us not bury this treasure but rather give us the courage to “invest” it in our fellow-man that he might come to know Christ and your glory may yield an increase. AMEN.

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Be Ready

READ
Matthew 25:1-13

REFLECT
Wouldn’t it nice if we had an advanced warning system for the return of Christ? But we don’t, regardless of what the Left Behind films, the associated hoopla and the erroneous theology that surrounds them have to say about the matter. This whole Rapture business with the Tribulation and Christ’s multiple returns is a relatively modern invention from the mid-19th century, which took off with the publication of the “Schofield Bible” in the early 1900s. This might be as shock to some but we Lutherans, along with the majority of the Christian Church, have never held with what is called “Pre-millennial Dispensation” – a big word for “Jesus is coming back so you better be ready, and if not you get a second chance cause He’ll be back again.”

What we know is this: Jesus will return and we have no idea when that will be. Says who?…well, Jesus, that’s who. Read Matthew 24:36-44. Jesus clearly states that not even He will know. Only the Father knows. This is why we need to be ready at all times.

We are called to be like the wise bridesmaids who awaited with readiness the return of the bridegroom. It is easy to think that Christ’s return will be at some future date or there will be enough warning so we can run out and get the “oil of righteousness” or do everything at the last minute. Sadly this will not be so. This is why it is incumbent upon us to live in accordance with the will of God, follow His commandments, pray, incorporate His word in our lives and above all trust in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. It is not something we can buy or earn and certainly not something we can buy or earn once the bridegroom has returned.

PRAY
Gracious and mighty God, we ask you to give us the wisdom of the wise bridesmaids so that we might seek your face while there is still time and not be like the foolish bridesmaids shunning your will and your way. Increase our faith in the only one who can save: Jesus Christ our Lord, AMEN.

Persecution is Not a Thing of the Past

READ
Matt. 25:35-40

REFLECT
We often speak about providing for the needs of others. The poor and the homeless come to mind. But what about the persecuted church? It is easy for us who sit in the midst of a comfortable life (and yes, despite what we might think at any given moment, we are pretty comfortable) to imagine that people suffering for their faith in Christ as something historical, something from the days of Rome. The fact is that Christians have been persecuted throughout history. Lately, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, Islamic terrorism and ISIS in Syria and Iraq have brought this sad state of things to the forefront again.

Crucifixion, beheading, being hunted down, discriminated against, robbed, beaten, raped, murdered, loss of life and home: these are very real things for many of our brothers and sisters worldwide and especially in the Middle-East. All over the world followers of Christ are in need as many have lost livelihood, home, possessions and have been driven from lands their families have occupied since the time the Son of God walked among us.

Persecuted Christians are in need firstly of our prayers but equally so of our support. They are hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, wounded and sick. They need us. As it says in the reading from Matthew, we are not only caring for our brothers and sisters when we support the persecuted church but we are also doing these things ‘to Christ” as well. Likewise if we do not provide for our needy fellow Christians, it is the same as not providing for Jesus himself.

In Luke 10, the Good Samaritan provides for the needs of a stranger without thought or concern for who the man was or from where he came. How then can we not provide for our own given that Christ commands us to do so? And how can we forget that, despite the distance between us, they are indeed our own?

Therefore I urge you to pray and find ways to support our brothers and sisters who suffer at the hands of the ungodly for their love of Christ.

PRAY
Father, we cry out to you for your persecuted children, for those who endure the worse for their faith in Your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Send your sustaining spirit to be with those who are in pain. May your spirit change the hearts of those who dwell in sin and evil – those who harass, torture and victimize. Move us by that same spirit to come to the aid of our brothers and sisters who suffer. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.

Life at the Airport or “Woe is Me… $7 sandwiches.”

READ
Matthew 22:34-46

REFLECT
If you ever want to put “love your neighbour” to the test, just visit an airport.

You know I love America (the real one behind the billboards) but I am often critical of the things that form the world’s opinion about the US and I am sure airports do a good job at that. It seems that everything in the US is designed to both suck every dollar out of your pocket or drain every bit of joy and brotherly love from your heart.

Case in point – air travel: crammed into an aluminium tube, no leg room, bad food (or $3 mini cans of Pringles) only to be deposited in a cattle pen called an airport – overpriced food, bad air, rude workers and low standards for comfort and convenience and all this at elevated prices.

It is easy to become grumpy and I have to admit I usually am when flying, at least inwardly. I try not to let it out on people around me. Why? Because in the end we are all in it together: my fellow passengers talking too loudly for me to sleep, the one holding forth in the middle of the seating area as though they were hired as guest speakers, the rude, pushy workers and invasive TSA agents. They are equally God’s children and my neighbours just trying to make a living and do what they are required to do, all the while putting up with grumpy people, who, if not outwardly grumpy, are certainly not sunny and bouncy.

Jesus words in Matthew 22 remind us, or should remind us, we are called to love our neighbour and not just when it is convenient to do so or just when we are feeling sunny and bouncy. Why? Because we are called to love our neighbours as ourselves. I am sure part of my grumpiness comes from a self-love that says, “Hey Frederick, you deserve better than this.” In the end it would be great if we all got something better than overpriced food, bad air, noise, discomfort and inconvenience.

Unfortunately for many people in this world the discomforts I/we face in the airport are a daily occurrence. For the poor food is always overpriced. For the homeless who “sleep out” discomfort is always a companion and there is never a shortage of rudeness in either thought or deed. How easy it is to turn down a request for help with a growling “NO” or toss off a “I work for my money,” or “Get a Job.”

So as we go through our daily lives this week and are hit with all these “hardships’ that test our patience let us remember there are many people in this world who cannot go home, make a sandwich, plop down in the easy chair and put it all behind them. If their hardships are going to be alleviated it is incumbent upon us to do it – to love our neighbour. As Christ alleviated our burden so too are we called to alleviate the burden of others.

And, oh yes, like in the airport: we should all try to be a little more patient and little nice to one another. The world would be a much better place.

PRAY
Merciful and gracious God, help me to have patience to see the blessings you give and the love and motivation to be a blessing to others. Help me to truly love my neighbour as myself. AMEN.

The Cornerstone of Humanity: Jesus Christ

READ
Matthew  21:33-46

REFLECT
How much do we take from God? I would say the answer is incalculable. He gave us a perfect paradise; we trash it. He gave us peace and love; we make war and hate. To save us from our sin and separation from Him, He gave us His Word to be our rule and guide for life but we ignore it and, worse yet, twist it to our own selfish will.

Many of the blessings God gives us are never even seen as blessings. He gives us opportunities to learn wisdom and all we can see is a difficult situation. He gives us the opportunity to increase in faith and all we see is God not coming to our immediate “rescue” and give us what we wanted. The list goes on and on.

God has sent many prophets to speak His Word. Many were rejected or killed. He sent John to call the world to repentance and he was rejected and eventually beheaded. Finally in the last days He came to us in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, and there were many who rejected Him and put him to death. But others did not.

Those who believe in the cornerstone that is Jesus Christ are called to build upon what has been laid down by God before the creation of the world. We are called to use the trowel of righteousness to cement the living stones (God’s people) into one holy edifice (His Church) with the mortar of love, guided always by the master’s hand.

PRAY
Merciful Father, we give you thanks that you sent your son to die for us, to redeem us, to reconcile us to you. Help us to keep faith with you and proclaim always the cornerstone that the builders rejected. Help us to be workers worthy of the name “Christian.” AMEN.

I don’t Wanna…

READ
Matthew 21:23-32

REFLECT
I am not sure if it is our American nature with its emphasis on individualism or if it just human nature in rebellion to God, but most of us really hate to be told what to do. I am a “good” or “bad” example of his depending on how you look at it. If I don’t agree with a law I follow it grudgingly and while I am no hardened criminal I have to admit to going over the speed limit or ignoring certain traffic signs now and again.

We treat God’s Word much the same way. We grudgingly keep commandments we would rather break and often break them outright. Perhaps we do so for the same reason I sometimes go over the speed limit – there is not immediate consequence unless a cop is hiding in the weeds.

Because God does not slap us on the wrist the moment we sin we somehow see his authority in the abstract. It is something we believe has no instant effect. In hindsight we often see this not to be true and often the cumulative effect is worse than a good whack on the hand would have been. Such is free will.

In this week’s gospel reading, Jesus reminds us about the authority of God vested in Him. He also reminds us that while we often break the law or obey it grudgingly we are not outside of the Father’s love. No matter where we are or how far we have strayed or disobeyed there is a wideness in God’s mercy and because of the authority given to Jesus, we have hope.

Like the son in the parable who said he would not go to work in the vineyard but relented, we too are counted as righteous when we refrain from our disobedience, turn to Christ and do the will of our Heavenly Father.

PRAY
Loving and gracious Father in Heaven, forgive my disobedience. Help me to respect your authority and do your will by the power of your Holy Spirit. AMEN.

Rejoice in the Good Fortune of Others

READ
Matthew 20:1-6

REFLECT
“That’s not fair!” “Fair play.” “Be fair.” How many times have you heard kids complain about something not being fair? How many times have you heard adults take about something not being fair. Gee, my coffee is even “fair trade.” So, we have a big emphasis in this world on fairness.

Sadly, fairness is not always fair. Past unfair situations are usually “remedied” by implementation of a current unfair situation, which lead the people on the losing end to be embittered and waiting for “their turn.

Why all this concern about fair and unfair? To be frank it is a manifestation of our sin. Usually those who scream loudest about something being unfair are those who want what the other guy has or are afraid someone else might get something they aren’t getting.

Take a look at this week’s gospel. The laborers who worked all day didn’t like the fact that those who worked only an hour received the same wages they did. They felt it unfair even though they received what the owner promised them for the work agreed upon. Rather than being happy that the others would be able to feed their families they griped and complained despite the fact that they lost nothing by the other people’s good fortune and the generosity of the owner.

Rather than looking at things in the light of fair/unfair we should look at things in the terms of righteousness/unrighteousness and justice/injustice. In this sense the workers who came late and those who worked all day received righteousness and justice and the arbitrary idea of fairness doesn’t enter into the picture.

In life, like the vineyard owner, God is perfectly righteous and just even if we do not always see it, dimmed as our eyes are with human imperfections and sin. Rather than being envious of what the other guy has (a form of covetousness) we should rejoice in his (or her) good fortune. By doing so we would be less likely to detest our own state in life and thereby be able to find greater joy.

PRAY
Generous and just Father, I thank you for all you have given me and all the blessings you have bestowed upon others. Help me to rejoice in the good fortune of others and be satisfied with what I receive through your gracious hand. AMEN.

Familiar but Never Worn Out

READ
John 3:13-17

REFLECT
Do remember the saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt”? It has been applied in many situation, especially as an admonition to “superiors” not to get too close with their subordinates. It is sort of funny how we will often give more respect to those we do not know than those we do.

Think about the word “cliché,” meaning a word or phrase that is so “overused” or perhaps a better was it so say “so familiar” that it has lost its uniqueness, its impact or its meaning. That is not to say that the meaning is not just as powerful or true as when the words were first uttered.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16 shows up everywhere: on t-shirts, bumper stickers, coffee mugs, tattooed on every conceivable body part, used as the basis for Christian doodads such as key-chains and necklaces. Some professional “wrassler” years ago made a mocking reference to it when he “defeated” an opponent who claimed to be a born-again Christian. So it is everywhere.

I ask you, what impact does John 3:16 have in your life? I am not talking about salvation, but rather what does it evoke in you? Do you hear it and just pass over it or do you fully grasp the enormity of it? Or, has it become such a “duh-yeah” moment, so matter-of-fact that it no longer gives you an “Praise-God” moment?

Like it or not, in this modern world, this scripture passage have been heard so much and the human heart (even that of many Christians) has become so indifferent that these words come dangerously close to being clichéd

If this is the case, stop for a moment and think of this: God, the Creator of all there is, the One who created your very life and who sustains your life, the One who has every reason to smite mankind for its rebellion chose rather to come to us in the form of his Son – His Word made flesh, Jesus. He lived among us, preached forgiveness, reconciled us with God and, taking our sin upon Himself, won salvation upon the cross. He took the nails and the stripes for us. He died and rose again FOR US. He died and rose again not only for those who believe but for all mankind: for those who crucified Him and those who mock Him and deny Him today.

In that light do the words of John 3:16 seem so trite? I hope not, for nothing about God is trite and nothing about the suffering of Christ for us is trite, clichéd, worn-out or hackneyed.

PRAY
Merciful God, I give you thanks for my salvation won by Christ on the cross at Calvary. I thank you for the gift of faith and the promise of eternal life with you. May I always live in awe and appreciation for what you have done for me. AMEN.

Sing a Joyous Song Daily

READ
Psalm 149

REFLECT
Faith in God is not simply about “getting saved,” “getting to heaven,” or “freedom from sin.” It is also about freedom from fear, which causes most of our misery.

A brother in Christ recently underwent rather extensive surgery. During his recovery he received great spiritual insight into how God abides with us and works all things for our good. As such, he found great joy in the midst of what could have been a very unpleasant experience. Later on he spoke of his joy and said, “There are times in our lives we are going to have sorrow but we don’t have to have misery.”

Like the Israelites, this man sings a new song of praise daily to God and is a witness to His graciousness in the Assembly of the faithful. He has received the crown of a humble spirit and is able to sing for joy wholeheartedly.

Yes, we will have hardships and problems in our lives. We will lose loved ones, become ill, age, have accidents and suffer other setbacks, but God does not abandon us. He gives us a spirit of happiness, free for the taking. He calls us to live joyous lives in the knowledge we are His – bought with the precious blood of Christ. He reminds us that we are not alone but in community with Him and the whole host of saints, united by the Holy Spirit.

PRAY
Gracious God, help me every day to see the joy of your love and help my spirit to sing a new song to you. AMEN.

Stumbling Blocks

READ
Matthew 16:21-28

REFLECT
How many times in your life have you been tempted to minister to someone or to “take up your cross” in some way and then for some reason thought about it again and didn’t do it? There are indeed a lot of things in this world that can cause us to decide not to act for the Kingdom of God…

In Matthew 16, Satan attempts to use Peter to throw a stumbling block before Jesus, to get him to reconsider going to Jerusalem to fulfill his destiny. While Satan is working through Peter Jesus is not fooled; he knows who is speaking and who is taking Peter’s eyes off the heavenly things and putting them on earthly concerns. When seen in this light, it makes sense when we read what seems like Jesus calling Peter “Satan”. Satan uses a lot of things in this world as stumbling blocks to keep us for fulfilling the Word of God and from dong God’s work in this world; he can even use well-meaning loving friends and family, just like he used Peter.

When you feel the Holy Spirit calling upon you to minister to someone, your best defense against the whisperings of Satan and the stumbling blocks he puts before is prayer. Call upon God and He will strengthen and guide you.

PRAY
Heavenly Father you have called me in baptism to by your child. Strengthen me now and every day of my life to do your will and to be hands and feet of Christ. Amen.