Verse of the Week

Verse of the Week:
"God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins." (Acts 5:31 ESV)

Saturday, July 08, 2017

July 10-18, 2017

Hello,

Thank you for using this blog for your devotions!

I'm taking this week off, but will post new content starting July 19. If there is opportunity through the week to post, I will. In the mean time, feel free to peruse some of the older posts on the site.

The readings for next Sunday, July 16, are:
Monday: Isaiah 55:10-13
Tuesday: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Wednesday: Psalm 65:9-13
Thursday: Romans 8:12-17
Friday: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. Take some time to pray about themes in the week's readings.

Thank you, again, for using this blog. I pray that it is a blessing to you. And if it is a blessing to you, if you wouldn't mind sharing it with a friend, or posting a link on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever social media you use, I'd really appreciate it.

God bless you!

July 7, 2017

Scripture: Matthew 11:25–30

Having had this reading earlier in the week, please resist the temptation to skim it over (although if you have time for nothing more, please skim!) and take your devotion time to re-read the Gospel lesson slowly.

Pray for the Holy Spirit to teach you as you read the Scripture lesson, and ask him to teach you to pray, opening your heart and mind to pray according to God’s will.

Prayer

On Fridays you will be encouraged to pray for a variety of prayer requests. The hope is that through these prayer requests we will, obviously, intercede for those who need prayer, and that we will learn to think more broadly in our prayers. If time is short, you could simply pray the Lord’s Prayer.

Pray for pastors who are preparing to preach that they would speak God’s Word in truth and purity, and that they would do so with skill and clarity.
Pray for congregations who are preparing for worship on Sunday that God’s Word would be heard in them, that they would be comforted in Jesus’ forgiveness, strengthened in faith, and emboldened to share the hope they have in Christ with their neighbors.
Pray prayers of thanks for God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Pray to love God’s Law, to understand it, to obey it, and to see it as a good gift from God.
Pray to not become confused about God’s Law so that we somehow think that our relationship with God is based on our performance instead of Jesus’ sacrifice.
Pray for God’s salvation to come to all people through faith in Jesus.
Pray for those who are heavy laden, that by faith in Jesus they might find rest for their souls.
Pray for those who grieve that they may be comforted by the hope of Jesus’ resurrection and the promise of God’s new creation.
Pray for the leaders of the various governments of the world that they would govern justly and strive for peace so that their people may prosper. Pray especially for your president, governor, and mayor.
Pray for churches to use their facilities and ministries wisely and in ways that help people experience the Gospel.
 Pray for God’s people to embrace and grow in God’s mission both within the congregation and in our personal lives.
Pray for farmers and the food industry to provide sufficient and healthy food for all people.
Pray the Lord’s Prayer. 

Friday, July 07, 2017

June 6, 2017

Scripture: Romans 7:14–25a

As Paul works through his letter to the Romans he describes the work of God’s Law and Gospel in the life of the believer. The end of chapter 7 is a powerful description of the brokenness of human nature and the frustrating struggle between the sinful nature and the new godly life that is in the Christian through Christ. This is a sober description of the Christian walk as we forgiven sinners begin to love God’s Law and seek to obey it and find our old sinful nature undermining us. The futility of our struggle drives us back to Jesus, the one who saves us from our sin, including our sinful nature.

Teaching

There is a false belief that is held by many Christians. That false belief is that people are naturally good. That belief, however, does not match up with the teachings of the Bible. Romans 7 beautifully records Paul’s dealing with his own flesh. This is no mere personal experience. He is holding forth his experience as a description for all people’s experience of sin and the Law. He senses his complete inability to do God’s will and therefore throws himself on God’s mercy, crying out “Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus our Lord!”

The Formula of Concord, examining Free Will, describes the human condition citing Romans 7. It says, “[T]he human being who is not reborn resists God completely and is totally the slave of sin. The reborn, however, desire to practice God’s law according to their inward self, but see at the same time in their members the law of sin, which resists the law of their mind. Therefore, they serve God’s law with their mind but the law of sin with their flesh.”[1] We are constantly in conflict, torn between slavery to sin and the freedom to obey God.

Life

Have you ever known you shouldn’t do something, but you did it anyway? Or have you known you should, and then didn’t? That sensation of knowing one thing and doing another is what Paul is talking about. We know God’s Law is good and we should obey it. Too often, however, we just do what we want despite the Law’s teaching. Such is our sinful state!

What should we do when we find that struggle within us? We trust in Jesus for forgiveness and salvation. We cling to God’s promises that his Spirit is in us. We confess our sins and receive absolution. We keep struggling. What is key here is why we keep struggling. It is not so that we can please God or add to our salvation. It is because we are redeemed. God has made us new, and we long to live according to his good will for us as his forgiven people.

Prayer

O God, you know how we struggle with our sinful nature. Because you have redeemed us and made us your people we love your Law, at the same time we are sinners who break your Law and disobey you. Thank you for Jesus’ sacrifice and forgiveness. Thank you for your patient grace which moves you to forgive us over and over again for Jesus’ sake. We know our brokenness. We feel the constant temptation of our sinful nature. Help us to live in your forgiveness and overcome the temptations of the flesh by you Holy Spirit within us. Amen.



[1] Kolb/Wengert, Book of Concord, Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article II, 85

Thursday, July 06, 2017

July 5, 2017

Scripture: Psalm 145:1–14

Psalm 145 is a Song, and is the only psalm labeled as a song. It is also an acrostic, the first word of each verse organized alphabetically (although it leaves out one letter for some reason). The part of the psalm appointed for our reading praises God, talks about sharing God’s Word between generations, then speaks of God’s grace and goodness, and returns to the theme of sharing God’s Word so that people may know him. While the psalm certainly leads us into praise, it also causes us to meditate on how necessary it is to speak God’s Word in our time so the next generation – and, really, any person – might believe in God and in his chosen savior, Jesus Christ. We not only meditate on the importance of God’s Word, but we join in speaking that Word that makes God’s works of salvation known.

Teaching

To meditate, in the biblical sense, is a simple and natural task. It is simply letting our mind settle on a subject and letting that subject fill it. In a sense it is like worrying, day dreaming about a date, or reminiscing about a fond childhood memory. In meditation, however, the subject of our thoughts is God’s Word, identified in Psalm 145 as his works, his acts, and even God himself, his splendor, graciousness, and steadfast love.

The psalm also meditates on the way that one generation commends God’s works to another. This is essential to how the faith we hold spreads. One person tells another person about what God has done. In the psalm’s context they would have spoken of the blessing of Abraham, rescue from slavery in Egypt, the giving of the Promised Land, and other things God did to save and bless his people. In our time we speak of God’s ultimate deed of salvation; that he gave his only begotten Son to die for our sins and he raised him to give us everlasting life. The only way for our children, grandchildren, or, indeed, anyone to know about God’s works of salvation is for them to be told – by reading another’s writing (like the Scriptures) or from our lips to their ears.

Life

Spend some time meditating today. Let you mind relax and think about God’s works and deeds of salvation. Think on the large cosmic level of salvation for all humanity, but also think about how that salvation has come to you. Where have you experienced God’s mercy? His forgiveness? Where have you observed the “glorious splendor” of God’s kingdom? Who told you about Jesus? Who are the people God used to make himself known to you? Was it your parents? Grandparents? Sunday School teachers? A pastor? A friend? A book? What will you do with what God has revealed to you? Who might you share him with?

Prayer


Use Psalm 145:1-14 to guide your prayer today. Pray that the Holy Spirit would help you to meditate on God’s Word, how God’s Word is spread, who spread it to you, and who God might use you to spread it to. Pray prayers of thanks for those God used to share his gracious work of salvation with you. Pray for those who might learn of Jesus through you, and pray for the Spirit to help you know what to say and when to say it so that they might hear of God’s works and deeds. 

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

July 4, 2017

Scripture: Matthew 11:25–30

One of the challenges of setting up the readings for the Church Year is that the first half of the year seeks to tell the story of Jesus’ life and his work to bring salvation to sinners and the second half of the year draws our attention to Jesus’ teaching. This means that there is some jumping around as we read through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the first half of the year, while the second half of the year tends to run in order … sort of. Sometimes we come to parts of the gospel we have already read. For instance, we read Matthew 11:2-15 back on the Third Sunday of Advent. Parallels to the rest of this chapter are read from Mark or Luke in other years. So we moved directly from the end of Matthew 10 to Matthew 11:25-30 in which Jesus describes faith, how we come to know God in him, and the life of faith. We should notice that Jesus rejects the notion that human reason can understand God’s will, identifies himself as the only way to know God, and offers us rest using an image of work.

Teaching

Jesus begins this section with a prayer thanking God that he has hidden, “these things,” from the wise and understanding. The “these things” referred to here are all of Jesus’ deeds associated with winning salvation for sinners. This is a challenging thing for our society. Recently the TED Radio Hour posted a show on the Seven Deadly Sins, in which most of the traditional deadly sins were explored and found by science to not be sins at all. This is reflective of humanity’s wisdom always seeking to exert itself over God and his Word. Human wisdom cannot grasp God’s will in its fullness and often seeks to overturn it. It is only by faith that we begin to see the wisdom of God in his Word. This is especially case in regard to the Gospel and the way Jesus saved us from our sins.

Another challenging idea in this reading is that no one can know God (the Father) apart from Jesus (the Son). Our culture often tries to make all religions equal. The Coexist bumper stickers are an example of this. While Christians would and should certainly approve of the idea of living at peace with others, loving our neighbors as ourselves, the subtle message of these stickers and those who sell them is that all of the religions symbolized on the sticker are equally valid and equally able to help us to know God. In a world that abhors exclusive claims to God, Jesus claims to be the exclusive way to know God.

Life

Part of the problem with both of the worldly views described above is that they leave people with no peace or rest. When God’s Word is not authoritative we are constantly guided by the whim of public opinion and subjective moralities for how we should live. If all religions are equal how can we know how to live when different religious texts disagree with one another? Jesus gives us a solid foundation to live from, and that foundation is his forgiveness for our sins. He shows us who we are apart from him, and gives us the forgiveness that reconciles us with God which allows us to rest knowing that he has taken care of everything for us.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you reveal the Father and his glorious will to redeem us through your death and resurrection. Thank you for showing us the truth and saving us from our sins. Forgive us for putting our ideas over your Word and thinking that other faiths can be equal to yours. Fill us with your Spirit and help us know and love your Word of Truth. Amen. 

Monday, July 03, 2017

June 2, 2017 - 4th Sunday After Pentecost

Finding Life or Losing It

Listen here

            When we talk about becoming a Christian there are certain benefits to believing in Jesus that we usually mention. Probably the most common and most important is forgiveness. Jesus died for me and all my sins are forgiven. We might talk about heaven or eternal life. Some people talk about purpose, a reason to live, their lives going from brokenness to healing. Some mention a sense of stability, a foundation, or even clarity in the priorities that guide their lives.
            Do you know what people don’t usually talk about when they talk about the benefits of believing in Jesus? Conflict. You know what else? Persecution.
            But did Jesus say that conflict and persecution would be part of our lives if we follow him and become his disciples? Yeah. Yeah, he did.
            And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I like conflict. I don’t usually shy away from it, but I don’t go looking for it either! And persecution, I’d rather avoid all together having had only the smallest taste of it. But it wouldn’t be right for me to stand up here and preach, “If you follow Jesus your life is going to be awesome and nothing bad is ever going to happen to you.”
            This idea is especially hard for us here in America. We live in a land with lots of freedom. We live in a land that does not establish a particular religion for people to follow, but our religion has had a rather favored status. Most of us can probably remember when we thought it was weird when someone said that they didn’t go to church.
            We have lived in a blessed time and in a blessed country. I have to tell you though, that that era of comfort and favor is at an end. We still have some of it here in Hudson, Stow, and Twinsburg. There is a bit of that small town America about us still. But when I talk to my friends on the coasts … their experience is a bit different than ours.
            So Jesus says to us today, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” And, “I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Now, to be clear, is Jesus advocating violence? No. As we read the whole of Jesus’ teaching violence is not part of his plan. He’s saying that when we follow him there will be conflict in our lives – conflict that comes to us because we believe in him, because we share his Word, and because the world and people in the world do not believe in him and they hate his Word (when they’re not ignoring it).
            Let me put it to you this way, salvation is a free gift from God. It costs you nothing. Jesus gladly paid the price for your sin by dying on the cross for you purely because he loves you. Salvation cost him everything, but it cost you nothing. But when we live our lives following Jesus, when we are formed by his teaching and we live according to his Word; eventually following Jesus will cost us something. It might be a friendship. It could be relationship with someone you love. It could be a job. It could be your reputation. It could be any number of things that we turn away from out of love and gratitude to Jesus. And, yes, in some parts of the world, the cost for following Jesus can be their lives.
            Jesus says, “Whoever loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” What do you think he would say about loving our jobs more than him? Loving our comfort more than him? Loving our freedom more than him? Loving our yards, our homes, our favorite baseball teams, our prestige, our intellect, our degrees, our preferences … more than him?
            Jesus says, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Isn’t it strange how we approach the cross? We see it in jewelry, people have it as a tattoo, and we hang them in our homes. They’re decorative in our culture. But in Jesus’ culture, they had seen real crosses. The Romans used them not just for capital punishment, but also for intimidation. They had seen the suffering, the blood, the tears, and the death associated with crosses. And sometimes following Jesus can feel a little bit like death. It can feel a little bit like death when our sinful heart wants one thing, but we know that God says that one thing is sin. It can feel a little bit like death when all our friends are saying this is good, this is fun, this doesn’t hurt anyone, come join us, and in your heart you hear God’s Word whispering this is wickedness, this is sin, the wages of sin is death, God says flee from immorality, to not gratify the flesh, and to not give in to the ways of the world. It can feel a little bit like death when, to get the promotion, to get the attention of that guy you like, to live the lifestyle you want to live you have to compromise, you have to do things God’s Word says are wrong, and you have to love these things more than Jesus, more than his Word, more than his will for your life.  
            Man! Who can possibly be worthy of Jesus if this is the standard he’s going to hold us to? No one. And that is part of his point. We are not worthy. That’s why he has to be the one who takes up his cross, to walk the path we are unable to walk, to take our unworthiness upon himself, and to give us his worthiness by grace through faith.
            Now, did I just say that we shouldn’t strive to live a life worthy of our Lord Jesus? No. We strive to live following Jesus, because he’s the one who gave us this life, redeemed us for this life, and calls us to forgiveness and to follow him.
            And so Jesus says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” If you find your life in the things of this world – you will lose it. If you live for pleasure, for status, for your job, for your team, or even for your family you will lose it all. I don’t mean that in some kind of dramatic God’s-gonna-rip-it-away-from-you-in-judgement sense. But the reality is nothing in this world lasts forever. Money is made and lost. Pleasure comes and goes. Jobs end. People die. Including you and me. When we live for this world – when we find our life, our meaning, our reason for existence here and now we will lose it all. That’s just the way it is. As the old saying goes, “You can’t take it with you.”
            However (however!) whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find life. And, yes, that means dying for the faith, but it also means dying to self, dying to our priorities, dying to our wants, losing this life … which we’re going to lose anyway … and receiving the eternal life Jesus has won for us. Recognizing that while our flesh desires to live for the world, Jesus has given us a new spiritual life that lives in the world, but with God’s priorities. And that new spiritual life leads not to death – although our bodies will die! – it leads to resurrection, to new, holy bodies, everlasting life, and the glories of being a new creation in Christ.

            Will living for Christ bring conflict to your life? Yep. Is it worth it to follow Jesus if that’s the case? Is it worth it to take up our crosses to follow him? Well, is it worth it to lose your life … which you’re going to lose anyway … and to receive eternal life from the one who died and rose to forgive your sins and give you eternal life as a free gift? 

July 3, 2017

5th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9

Scripture: Zechariah 9:9–12

During the second half of the church year the Old Testament reading reinforces the message of the Gospel lesson. Today’s reading is often associated with Palm Sunday, yet we should notice that it also speaks of joy, peace, release, hope and restoration from God for his people. We receive good news in this reading as it proclaims to us that God comes to save his people and that the conflict and struggle we experience in this life will be replaced with God’s peace.

Teaching

As stated above, this lesson is often associated with Palm Sunday because it speaks of the king coming “on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey,” and that is precisely what Jesus did when he entered Jerusalem the week of his crucifixion. Jesus shows that his kingship is different from the world’s kings’ reigns. He is the one who rules over all things. If anyone has the right to come with pomp it is Jesus, nevertheless he entered Jerusalem in humility. This king comes not for war or power, but having power he comes to give peace and restoration.

Life

The image of the waterless pit is one of utter hopelessness. It is the sensation of utter abandonment and weakness. Have you ever experienced such a feeling? It is, in fact, exactly where our sin leaves us. It tells us that we are unforgiveable and that God has abandoned us. In truth, we are helpless on our own. But God speaks great comfort to us in the midst of our sense of abandonment: “Your king is coming!” He comes gently, not to punish you, but to save you.

Having been saved we return to our stronghold of hope. Remember that sin seeks to cut us off from God, the one who defends and provides for us. Thus we identify God himself as our stronghold of hope. We are set free from the waterless pit so we can return to God and live in the hope of his forgiveness and salvation. Now when we are tempted we can turn to God and his Word to defend us. We can call upon him in prayer for relief and rescue. He will answer us and give us peace.

Prayer

Instruction, Thanksgiving, Confession, Petition

O God, you sent Jesus to come to us as our gentle and humble king. He is the Righteous One who brings us salvation from our sins, release from our waterless pit, and peace with you. Thank you for such a kind and loving king who would give his very life to save us! Forgive us for our sins of rebellion against you and our king. Strengthen our faith so that when we are tempted to sin that we would return to you as our stronghold against sin. Fill us with hope so that we would follow our king and live under his blessed reign. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

June 30, 2017

Scripture: Matthew 10:34–42

Having had this reading earlier in the week, please resist the temptation to skim it over (although if you have time for nothing more, please skim!) and take your devotion time to re-read the Gospel lesson slowly.

Pray for the Holy Spirit to teach you as you read the Scripture lesson, and ask him to teach you to pray, opening your heart and mind to pray according to God’s will.

Prayer

On Fridays you will be encouraged to pray for a variety of prayer requests. The hope is that through these prayer requests we will, obviously, intercede for those who need prayer, and that we will learn to think more broadly in our prayers. If time is short, you could simply pray the Lord’s Prayer.

Pray for those who find themselves sharing God’s Word with those who don’t want to hear it, that their witness be both faithful and winsome.
Pray for those who suffer for their Christian faith, that God comfort them, provide for them in their times of need, and that their faith in and testimony about Jesus would be strong.
Pray for those who speak falsehoods as they claim to speak God’s Word and for those who teach false doctrine, that God would silence them and that he would lead them to repentance, true faith, and love for his Word.
Pray for those who have conflict in their family because some believe in Jesus and some do not. Help the believers to be patient, faithful, and confident in God’s salvation, and that their witness would be heard and believed by their unbelieving family members.
Pray that all Christians would take up their cross to follow Jesus, loving their Lord more than the pleasures of this world or even their own lives.
Pray that we would willing lose all thing for Jesus’ sake and take hold of the everlasting life he has given us.
Pray for those who receive, assist, and shelter God’s people to aid them in ministry that they be blessed and have joy in serving God by serving his people.
Pray for a deeper appreciation of God’s Law and Gospel, sin and grace, and the importance of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross for us.
Pray that we would lead holy lives, bearing fruit for God.
Pray for the sick, the mentally ill, they dying, and all who need God’s aid.
Pray the Lord’s Prayer. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

June 29, 2017

Scripture: Romans 7:1–13

We are working our way through Romans for most of the Time of the Church this year. As you read Romans, note that the first eight chapters delve into the doctrine of justification and uses various analogies to examine how Jesus has redeemed us and set us right with God. This lesson compares the freeing from sin and restoration to God with a woman who is widowed and remarries. The reading reminds us that we have died in Jesus’ death and our former tie to sin is now dissolved setting us free from sin to follow Christ.

Teaching

The law is only binding on a person as long as he or she lives. This is a very important statement because it builds on the significance of the statement in Romans 6:3-4 that we are baptized into Christ’s death and buried with him. Our situation in relationship to the law has changed. At one time our sin had bound us to break the law and live under its consequences. But now, in Christ, we have died which sets us free from sin’s bondage, so that now the law becomes something we love as it teaches us to bear fruit for God.

The law on its own cannot free us from sin. The gospel that proclaims that we are dead and buried in Christ-crucified is the only thing that can do that important work, making Jesus’ death our death in regard to sin. As it is, in our sinful nature, the law makes demands on us that we cannot keep and drives us to despair of our own ability to appease God’s wrath – that is, unless we so delude ourselves as to think that we actually keep the law. In truth,we need Jesus to keep the law on our behalf, to die on our behalf, and to offer his righteousness on our behalf.

Life

The Scriptures treat sin as a matter of life and death … or better, death and life. When we hear about life and death situations we take notice and recognize the importance, the drama, and the emotion of such moments. Do we do the same when it comes to our sin and salvation? The life of sin leads to our physical death, but since we have also spiritually died in Christ and have a new life in him, our physical death leads to eternal life.

Do you see the matter of sin and grace, of law and gospel, as a matter of life and death? Or is your heart and mind wrapped up in and distracted by the mundane matters of earthly life, the drama of our daily news and doings, and our personal self-interest? Pause for a while today and meditate on how significant it is that you have died to the law through Christ’s death in order to live for him and bear fruit for God.

Prayer


O God, the drama of death and life is a potent image describing our relationship with you. In sin we die, yet since Jesus died for our sin we have a new life. We are given his death so we might live in him and with you. Thank you for this glorious new state of affairs in which we are freed from having to live in the flesh pursuing our sinful passions so that we might bear fruit for you. Forgive us for wandering back to our former way of life when we sin, as though we want to return to our old master. Help us to love your law, O Lord, for revealing our sin to us and for driving us to know our need for our savior, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

June 28, 2017

Scripture: Psalm 119:153–160

Psalm 119 is a masterful guide to meditation on God’s Word and the Word’s impact on the believer. This part of the psalm matches with the themes of the Old Testament and Gospel lessons this week speaking of the conflict that comes to one who lives according to God’s Word in this world. The psalmist is afflicted, persecuted, and surrounded by adversaries, yet his focus is on God’s Word and his confidence is in God’s mercy. Today Christians find themselves in conflict with the world and its culture, nevertheless we are urged to keep God’s Word before us and to trust in God’s promises to defend us.

Teaching

One of the important things to notice in this reading (and throughout Psalm 119) is the way the psalmist’s relationships with God and with others are formed through God’s Word. He calls out for deliverance because he doesn’t forget God’s law. He asks God to redeem him because of God’s promise. The wicked do not seek God’s statutes. He asks for life according to God’s rules. His enemies swerve from God’s testimonies. All of the psalmist’s relationships are seen through the Scriptures.

The psalmist also knows that in God’s Word he has truth and a foundation that lasts forever. It is in the Scriptures that he learns of God’s mercy, God’s commands, God’s Law and his Gospel. It is also through the Scriptures that he comes into a relationship with God, and God comes to him in the Word to give him faith, redeem him, form him, and guide him. It is for this reason that he is so reliant of the Word.

Life

Recently I saw a quote that said, “God never commanded that we study his word, but we are exhorted to meditate on it and love it.” This is a bit simplistic, but perhaps when we approach God’s Word we sometimes do so with too much of a desire to get something out it, to find the point, or to receive some kind of take-away for our day on our own terms. Perhaps we get too head oriented chewing on meaning and application and not simply listening to God our savior speak to us. Could it be that sometimes it’s okay to just listen or read the Word and let it do its work in you on God’s terms?

Are you impacted by the way the psalmist brings everything back to God’s Word? He seems to have the Word as his lens to look at every aspect of his life. This is a good goal for us to strive for to constantly have the Word of God in mind, and to see every aspect of our lives in relationship to what God has said; to see our lives are part of the divine narrative in which he redeems us through Jesus’ death and resurrection, delivers us in affliction, pours out his mercy on us, and makes his Word the foundation of our lives.

Prayer


Use Psalm 119:153-160 to guide your prayer today. Pray that the Holy Spirit would help you to love God’s Word and see your whole life through the lens of Scripture – especially your life of faith. Give thanks to God for all he has done in and through you by the Spirit’s work through the Word of God in your life. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

June 27, 2017

Scripture: Matthew 10:34–42

Over the last three weeks we have read through Matthew 10 in which Jesus spoke of the division and hostility between the world and God’s people. This reading follows in the same theme reminding the reader that Jesus brings division and this division is centered in his importance in the believer’s life, for he requires that he be central and over all aspects of life. This reading challenges modern readers to consider the consequences of following Jesus as faith in him often brings conflict and division with unbelievers, yet for those who follow Jesus the conflict is worth it knowing the heavenly reward of eternal life.

Teaching

This is an uncomfortable reading to modern ears. The modern church often emphasizes an image of Jesus as a peacemaker; which he is! He is the Prince of Peace and makes peace between God and the believer. But in regard to the world Jesus is not a peacemaker, because the world is in bondage and he fights against the devil and all that serves that master of sin and lies who would lead us into damnation. From the moment of his birth Jesus was in conflict with the powers of this world until he defeated them by his death and resurrection. And even now, those who follow Jesus find themselves in conflict with the world.

Sometimes people have used this passage to manipulate God’s people with guilt as they remind their hearers that, “whoever does not take his cross and follow,” Jesus is not worthy of him. But who is worthy of Jesus? No one. This is the very reason that he came: we were unworthy to come into God’s presence and to be his people because of our sin. Nevertheless, Jesus took up his cross for our sins and his sacrifice makes us worthy to come before God and even receive rewards for the smallest of good deeds that flow from faith.

Life

The question of worthiness is one that often haunts people. Am I good enough? Did I do it right? Is my performance better than theirs? We want to be worthy of God’s blessings, to think that there is something inside of us that would cause God to say, “Yes, this one fits the bill.” However, our relationship with God is not rooted in worthiness. It is rooted in grace; God’s undeserved love, mercy, and forgiveness. Don’t worry about being worthy. Jesus’ blood shed for you makes you worthy.

There is also a warning here for us to consider where we focus our hopes and dreams. Are our hopes and dreams for this world? Are we fixated on a better car, a new house, a vacation home, a perfect body, a perfect body next to our perfect body, wealth, and good food? It’s not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with having these things, but these things can be idols – false gods – to us. When we live for these things we are not living for the one who died and rose for us, and we risk the everlasting life he has so graciously given us.  

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you teach that following you will lead to separation from and conflict with the world and the people of it. You also remind us that eternal life is in following you. Thank you for giving us eternal life through faith in you who died for us. Forgive us for loving the world and desiring it more than your will. Help us to take up our cross to follow you, trusting you in all things, and serving others because we are your disciples. Amen.