Numbers 17:1–11; Romans 5:1–11; Matthew 20:17–28
“Thy will be done.” We pray it every Sunday. Many pray it before going to bed, and again, upon rising. And if you serve on a Lutheran Church committee, you might close your meetings with the Lord’s Prayer, asking for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” So, one has to wonder why there is so much grumbling.
We hear the muttering back through the ages to the time of the wilderness wandering, when Korah and his rebels wanted to usurp Moses’ authority. By the time of Jesus, James’ and John’s mother wanted her sons to be the highest authority beside Jesus. Of course, we still murmur against God, wanting things our way, though we pray, “Thy will be done.”
What would the Church be like if we stopped insisting on having things our way, but instead, celebrated our peace with God by following Christ’s example? What would it look like if we laid down our lives for each other, starting with a sacrifice of our grumbling self-wills? We might just be in a better place to to trust that the Lord’s will is done—by him, instead of by us.
Prayer: Help me to endure with hope, in Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
Today’s devotion was written by Mark Ryman, Communications Coordinator for the NALC.
Numbers 16:36–50; Romans 4:13–25; Matthew 20:1–16
“The kingdom of heaven is like…” Jesus grabs our attention by speaking these words in the gospel. The illustration that follows offers comfort or confusion—or both. Jesus uses the common theme of money to describe the kingdom of heaven. However, this time the rich man is not the antitheses. Instead the rich man is the centerpiece, reflecting God’s generosity to the workers. Equal compensation is provided for those who respond first and for those who come at the end of the day. Although this is the desire of the vineyard owner, the workers cannot grasp his generosity. In fact, they see it as unfair.
This parable is not about fair employment practices. It is about the repeated invitation to the kingdom of heaven that Christ extends to his people, the work of discipleship in his earthly kingdom, and his generous grace applied to all.
A four-year old girl once said that she wanted to play hide-and-seek with God in heaven. When asked why, she said, “Because God always finds me.” God invites and finds us with gifts beyond what this earthly kingdom can provide.
Prayer: Father God, open our ears to your invitation to work in your vineyard. Amen.
Today’s devotion was written by Ken Reed, pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church, China Grove, NC.
Numbers 16:20–35; Romans 4:1–12; Matthew 19:23–30
At the time Jesus spoke these hard and shocking words, people thought the rich had God’s favor. Conversely, it was thought that the poor did not have God’s favor, as evidenced by their poverty. As to the camel and the needle, who in the world is saved if not the rich? The rest of us poor schlubs haven’t got a chance.
But, with God, all things are possible: forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are available to all through the saving life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The invitation is open to rich and poor alike.
And for those who follow? Not an easy life, as following Jesus leads us down paths we would not naturally seek. But the last ones of the world—we followers of Jesus—will find ourselves first, not through own own striving or goodness, but through the mercy and love of God.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant to us all this day the favor you bear for your people. Amen.
Today’s devotion was written by Peter Lurvey, NALC Pastor, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada .
Numbers 16:1–19; Romans 3:21–31; Matthew 19:13–22
“What good deed must I do to have eternal life?’ was a question a young man once posed to Jesus. In Martin Luther’s time, that same question was echoed by Christians who thought they could “earn” salvation by good works. Based on his careful study of Romans, Luther responded that good works do not earn salvation. Rather, if by faith a sinner is joined to Christ then God declares that person righteous for Christ’s sake.
Today we still meet people who are concerned about being “good enough” to go to heaven. Troubled by some past misdeed or lack of piety, these people need to hear and believe the basic Christian message. “Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:23-24 RSV).
World events, social concerns, and church disagreements can distract us from the importance of God’s free gift of salvation in Christ. Once we turn to the Lord for salvation, let us also focus on sharing that message and living as Christians in our world. Works do not save us but we can honor our Savior through lives of Christian love and obedience.
Prayer: We give thanks, Lord, for your precious gift of salvation, and ask you to strengthen us in faith and guide us to honor and serve you today. Amen.
Today’s devotion was written by John W. Krueger, Chaplain, Appleton Medical Center, Appleton, WI.
Numbers 14:26–45; Acts 15:1–12; Luke 12:49–56
Our Lord Jesus Christ comes to liberate us in this Word. The flesh wishes to interpret this Word in such a way that Jesus seeks to separate us through the power of the law. However, unlike the Pharisees, Jesus divides us from those who seek the power of the law unto salvation with his electing word of resurrection. Our gracious God separates us through the power of the gospel from the things that hinder us under a yoke of slavery. He gives us something greater than worldly peace. He gives us his peace, and in giving us his peace, he gives us a home.
So Jesus passionately undergoes the baptism we cannot undergo. He is not distressed because he is afraid, but because he cannot wait to have us as his own, raising us from the dead and freeing us for freedom. As Tom Petty says, “The waiting is the hardest part.” Christ loves you eternally, and again, gives himself to you in this word: “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!”
Prayer: Father, thank you that once again, you separate us from the power of the law and bring us under your eternal gospel power so that we would be free by your Word alone. Amen.
Today’s devotion was written by Matthew McCormick, Pastor of Church of the Resurrection, North Charleston, SC.
Numbers 13:31–14:25; Romans 3:9–20; Matthew 19:1–12
The spies agreed that the promised land was rich and fertile. They also agreed that there were giants on the way. Nevertheless, Caleb and Joshua reported to Moses that they could conquer those giants because God was able to deliver their enemies into their hands (Num 13:30). The other spies, however, delivered a negative report, causing such dissension that the people were ready to stone Moses.
Like Caleb and Joshua, those ten men saw the same country and people in Canaan. The difference was that they took God out of the equation, only seeing the impossibilities rather than the possibilities. God was not angry with the Israelites because the report of the ten spies was wrong. He was angry because the people refused to trust God who had faithfully brought them this far.
We all face difficulties and opposition in our lives. God’s promise is irrevocable, so we must trust him and be steadfast. We may encounter some people who speak only discouraging words. But God has promised to be with us until the end of the age (Matt 28:20). Therefore, let us run the race before us looking only to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:1–2).
Prayer: Lord God, help us always run to you whenever we face giants in our lives, but never run away from you. Amen.
Today’s devotion was written by Abera Hellemo, Pastor of Vinemont Community Lutheran Church, Reinholds, PA.
Numbers 13:1–3; 21–30; Romans 2:25–3:8; Matthew 18:21–35
God’s ways are always superior to our way of thinking. His values are pure and holy. As physical beings, living in a physical world, we do not understand spiritual perfection. We must simply trust that God’s decisions are based on foresight, knowledge, and wisdom that we do not possess. When God directs us to do something, we should just do it, and not question his authority. Just think what would have happened if Noah had refused to build the ark.
We should strive to emulate God’s perfection by learning from the examples we read in his Word. Sometimes those examples seem difficult to understand, and even challenge our sense of right and wrong, but God is the sovereign authority, incapable of doing wrong. God’s Holy Spirit that dwells in us will guide us, if we are quiet and take time to listen to his voice.
Our human reasoning always tempts us to doubt God, so we need to stop what we are doing and pray. Satan’s most powerful tool is creating doubt. Jesus knew that, and made it possible for us to go to God at any time in prayer. He set us the example to pray fervently and unceasingly.
Prayer: Lord God, may I never forget that you are always just and righteous. Amen.
Today’s devotion was written by Kris Brower, pastor of St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Brenham, TX.
Numbers 12:1–16; Romans 2:12–24; Matthew 18:10–20
Growing up, there was a neighborhood kid who seemed to be built out of granite. No matter the game, he played rough. Sometimes we ascribe that same granite roughness to our God. If you were Miriam, you might have thought so. Yet, in the midst of hard judgment, grace followed.
Paul’s instruction to the Church at Rome regarding the law of God sounds equally rough. Matthew’s comments aboiut a brother who sins and refuses to listen also strike hard. That’s the part of the “whole counsel of God” we try to ignore yet cannot. Operate as your own god, and separation from the flock and ruin follow. This is justice and judgment.
Equally sure but harder to fathom is that God takes no pleasure in this. In fact, God seeks the lost and lonely sinner so that judgment can be met with an equally durable mercy and grace. Sometimes this is a direct encounter but often it’s God in the midst of two or more gathered to seek reconciliation. However it comes, the rough road to judgment and ruin can be detoured by coming to God openly and honestly. He is already there, softly and tenderly waiting and seeking.
Prayer: “Now to be Thine, yea Thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come.” Amen.
Today’s devotion was written by Jack Richards, retired NALC Pastor.
Numbers 11:24–33 (34–35); Romans 1:28–2:11; Matthew 18:1–9
God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Psa 86:15), desiring that all people “be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). But those who will not acknowledge God, even though his invisible attributes can be clearly perceived in creation (Rom 1:19–20), will be left to their own corrupt thoughts which lead to certain and eternal death.
These are the self-centered temptations we encounter—and must face. We can either think more of ourselves than we ought, considering ourselves wiser than God himself, or we can become as little children, ready to learn. It is hard to be humble and childlike because that means admitting someone else is superior in experience, intellect, and wisdom. But this is what it means to trust in the Lord. So, though the world considers us fools for doing so, we bow before God with childlike trust. But in truth, though others claim to be wise, they have become entirely foolish (Rom 1:22).
Meanwhile, the just shall live by faith (Hab 2:4), trusting in God’s wisdom and mercy even when the times seem hopeless, for our hope is in the Lord alone.
Prayer: Thank you for saving us from ourselves, O God, through Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.
Today’s devotion was written by Mark Ryman, Communications Coordinator for the NALC.
Numbers 11:1–23; Romans 1:16–25; Matthew 17:22–27
It is a fact: people are never satisfied. We always seem to crave what we do not have. This sin of covetousness is addressed in the last two commandments of the Decalogue. The Hebrew people in Numbers “had a strong craving” for something they once had and now they wanted God to give it to them again. God delivered them from slavery—something they cried out for—saved them from the pursuing Egyptian army, gave them water from a rock and bread from heaven, but they were not satisfied. In short, despite having everything they needed, they were not satisfied. God had every right to be angry. It seems the more God did for them, the more they coveted something else.
Are we sinful, self-focused creatures ever satisfied? According to Luther, original sin, is to be “curved in on oneself.” Original sin is to place our wants ahead of God, thereby making an idol out of the things we desire. The problem is that the self’s appetite is never satisfied. It is only when we put God first in our lives and look to him to provide “our daily bread” that we can find true satisfaction.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive us for not putting you first and trusting in you to provide exactly what we need—our daily bread. Amen.
Today’s devotion was written by Steven King, pastor of Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lincolnton, NC.