Friday, October 6, 2017

A Lutheran’s love letter to Pope Francis

Maybe you have heard: 2017 is a big year for Lutherans. Many are giddy with excitement as we commemorate the audacity of a certain 16th-century Augustinian monk, who on Oct. 31, 1517, nailed his 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg. Fingers flutter across keyboards feverishly extolling or disputing Martin Luther’s contributions and flaws. But I—one who has marinated in American Lutheranism most of her life—find myself writing to you, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

Perhaps it is an odd moment for Lutheran fan mail. Yet, ever since you became the Bishop of Rome in 2013, I have become increasingly convinced that you are the pope that Luther was looking for 500 years ago. Here are four reasons why.

1. You help us to see Christ in our neighbor.

Luther continually emphasized “neighbor love” as a crucial way to love Christ and to respond to a hurting world. He identified the neighbor as the one suffering, whoever that may be. He railed against the neglect of the poor and hungry. He called for the creation of a community welfare chest. He abhorred the practices of usury and the selling of indulgences.

You once said: “How I would like a church that is poor and for the poor!”—and you have given the world countless examples of what such a church looks like. Your first pastoral trip as pope outside of Rome was to visit migrants fleeing poverty and violence. You have washed the feet of Muslims, of women, of prisoners. You installed bathrooms and showers at the Vatican for those living on the streets of Rome. After your historic 2015 address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, you had lunch not with Washington elites but with people living in a homeless shelter.

2. You help us to see God in creation.

Luther was in love with life in its varied and dazzling forms—its life-giving waters, its creatures and landscapes. He continuously referenced creation and everyday life in his writings. He relished sharing food, drink and conversation—connecting this kind of communing with the sacrament. In short, Luther saw the divine present “in, with and under” all creation.

You chose the name of St. Francis of Assisi, a lover of the earth and all of its creatures. Your first encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” lays bare how climate change exacerbates every other social ill and the cruel irony that those who contribute the least to the degradation of our common home are paying the highest price for it. It asks us to confront not only harsh planetary realities but also the parts of ourselves that we would rather not see—selfishness, complacency and willful ignorance.

But “Laudato Si’” also expresses profound hope. You write, “For all our limitations, gestures of generosity, solidarity and care cannot but well up within us, since we were made for love” (No. 58). The heart of the Christian story centers upon a prophetic claim to new life. This resurrection is not merely about saving souls but about practicing acts that restore and renew life here and now. It means unfreezing our hearts and turning them outward to authentic love of self, neighbor, planet and God.

3. You combine humility with audacity.

Luther charged the church of Pope Leo X as being “puffed up” with opulent pride and avarice. It infuriated him to see anointed clerics abusing the trust, financial resources, faith and fears of their flock. He deeply wanted Christians, ordained and lay, to understand that we are paradoxically free in Christ and yet called to be “servants of all.”

Your witness on the world stage has been one of great humility—starting with the decision to live in the simple papal apartment instead of the apostolic palace. You are not afraid to apologize. You understand Luther’s insight that we are paradoxically both saint and sinner—that every person is always both beloved and broken, capable of expressing grace and healing and yet always in need of healing and forgiveness.

At the same time, you are a rockstar. You have been on the cover of Rolling Stone and have been named Time’s “Person of the Year.” Like Luther, you have risen to international prominence in a visual culture and astutely employ its technologies. Luther used the Facebook and Snapchat of his day: woodcuts, the printing press, public displays of treatises. Through unscripted interviews and press conferences, Twitter and TED Talks, you use your elevated position to focus our attention on issues we often wish to avoid: obscene inequality, chronic hunger, human rights abuses, the ravages of war.

4. You inspire creative hope and action.

Luther did not set out to break from the Roman church, but his fiery rhetoric and daring example ignited a movement and renewal of faith that he could not fully anticipate or contain. His translation of the Bible into German opened its pages to the general public for the first time and his hymns helped them participate more fully in the liturgy. His humor and passion drew people into bold action and creative community.

You also inspire millions across the planet. In word and deed, you make it abundantly clear that everyone has something to contribute. Together, there is much that all of us—scientists, religious leaders, business executives, artists, engineers, teachers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, theologians, politicians—can do. Now is our moment to be, as Luther might put it, “the priesthood of all believers” (and, I would add, nonbelievers).

You inspire me, Pope Francis. You help me find the grit to live with intention. So I boldly close this love letter with a fervent request: that you pray for the United States and the world in these tumultuous and confounding times, that we will stumble our way through with minimal injury to ourselves and to others. I ask you to pray without ceasing that humanity wakes up to creation’s myriad cries in time to do something meaningful about them.

God bless you, Holy Father. Know that I pray with and for you.

The Daily Readings for FRIDAY, October 6, 2017

"Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean." Matthew 8:2
2 Kings 19:1-20
When King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD. And he sent Eliakim, who was in charge of the palace, and Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. They said to him, "Thus says Hezekiah, This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to the birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth. It may be that the LORD your God heard all the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke the words that the LORD your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left." When the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, "Say to your master, 'Thus says the LORD: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled me. I myself will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land; I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.'" The Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah; for he had heard that the king had left Lachish. When the king heard concerning King Tirhakah of Ethiopia, "See, he has set out to fight against you," he sent messengers again to Hezekiah, saying, "Thus shall you speak to King Hezekiah of Judah: Do not let your God on whom you rely deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. See, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, destroying them utterly. Shall you be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them, the nations that my predecessors destroyed, Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, the king of Hena, or the king of Ivvah?" Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; then Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said: "O LORD the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and have hurled their gods into the fire, though they were no gods but the work of human hands-- wood and stone-- and so they were destroyed. So now, O LORD our God, save us, I pray you, from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone." Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: I have heard your prayer to me about King Sennacherib of Assyria.

1 Corinthians 9:16-27
If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel. For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

Matthew 8:1-17
When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean." He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I do choose. Be made clean!" Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them." When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress." And he said to him, "I will come and cure him." The centurion answered, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this,' and the slave does it." When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, "Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." And to the centurion Jesus said, "Go; let it be done for you according to your faith." And the servant was healed in that hour. When Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, "He took our infirmities and bore our diseases."

Morning Psalms
Psalm 102 Domine, exaudi
1   LORD, hear my prayer, and let my cry come before you; hide not your face from me in the day of my trouble.
2   Incline your ear to me; when I call, make haste to answer me,
3   For my days drift away like smoke, and my bones are hot as burning coals.
4   My heart is smitten like grass and withered, so that I forget to eat my bread.
5   Because of the voice of my groaning I am but skin and bones.
6   I have become like a vulture in the wilderness, like an owl among the ruins.
7   I lie awake and groan; I am like a sparrow, lonely on a house-top.
8   My enemies revile me all day long, and those who scoff at me have taken an oath against me.
9   For I have eaten ashes for bread and mingled my drink with weeping.
10   Because of your indignation and wrath you have lifted me up and thrown me away.
11   My days pass away like a shadow, and I wither like the grass.
12   But you, O LORD, endure for ever, and your Name from age to age.
13   You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to have mercy upon her; indeed, the appointed time has come.
14   For your servants love her very rubble, and are moved to pity even for her dust.
15   The nations shall fear your Name, O LORD, and all the kings of the earth your glory.
16   For the LORD will build up Zion, and his glory will appear.
17   He will look with favor on the prayer of the homeless; he will not despise their plea.
18   Let this be written for a future generation, so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD.
19   For the LORD looked down from his holy place on high; from the heavens he beheld the earth;
20   That he might hear the groan of the captive and set free those condemned to die;
21   That they may declare in Zion the Name of the LORD, and his praise in Jerusalem;
22   When the peoples are gathered together, and the kingdoms also, to serve the LORD.
23   He has brought down my strength before my time; he has shortened the number of my days;
24   And I said, "O my God, do not take me away in the midst of my days; your years endure throughout all generations.
25   In the beginning, O LORD, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands;
26   They shall perish, but you will endure; they all shall wear out like a garment; as clothing you will change them, and they shall be changed;
27   But you are always the same, and your years will never end.
28   The children of your servants shall continue, and their offspring shall stand fast in your sight."

Evening Psalms
Psalm 107: Part I Confitemini Domino
1   Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, and his mercy endures for ever.
2   Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.
3   He gathered them out of the lands; from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.
4   Some wandered in desert wastes; they found no way to a city where they might dwell.
5   They were hungry and thirsty; their spirits languished within them.
6   Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
7   He put their feet on a straight path to go to a city where they might dwell.
8   Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy and the wonders he does for his children.
9   For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
10   Some sat in darkness and deep gloom, bound fast in misery and iron;
11   Because they rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High.
12   So he humbled their spirits with hard labor; they stumbled, and there was none to help.
13   Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
14   He led them out of darkness and deep gloom and broke their bonds asunder.
15   Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy and the wonders he does for his children.
16   For he shatters the doors of bronze and breaks in two the iron bars.
17   Some were fools and took to rebellious ways; they were afflicted because of their sins.
18   They abhorred all manner of food and drew near to death's door.
19   Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
20   He sent forth his word and healed them and saved them from the grave.
21   Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy and the wonders he does for his children.
22   Let them offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and tell of his acts with shouts of joy.
23   Some went down to the sea in ships and plied their trade in deep waters;
24   They beheld the works of the LORD and his wonders in the deep.
25   Then he spoke, and a stormy wind arose, which tossed high the waves of the sea.
26   They mounted up to the heavens and fell back to the depths; their hearts melted because of their peril.
27   They reeled and staggered like drunkards and were at their wits' end.
28   Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
29   He stilled the storm to a whisper and quieted the waves of the sea.
30   Then were they glad because of the calm, and he brought them to the harbor they were bound for.
31   Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy and the wonders he does for his children.
32   Let them exalt him in the congregation of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The New Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted.

The Liturgical Calendar: William Tyndale, Translator of the Bible into English

William Tyndale

Today the church remembers William Tyndale, Translator of the Bible, 1536.

Change, even the most innocent and constructive, comes hard to men and societies. When William Tyndale, a careful and competent scholar and priest, prepared a translation of the Bible into English, he suddenly found himself treated as a scoundrel and a radical, even by those from whom he had expected the most support, the intellectuals and churchmen of England.

At Oxford, as a student, and at Cambridge, as a teacher, he had found great truth and guidance for his life from the scriptures, which were then available only to those who could read Latin, or in the partial and sometimes inaccurate version of John Wycliffe. Tyndale wanted to make the Bible available to the English in their native tongue. When his bishop got word of the project, he chastised Tyndale for such revolutionary activity and eventually made things so uncomfortable for the scholar that he had to leave England and flee to Germany, where the first edition of the Tyndale version of the Bible was published.

In spite of Tyndale's piety, scholarship, and good intentions, his work brought nothing but wrath from the English authorities. He was captured, tried as a heretic and schismatic, strangled, and publicly burned at Vilvorde, Belgium, in 1536.

Help us to proclaim your eternal Word in our time with bravery and clarity. Amen.

Read the Wikipedia article here.

Almighty God, you planted in the heart of your servant William Tyndale a consuming passion to bring the Scriptures to people in their native tongue, and endowed him with the gift of powerful and graceful expression and with strength to persevere against all obstacles: Reveal to us your saving Word, as we read and study the Scriptures, and hear them calling us to repentance and life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

God's Outlaw - William Tyndale Story
full movie (1hr 35min)

Prayer of the Day for FRIDAY, October 6, 2017

O merciful God, take pity on those souls who live this day alone, without friends or family, forgotten by all. Bring the comfort of your Spirit to them, I pray, and let them know the most blessed company of all. Grant them to find the consolation of friendship in this life, and bring them into the light of your word, so that when they pass from this life, they may find eternal joy.

Verse of the Day for FRIDAY, October 6, 2017

Isaiah 26:4 (NIV) Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.

Read all of Isaiah 26

Listen to Isaiah 26

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Morning Devotions with Cap'n Kenny - Law Or Love

Law Or Love

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
~ Matthew 11:28-29 (The Message)

His disposition seemed worn, from serving his religion. He was strict with his children, and raised them laying down the law, making sure they were there for every church service. He complained when others did not do as he did. He was judgmental to all, probably including himself. He was trying to follow the Lord, but it was obvious that it was a burden. His philosophy was, to raise his family with the burden of law, not realizing that he was forcing grace down the throats of his children.

There was a lady in another church, by the name of Ruth Graham, whom I’m told, raised her children in an adoring bond with God. Her daughter, Anne Graham Lotz speaks fondly of her mom’s relationship with the Lord. Ruth encouraged her children, and prayed for them. She watched them make mistakes, but never raised her voice in anger. She set an example to her children with a positive, sweet, disposition. Many times they found her in her bedroom, on her knees before the Lord. Her philosophy was to lead her children in love to the grace of Jesus.

The man’s children became adults who turned away from God because he had burned them out on religion. Ruth’s children, I’m sure, made some mistakes, but they chose to follow Christ. The man’s problem was, he worked for God. Ruth’s success was, she worked with God.

It’s a difficult task raising a family to have good morals in a world that is morally bankrupt. The scripture above says, “Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it.” If we as parents are keeping our eyes on Christ, and leading by His example, it is also true that our children are watching us. If we set a loving example of Christ, our actions will truly speak louder than our words. The morals will be whispered into the hearts of our children, by the Holy Spirit, when they choose Jesus as their personal Savior.

Leaving a margin for error is a good learning experience for children. We all make mistakes, and sometimes we learn our greatest lessons from our failures. Pray for them. Don’t lash them into obedience, but gently lead them in love to obedience. Let them learn the unforced rhythm of grace. Show them that our service to the Lord is a privilege not an encumbrance.

It is a balancing act of rules, relationship, responsibilities, and rewards, all wrapped up in love. If the job of raising our children in Christ is a burden, maybe we are practicing religion, instead of relationship. We should love our children to death, just as Christ loved us to His death. When we show them that the Lord’s company is not heavy or ill fitting, but light and free, maybe they will want to follow.
Dear Father, Help me to deepen my relationship with you, to set an example to my children. Amen

In Jesus,
Cap'n Kenny

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Scripture taken from The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Devotion shared by Jenny Calvert.
His disposition seemed worn, from serving his religion...

Dangerously Blind

Dangerously Blind

New York City is a bit of a shock to any first-time visitor. It's especially jarring for someone who has spent her whole life on an Indian Reservation. Now, Linda was from the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and she was part of our ministry's Native American Youth Outreach Team that we call "On Eagle's Wings." She was able to see New York from a distance at first. There's the Empire State Building, there's the skyline, and she said she wanted to see it all up close. Ha! Well, that may have changed now that she has seen it up close. See, she went in with us when I spoke in the city one night and the traffic and the crowds; man, they were all over the place and they made her feel like maybe she was on a battlefield without a helmet. She also found certain aspects of the city exciting and she might go back. But as our team was driving along the Hudson River, we were headed for the George Washington Bridge and Linda must have been reflecting on her life on the reservation for a minute because she just looked up into the Big Apple sky and she just said two words, "No stars."

I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Dangerously Blind."

Our word for today from the Word of God comes from 2 Corinthians 4:4. It's a very revealing statement from God's perspective. "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God." Basically, what's this saying? There is heavenly light that God wants you to see. It's the Good News of the glory of His Son, Jesus Christ. And what's the Good News? Jesus loves you very much. He proved it by paying the sin penalty that you deserved when He died on the cross. He demonstrated His unbeatable power when He blew the doors off His grave and rose from the dead, and so Jesus is all the love, and all the meaning, and all the peace you've been looking for all these years.

But there's a problems with God's light. It's the same problem our Navajo friend had seeing those stars in New York City. The earth lights blinded her to the heavenly light. When that happens to people spiritually, they can literally miss Jesus and miss God's love, and miss heaven forever.

This says that the god of this world, who is the devil, has blinded our minds. We're surrounded by a lot of earth lights that blind us to the much brighter light of God. We're blinded by the lights of making money, or having fun, or important relationships, or busy schedules, even our religion. And we just keep ignoring Jesus, or postponing Jesus, or forgetting Jesus. We're blinded.

The devil, whose goal it is to destroy you, will use anything or anyone he can to keep you from seeing and following Jesus. His intention is very simple; to block your view of the real light until you've passed the point of no return. But today, maybe right now, the light is breaking through.

This could be your God day. You could tell Him right where you are, "Lord, I have run my life long enough. You are supposed to run my life. You gave it to me, and I'm tired of this sin wall that's been between us. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ, died to take that wall away to pay for my sin. And beginning this moment, Jesus, I'm Yours." I hope you'll take that step so you can be sure you belong to Him and secure your eternity once and for all.

That's what our website's there for. It's And it would be a great place to anchor to as you cross over (as the Bible says) "from death to life" today. I hope you'll go there. Check it out as soon as you can today.

For this moment, God has taken you away from the blinding light of all that earth stuff and all those earth people so you could get one clear look at the light of Jesus Christ. Now in the words of the Bible, "Seek the Lord while He may be found."

Un Dia a la Vez - ¿Qué declaras sobre ti?

¿Qué declaras sobre ti?

Dios nos ha entregado sus preciosas y magníficas promesas para que [...] lleguen a tener parte en la naturaleza divina.

Durante estos devocionales hemos analizado que las palabras tienen poder y nosotros somos el resultado de lo que hablamos y de lo que comemos en cuanto respecta a la salud.

Dios tiene trazado nuestro futuro, pero a veces no vemos esas cosas. A menudo, esto se debe a que estamos desenfocados o a que NO creemos en nosotros mismos para lograrlo. Es posible que pensemos que el éxito es para otros y cometamos el error más común y determinante en la parte espiritual: Hablamos sin pensar y decimos lo peor de nosotros mismos. Entonces, todo lo que declaramos sobre nuestra vida toma valor debido al poder que tienen las palabras.

Recuerda que el enemigo, Satanás, no quiere que tú triunfes. Al contrario, está interesado en tu fracaso. A mí me costó un tiempo entender este principio y mediante la Biblia comprobé que con nuestras palabras podemos declarar bendición o maldición.

Ahora te pregunto: «¿Qué prefieres?». Es hora de soltar todo tu pasado. Si en otra época te ataste con tus palabras, hoy Dios te da la oportunidad de ser libre y hacer lo opuesto.

A fin de alcanzarlo, empieza a declarar lo siguiente: «Soy un hijo de Dios. Soy un vencedor. Todo lo puedo en Cristo que me fortalece. Ninguna arma forjada contra mí prosperará. Soy sano. Soy libre. Soy una nueva criatura».

Un Día a la Vez Copyright © by Claudia Pinzón

Standing Strong Through the Storm - October 06, 2017


At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

In the summer of 2011, Musalaha held an Israeli-Palestinian summer camp attended by seventy Palestinian and Israeli children from Christian families. A visitor shares poignant observations:

For me, after six months in the Land, this camp gave me real hope like nothing else I have experienced. There was hope in the Bible studies, in the competitions, in the craziness and laughter, and in the worship. There was hope as the children were creative with their crafts and reckless in their play. There was hope as they were just being girls and boys – having fun, making friends, getting a break from the pressures of their everyday environment…

When they arrived, many of the children found friends they had met at last year’s camp. A group of two Palestinian and three Israeli girls negotiated to be in the same room. Upon receiving permission, they pulled five bunks together to make one huge bed where they could sleep together…

At the camp I realized that I wasn’t noticing who was Israeli and who was Palestinian. I saw my brothers and sisters from both sides of the conflict demonstrate a love of Christ and each other above their love of sticking with their side. Leaders cared for kids, loving and instructing them regardless of where they came from. We were all there as believers in Jesus, and as should more often be the case, during camp no other identity really mattered.

One day after craft time, a Palestinian boy from the West Bank proudly pulled me aside to show me his pencil case. On it, he had painted an Israeli flag. I am not sure how his parents would feel about it, but it showed me how much more simple this situation is for the children. He loved his new friends and leaders and therefore had fond feelings about the place they are from…

As my coworker Tamara and I reflected on the camp, she said, “Innocence breaks down all this hatred that we have around us. You love the good things that you see in the other side. Like Jesus said, we should be little children.”

For them, the “enemy” will never be faceless, inhuman, or distant. For them, the situation will never be easy or black and white. That is good. With open eyes they can help bring change. They are the hope.

RESPONSE: Today I will look at the problems of our world through child-like eyes and see the challenges as Jesus sees them.

PRAYER: Thank You, Lord, there is HOPE for even the greatest challenges of our troubled world.

Men of the Bible - October 06, 2017


His name means: "Gift of Yahweh"

His work: Matthew was a tax collector who was awarded by Herod Antipas a contract to extract tariffs from his own people.
His character: A successful businessman whose encounter with Jesus profoundly changed his life and vocation forever.
His sorrow: Alienation, first from his own people because of his profession and then from religious leaders because of his vocation.
His triumph: A carefully organized, accurate, and convincing apologetic for the veracity of Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
Key Scriptures: Matthew 9

A Look at the Man

Matthew was good at making money. But there was a downside to getting rich as a tax collector in Palestine: People hated you for it. It made it hard to have any friends besides tax collectors or other ne'er-do-wells. He had learned to ignore the looks, to pretend he didn't hear the epithets—to conclude that these were the necessary costs of doing business.

Tax collectors were answerable to no one. There were no regulations to guide their procedures. Whatever they could extract from the people—over and above what the authorities required—was theirs to keep. It wasn't that Matthew didn't care about people, it was just that he cared more about his own prosperity. No wonder he was hated.

Matthew knew this when he chose his profession. In fact, in his writing, Matthew grouped tax collectors with prostitutes in social rank. But he was willing to pay this price for financial success.

But in spite of his choice of occupation and his pleasure with its material benefits, everything changed the day Jesus invited Matthew to be one of his disciples. And the wisdom of following the Master was confirmed in Matthew's heart the night Jesus won the affection of his friends.

Matthew knew that his decision was one he could never withdraw. He had set his life on a new course that could not be changed. Unlike the other disciples who had temporarily left their fishing nets—and could return to them at a later time—he knew it would be difficult for him to go back to his tax collecting. But Matthew was not halfhearted about his decisions. He had paid a heavy price among his countrymen when he chose tax collecting; now he would be asked to do the same in following Jesus.

Imagine how Matthew's transformation became a confirmation of the power and the authenticity of the Messiah's message. "Have you seen Matthew recently?" Jews would say to each other in the marketplace. "Something has happened to him."

Matthew was swept away with Jesus the man, the messenger, the Messiah. His gospel includes more references to Old Testament prophecy than any other. This truly was the one the prophets had foretold. And his thorough coverage of Jesus' most important sermon reminds us that Matthew was awed by the power of the Savior's words.

Very little is recorded in the Gospels as to Matthew's specific activities. Except for his invitation for Jesus to join him and his friends for dinner, we read of no conversation or dialogue. But this does not diminish Matthew's prominence during the days of Jesus' ministry on earth. For nothing speaks more profoundly than the testimony of a changed life—especially one that makes waves in the marketplace.

Reflect On: Matthew 9:9–13
Praise God: For his transforming power.
Offer Thanks: For the impact that the message of Jesus Christ has on those who are willing to believe and follow the Messiah.
Confess: An unwillingness to turn from our drive for economic success and to submit to the Spirit’s direction—to resist being inconvenienced by the call of the Savior.
Ask God: To come to your workplace—your tax-collector’s booth. Ask him to repeat the same words he spoke to Matthew, and ask him to give you the courage to respond as Matthew did.

Today's reading is a brief excerpt from Men of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Men in Scripture by Ann Spangler and Robert Wolgemuth (Zondervan). © 2010 by Ann Spangler. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Enjoy the complete book by purchasing your own copy at the Bible Gateway Store. The book's title must be included when sharing the above content on social media. Coming this fall: watch for Wicked Women of the Bible by Ann Spangler.

Girlfriends in God - October 06, 2017

A Cord of Three Strands

Today’s Truth

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Friend to Friend

The emotional demands on women are immense. One of the ways God replenishes us emotionally is through friendships. Many women are convinced that the risk of having close friends outweighs the rewards. I disagree.

There is no love without risk. Every friendship must contain the element of risk if it is to grow and mature, reaching its full potential. Friendships make us stronger. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says that a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. If you add a strand to a single cord, you double its strength. But if you add a third strand to the cord, it becomes ten times stronger.

Ruth was willing to risk her very future for the sake of her friendship with her mother-in-law, Naomi.

John 15:13 says it well: Greater love has no one than this; that one lay down his life for his friends. When we choose to lay down our life, we automatically take a chance on being hurt, rejected, betrayed, or misunderstood.

Anyone who knows me also knows that any living foliage is doomed to die a premature death if left in my care for any length of time. I have even been known to kill a plant without touching it. In fact, the only hope any plant of mine has to live past its purchase date is for me to diligently ignore its existence. I am certain you can understand why I am in awe of anyone who gardens and is actually capable of growing green things.

I once had a neighbor who was known for her green thumb. In fact, everyone in our small Mississippi town knew that the most beautiful roses were found in Joyce’s back yard. It was in that same yard where I learned an important lesson about friendship.

Every afternoon after their naps, I took our two children outside to play in our fenced-in back yard. While Jered and Danna enjoyed the fresh air, neighborhood friends, and their swing set, I enjoyed visiting with Joyce. Most of our conversations took place over the vine-covered fence and her dazzling Rose garden.

I loved to watch Joyce plant, prune, water, feed, talk and even sing to her “Rose Babies.” She always wore a long-sleeved shirt covered by a canvas apron and a pair of thick gloves to protect her arms and hands from thorns. It wasn’t enough. Joyce’s hands and arms were always scratched from her work in the rose garden. She didn’t seem to mind.

One afternoon, our conversation abruptly halted when she yanked her hand into the air and yelled, “Ouch!” Blood trickled down her arm from the puncture wound of a thorn. Seriously? When I asked her why she insisted on growing roses instead of some safer and less prickly foliage, her answer was profound. “The beauty of the roses is worth the occasional wound they inflict,” she replied. Joyce had learned to handle the roses with respect and in such a way that her wounds were few. Friendships are much the same.

Yes, friends will hurt you. Friends will wound you. We would be wise to don thick emotional gloves when it comes to handling friendships. It is a fatal mistake to assign the responsibility for our happiness to friends. Depending on a friend to make us happy sets that friend up for failure in the relationship and positions that friendship for inevitable destruction.

I have a friend who simply cannot keep a secret. She tries – she really does! But she just cannot do it. She would do anything in the world for me - except keep her mouth closed. Because I love her and don’t want to write her off as a friend, I have simply chosen to be cautious about what I share with her. That is the cost of having a friendship with her. And when I think about how she prays for me and constantly encourages me, it really isn’t much to pay.

The words of 1 Peter 4:8 say it well, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” In this verse, “cover” literally means to “hide or overlook” the faults. Friendship knows the weaknesses are there, but chooses to love anyway. Every friendship has a price tag of some kind attached. We just need to get to the place where love covers the cost.

Let’s Pray

Father, I want to thank You for being the ultimate Friend. You have never let me down or turned away from me – even when I have turned away from You. Please help me be the kind of friend You want me to be so that Your love can flow through me in my relationships.
In Jesus’ Name,

Now It’s Your Turn
  • What is the greatest hindrance to friendship in your life?
  • What has been the greatest reward of friendship in your life?
  • Are you willing to take the risk of cultivating intimate friendships and of being a true friend? Explain.
  • Make a list of your closest friends and then picture life without them. What would that picture look like?
  • Make a specific plan this week to invest time in the life of a friend.
More from the Girlfriends

Relationships are very important to God. In fact, He spent most of His time on earth deepening relationships with a few - not the crowds. God created us to need each other and yet, true friendship seems so hard to find. Mary’s CD, I Need a Friend, is based on the beautiful portrait of friendship found in the lives of Ruth and Naomi and explores ten powerful keys that will help you be a true friend and find true friendship. Check it out … and be sure to connect with Mary on Facebook or through email.

Seeking God?
Click HERE to find out more about how to have a personal
relationship with Jesus Christ.

Girlfriends in God

LHM Daily Devotion - October 6, 2017 "Only Jesus"

In Japan they have an event called the Life Ending Industry Expo...

Daily Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries

By Pastor Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour

"Only Jesus"

October 6, 2017

(Peter said) "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other Name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
~ Acts 4:12 (ESV)

In Japan they have an event called the Life Ending Industry Expo.

The Life Ending Industry Expo is an occasion for everyone involved with Japan's funeral industry to see the latest and the greatest products which hope to shape the future of funerals. This year the star of the event was Pepper the Robot.

What, you don't know Pepper? Allow me to make the introduction. Pepper is a human-shaped robot who was introduced in 2014 by his manufacturer, the Nissei Eco Company. Pepper first found employment at SoftBank Mobile stores where he welcomed customers to the establishment. His software enabled him to "read" people's emotions and tailor his greeting accordingly.

Now it appears the economy has made it necessary for Pepper to branch out into other areas. You see, many Buddhist worship leaders have been having a tough time making ends meet. As a result, many of them are taking second jobs. Who can say whether such a thing is good or bad? I do know it's difficult to schedule a funeral with a priest who has a full-time job.

This is why Pepper came to the Life Ending Industry Expo.

Dressed in the robes of a Buddhist monk, Pepper's trainers and teachers had given him the ability to chant Buddhist mantras and sutras. Along with knowing the inner workings of a funeral, Pepper's biggest selling point was he can be rented to preside at a funeral for almost $450. To get a living, breathing Buddhist priest to do the same can cost in excess of $2,200.

That is not to say that Pepper has been greeted by all with warm and open arms. There are those who think Pepper is never going to be up to the job.

They believe Pepper is severely hampered by a lack of soul and an inability to understand faith, sin, guilt, faith, forgiveness, and religion. They say Pepper's shortcomings are the reason why nobody in all of Japan has used the robot to perform a funeral service for their family.

Me, I hate the idea of seeing a robot in a pulpit on Sunday, in the confessional on Saturday, and in a hospital's sick room the rest of the week. Now, I'm not ready to say these robots won't be able to make it uncomfortable for the Savior's undershepherds. As fast as technology is advancing, the sad day may come when clergy find themselves being benched, while the artificial intelligence squad is sent in.

There is no such replacement worry when it comes to the Savior's work of rescuing us from sin, Satan, and the world.

In the halls of history, Jesus is unique. His miracles of healing and resurrection, His command over the forces of nature show that He possesses a power that is limitless. His teachings are powerful, profound, and divine. His willingness to suffer and lay down His life as the ransom price for sinful humanity defies human explanation or understanding.

Jesus is unique, and He is unique because He is the Savior.

THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, we live in a sinful world which is constantly changing. Grant that I may put my trust in that which never changes: my Savior, Jesus Christ. In His Name I pray. Amen.

Use these devotions in your newsletter and bulletin!  Used by permission; all rights reserved by the Int'l LLL (LHM).

CPTLN Devocional de 06 de Octubre de 2017

Alimento Diario

Ama a tus enemigos

06 de Octubre 2017

Pero yo les digo: Amen a sus enemigos, bendigan a los que los maldicen, hagan bien a los que los odian, y oren por quienes los persiguen.

Quienes viven en el Medio Oriente y en el norte de África viven en un mundo donde, en la mayoría de los casos, a Jesús no se lo reconoce como el Salvador del mundo. Muchos piensan que no fue más que un profeta, lo ponen a la altura de Abraham o Mohammed y lamentablemente no creen en la salvación que Jesús logró en la cruz.

Esos países tienen una larga historia de diferencias amargas entre las distintas expresiones de fe y culturas, que a menudo llevan a actos de violencia. Cuando las relaciones se deterioran al punto de causar heridas, la fe cristiana ofrece y alienta al perdón: el cristiano debe poner la otra mejilla y perdonar. Resistiendo el impulso de guardar rencor y dejar que el sol se ponga sobre los sentimientos heridos, los cristianos deben buscar y ofrecer perdón, especialmente a sus enemigos.

Jesús nos lo enseña muy claramente cuando dice: "Pero yo les digo: Amen a sus enemigos, bendigan a los que los maldicen, hagan bien a los que los odian, y oren por quienes los persiguen" (Mateo 5:44). Cuando el odio ha reinado durante décadas y levantado barreras divisorias, se hace muy difícil perdonar. Pero aun en esos casos, se nos dice que el odio puede ser vencido: "... para Dios todo es posible" (Mateo 19:26b). En Jesús tenemos el ejemplo perfecto de perdón del cual podemos aprender. Sus palabras en la cruz fueron: "Padre, perdónalos, porque no saben lo que hacen" (Lucas 23:34).

En el Padrenuestro Jesús nos enseña: "Perdónanos nuestras deudas, como también nosotros perdonamos a nuestros deudores." (Mateo 6:12). Es fácil decir que vamos a perdonar a nuestros enemigos, pero en realidad es muy difícil. Es difícil porque al hacerlo creemos que dejamos que el enemigo se salga con la suya y que piense que somos débiles.

La verdad es que, para perdonar, se requiere una fuerza enorme -una fuerza que es posible tener sólo a través del poder del Espíritu Santo.

ORACIÓN: Padre celestial, ayúdanos a aprender de Jesús a perdonar completa y honestamente a nuestros enemigos. Llena nuestros corazones con tu paz y consuelo. Te lo pedimos en el nombre de Jesús. Amén.

Biografía del autor: Marc Rahme dedica su tiempo al Ministerio Luterano en el Medio Oriente (MELM por sus siglas en inglés) también conocido como LHM - Líbano.

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