Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Daily Readings for SUNDAY, October 15, 2017 - 19th Sunday after Pentecost

The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
The Daily Readings for
SUNDAY, October 15, 2017

Opening Sentence
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
~ Phillipians 1:2

Confession and Forgiveness

Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.
God is light; in him there in no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him, yet walk in the darkness, we lie and son not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
~ John 1:5b-8

Most holy and merciful Father, We confess to you and to one another, that we have sinned against you by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength. We have not fully loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not always had in us the mind of Christ. You alone know how often we have grieved you by wasting your gifts, by wandering from your ways. Forgive us, we pray you, most merciful Father; And free us from our sin. Renew in us the grace and strength of your Holy Spirit, for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. Amen

Sunday Morning Prayer
God, as you gave us the sun to lighten our days, so you have given us your Word to lighten our minds and our souls. I pray that you will pour out on me your Spirit as I pray today, that my heart and mind may be opened to your Word, and that I may learn and accept your will for my life.

Shine within my heart, loving God, the pure light of your divine knowledge; open the eyes of my mind and the ears of my heart to receive your Word, this day and always, Amen

The Psalm
Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23
1  Praise the Lord! O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever.
2  Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord, or declare all his praise?
3  Happy are those who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times.
4  Remember me, O Lord, when you show favour to your people; help me when you deliver them;
5  that I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation, that I may glory in your heritage.
6  Both we and our ancestors have sinned; we have committed iniquity, have done wickedly.
19  They made a calf at Horeb and worshipped a cast image.
20  They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.
21  They forgot God, their Saviour, who had done great things in Egypt,
22  wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23  Therefore he said he would destroy them— had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

The Lessons

A reading from Exodus 32:1-14
When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ Aaron said to them, ‘Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mould, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.’ They rose early the next day, and offered burnt-offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel. The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshipped it and sacrificed to it, and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.’ But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, ‘O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, “It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth”? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it for ever.”’ And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

A reading from Philippians 4:1-9
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

A reading from Matthew 22:1-14
Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.  ‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’

Here ends the Readings.

Click HERE to read today's Holy Gospel Lesson message

The Apostle's Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen

Prayer of the Day
Heavenly God, you are the King eternal, immortal and invisible. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God; the same yesterday, today, and forever.

In times long past did you lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands: Yet they will perish, but you will endure; yes, all of them will grow old like a garment, as a coat you will change them, and they will be changed; but you are the same, and your years will have no end.

You alone are God, and do not change; and because of this, we may hope to be preserved. Are you not from eternity, O Lord our God, our Holy One? The everlasting God, even the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, who does not faint nor grow weary? There is no searching out your understanding, mighty Lord, but by our praise we may glorify your Holy Name, now and all our lives. Amen.

It Is Well With My Soul
Selah
Several legends have grown up around the great Christian hymn "It Is Well." The primary sources help establish a more accurate understanding of the origins of this hymn. Some versions overly sentimentalize the facts, gloss over Spafford’s doctrinal drift, or completely ignore the events surrounding the composer of the tune that accompanied the lyrics. The actual facts are moving enough even without sentimentalizing them. Nevertheless, the story of the writing of both lyrics and tune is a source of great encouragement and hope to those who struggle under the burden of overwhelming sorrow. May this video inspire you with that hope.

It Is Well with My Soul:
Historical Origins of the Hymn & the Tune


Let us bless the Lord. Alleluia!
Thanks be to God! Alleluia!

Closing Prayer
Now all glory to you, mighty God, who is able to keep me from falling away and will bring me with great joy into your glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to you who alone are God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are yours before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time, Amen.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen.
~ 2 Corinthians 13:14

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.

"Returning To The Original Divine Intention" - The Sermon for SUNDAY, October 15, 2017 - 19th Sunday after Pentecost


Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.  ‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’
~ Matthew 22:1-14


"Returning To The Original Divine Intention"
by Fr. W Pat Cunningham
St. Pius X Parish
San Antonio, Texas

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen

Years ago, when I first read this parable, it sounded rather fabulous, an invention of the Lord’s fertile imagination. But a dispassionate reading of history, and even the local news, tells us that St. Matthew’s story is merely a realistic telling of how it is in west Asia, and how it has been since recorded history and before. This parable of the Lord Jesus seems to be ripped from today’s headlines. It is what it is.

But it is not what it has to be. The divine intention for human beings is quite clear from both Scripture and Tradition. God made man in His image and likeness. God made man and woman for union with each other, for the generation of a large human family, and ultimately for adoption as His own children. That was God’s intention in the beginning. Moreover, God does not change His mind.

But in answer to this original intention, man brought about an original rebellion–original sin. Our first parents decided not to follow God’s plan. They wanted to seize divinity under the guidance of that original rebel, Satan. Their pathetic scheme came to nothing, and worse. God had a Plan B, but it involved suffering and death, and a long wait for the coming of the Savior. Before the immaculate conception of Mary, no human hit the mark. All humans were captive to sin and death. Everyone was in rebellion. But by the grace of God that would come through the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, Mary was preserved from sin throughout her existence. She gave birth to the New Man–the God-Man Jesus. His life and death won our redemption, and from His pierced side flowed the sacramental life by which we are caught up into the divine life. Here we participate in the Holy Sacrifice that is the re-presentation of His sacrifice, and the earthly symbol of the eternal wedding banquet in heaven. If we accept the invitation of the Father and sacramentally unite ourselves to His will, then we can hope realistically for an eternal seat at that wedding banquet. God keeps His promises.

But what about the fellow with no wedding garment? It seems from the brief parable that the king’s messengers dragged everyone in with no warning and one guy just got caught underdressed. Not so. The parable clearly teaches that the vast majority of the original invitees–the Jews–rejected the call of Christ. So the Gospel was preached to the rest of us, and many responded. There was plenty of time to adequately respond, to repent of our sins, confess them and through the sacraments let ourselves be dressed for the feast. Some, however, will pretend to be of our company, ignore the interior state of their souls, and try to sneak into heaven full of mortal sin. How can we say that it is unfair to exclude them when they have not accepted the forgiveness won at so high a cost on the cross? As St. John says in his first epistle, “they were never of our fellowship.” (1 Jn 2:19)

Today we have any number of so-called preachers and theologians who claim, for instance, that artificial contraception is acceptable to God, that one can divorce and remarry and receive the sacraments without showing the first marriage to be–in Matthew’s words–invalid, that abortion and in-vitro fertilization and all the rest of modern abominations are not sinful. Don’t believe it. Just because the millennium changed, what is right and wrong didn’t change. That is all the falsehood that St. Paul tells us to put aside. God forbids certain actions and thoughts because they are bad for us, and lead us to eternal unhappiness. We can’t go into the kingdom with a conscience garbed in soiled, tattered garments.

Now let’s turn to St. Paul’s advice on how to dress for the banquet. Moreover, he reminds us that the couture is already paid for by Jesus Christ, a free gift of grace. Remarkably, he says it is OK to be angry, but not OK to sin. Let’s look at an example. I am furious that Planned Parenthood murders hundreds of children before birth over on Babcock Road. But I respond by supporting pro-life organizations and legislators, which is good, not by violent action, which is sin.

So listen to St. Paul’s excellent advice: think of ways you get stuff without doing anything, and turn that around by stopping any illicit theft and making restitution instead. If you ever gossip–and that means telling others about a person’s actions whether they are true or not with the intention to gain some advantage or hurt another–stop it. That means whether you communicate with your mouth, or your e-mail, or your thumbs. It’s bullying. It’s wrong. Take time to encourage others instead. Catch them doing something good, and thank them for it. You will be instruments of grace and peace. Be kind, and above all things, act just like God. When someone else hurts you, forgive, forgive, forgive. This is how we fulfill the original divine intent for us, to be forever humans made in and acting in the image and likeness of God.

Amen


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

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. Sermon shared by Fr. W Pat Cunningham on Sep 17, 2016.

Prayer of the Day for SUNDAY, October 15, 2017


Heavenly God, you are the King eternal, immortal and invisible. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God; the same yesterday, today, and forever.

In times long past did you lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands: Yet they will perish, but you will endure; yes, all of them will grow old like a garment, as a coat you will change them, and they will be changed; but you are the same, and your years will have no end.

You alone are God, and do not change; and because of this, we may hope to be preserved. Are you not from eternity, O Lord our God, our Holy One? The everlasting God, even the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, who does not faint nor grow weary? There is no searching out your understanding, mighty Lord, but by our praise we may glorify your Holy Name, now and all our lives. Amen.

Verse of the Day for SUNDAY, October 15, 2017


2 Samuel 7:22 (NIV) “How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.

Read all of 2 Samuel 7

Listen to 2 Samuel 7

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

Exploring the Parables with Cap'n Kenny - The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

Matthew 22:1-14
1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. 4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. 13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

THINK ABOUT IT
This is another parable of belonging. The parable leaves the listener wondering what the wedding clothes represent and who in fact belongs in the kingdom. Most likely, the proper wedding clothes represent those who follow the teachings of Jesus, but it’s impossible to say for certain.

TALK ABOUT IT
What do you think it means to wear the proper wedding clothes?

In Jesus,
Cap'n Kenny


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

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

Un Dia a la Vez - Las cosas fluyen de Dios


Las cosas fluyen de Dios

Que el Señor, Dios de Israel, bajo cuyas alas has venido a refugiarte, te lo pague con creces.
~ Rut 2:12 (NVI)

Amigos, ¡qué hermoso e importante es que Dios se involucre en nuestra vida! Aunque no lo veamos, Él se preocupa de nuestras cosas y le interesa favorecernos, guiarnos y ayudarnos.

De seguro has vivido situaciones en las que crees que Dios está en el asunto. Entonces, las cosas no se dan como esperabas y todo cambia de repente. Así que te sientes triste, derrotado y desconsolado. Lo que es peor, muchas veces ponemos nuestra confianza en nosotros mismos o en otra persona y nos frustramos.

Algo que he aplicado para mi propia tranquilidad es que todo lo que anhele y lo que quiera emprender debe llevar el sello de respaldo de mi Jesús. He comprobado que cuando las cosas son de Dios, fluyen con facilidad y se abren puertas. Es más, hay respaldo y bendición en medio de lo que hacemos.

Esto también se ajusta a nuestra vida espiritual, emocional y laboral. Por eso debemos entender que cuando las cosas se hacen realidad, son de Dios y serán duraderas. Las cosas de Dios son eternas…

Todo lo que emprendas y todas las decisiones que tengas que tomar ponlas en manos del Señor.

Un Día a la Vez Copyright © by Claudia Pinzón

Standing Strong Through the Storm - REJOICING IN PERSECUTION


REJOICING IN PERSECUTION

“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.”
~ Luke 6:23 (NIV)

This scripture verse follows Jesus’ statement about the blessings of persecution: hatred, exclusion, insult and rejection in Luke 6:22. This description is of persecution that is like Indian curry. It can be mild, medium or hot! And this verse parallels Jesus teaching in Matthew 5:12 about how we should respond when persecution comes our way.

Jesus does not just say accept it or receive it gracefully. He seems to almost go overboard in indicating that we should be glad and rejoice by leaping for joy when we receive this kind of treatment. Some would say Jesus goes over the top here.

The reason for rejoicing is because the persecuted disciple of Jesus is going to receive a great reward in heaven and is in the company of the prophets of old who also received this kind of treatment.

Can we realistically “jump for joy” in the face of persecution?

Pastor Richard Wurmbrandt was languishing in a Romanian prison cell after months of torture and now isolation. He was meditating on this scripture and decided to make a literal application. So Richard danced —as much as anyone could dance in a cell three paces square— leaping about the room like a madman. The first time he did it, the guard really did think he had gone mad. It was one of the guard’s duties to watch for signs that a prisoner’s mind was beginning to crack under the strain of imprisonment, for if he went to pieces a prisoner would be of no more use for questioning. So the guard rushed off to his canteen and came back with a hunk of bread and some cheese and sugar, and broke the rule of silence as he tried to soothe this strange, laughing, capering figure. Richard ate the food gratefully. It was a very large hunk of bread, far more than he usually had in a whole week!

In his book, In God’s Underground, Richard Wurmbrandt shares how encouraged he was at responding literally to Jesus’ direction to react to persecution with great joy and rejoicing! He had received a reward on earth as well as in heaven.

RESPONSE: Today I will respond to even mild persecution because of Jesus with great rejoicing realizing I will receive a wonderful reward in heaven.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord that You expect me to take Your word literally. Help me to be joyful in the face of any persecution for You.

LHM Daily Devotion - October 15, 2017 "Overcome with Joy"

The family in which I grew up was an average Soviet working-class...
Daily Devotions from Lutheran Hour Ministries

By Pastor Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour



"Overcome with Joy"

October 15, 2017

And He (Jesus) did not permit him but said to him, "Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you."
~ Mark 5:19 (ESV)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The salvation story of Jesus Christ reaches around the world. So that the readers of our Daily Devotion may see the power of the Savior on a global scale, we have asked the volunteers of our international ministry centers to write our Sunday devotions. We pray that the Spirit may touch your day through their words.

In Christ, I remain, His servant and yours,
Kenneth R. Klaus
Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour


The family in which I grew up was an average Soviet working-class family. Around me were troubled kids, broken families, and parents who were always in and out of prison, I disapproved of people who had been in prison -- so much so I wouldn't shake hands or sit at the same table with a person like that.

Amazingly, the time came when I ended up facing a judge and receiving a jail sentence. It was the beginning of the Lord overturning my life. By putting me among the people that I despised, He humbled me.

By the time I turned 26, I had been convicted three times and was being hunted for yet another one. For two years, I hid from the authorities and had to live by committing one crime after another.

Should I tell you I was married and had two children?

Finally, I was caught and sentenced to seven years in jail. After a year and a half of my imprisonment, my wife divorced me. I tried to escape, but I always failed.

I constantly wondered why is it that I have to live according to the laws which were made up by people I don't know? What am I guilty of -- only of being born in this country which follows strange laws? What right do they have to keep me in this cage because I want to live the way I want?

Once more I and three others tried to escape. The guards spotted us and began shooting. It was a miracle we were caught alive. I was sent back to jail, this time to a penal colony. In the colony, I was in a constant conflict with the guards and staff. Since I was constantly trying to escape, guards would come to check on me every two hours.

Every Thursday various missionaries came to share God's Good News with the prisoners. One day the Lord sent a person who told me about Jesus Christ. He said that there is a God for whom there is nothing impossible, including changing a person's life and restoring his family. I was shocked. Why is he telling me about the restoration of a family? He doesn't know anything about me. What if he's telling the truth? Can I trust this man? He says that I need to pray and ask God to forgive my sins, and things would be different.

Only one condition: I have to be turned to God and believe in Jesus sincerely.

Thinking of my son, and how I didn't want him to grow up fatherless like I did, I thought that if this God can do anything, then I will turn to Him for help. I agreed to pray. I closed my eyes and repeated the prayer after this man. When we both said amen, I opened my eyes and saw that he was smiling.

He told me that there's a great celebration in heaven right now; all of the angels are rejoicing because one more soul was saved. Then, after telling me to get up early the next day in order to pray, he left.

He left and I felt like a burden was taken off of my soul. I felt like smiling at everyone. After a while, I noticed that I did not swear anymore. That scared me. I wondered what is going on? Then I knew I was dealing with Someone bigger than I am.

I had so many mixed feelings. First, I felt fear and the question popped up in my head: why did He appear in my life only now? If He had done that earlier I would have not done so many foolish and strange things. At that my heart sank, and I felt really discouraged.

But then, almost immediately, I was overcome with joy because He had come. For the first time, I prayed on my own, asking God to forgive me -- to bring my family back together, and to find my father so that I could tell all of them about Him. I still had three years of my sentence to go.

Then, praise God, I was released!

In a few months, I was back in the penal colony -- only this time not as a prisoner! God brought my family back! I am working on a radio project for prisoners. I got to study at a seminary, and I am constantly visiting various prisons and participating in prison ministry projects. Thanks to the Concordia Foundation, I am able to distribute Bible study materials throughout prisons in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region. It is a great project because it includes feedback communication with the prisoners.

There was a time when I thought that people who were in prison are the worst people on Earth. But God acted in my life in such a way that I now enjoy talking to these people -- among whom I was just a little while ago -- and sharing what God did in my life! I am so thankful that God revealed Jesus Christ to me!

THE PRAYER: Lord, I give thanks that You have been merciful to me a sinner. Now change the hearts of others who so desperately need to hear the Savior's salvation story. In His Name I pray. Amen.

Biography of Author: The author of today's international devotion is Igor Krutogolov who is chaplain of the prison ministry in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region. He distributes materials from Lutheran Hour Ministries and is director of the radio program called Crosses.

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