Daily Reading: October 21

Read Matt 15:21–39
Mat 15:21-29 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. (22) And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” (23) But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” (24) He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (25) But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” (26) And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” (27) She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” (28) Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (29) Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there.

You might think Jesus is being a little rude here. She’s a person after all even though she’s not a Jew. Jesus ought to treat her with a little dignity. But no, that is not the way of the Lord. For she’s pretending to be a Jew, but it doesn’t get past Jesus. “O Lord, Son of David” she cries, well she isn’t even a Samaritan who are half-Israelite. When Jesus does get around to not ignoring her he tells her that she’s not part of his mission. He was sent to the lost sheep of Israel. To top it off, Jesus calls her a dog even after she prostrates and humbles herself before him. But this is one smart cookie. She believes Jesus is able to help her. She is unwilling to believe he will not help her. So she takes Jesus at his word and turns it against Jesus. If I’m a dog I should get scraps. I’m not looking to sit at the table. I just want what falls from the table. To this Jesus is amazed at her faith and indeed says great is her faith. Jesus only says this about a few people in the gospels and all of them aren’t Jews. So Jesus gives her what she desired.

So what about you? Is Jesus ignoring you? Are you pretending to be something you are not? Are you praying and asking for things based on what God says about you and what He says about Himself? Are you still not getting what you want? Jesus may be purifying your faith. You may have lots of pride still and you may not have humbled yourself before the Almighty One. It is not as if your Father in heaven does not care for you. But he will answer your prayer in the manner, fashion, time, amount etc. that is best for His kingdom. But also test our faith at times because He wants to strengthen it. He wants to purify it. And the testing of metal only comes with tribulation and fire and so does our faith.

Secondly, when we pray, we need to pray what God has said in his word. That is what the woman did. Based on what Jesus said she made her request. On what basis are your prayers? Or you simply asking for things to fulfill the desires of the flesh? Upon what promise or nature of God is your petition based?

Heavenly Father, grant us such a faith in Christ that we may be like the pagan woman who prayed to your son Jesus. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 20

Read Matt 15:1–20
Mat 15:15-20 But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” (16) And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? (17) Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? (18) But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. (19) For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. (20) These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

Well it looks as if we need a heart transplant. The natural man, who is not born again, has an evil heart. It’s been like this since the beginning. Gen 8:21 …”I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” It is our hearts that defile us Jesus says. Every bad thing that we think and every bad thing that we say and every bad thing that we do proceeds from the heart. Now we’re not talking about our physical heart but the very center of our being.

But where can we get a new heart? Or at least how can it be cleansed? Paul in Romans 2:29 tells us we need to have our hearts circumcised. Well how is that going to happen? It is written, Heb 10:22 ..”hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” This is baptism. In baptism our hearts are cleansed and renewed. We are joined to Jesus Christ in baptism (Rom. 6:3ff) and to his heart.

With Christ’ heart we begin to have new thoughts, new affections, new desires, and new actions proceeding from a clean, circumcised, new heart. This heart now worships God in sincerity and truth. We will begin to seek to do the will of God from our hearts, not to be seen by others but out of love for God.

What is more, through baptism into Christ Rom 10:8-10 ..”’The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); (9) because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (10) For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Our hearts and mouths are one. Want to know what is inside of person. Listen to what they say. If it is in line with God’s Word then God’s Word is there. If it twist and makes false God’s Word then you know their hearts are evil.

Lord Jesus Christ, sprinkled our hearts with your blood in baptism that they may we circumcised and that we may truly worship Father, Son and Holy Spirit in sincerity and truth. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 19

Read Matt 14:22–36
Mat 14:26-33 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. (27) But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” (28) And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (29) He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. (30) But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” (31) Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (32) And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. (33) And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

This is one of those passages that teaches us how to apply Scripture to ourselves and when those Scriptures are not speaking to us. What I mean is this, Jesus is not asking us to jump out of boats and walk on the water. If you do, you are going to get wet.

So what then of this passage are we to take away from it? What does it teach us? Well for one, Jesus is on our side. He does not want us to be terrified of him. Jesus came to save us. Jesus came as our redeemer to deliver us from sin, death and the power of the devil. So while it may be our first impulse to run away or fall down in fear when we are in the presence of his Word, he tells us, “Don’t be afraid.” Why not? He’s there to help us.

Secondly, when Jesus does tell us to do stuff in the Scriptures that actually do apply to us, we need not fear. We don’t need to fear succeeding in what he’s given us to do nor do we need to fear failing in what he’s given us to do. We simply need to be about doing what he’s given us to do. And really, Jesus has only given us two things to do in our lives: trust him and love the person in front of us like we love ourselves.

Next we learn as we practice these two things that we often are not acting in faith or we’re not doing anything because we have so little faith. Jesus’ chastisement of Peter does too often apply to us. So like Peter we are to focus our attention more on Jesus and realize who is telling us to do the things he tells us to do. The disciples confession of faith here must be ours as well, “Truly you are the Son of God.” The one who is telling us what to do is the Son of God, which means he is God. He is trustworthy, kind and merciful and he’s on your side. So do not fear trusting him or loving your neighbor. He is with you in all these things to help you carry them out. He died for you to make peace between you and the Father in heaven.

Lord Jesus Christ, grant us your Holy Spirit that we may trust in you in all our ways in all our days and that we may carry out your command to love our neighbors without fear. In your precious name we pray. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 18

Read Matt 14:1–21
Mat 14:14-21 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (15) Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” (16) But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” (17) They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” (18) And he said, “Bring them here to me.” (19) Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. (20) And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. (21) And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Talk about a rough week. Jesus hears his cousin John has been beheaded. Of course being fully human as well as divine, he is filled with grief and needs some alone time. Does (John) get it? Nope. He has about the time to cross from one side of the lake to the other and then he is confronted with people who are in all sorts of needs-they’re sick, demon possessed and the like. We see the heart of God in Jesus as he has compassion on them and heals their sick even though he himself is worn out. It’s getting dark and the disciples decide the people need to go home and eat. It is at that moment that Jesus decides to show in a more precise way who he is.

This is not an account to teach us we can do a lot with a little if we just have faith. This is told to us so we may know who Jesus is and put our faith in him. Jesus tells them to feed the people. Of course they are thinking, “What?!” They don’t have the supplies or the money to do so. They take some kids dinner of five loaves and two fish and bring it to Jesus as to show what little they have. Jesus has them bring it to him. Jesus blesses the food and has them distribute it to the people. Five thousand men not including the women and the children are fed, which means at least fifteen thousand people had dinner on such a meager meal and they were all satisfied. They had twelve baskets left over.

Now when you see some guy in the desert performing this kind of meal someone else should come to mind. You got it, Moses and the people of Israel. When they left Egypt, Moses prayed and the Lord rained down manna in the morning and quail in the evening. The same Lord who did that is the one multiplying the bread and the fish in the wilderness. Jesus is the same Lord who provided for Moses and Israel. Because Jesus is the Lord, as we see in this sign, we should place our trust in him that he will give us the true manna, himself, who is the bread of life. Indeed, all over the world he does give us this bread which is his body in his supper, the Lord’s Supper and keeps us alive more than just a day, it gives us eternal life and raises our bodies from the dead.

Lord Jesus Christ, as we partake of your body and blood in the sacrament, grant us a greater faith in you and preserve us until to raise from the dead to everlasting life. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 17

Read Matt 13:44–58
Mat 13:44-50 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (45) “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, (46) who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (47) “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. (48) When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. (49) So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous (50) and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

As we ponder these parables we may want to focus in on verses 49 and 50 as they are not parables but an explanation of what precedes it. Many translations start with “so it will be” but perhaps a better translation is “in this fashion” or “in this way.” Now some may only fix it to the third parable, but Jesus often gives a number of parables, each one teaching mostly the same thing but from different aspects. If we read them carefully we see a similar theme coming up.

The first tells us the man buys the whole field, not just the part with the treasure and he sells all he has. The second the man sells all he has to buy the pearl of great value. The third the net catches fish of every kind. All, all, all, every. This is describing the kingdom of heaven. The king of the kingdom sells everything he has to acquire the treasure. Jesus is that king. St. Paul tells us Jesus emptied himself to ransom all men. Jesus buys the whole world, good and bad, unbeliever and believer with his blood.

Humanity is that great pearl which Jesus again gives up everything to acquire. He empties himself, humbles himself to death, even death upon the cross to save all mankind, whether they would believe in him and be righteous or reject his salvation and remain evil. Yet he believes you are worth the price, his very life.

And so the final parable Jesus swoops mankind in the net of the good news, men of every kind. Of every race, nation, tongue and tribe, the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection brings everything to himself on the cross. At the end of the age, his angels will gather everything or everyone who rejects him to the valley of decision where they are wiped out and become food for birds. They are resurrection to everlasting perdition because they did not want him. Then they will gather the righteous, those who trusted in his good news of salvation and resurrect them to life everlasting. This life everlasting was won for you. It is a free gift from the Author of Life, the man, the merchant. If you believe it, it is yours. It is worth more than any pearl, any field, any suffering, any death because of the price paid to give it to you.

Lord Jesus Christ, you gave up everything to win all of us into your kingdom. Grant us such faith in you and your promise of salvation that we in kind will be willing to give up all things, material and immaterial that we may be found desiring only you as you do us. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 16

Read Matt 13:24–43
Mat 13:36-43 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” (37) He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. (38) The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, (39) and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. (40) Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. (41) The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, (42) and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (43) Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

All three parables have one thing in common and that is the hiddeness or the mystery of the kingdom of God. In the first, the people of God are hidden by the sons of the evil one. You cannot outwardly tell the difference until judgment day. In the second, it is the size of its beginning which is Jesus being buried in a tomb, unknown to the world, and risen from the dead with just his disciples as witnesses. In the third, it is much like the first where you can see the effects of God’s people in the world and they spread throughout the world, yet they cannot be discerned from the world.

Which gives us probably the main point of hope from the parable-God’s kingdom and the gospel will not fail. It will spread throughout the world and many will believe it being made sons of God through it. It’s hard to see sometimes because in some places it is growing and in other places shrinking. But the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Sometimes Satan has planted his chapel not only next to the Church but smack dab in the middle of it.

So we go by people’s confession of their mouth. Because we cannot tell who is a believer and who isn’t just by looking at them or watching their good or bad behavior. There is a judgment day and on that day the angels will separate all that out. On a side note, we see the unbelievers are gathered first and then the believers. This goes very well together later in chapter 24 where one is taken and one is left. Where are the one who are taken to? To where the vultures gathers. Read Revelation 19 about the birds. Those who taken are taken to judgment while those who are left behind are God’s children.

Lord God, Heavenly Father, let me see by faith your kingdom working in this world. May I be part of that leaven, the good seed and a sprig of that mustard plant during my time on earth that on the harvest day I may be left behind to be gathered into your divine barns. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 15

Read Matt 13:1–23
Mat 13:18-23 “Hear then the parable of the sower: (19) When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. (20) As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, (21) yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. (22) As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. (23) As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Of the three who have negative aspects the first is probably the least culpable. Never the less, he’s not going to be in good shape on the last day. What a horrible thing to have had the possibility for eternal life yet to have it snatched away by Satan because it isn’t understood. It isn’t understood because the heart of such a person is still worldly. It judges things based on karma. It knows nothing of grace. Everything comes with a price. While the Word has been placed on that persons heart, it goes against everything they believe. You probably know a lot of people like this. You need to pray God will open their hearts to understanding the good news.

The rocky ground represents Christians who are persecuted. It could be in the terrors of physical persecution. Christians today are raped, sold into slavery, even beheaded because of their faith. Then there are those who suffer ridicule for their faith. Many remain faithful to the Lord and remain trusting in his mercy and kindness. Some though will leave and abandon the faith. Their value temporary life more than the gift of eternal life.

Then there are those Christians, many of whom I run into. They believe the good news with joy, but life happens. There are soccer games and football games to bring the kids to. There’s the reason that Sunday is your only day off and you deserve to sleep in. You can find all sorts of things to do on Sunday morning rather than gather with the people of God and receive Christ’s gifts. Eventually their faith grows cold and dies.

Finally there are those Christians who hear the Word of Promise, believe and live in it. They understand the great gift they have been given. They understand everything in this life is temporary and fading. The gift of God is eternal and enduring. It is worth more than anything else. Such a one bears good fruit for God and Christ. You will find such a ones gathered around God’s Word and Christ’ sacrament bearing much fruit. But it isn’t as if Satan hasn’t tried steal the Word from them. They don’t let him but humble themselves before the Word. It’s not as if they aren’t persecuted but they love the Lord more than their lives. It’s not as if they don’t live in the real world, they just value eternity with Jesus to be of more value.

What kind of soil are you?

Lord Jesus Christ, grant us your Holy Spirit, that we may bear all things and remain faithful to your promise and bear much fruit in faith. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 14

Read Matt 12:38–50
Mat 12:39-42 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. (40) For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (41) The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (42) The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign… so the song goes, but the Jews were looking for a different sign. If they had been paying attention the last twelve chapters they would have seen plenty of signs. Their unbelief kept them from recognizing them for what they were. Indeed, they were an evil and adulterous generation. Like their fathers before them, they did not believe and trust the Word of God. They could not see their Lord was standing before them.

So Jesus tells them they will be given a sign, a sure and certain sign that he is who he says he is. He will give them the sign of Jonah. He will be dead and on the third day rise from the dead. Indeed they, the unbelieving Jews, will put a guard on his tomb to keep his disciples from stealing his body and yet the body was no longer there on the third day. Yet they would not believe the Scriptures that Jesus is the messiah, the very Son of God. For they would have to believe the witnesses who saw him alive as their own eyes bear witness of the empty tomb. They refused to believe with their own eyes while he was on this side of the resurrection or the other side. They refused to believe his word. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus tells us, “If we don’t believe Moses and the prophets, we won’t repent even if someone rises from the dead.”

We are in a similar state as the Jews. Sure we’d love to see some signs from heaven. We’d like to see a miracle or two. Yet we have Moses and the prophets. We are called to believe what they have written for us. On top of that, we have witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus and what they wrote. We have the promises of our Lord Jesus Christ through their hands. We too are called to believe what has been written. God is not going to provide us anything more. If we won’t believe what was written we’re certainly not going to believe the sign of Jonah.

But look, we have 500 witnesses of the resurrection. If Jesus is risen from the dead then you are forgiven of your sins. Eternal life and the resurrection to glory is being given to you. God is a peace with you because of the sacrifice on the cross by Jesus. God loves you so much he sent Jesus to bear your punishment there and Jesus’ resurrection is proof that He accepted that offering. It’s all yours. You just have to believe it.

Lord God, heavenly Father, grant us your Holy Spirit that our hearts may be converted, repent of our sins and believe in the sign of Jonah, Jesus provided. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 13

Read Matt 12:22–37
Mat 12:32-37 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this world or in the world to come. (33) Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree corrupt and its fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by its fruit. (34) Offspring of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (35) A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings out good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings out evil things. (36) But I say to you that every idle word, whatever men may speak, they shall give account of it in the day of judgment. (37) For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.

In this passage Jesus is casting out demons and the Pharisees attribute his power to the devil. Indeed, instead of giving glory to the Holy Spirit who is operating in Jesus (this does not detract from his own innate divine power) they are saying it is Satan. It is in this context we get Jesus discussion about the unforgivable sin. You will hear a lot of pastors say it is unbelief. But unbelief can be overcome by the Holy Spirit, indeed it is the only way any of us are saved. In the context given here, the unforgivable sin is attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to the devil himself. It is directly opposing and speaking ill of the Holy Spirit.

Now comes the not so quite nice words of Jesus about the Pharisees. “Brood of vipers!” that is what Jesus calls them. This isn’t the nice, purple dinosaur Jesus speaking here. Jesus’ harsh words are calling them to repentance before their hearts are permanently hardened. It also speaks to original sin and the necessity to be born again of the Spirit. Unless we are born again through the Water and the Word, we are bad trees. We will only produce bad fruit. We will have an evil, wicked confession of our faith because that is what is in our hearts.

But once we are born from above by the Water and the Spirit (did you catch that Word=Spirit) we are now made good trees by the Holy Spirit. As good trees, we will confess good things namely Jesus is our one and only savior from sin, death and the power of the devil. We will thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit and we will proclaim the Spirit’s work in the life of Jesus and in our own lives. If your words confess Jesus as savior you will be justified, because the Holy Spirit has made you a good tree which bears good fruit. If you have resisted the Holy Spirit, you remain a bad tree which can only produce bad fruit namely that Jesus is not your savior; you want to be judged by your own works—which are bad.

Lord Jesus Christ, ever fill us with your Holy Spirit that we may bear good fruit, confessing you as the savior of the world and always recognize the Spirit’s work in your life, our life and the lives of those around us. Amen.