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.

Daily Reading: October 12

Read Matt 12:1–21
Mat 12:7-8 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. (8) For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
Mat 12:11-12 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? (12) Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
Mat 12:18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount he said he come to do away with the Law but to fulfill it. He then makes the Law seem impossible to do as he explains the Law such as, even if you look lustfully upon someone you have committed adultery or being angry is murder.

But now it seems like Jesus is going in the opposite direction with the Sabbath. He seems to be making it easier than the way it had been taught or was being taught, particularly by the Pharisees. On the one hand, the Pharisees and those before them seemed to have placed restrictions on the Sabbath that God never gave. It became burdensome. Jesus here is showing the true meaning of the Sabbath.

But Jesus also goes above the Sabbath as well. He was teaching that the Sabbath was for man and not man for the Sabbath. It was day of mercy worked into Creation. It was a day to cease from our works and look to see how we may serve our neighbor with good. As we read what Jesus said, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” and “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” we should remember that while the Sabbath no longer applies to us under the New Covenant, it doesn’t apply because Jesus has become our Sabbath. We have rested from all our works knowing we are pleasing to God because of our faith in Jesus.

As we go about our day, as we have opportunity to do good, let us be about doing good knowing we are free to do so. Whenever we may think we have to obey a law of God yet an opportunity is there to do good to someone else, we should take the opportunity to do good for our neighbor. God does not need our sacrifices but our neighbor does.

And on top of that, we are children of God. Jesus has told us to be holy as our Father in heaven in holy and to be merciful as our Father in heaven has been merciful. In other words, we have been saved by and in mercy so we may be like our Father to others. Being merciful to others is more important to God than our making sacrifices to him.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for being merciful to us by sacrificing your son Jesus Christ so we may enter into his rest. Give us your Holy Spirit that we may be merciful to our fellow man even as you have been merciful to us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 11

Read Matt 11:20–30
Mat 11:25-30 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; (26) yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. (27) All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (28) Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus has said this a number of times. We must become like little children if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven. To be like a little child is to be totally dependent upon our parents and in this case upon our Heavenly Father. If we think we can get eternal life by our works or machinations we are terribly wrong. There is nothing we can do or contribute to enter into eternal life. If we really wanted to know the truth of it, there is nothing we do or have which isn’t given to us by God our Father, whether we believe in him or not.

It is through faith in Jesus that we know the Father. This faith is given to us as a gift through hearing the good news. Yes faith is not something that we work up in ourselves. Jesus alone through Holy Spirit preaching the good news reveals the Father to us. Jesus tells us in John’s gospel, you did not choose me but I chose you. So such is the case, if we have faith in Christ and the Father it is because Jesus has revealed himself and the Father to our hearts and created faith within us.

In the midst of this revelation Jesus invites us to come to him. Do your sins and guilt weigh you down? Is your shame too much to bear? Is life itself just to hard to handle? Jesus will give you rest. Jesus has take your yoke upon himself on the cross. He has plowed the field ahead of you already. Jesus is gentle and will not cast aside anyone who comes to him broken of heart and spirit. Jesus makes you acceptable to God in the throne room of grace. His yoke is easy and light because it is his yoke. He is bearing the load. We simply must trust his promise that it is so and we will feel the relief in our souls.

We can cast our cares upon God because he cares for us, he cares for you.

Lord Jesus Christ, reveal yourself and the Father to us in your Gospel Promise that faith may be created in us that we may trust your promises and come to you and be lifted from our cares and burdens of our souls and find rest in the arms of your cross. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 10

Read Matt. 11:1-19
Mat 11:16-19 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, (17) “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ (18) For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ (19) The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

So are you still demanding that God and Jesus (who is God) must meet your expectations as to what God and Jesus should be and do? It’s pretty arrogant of us sometimes to be telling God how to be God. We try to tell Jesus what sort of savior he must be. We have expectations of God and Christ which God has never told us he is like or is going to be doing or has done.

Get over yourself. Who are you to tell God what he should be doing or how he should be doing it? You can’t even dictate your own life and the lives of those around you. Yet we keep trying and our expectations are continually cast aside and then we’re disappointed because of unrealistic expectations of God.

If you really want to know what you can expect from God and Jesus (who is God) then you have to submit your expectations according to his revealed will which happens to be written down for us in what we normally call the Bible. Really, read through the whole thing 7 or 8 or even 10 times before you start telling God what sort of God he ought to be. He tells you what sort of God he is right there in the text and what you can expect from him.

And what sort of God and Jesus do we get? We get one that likes to get dirty and play in the mud. (Gen. 1 and 2) We get one who isn’t ashamed to call us brothers. (Heb. 2) We get one who associates with all sorts of people good and bad, up and down and a bunch of riff raff in the middle. Some even call him a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners. God and Jesus just are unrespectable. Because if he were respectable, then none of unrespectable people, who really need him, would ever approach him and be saved.

So if you want to be with the Father and with the Son, you too recognize your own unrespectability. It’s the only way you’ll ever accept the only God and Jesus there ever was, is and will be forever.

Heavenly Father, help us to have a right understanding of you and your Christ as it is revealed in your Word and give us faith that we might believe and trust in it. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 9

Read Matt 10:24–42
Mat 10:28-35 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (29) Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. (30) But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. (31) Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (32) So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, (33) but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (34) “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. (35) For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.

To fear or not to fear, that is the question. Or perhaps it is who to fear or how to fear the Fear of Jacob. Who and what we are not to fear is simple. We are not to fear people or the world. They can torture us, behead us, sell us into slavery, rape and murder us. Yet we are not to fear them. Whatever they can do us as Christians is transitory. It can only last as long as we are in the world. But it will not last forever.

What God can do to us is forever though. Therefore he is rightly feared. Not only can God destroy the body but he can torture it and the soul forever in the fires of hell. Yet the proper fear of God is trust and love, in him and towards him. And Jesus gives us a good reason to fear, love and trust and God. He has the very hairs of our head numbered and we are worth more than birds. Remember Jesus said earlier before we pray God knows what we are going to pray and answers our prayers. He said our Father in heaven knows what we need and is going to provide us these things as we seek his kingdom and his righteousness. He is going to give us all good things and not bad things when we pray. So we can fear God, love and trust our Father in heaven.

Jesus gives us this encouragement because we are going to face all sorts of trial and tribulations in our life which will cause us to doubt God really loves us and is on our side. So he calls us to remain faithful unto him. He calls us to confess his name before men and hold to this confession always. If we do this he promises to be faithful to us and to confess us as his own before the Father in heaven. The peace we have before God comes at a price. As we possess this peace before our heavenly Father, we will not know peace with the world. Jesus doesn’t bring peace but a sword. His sword divides those who trust in him and those who do not. Those who do not trust him raise up their own sword against God and his people, whether strangers, family or friends. In the face of the sword, remain faithful to Jesus and you will inherit a crown of eternal life.

Heavenly Father, may we ever possess that peace knowing we are worth more to you than birds, we are worth the very life of your Son, Jesus. Grant us your Spirit and faith that we may ever confess the name of Jesus especially in the midst of persecution. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 8

Read Matt 10:1–23
Mat 10:21-23 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, (22) and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (23) When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Indeed the Son of Man has already come. He is the one speaking these words. They just didn’t get it quite yet. But one things Jesus is telling his apostles is something he has told all of us in the Beatitudes. When you are a Christian you will be hated for the name of Jesus. You will suffer persecution, ridicule and yes sometimes even imprisonment and death.

In the Beatitudes Jesus assures us that we are blessed by God when we suffer for the sake of Jesus’ name. The kingdom of heaven belongs to such people. The same kingdom the disciples are proclaiming. It is for the lowly, the poor, the sick, the lonely and depressed and those who are seeking a righteousness which is not their own.

Those who live for the kingdom can expect persecution from their very own family, brothers, sisters, parents and children will at times turn against their own flesh and blood. This happened to the apostles, the Christians who heard them and even unto today those who believe the apostles’ message.

Yet we should not be discouraged or disheartened. If we endure, if we remain faithful to the end, we shall be saved. Not that endurance earns our salvation but our faith in Christ’ name. If we lose that faith, which is the only way to salvation, how can we be saved? But a crown of righteousness is for those who remain faithful unto death. St. Peter reminds us we have been saveed, 1Pe 1:4-5 “to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, (5) who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” We will be guarded through faith by God’s power to remain faithful. Whatever is going on in the world is transitory and passing away. It will not remain forever. But what Jesus has in store for you is eternal, it does not fade away, rust or rot. It is more precious than all the gold, silver and precious jewels of this world. And to illustrate that fact, the roads of the eternal Zion are paved with gold like common brick and cement.

Lord Jesus Christ, let us suffer for you name’s sake and not for doing evil and when we undergo persecution on account of your name, give us your Spirit that we may be faithful unto the end. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 7

Read Matt 9:18–38
Mat 9:20-23 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, (21) for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” (22) Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. Mat 9:27-30 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” (28) When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” (29) Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” (30) And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.”

When we look at these two instances perhaps we ought to feel ashamed because we don’t have faith like these two. We are encouraged to have faith the size of a mustard seed yet we don’t even have faith that big. Perhaps Jesus’ words to his disciples, “O ye of little faith” apply to us. Yet we should be thankful that there is no measurement of faith when it comes to salvation. For there is faith that can work miracles, which also is a gift of God, and there is justifying faith which receives the forgiveness of sins. With this faith there is no measurement other than do you have it or you don’t. You either trust God has saved you for Christ’s sake or you do not.

The miracles recorded here are not given that we might believe in Jesus they are given to strengthen our faith in Jesus. Jesus did these to show who he was and what authority he has. When our prayers aren’t answered the way we would like them to be answered, it isn’t that we don’t have faith or enough faith. It’s simply either not in God’s overall plan or will promote the kingdom of God. Perhaps at times it might be we don’t have enough faith, but not enough is not the same as none at all and that is where it seems we get into trouble in doubting our Savior. We may doubt we have any faith at all. That’s when we need to realize that we are trusting in our faith and not in Jesus.

I also believe that we have these accounts to encourage us to have a greater faith. A greater faith though comes at what I believe is a greater loss. The woman coming to Jesus had nothing to lose. She had lost everything. There just wasn’t anything else she could trust. The blind men were in similar straights. They had nothing also. Perhaps we need to see what are we still holding onto instead of trusting Jesus. What “insurance policies” are we still looking to in case our prayers aren’t answered the way we want them to answered.

So we are called then to trust only Jesus. If we still have eggs in other baskets we may be trusting Jesus, some, but our trust is not only in Him. Jesus is jealous for our faith in him.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us, increase our faith in you, help us to cast aside all other crutches so that you alone will be our Savior in all circumstances. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 6

Read Matt 9:1–17
Mat 9:2-7 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” (3) And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” (4) But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? (5) For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? (6) But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he then said to the paralytic–“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” (7) And he rose and went home. ..12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. (13) Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The Gospel of Matthew is about authority, more specifically what kind of authority does Jesus have and where did it come from. In today’s lesson we see Jesus has authority to forgive sins. A paralytic was brought to Jesus. You would think in the normal course of circumstances that a healer would lay his hands on the man and heal him so he can walk. But Jesus knows what the man needs more than healing of the body is a healing of the soul. This is true for all of us. Particularly in Jesus’ day people believed if you had bad things happening to you, then you must have committed some sin to deserve that suffering. Seems they never learned the lesson from Job. It is true that all suffering comes from sin, sin in us, sin in the world and sins we commit. But our individual sufferings are not caused for the most part by any particular sin but our sinful condition. We need to hear we are forgiven, that God is not angry with us, and that he loves us.

So Jesus tells the man that he is forgiven. Many wonder, how can he have such authority to forgive sins? That is God’s prerogative! So Jesus tests them. Which is easier to say someone is forgiven or to actually heal someone who is paralyzed? Well anyone can say someone is forgiven, there needs no proof that it happened. You can’t see someone is forgiven. So Jesus tells the man to get up and walk and the man does. It showed them and us that Jesus has authority to forgive sins.

On top of this, Jesus teaches us that he desires mercy and not sacrifice. That is to say he wants us to perform acts of mercy on our fellow man, especially the downtrodden more than any other good works we may do. We may want to feed the poor, hand out blankets, and any other good work you think we ought to be doing as a good work, do these sacrifices we will. Jesus though needs or wants us to be merciful. To share the good news of the free forgiveness he won for us and all men everywhere by his sacrifice on the cross. And he wants us to forgive those persons who sinned against us. Then we can offer up sacrifices of thanksgiving to God.

Lord God, heavenly Father, grant us faith in the good news of the free gift of forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name and may we forgive those who have sinned against us. Embolden us to tell others who are suffering of this free gift of forgiveness that they may know your love as well. In Jesus’ name. Amen.