North American Lutheran Church https://thenalc.org Tue, 15 Jan 2019 23:12:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.9 https://thenalc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/cropped-Luther-Rose-NALC-150x150.png North American Lutheran Church https://thenalc.org 32 32 Daily Reading – January 18, 2019 https://thenalc.org/blog/2019/01/14/daily-reading-january-18-2019/ Mon, 14 Jan 2019 17:58:40 +0000 https://thenalc.org/?p=32941 Paul’s words in this text are just as critical for our day as they were for his own. Human sexuality in marriage has its origin in creation. God intends for us to live in community. The complimentary nature of the anatomy of men and women is a symbol of a much deeper spiritual connection of the two becoming one in marriage. They were originally one. Then woman was taken out of man and they were separated from each other, and in the sexual encounter of marriage they are reunited again as “one flesh.” Paul describes this complimentary unity as not claiming authority over our own bodies but “yielding” our bodies for the sake of the other. In marriage there is a commitment to the mutual fulfillment of the other. This selfless giving is the nature of a loving community into which children are to be born, nurtured, and mentored.

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Uniting as One Flesh

 

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

– 1 Corinthians 7:1–7 ESV

Paul’s words in this text are just as critical for our day as they were for his own. Human sexuality in marriage has its origin in creation. God intends for us to live in community. The complimentary nature of the anatomy of men and women is a symbol of a much deeper spiritual connection of the two becoming one in marriage. They were originally one. Then woman was taken out of man and they were separated from each other, and in the sexual encounter of marriage they are reunited again as “one flesh.” Paul describes this complimentary unity as not claiming authority over our own bodies but “yielding” our bodies for the sake of the other. In marriage there is a commitment to the mutual fulfillment of the other. This selfless giving is the nature of a loving community into which children are to be born, nurtured, and mentored.

Paul also clearly acknowledges that in the midst of the beauty, power and attraction of human sexuality there is also the perfect opportunity for Satan’s temptations to influence us in ways that are contrary to God’s intended purposes. There is much confusion today regarding sexuality and marriage as Satan continues to influence people in the direction of self-centeredness, self-realization and self-indulgence. Sexuality has become more about pleasing self and using another person to achieve that end than about love, commitment, relationships or marriage. Our culture has attempted to justify self-serving behavior by norming mutually exploitive relationships—you can use me for your satisfaction if I can use you for my satisfaction. This is the nature of sexual immorality to which Paul is referring. The net effect of these behaviors (that have become valued in our culture of non-judgmental acceptance and tolerance) is the continual growth of perverse sexual immorality that undermines, marriage, family and a stable environment for children to be nurtured. Just as moral behavior consistent with God’s will leads to healthy relationships and fulfillment, immoral behavior contrary to God’s will leads to broken relationships, a vacuum of selfishness, the destruction of human community and the senseless deaths of countless unborn children who were intended to be the fruit of selfless love in marriage.

Marriage is a gift and Paul points out that those who refrain from marriage also have a gift. But such a gift is not grounded in self-serving opportunities. The gift of remaining single is not a matter of being unwilling to share with others in order to keep more for oneself. Paul’s life was just the opposite. His life apart from marriage was bound in the community of the Church providing him with the greatest flexibility for serving Christ and caring for many churches.

Luther’s words regarding this subject are helpful. Luther writes, “There are many reasons why people marry. Some marry for money and prosperity. Many people marry because of sheer immaturity, to seek sensual pleasure and satisfy it. Some marry to beget heirs. But St. Paul gives but this one reason, and I know of none fundamentally stronger and better, namely, need. Need commands it. Nature will express itself, bearing fruit and multiplying, and God does not want this outside marriage, and so everyone because of this need must enter into marriage if he wants to live with a good conscience and in favor with God. If this need were not there, all the other reasons taken together would make very poor marriages. This is particularly true of that smart immaturity which leads fools to take lightly such a serious, needful, godly estate; but it is not long until they realize what they have done to themselves.”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we give you thanks for your Word that is the way, the truth and the life. Give us the courage and the tenacity to live according to it even when it places us at odds with the surrounding culture and its values. Strengthen our marriages making them living examples of the love and eternal commitment you have for your bride, the Church. Make our homes communities of faith where children are nurtured in selfless love. In place of the shallowness of acceptance and tolerance, strengthen us to live by those values that reflect your will and by the power of your Grace make us instruments of your justice and mercy for all you have created. In the name of Christ our Lord we pray. A-men.

Pro-Life Action: If married, reach out in selfless love this week to strengthen your relationship with your spouse. If single, reach out in love to build your relationship with another member of your local congregation.

Today’s devotion was written by Rev. John Bradosky, bishop of the North American Lutheran Church.

This year’s Advent devotions are written by the members of NALC Life Ministries. The devotional follows the daily Revised Common Lectionary for Advent and includes a Bible reading, commentary, prayer and pro-life action for every day until Christmas Eve.

As we move through the season of Advent, Scripture reveals the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as Mary and Joseph ponder this miracle and seek to understand who this precious child might be. This devotional examines our responsibility to protect all human life in light of Mary and Joseph’s protection of Jesus, the savior of the world.

Our authors include Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Rev. Mark Chavez, Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, Rev. Scott Licht, Rev. Sandra Towberman, Rev. Steve Shipman, Ms. Rebecka Andrae, Rev. Melinda Jones, Rev. David Nelson, Ms. Rosemary Johnson, Rev. Mark Werner and Rev. Steve Bliss.

Learn more about NALC Life Ministries

Ruth 1 (ESV)

Naomi Widowed

In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

Ruth’s Loyalty to Naomi

Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” 14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” 18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.

Naomi and Ruth Return

19 So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”

22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.

Psalm 17 (ESV)

In the Shadow of Your Wings

17 A Prayer of David.

Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry!
Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!

From your presence let my vindication come!
Let your eyes behold the right!

You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night,
you have tested me, and you will find nothing;
I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.

With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips
I have avoided the ways of the violent.

My steps have held fast to your paths;
my feet have not slipped.

I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me; hear my words.

Wondrously show your steadfast love,
O Savior of those who seek refuge
from their adversaries at your right hand.

Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings,

from the wicked who do me violence,
my deadly enemies who surround me.

10  They close their hearts to pity;
with their mouths they speak arrogantly.

11  They have now surrounded our steps;
they set their eyes to cast us to the ground.

12  He is like a lion eager to tear,
as a young lion lurking in ambush.

13  Arise, O Lord! Confront him, subdue him!
Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword,

14  from men by your hand, O Lord,
from men of the world whose portion is in this life.
You fill their womb with treasure;
they are satisfied with children,
and they leave their abundance to their infants.

15  As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.

Acts 21:27–36 (ESV)

Paul Arrested in the Temple

27 When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, 28 crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” 29 For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. 30 Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. 31 And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. 32 He at once took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. And when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33 Then the tribune came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He inquired who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd were shouting one thing, some another. And as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. 35 And when he came to the steps, he was actually carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd, 36 for the mob of the people followed, crying out, “Away with him!”

Luther’s Lectures on the Psalms, 1513-1515, contain many declarations concerning the Scriptures. “What pasture is to the beast …, the nest for the birds, the stream for fish, the Scriptures are for believing souls. To the arrogant, of course, they are a stumblingblock; he will have nothing to do with them, since they offer him nothing. But to him who approaches the Scriptures with humility they open themselves and themselves produce humility, change man from a desperate sinner into a child of God. They give everything which the soul needs, and it is to tempt God, if anyone will not be satisfied with the Scriptures. They are the fountain from which one must dip. Each word of the same is a source which affords an inexhaustible abundance of water to everyone who thirsts after the saving doctrine. God’s will is completely contained therein, so that we must constantly go back to them. Nothing should be presented which is not confirmed by the authority of both Testaments and agrees with them. It cannot be otherwise, for the Scriptures are divine; in them God speaks and they are His Word.” (13–14)

–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures

This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.

Learn More

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Daily Reading – January 17, 2019 https://thenalc.org/blog/2019/01/14/daily-reading-january-17-2019/ Mon, 14 Jan 2019 17:40:48 +0000 https://thenalc.org/?p=32940 We learn from Luke in the preceding passage that Simon the Sorcerer was well-known throughout the region in and near Samaria, and that he amazed many people with his magic. He boasted about his powers and sought to impress anyone who would pay attention to him. As Philip was preaching to the people during his first missionary trip to this area, the people were brought to faith in Christ and were baptized. Luke records (v. 13) that Simon himself “believed and was baptized” and that he was amazed by “the signs and miracles” that he observed as he tagged along with Philip.

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Signs

 

18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” 24 And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”

– Acts 8:18–24 ESV

We learn from Luke in the preceding passage that Simon the Sorcerer was well-known throughout the region in and near Samaria, and that he amazed many people with his magic. He boasted about his powers and sought to impress anyone who would pay attention to him. As Philip was preaching to the people during his first missionary trip to this area, the people were brought to faith in Christ and were baptized. Luke records (v. 13) that Simon himself “believed and was baptized” and that he was amazed by “the signs and miracles” that he observed as he tagged along with Philip.

As we come to today’s passage, we read that Simon “saw” (v. 18) that people were receiving the Spirit through the laying on of hands. Simon, seeing this as a sign, immediately wanted to possess this power and he was willing to pay for it. Simon had earlier bragged about his great powers and he wanted to ensure that others did not have greater powers than he possessed.

Simon failed to read the sign of the Holy Spirit in the way it is intended, as a gift of God. Simon saw it instead as a sign of power–his own power, to possess and use for his own magical illusions. He saw signs, but failed to take them to heart in faith through the Holy Spirit. His “heart [was] not right before God” (v. 21) and so he attempted to buy this sign of divine power.

Signs are everywhere! Written signs, graphic signs, political signs, instruction signs, office signs, church signs…the list goes on and on. A favorite song of mine, “Signs,” (1970) written by Les Emmerson and performed by Five Man Electrical Band, touches on the restrictive nature of signs. Its refrain proclaims,


Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

But the song ends in a final verse that demonstrates how signs can be welcoming and positive as well: 

And the sign said, ‘Everybody welcome. Come in, kneel down and pray.’ But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all, I didn’t have a penny to pay. So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign. I said, ‘Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ bout me. I’m alive and doin’ fine,’ Wooo!

Tomorrow is the March for Life. There will be signs of all types at the march: pictures, slogans, church and professional group banners, Bible quotes, and so many more. Our church body will be well-represented by its leadership, members and friends. Praise God that we are a life-affirming denomination that celebrates and honors God’s gift of life.

What kind of “sign” are you? What message are you sending to those who “read” or “see” you? Make sure your “sign” is legible and your message clear. Will your sign be self-righteous and condemning, or positive, loving and life giving?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I know that You are the author of all life. Thank you for the gift of life, every life. Through the Holy Spirit, grant me wisdom and strength to be a life-affirming sign to others. Help me to demonstrate the value of life through my words and my actions. In the name of Jesus Christ, my Savior and my Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Pro-Life Action: If you’re not attending the March for Life, make a pro-life sign and place it in your yard or car window.

Today’s devotion was written by Ms. Rebecka V. Andrae, administrative assistant for the Mid-Northeast Mission District. She resides in Greensburg, PA and is a disciple of Christ worshiping at St. Paul, Latrobe, PA.

This year’s Advent devotions are written by the members of NALC Life Ministries. The devotional follows the daily Revised Common Lectionary for Advent and includes a Bible reading, commentary, prayer and pro-life action for every day until Christmas Eve.

As we move through the season of Advent, Scripture reveals the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as Mary and Joseph ponder this miracle and seek to understand who this precious child might be. This devotional examines our responsibility to protect all human life in light of Mary and Joseph’s protection of Jesus, the savior of the world.

Our authors include Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Rev. Mark Chavez, Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, Rev. Scott Licht, Rev. Sandra Towberman, Rev. Steve Shipman, Ms. Rebecka Andrae, Rev. Melinda Jones, Rev. David Nelson, Ms. Rosemary Johnson, Rev. Mark Werner and Rev. Steve Bliss.

Learn more about NALC Life Ministries

Judges 21 (ESV)

Wives Provided for the Tribe of Benjamin

21 Now the men of Israel had sworn at Mizpah, “No one of us shall give his daughter in marriage to Benjamin.” And the people came to Bethel and sat there till evening before God, and they lifted up their voices and wept bitterly. And they said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel, that today there should be one tribe lacking in Israel?” And the next day the people rose early and built there an altar and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the people of Israel said, “Which of all the tribes of Israel did not come up in the assembly to the Lord?” For they had taken a great oath concerning him who did not come up to the Lord to Mizpah, saying, “He shall surely be put to death.” And the people of Israel had compassion for Benjamin their brother and said, “One tribe is cut off from Israel this day. What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since we have sworn by the Lord that we will not give them any of our daughters for wives?”

And they said, “What one is there of the tribes of Israel that did not come up to the Lord to Mizpah?” And behold, no one had come to the camp from Jabesh-gilead, to the assembly. For when the people were mustered, behold, not one of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead was there. 10 So the congregation sent 12,000 of their bravest men there and commanded them, “Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword; also the women and the little ones. 11 This is what you shall do: every male and every woman that has lain with a male you shall devote to destruction.” 12 And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead 400 young virgins who had not known a man by lying with him, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

13 Then the whole congregation sent word to the people of Benjamin who were at the rock of Rimmon and proclaimed peace to them. 14 And Benjamin returned at that time. And they gave them the women whom they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead, but they were not enough for them. 15 And the people had compassion on Benjamin because the Lord had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.

16 Then the elders of the congregation said, “What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?” 17 And they said, “There must be an inheritance for the survivors of Benjamin, that a tribe not be blotted out from Israel. 18 Yet we cannot give them wives from our daughters.” For the people of Israel had sworn, “Cursed be he who gives a wife to Benjamin.” 19 So they said, “Behold, there is the yearly feast of the Lord at Shiloh, which is north of Bethel, on the east of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.” 20 And they commanded the people of Benjamin, saying, “Go and lie in ambush in the vineyards 21 and watch. If the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and snatch each man his wife from the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. 22 And when their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Grant them graciously to us, because we did not take for each man of them his wife in battle, neither did you give them to them, else you would now be guilty.’ ” 23 And the people of Benjamin did so and took their wives, according to their number, from the dancers whom they carried off. Then they went and returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and lived in them. 24 And the people of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and family, and they went out from there every man to his inheritance.

25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Psalm 16 (ESV)

You Will Not Abandon My Soul

16 A Miktam of David.

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.

I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.

10  For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.

11  You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Acts 21:17–26 (ESV)

Paul Visits James

17 When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. 18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, 21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. 22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24 take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law. 25 But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.” 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them.

Luther’s Lectures on the Psalms, 1513-1515, contain many declarations concerning the Scriptures. “What pasture is to the beast …, the nest for the birds, the stream for fish, the Scriptures are for believing souls. To the arrogant, of course, they are a stumblingblock; he will have nothing to do with them, since they offer him nothing. But to him who approaches the Scriptures with humility they open themselves and themselves produce humility, change man from a desperate sinner into a child of God. They give everything which the soul needs, and it is to tempt God, if anyone will not be satisfied with the Scriptures. They are the fountain from which one must dip. Each word of the same is a source which affords an inexhaustible abundance of water to everyone who thirsts after the saving doctrine. God’s will is completely contained therein, so that we must constantly go back to them. Nothing should be presented which is not confirmed by the authority of both Testaments and agrees with them. It cannot be otherwise, for the Scriptures are divine; in them God speaks and they are His Word.” (13–14)

–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures

This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.

Learn More

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Daily Reading – January 16, 2019 https://thenalc.org/blog/2019/01/10/daily-reading-january-16-2019/ Thu, 10 Jan 2019 19:42:29 +0000 https://thenalc.org/?p=32505 Back in 1976, “Saturday Night Live” once found humor in a bag of glass. Actor Dan Aykroyd played a sketchy toy company executive. An investigative reporter interviewed him about several of the business’ wares. After dismissing “Mr. Skin-Grafter,” “General Tron’s Secret Police Confession Kit,” and, “Doggie Dentist,” this host took particular issue with “Johnny Switchblade Action Figure,” and “Teddy Chainsaw Bear” (complete with protruding power tool).

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Bag O’ Glass

 

33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”

– Luke 11:33–36 ESV

Back in 1976, “Saturday Night Live” once found humor in a bag of glass. Actor Dan Aykroyd played a sketchy toy company executive. An investigative reporter interviewed him about several of the business’ wares. After dismissing “Mr. Skin-Grafter,” “General Tron’s Secret Police Confession Kit,” and, “Doggie Dentist,” this host took particular issue with “Johnny Switchblade Action Figure,” and “Teddy Chainsaw Bear” (complete with protruding power tool).

What the reporter really couldn’t fathom was the “Bag O’ Glass” toy, which is “simply a bag of jagged, dangerous glass bits” that retails for $1.99. Aykroyd’s arrogant character, Irwin Mainway, just straightens his tie and admits the merchandise is “ya know, glass, it’s broken glass,” before adding that “it sells very well, as a matter of fact.” “We got a whole ‘Bag O’ line: ‘Bag O’ Nails,’ ‘Bag O’ Bugs,’ ‘Bag O’ Vipers,’ ‘Bag O’ Sulfuric Acid’ – decent toys.” He completes the comical absurdity by defending the sack of fragments. “It’s a creative toy. Hold this up and you see all the colors in the rainbow. It teaches ‘em about light refraction, prisms and that stuff, ya know what I mean?”

The world similarly scoffs at the sanctity of human lives. Embryos come in the wrong size. Unborn babies have the wrong shape, the wrong space. Elderly neighbors exhibit the wrong behaviors. They’re labeled “clumps of cells,” “blobs of tissue,” “tumors,” and “parasites.” They’re regarded as “being in a persistent vegetative state,” as “burdens,” and “better off dead.” Surprisingly, Scripture actually calls us worse: “sinners.” Indeed, according to the Bible, “All have sinned and fall short” (Romans 3:23 NIV). We are “sinful from the time [our] mother[s] conceived” us (Psalm 51:5 NIV) and “all [our] righteous acts [are] like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6 NIV). We are selfish, rebellious, lawbreakers, evildoers, enemies of God and are little better than bits and bags of broken glass, dangerous to each other and fit for the landfill.

Only in an artist’s eyes would we be worth anything. And the Almighty has made Himself the Artist of us all. He beholds not only what we once were but who we will become. Jesus willingly bloodies His hands—picking up the parts and pieces. He stains and arranges even the worst of our race into mosaics and windowpanes. He resurrects us by connecting us to His own risen-again sparkle. He can imagine no better Tiffany lampshade to kaleidoscope His brilliant forgiveness, acceptance, communion and joy.

The Lord God’s priceless light of love and wonder twinkles undimmed in every life and every body. All the portions have their purposes—His purposes. He creates, redeems and calls every last scrap, no matter how prickly, and every last shard, no matter how small. Looking with His compassion and confidence, we can see undiscovered colors that eclipse the darkness of tear-blinded eyes and sin-broken hearts. His gracious promises ignite and fuel the shine in you and me. And as we lend our glow to the smoldering ones around us, Jesus Christ kindles their gleam as well.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let Your light shine in our voices and movements to scatter all darkness. Amen.

Pro-Life Action: Try to see others as God sees them this week: in all the beloved colors of His creation.

Today’s devotion was written by Rev. Michael Salemink, executive director of Lutherans for Life.

This year’s Advent devotions are written by the members of NALC Life Ministries. The devotional follows the daily Revised Common Lectionary for Advent and includes a Bible reading, commentary, prayer and pro-life action for every day until Christmas Eve.

As we move through the season of Advent, Scripture reveals the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as Mary and Joseph ponder this miracle and seek to understand who this precious child might be. This devotional examines our responsibility to protect all human life in light of Mary and Joseph’s protection of Jesus, the savior of the world.

Our authors include Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Rev. Mark Chavez, Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, Rev. Scott Licht, Rev. Sandra Towberman, Rev. Steve Shipman, Ms. Rebecka Andrae, Rev. Melinda Jones, Rev. David Nelson, Ms. Rosemary Johnson, Rev. Mark Werner and Rev. Steve Bliss.

Learn more about NALC Life Ministries

Judges 20:26–48 (ESV)

26 Then all the people of Israel, the whole army, went up and came to Bethel and wept. They sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. 27 And the people of Israel inquired of the Lord (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 28 and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, ministered before it in those days), saying, “Shall we go out once more to battle against our brothers, the people of Benjamin, or shall we cease?” And the Lord said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hand.”

29 So Israel set men in ambush around Gibeah. 30 And the people of Israel went up against the people of Benjamin on the third day and set themselves in array against Gibeah, as at other times. 31 And the people of Benjamin went out against the people and were drawn away from the city. And as at other times they began to strike and kill some of the people in the highways, one of which goes up to Bethel and the other to Gibeah, and in the open country, about thirty men of Israel. 32 And the people of Benjamin said, “They are routed before us, as at the first.” But the people of Israel said, “Let us flee and draw them away from the city to the highways.” 33 And all the men of Israel rose up out of their place and set themselves in array at Baal-tamar, and the men of Israel who were in ambush rushed out of their place from Maareh-geba. 34 And there came against Gibeah 10,000 chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was hard, but the Benjaminites did not know that disaster was close upon them. 35 And the Lord defeated Benjamin before Israel, and the people of Israel destroyed 25,100 men of Benjamin that day. All these were men who drew the sword. 36 So the people of Benjamin saw that they were defeated.

The men of Israel gave ground to Benjamin, because they trusted the men in ambush whom they had set against Gibeah. 37 Then the men in ambush hurried and rushed against Gibeah; the men in ambush moved out and struck all the city with the edge of the sword. 38 Now the appointed signal between the men of Israel and the men in the main ambush was that when they made a great cloud of smoke rise up out of the city 39 the men of Israel should turn in battle. Now Benjamin had begun to strike and kill about thirty men of Israel. They said, “Surely they are defeated before us, as in the first battle.” 40 But when the signal began to rise out of the city in a column of smoke, the Benjaminites looked behind them, and behold, the whole of the city went up in smoke to heaven. 41 Then the men of Israel turned, and the men of Benjamin were dismayed, for they saw that disaster was close upon them. 42 Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel in the direction of the wilderness, but the battle overtook them. And those who came out of the cities were destroying them in their midst. 43 Surrounding the Benjaminites, they pursued them and trod them down from Nohah as far as opposite Gibeah on the east. 44 Eighteen thousand men of Benjamin fell, all of them men of valor. 45 And they turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon. Five thousand men of them were cut down in the highways. And they were pursued hard to Gidom, and 2,000 men of them were struck down. 46 So all who fell that day of Benjamin were 25,000 men who drew the sword, all of them men of valor. 47 But 600 men turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon and remained at the rock of Rimmon four months. 48 And the men of Israel turned back against the people of Benjamin and struck them with the edge of the sword, the city, men and beasts and all that they found. And all the towns that they found they set on fire.

Psalm 15 (ESV)

Who Shall Dwell on Your Holy Hill?

15 A Psalm of David.

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart;

who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;

in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.

Acts 21:1–16 (ESV)

Paul Goes to Jerusalem

21 And when we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. And having found a ship crossing to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. When we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left we sailed to Syria and landed at Tyre, for there the ship was to unload its cargo. And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When our days there were ended, we departed and went on our journey, and they all, with wives and children, accompanied us until we were outside the city. And kneeling down on the beach, we prayed and said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home.

When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for one day. On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. 10 While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ” 12 When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”

15 After these days we got ready and went up to Jerusalem. 16 And some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us, bringing us to the house of Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we should lodge.

Luther’s Lectures on the Psalms, 1513-1515, contain many declarations concerning the Scriptures. “What pasture is to the beast …, the nest for the birds, the stream for fish, the Scriptures are for believing souls. To the arrogant, of course, they are a stumblingblock; he will have nothing to do with them, since they offer him nothing. But to him who approaches the Scriptures with humility they open themselves and themselves produce humility, change man from a desperate sinner into a child of God. They give everything which the soul needs, and it is to tempt God, if anyone will not be satisfied with the Scriptures. They are the fountain from which one must dip. Each word of the same is a source which affords an inexhaustible abundance of water to everyone who thirsts after the saving doctrine. God’s will is completely contained therein, so that we must constantly go back to them. Nothing should be presented which is not confirmed by the authority of both Testaments and agrees with them. It cannot be otherwise, for the Scriptures are divine; in them God speaks and they are His Word.” (13–14)

–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures

This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.

Learn More

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Daily Reading – January 15, 2019 https://thenalc.org/blog/2019/01/10/daily-reading-january-15-2019/ Thu, 10 Jan 2019 19:31:11 +0000 https://thenalc.org/?p=32504 The writer of these words is full of confidence. He writes assertively, in simple, declarative sentences. He witnesses boldly to the truth even in a world which is in the power of the evil one.

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Stand Firm

 

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

– 1 John 5:13-21 ESV

The writer of these words is full of confidence. He writes assertively, in simple, declarative sentences. He witnesses boldly to the truth even in a world which is in the power of the evil one.

But to whom is he witnessing? Not to those who do not believe in Christ, but to those who already believe. This may seem counterintuitive. But those who believe are in as much need of the witness of others as those who do not yet believe.

Perhaps this is especially true of those who come close to great evil in order to remedy it. They may have doubts about the effectiveness of their work or become downcast because the problems seem so overwhelming.

We may also look in the wrong places for evidence of God’s power and love. The evil one often tempts us to make an idol out of the visions we have of what things will look like when God is in charge. Then, when things don’t look like we think they should, we are tempted to despair, to blame and condemn others, or to insist that our own vision be fulfilled even at the expense of what God is quietly and patiently accomplishing even now.

In situations like these, when the journey seems too much for us, when our prayers and work for Life seems to bear no fruit, and when we have no clear vision of what God is doing, we need simple, declarative sentences such as we find in 1 John 5. God hears our prayers for his will to be done; God hears our prayers for others; God forgives our sins and those of others; God protects us in a world that is full of hatred; God has given us understanding to know the Truth, Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Gracious Father, give us confidence to know and do Your will in a world that is opposed to You. Help us to pray for all, and to hold to your great promises in times of doubt and temptation. We ask these things through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.

Pro-Life Action: Declare God’s mercy to someone who is serving God by speaking and acting for life. By your words and deeds encourage them to stand firm in their faith.

Today’s devotion was written by Rev. Maurice Frontz, pastor of St. Stephen Lutheran Church, Pittsburgh, PA.

This year’s Advent devotions are written by the members of NALC Life Ministries. The devotional follows the daily Revised Common Lectionary for Advent and includes a Bible reading, commentary, prayer and pro-life action for every day until Christmas Eve.

As we move through the season of Advent, Scripture reveals the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as Mary and Joseph ponder this miracle and seek to understand who this precious child might be. This devotional examines our responsibility to protect all human life in light of Mary and Joseph’s protection of Jesus, the savior of the world.

Our authors include Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Rev. Mark Chavez, Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, Rev. Scott Licht, Rev. Sandra Towberman, Rev. Steve Shipman, Ms. Rebecka Andrae, Rev. Melinda Jones, Rev. David Nelson, Ms. Rosemary Johnson, Rev. Mark Werner and Rev. Steve Bliss.

Learn more about NALC Life Ministries

Judges 20:1–25 (ESV)

Israel’s War with the Tribe of Benjamin

20 Then all the people of Israel came out, from Dan to Beersheba, including the land of Gilead, and the congregation assembled as one man to the Lord at Mizpah. And the chiefs of all the people, of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, 400,000 men on foot that drew the sword. (Now the people of Benjamin heard that the people of Israel had gone up to Mizpah.) And the people of Israel said, “Tell us, how did this evil happen?” And the Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered and said, “I came to Gibeah that belongs to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to spend the night. And the leaders of Gibeah rose against me and surrounded the house against me by night. They meant to kill me, and they violated my concubine, and she is dead. So I took hold of my concubine and cut her in pieces and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel, for they have committed abomination and outrage in Israel. Behold, you people of Israel, all of you, give your advice and counsel here.”

And all the people arose as one man, saying, “None of us will go to his tent, and none of us will return to his house. But now this is what we will do to Gibeah: we will go up against it by lot, 10 and we will take ten men of a hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and a hundred of a thousand, and a thousand of ten thousand, to bring provisions for the people, that when they come they may repay Gibeah of Benjamin for all the outrage that they have committed in Israel.” 11 So all the men of Israel gathered against the city, united as one man.

12 And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What evil is this that has taken place among you? 13 Now therefore give up the men, the worthless fellows in Gibeah, that we may put them to death and purge evil from Israel.” But the Benjaminites would not listen to the voice of their brothers, the people of Israel. 14 Then the people of Benjamin came together out of the cities to Gibeah to go out to battle against the people of Israel. 15 And the people of Benjamin mustered out of their cities on that day 26,000 men who drew the sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah, who mustered 700 chosen men. 16 Among all these were 700 chosen men who were left-handed; every one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss. 17 And the men of Israel, apart from Benjamin, mustered 400,000 men who drew the sword; all these were men of war.

18 The people of Israel arose and went up to Bethel and inquired of God, “Who shall go up first for us to fight against the people of Benjamin?” And the Lord said, “Judah shall go up first.”

19 Then the people of Israel rose in the morning and encamped against Gibeah. 20 And the men of Israel went out to fight against Benjamin, and the men of Israel drew up the battle line against them at Gibeah. 21 The people of Benjamin came out of Gibeah and destroyed on that day 22,000 men of the Israelites. 22 But the people, the men of Israel, took courage, and again formed the battle line in the same place where they had formed it on the first day. 23 And the people of Israel went up and wept before the Lord until the evening. And they inquired of the Lord, “Shall we again draw near to fight against our brothers, the people of Benjamin?” And the Lord said, “Go up against them.”

24 So the people of Israel came near against the people of Benjamin the second day. 25 And Benjamin went against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed 18,000 men of the people of Israel. All these were men who drew the sword.

Psalm 14 (ESV)

The Fool Says, There Is No God

14 To the choirmaster. Of David.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is none who does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.

Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
who eat up my people as they eat bread
and do not call upon the Lord?

There they are in great terror,
for God is with the generation of the righteous.

You would shame the plans of the poor,
but the Lord is his refuge.

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

Acts 20:17–38 (ESV)

Paul Speaks to the Ephesian Elders

17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them:

“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.

Luther’s Lectures on the Psalms, 1513-1515, contain many declarations concerning the Scriptures. “What pasture is to the beast …, the nest for the birds, the stream for fish, the Scriptures are for believing souls. To the arrogant, of course, they are a stumblingblock; he will have nothing to do with them, since they offer him nothing. But to him who approaches the Scriptures with humility they open themselves and themselves produce humility, change man from a desperate sinner into a child of God. They give everything which the soul needs, and it is to tempt God, if anyone will not be satisfied with the Scriptures. They are the fountain from which one must dip. Each word of the same is a source which affords an inexhaustible abundance of water to everyone who thirsts after the saving doctrine. God’s will is completely contained therein, so that we must constantly go back to them. Nothing should be presented which is not confirmed by the authority of both Testaments and agrees with them. It cannot be otherwise, for the Scriptures are divine; in them God speaks and they are His Word.” (13–14)

–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures

This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.

Learn More

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Daily Reading – January 14, 2019 https://thenalc.org/blog/2019/01/10/daily-reading-january-14-2019/ Thu, 10 Jan 2019 19:19:24 +0000 https://thenalc.org/?p=32503 I joined the United States Army in the late ’80s shortly after high school without the fear of any major conflict, as world tensions seemed to be relaxing. Within the first year of my tour of duty, the cold war was over, the Berlin wall was gone, the Soviet Union was unraveling, and communism collapsed.  In my mind's eye, the enemy was no more, and peace was at hand. Nonetheless, every morning I awoke to the sound of a trumpet’s reveille and then meticulously donned 12 pounds of uniform and boots, the Battle Dress Uniform (BDU as it was called back then), ready for the duties of the day.

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Battle Dress Uniform

 

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

– Ephesians 6:10-20 ESV

I joined the United States Army in the late ’80s shortly after high school without the fear of any major conflict, as world tensions seemed to be relaxing. Within the first year of my tour of duty, the cold war was over, the Berlin wall was gone, the Soviet Union was unraveling, and communism collapsed.  In my mind’s eye, the enemy was no more, and peace was at hand. Nonetheless, every morning I awoke to the sound of a trumpet’s reveille and then meticulously donned 12 pounds of uniform and boots, the Battle Dress Uniform (BDU as it was called back then), ready for the duties of the day.

But early one morning a siren replaced the trumpet, alerting the entire post to trouble. We scrambled to assemble on the drill field, still buttoning our BDUs and lacing our boots! The commanding officer then announced that the United States of America had begun military action against the nation of Iraq! And what followed was the longest speech I’ve ever heard on the preparedness of the Army (readiness for battle), and the importance of our mission to the success of the war. A massive inspection of our uniforms and equipment followed moments after the shocking announcement concluded.

Today’s lesson reminds me much of that moment, and many days after that, when I put on my BDUs. Paul uses the familiar imagery of the Roman soldier’s equivalent to the BDU: belt, breastplate, shoes (sandals), shield, helmet and sword. He recognized that at any moment a Roman legionnaire stood at the ready to squelch unrest or engage an enemy. Paul, in no uncertain terms, calls upon the baptized to be just as ready to engage in spiritual warfare by putting on the “armor of God that [we] may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”

We, the Church, have been given weapons of such a nature that evil cannot prevail! These weapons, however, must be “put on” to be effective. How will we be prepared to stand on the potential battleground of our lives if we have not “put on” our spiritual BDU, read the Word of God, and become familiar with our Lord and King? Paul calls us to arm ourselves by “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance” and to “proclaim the mystery of the gospel,” Jesus Christ.

I remember standing in stunned disbelief never expecting to hear the words, “We are at war,” but understanding at that moment that I was a soldier fighting in one. I can’t imagine how I would have reacted had I not been trained to put on my BDU and use it with skill and confidence when the moment came to employ it. Paul shares the same concern: “Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

To be ready is to remember our Baptism each day as we wake and wash our faces (Martin Luther). Today, our spiritual armor looks a lot like a baptismal gown, a confirmation robe, and even the encouragement we receive as we witness to the love of Jesus Christ, the Victor over death and the grave.

Prayer: Lord God, You once armed David to slay the mightiest of giants; today, You have armed us with the Spirit and the Word. Watch over us as we prepare for life’s giants and the battles we have yet to confront, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen

Pro-Life Action: Don’t be afraid to stand up for the Church, the sanctity of life, and God’s Holy Law.  After all, you are wearing the full armor of God! But do it in love, as a gentle witness to Jesus Christ.

Today’s devotion was written by Rev. Melinda H. Jones, pastor of Advent Evangelical Lutheran Church, North Charleston, SC.

This year’s Advent devotions are written by the members of NALC Life Ministries. The devotional follows the daily Revised Common Lectionary for Advent and includes a Bible reading, commentary, prayer and pro-life action for every day until Christmas Eve.

As we move through the season of Advent, Scripture reveals the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as Mary and Joseph ponder this miracle and seek to understand who this precious child might be. This devotional examines our responsibility to protect all human life in light of Mary and Joseph’s protection of Jesus, the savior of the world.

Our authors include Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Rev. Mark Chavez, Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, Rev. Scott Licht, Rev. Sandra Towberman, Rev. Steve Shipman, Ms. Rebecka Andrae, Rev. Melinda Jones, Rev. David Nelson, Ms. Rosemary Johnson, Rev. Mark Werner and Rev. Steve Bliss.

Learn more about NALC Life Ministries

Judges 19 (ESV)

A Levite and His Concubine

19 In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite was sojourning in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, who took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. And his concubine was unfaithful to him, and she went away from him to her father’s house at Bethlehem in Judah, and was there some four months. Then her husband arose and went after her, to speak kindly to her and bring her back. He had with him his servant and a couple of donkeys. And she brought him into her father’s house. And when the girl’s father saw him, he came with joy to meet him. And his father-in-law, the girl’s father, made him stay, and he remained with him three days. So they ate and drank and spent the night there. And on the fourth day they arose early in the morning, and he prepared to go, but the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, “Strengthen your heart with a morsel of bread, and after that you may go.” So the two of them sat and ate and drank together. And the girl’s father said to the man, “Be pleased to spend the night, and let your heart be merry.” And when the man rose up to go, his father-in-law pressed him, till he spent the night there again. And on the fifth day he arose early in the morning to depart. And the girl’s father said, “Strengthen your heart and wait until the day declines.” So they ate, both of them. And when the man and his concubine and his servant rose up to depart, his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him, “Behold, now the day has waned toward evening. Please, spend the night. Behold, the day draws to its close. Lodge here and let your heart be merry, and tomorrow you shall arise early in the morning for your journey, and go home.”

10 But the man would not spend the night. He rose up and departed and arrived opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). He had with him a couple of saddled donkeys, and his concubine was with him. 11 When they were near Jebus, the day was nearly over, and the servant said to his master, “Come now, let us turn aside to this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it.” 12 And his master said to him, “We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners, who do not belong to the people of Israel, but we will pass on to Gibeah.” 13 And he said to his young man, “Come and let us draw near to one of these places and spend the night at Gibeah or at Ramah.” 14 So they passed on and went their way. And the sun went down on them near Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin, 15 and they turned aside there, to go in and spend the night at Gibeah. And he went in and sat down in the open square of the city, for no one took them into his house to spend the night.

16 And behold, an old man was coming from his work in the field at evening. The man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was sojourning in Gibeah. The men of the place were Benjaminites. 17 And he lifted up his eyes and saw the traveler in the open square of the city. And the old man said, “Where are you going? And where do you come from?” 18 And he said to him, “We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, from which I come. I went to Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to the house of the Lord, but no one has taken me into his house. 19 We have straw and feed for our donkeys, with bread and wine for me and your female servant and the young man with your servants. There is no lack of anything.” 20 And the old man said, “Peace be to you; I will care for all your wants. Only, do not spend the night in the square.” 21 So he brought him into his house and gave the donkeys feed. And they washed their feet, and ate and drank.

Gibeah’s Crime

22 As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” 23 And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. 24 Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing.” 25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. 26 And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, until it was light.

27 And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up, let us be going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey, and the man rose up and went away to his home. 29 And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and taking hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. 30 And all who saw it said, “Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak.”

Psalm 13 (ESV)

How Long, O Lord?

13 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,

lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Acts 20:1–16 (ESV)

Paul in Macedonia and Greece

20 After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.

Eutychus Raised from the Dead

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. 10 But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” 11 And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. 12 And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.

13 But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. 14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. 15 And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched at Samos; and the day after that we went to Miletus. 16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.

Luther’s Lectures on the Psalms, 1513-1515, contain many declarations concerning the Scriptures. “What pasture is to the beast …, the nest for the birds, the stream for fish, the Scriptures are for believing souls. To the arrogant, of course, they are a stumblingblock; he will have nothing to do with them, since they offer him nothing. But to him who approaches the Scriptures with humility they open themselves and themselves produce humility, change man from a desperate sinner into a child of God. They give everything which the soul needs, and it is to tempt God, if anyone will not be satisfied with the Scriptures. They are the fountain from which one must dip. Each word of the same is a source which affords an inexhaustible abundance of water to everyone who thirsts after the saving doctrine. God’s will is completely contained therein, so that we must constantly go back to them. Nothing should be presented which is not confirmed by the authority of both Testaments and agrees with them. It cannot be otherwise, for the Scriptures are divine; in them God speaks and they are His Word.” (13–14)

–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures

This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.

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Daily Reading – January 13, 2019 https://thenalc.org/blog/2019/01/10/daily-reading-january-13-2019/ Thu, 10 Jan 2019 19:09:52 +0000 https://thenalc.org/?p=32502 Can you imagine what it must have been like for Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth? Even though well past the child-bearing age, they were told by an angel that their dream of parenthood was finally going to be fulfilled. Indeed, they would be the parents of the forerunner of the Savior! This was joyful news. Yet, Zechariah had a hard time believing the Word of the Lord about this “miracle baby.”

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Adopted in Christ

 

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute.

– Luke 1:5–17, 21–22 ESV

Can you imagine what it must have been like for Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth? Even though well past the child-bearing age, they were told by an angel that their dream of parenthood was finally going to be fulfilled. Indeed, they would be the parents of the forerunner of the Savior! This was joyful news. Yet, Zechariah had a hard time believing the Word of the Lord about this “miracle baby.” Perhaps it was the circumstances surrounding this pregnancy that made it difficult to accept, or maybe he was afraid of the challenges of parenthood that lay ahead, especially at his advanced age. But despite these fears, God put Zechariah and Elizabeth into John’s life to raise him for a special mission: preparing the way of the Lord!

Over the years, I’ve known many people who have had children come into their lives when they least expected it. For some, they were approached about the possibility of becoming foster parents, taking in children who have been through some difficult times, and who needed a loving, nurturing home to rebuild their lives. Others were grandparents who had just started enjoying the “empty-nester” stage of life, only to now find themselves taking in their grandchildren to raise them as their own. In each case, their plans were changed: the needs of these children became the focus of their lives.

Childrearing is tiring work, and often these “unexpected parents” can become overwhelmed and wonder if they can continue another day. And yet, in many ways, they are also able to see the blessing they’ve been given in providing a loving, nurturing, Christ-centered environment for these children. In many cases, I’ve met adults who had been raised by such selfless people, and they are eternally grateful for the second chance they were given by those who sacrificed so much to take them into their homes.

In many ways, isn’t that a picture of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ? Through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, our heavenly Father has taken us into His kingdom, adopted us as His sons and daughters, and given us a new chance at life. This life is centered in love, forgiveness and grace. And once we’ve been given these gifts, we are then called to follow in the footsteps of John the Baptist, pointing other people to Jesus Christ, the source of our life and salvation.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for adopting me through Your Son, Jesus Christ, into Your family of faith. Amen.

Pro-Life Action: Take the time to pray for those who find themselves raising their grandchildren, or those in your congregation who have taken on the vocation of foster care parents. Consider a way you might offer help and support to them in those times when they feel overwhelmed by the holy task they have been given.

Today’s devotion was written by Rev. Christopher Martin, pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church-Vilmar (NALC), rural Greene, Iowa.

This year’s Advent devotions are written by the members of NALC Life Ministries. The devotional follows the daily Revised Common Lectionary for Advent and includes a Bible reading, commentary, prayer and pro-life action for every day until Christmas Eve.

As we move through the season of Advent, Scripture reveals the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as Mary and Joseph ponder this miracle and seek to understand who this precious child might be. This devotional examines our responsibility to protect all human life in light of Mary and Joseph’s protection of Jesus, the savior of the world.

Our authors include Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Rev. Mark Chavez, Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, Rev. Scott Licht, Rev. Sandra Towberman, Rev. Steve Shipman, Ms. Rebecka Andrae, Rev. Melinda Jones, Rev. David Nelson, Ms. Rosemary Johnson, Rev. Mark Werner and Rev. Steve Bliss.

Learn more about NALC Life Ministries

Judges 18:18–31 (ESV)

18 And when these went into Micah’s house and took the carved image, the ephod, the household gods, and the metal image, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?” 19 And they said to him, “Keep quiet; put your hand on your mouth and come with us and be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and clan in Israel?” 20 And the priest’s heart was glad. He took the ephod and the household gods and the carved image and went along with the people.

21 So they turned and departed, putting the little ones and the livestock and the goods in front of them. 22 When they had gone a distance from the home of Micah, the men who were in the houses near Micah’s house were called out, and they overtook the people of Dan. 23 And they shouted to the people of Dan, who turned around and said to Micah, “What is the matter with you, that you come with such a company?” 24 And he said, “You take my gods that I made and the priest, and go away, and what have I left? How then do you ask me, ‘What is the matter with you?’ ” 25 And the people of Dan said to him, “Do not let your voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows fall upon you, and you lose your life with the lives of your household.” 26 Then the people of Dan went their way. And when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his home.

27 But the people of Dan took what Micah had made, and the priest who belonged to him, and they came to Laish, to a people quiet and unsuspecting, and struck them with the edge of the sword and burned the city with fire. 28 And there was no deliverer because it was far from Sidon, and they had no dealings with anyone. It was in the valley that belongs to Beth-rehob. Then they rebuilt the city and lived in it. 29 And they named the city Dan, after the name of Dan their ancestor, who was born to Israel; but the name of the city was Laish at the first. 30 And the people of Dan set up the carved image for themselves, and Jonathan the son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. 31 So they set up Micah’s carved image that he made, as long as the house of God was at Shiloh.

Psalm 12 (ESV)

The Faithful Have Vanished

12 To the choirmaster: according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.

Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone;
for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.

Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.

May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
the tongue that makes great boasts,

those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
our lips are with us; who is master over us?”

“Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the Lord;
“I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”

The words of the Lord are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.

You, O Lord, will keep them;
you will guard us from this generation forever.

On every side the wicked prowl,
as vileness is exalted among the children of man.

Acts 19:21–41 (ESV)

A Riot at Ephesus

21 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.

23 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. 24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”

28 When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. 30 But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. 31 And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. 32 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

35 And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? 36 Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. 37 For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess. 38 If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. 39 But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. 40 For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” 41 And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.

Luther’s Lectures on the Psalms, 1513-1515, contain many declarations concerning the Scriptures. “What pasture is to the beast …, the nest for the birds, the stream for fish, the Scriptures are for believing souls. To the arrogant, of course, they are a stumblingblock; he will have nothing to do with them, since they offer him nothing. But to him who approaches the Scriptures with humility they open themselves and themselves produce humility, change man from a desperate sinner into a child of God. They give everything which the soul needs, and it is to tempt God, if anyone will not be satisfied with the Scriptures. They are the fountain from which one must dip. Each word of the same is a source which affords an inexhaustible abundance of water to everyone who thirsts after the saving doctrine. God’s will is completely contained therein, so that we must constantly go back to them. Nothing should be presented which is not confirmed by the authority of both Testaments and agrees with them. It cannot be otherwise, for the Scriptures are divine; in them God speaks and they are His Word.” (13–14)

–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures

This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.

Learn More

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Daily Reading – January 12, 2019 https://thenalc.org/blog/2019/01/07/daily-reading-january-12-2019/ Mon, 07 Jan 2019 19:44:17 +0000 https://thenalc.org/?p=32494 My sister turned forty-three yesterday. She was born the year after Roe v. Wade. Mom and Dad were sixteen and seventeen. Had the mind of the flesh and the spirit of the world decided her fate, she wouldn’t have survived, nor would any of her six exemplary children. The love and laughter, meaning and memories she and her delightful family have embodied over four decades would be replaced by untold and unforeseen repercussions and sufferings.

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XXXXXXXXXXX

 

11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

– 2 Corinthians 2:11–16 ESV

My sister turned forty-three yesterday. She was born the year after Roe v. Wade. Mom and Dad were sixteen and seventeen. Had the mind of the flesh and the spirit of the world decided her fate, she wouldn’t have survived, nor would any of her six exemplary children. The love and laughter, meaning and memories she and her delightful family have embodied over four decades would be replaced by untold and unforeseen repercussions and sufferings.

The mind of the flesh uses other persons for comparing, competing and consuming. The spirit of the world measures a person’s worth according to age, appearance and ability. A simple majority or spirited minority may define or discard away unpreferred ones—like the embryonic, impaired or elderly. Death, especially somebody else’s death, gets used as a solution to difficulty, despite contrary science and logic. The sinful nature only knows kill or be killed. It never lets us forget our own shortcomings, so we only excel at another’s expense. But such victories prevail only briefly because along comes someone stronger, prettier, more productive, more powerful and more popular than we are.

Only the Spirit of Christ saves from these messes. His mind revives even our minds, His heart renews even our hearts, His life rescues even our lives. His free gift of unconditional acceptance breaks the tyranny of productivity. Jesus Christ’s God-work of creating proclaims every human life special, however small. The Savior’s God-labor of redeeming proves every human being precious, however weak. Our Lord’s God-activity of calling pronounces every genetic member of the human species priceless, however broken. Worth—the universal sort—and purpose—the infinite kind—come from giving, not from getting.

This grace extends as far as the body of Jesus Himself, from fetus in the womb to terminal helplessness on the cross. This grace forgives, reconciles and sanctifies. This grace resurrects and baptizes not only individuals but bodies, circumstances and reality itself. This grace gives hope, joy and peace that accompanies even into otherwise dark places and lost causes. This grace receives neighbors as privileges and regards ourselves as servants and sacrifices. It isn’t polls or protests, votes or verdicts, experts or legislation that imparts this Spirit of courage and compassion, but plain water, simple Word and ordinary flesh-and-blood communion.

However difficult it seems to practice and perfect in a fallen world, this spirit and mind remain the truth. The mind of the flesh works and fails, but the mind of Christ receives, rejoices, rests and trusts. Let us boldly and gladly wield its authority, for the sake of the pressured and exploited ones (like my sister and my parents), because it has made death enemy and grace victory.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, lend us Your mind and heart and life to safeguard every human life as Your blessing. Amen.

Pro-Life Action: When the issue of abortion comes up, explain God’s plan for life as a vehicle of His overflowing grace.

Today’s devotion was written by Rev. Michael W. Salemink, executive director of Lutherans For Life.

This year’s Advent devotions are written by the members of NALC Life Ministries. The devotional follows the daily Revised Common Lectionary for Advent and includes a Bible reading, commentary, prayer and pro-life action for every day until Christmas Eve.

As we move through the season of Advent, Scripture reveals the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as Mary and Joseph ponder this miracle and seek to understand who this precious child might be. This devotional examines our responsibility to protect all human life in light of Mary and Joseph’s protection of Jesus, the savior of the world.

Our authors include Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Rev. Mark Chavez, Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, Rev. Scott Licht, Rev. Sandra Towberman, Rev. Steve Shipman, Ms. Rebecka Andrae, Rev. Melinda Jones, Rev. David Nelson, Ms. Rosemary Johnson, Rev. Mark Werner and Rev. Steve Bliss.

Learn more about NALC Life Ministries

Judges 18:1–17 (ESV)

Danites Take the Levite and the Idol

18 In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days the tribe of the people of Dan was seeking for itself an inheritance to dwell in, for until then no inheritance among the tribes of Israel had fallen to them. So the people of Dan sent five able men from the whole number of their tribe, from Zorah and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land and to explore it. And they said to them, “Go and explore the land.” And they came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there. When they were by the house of Micah, they recognized the voice of the young Levite. And they turned aside and said to him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? What is your business here?” And he said to them, “This is how Micah dealt with me: he has hired me, and I have become his priest.” And they said to him, “Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether the journey on which we are setting out will succeed.” And the priest said to them, “Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the Lord.”

Then the five men departed and came to Laish and saw the people who were there, how they lived in security, after the manner of the Sidonians, quiet and unsuspecting, lacking nothing that is in the earth and possessing wealth, and how they were far from the Sidonians and had no dealings with anyone. And when they came to their brothers at Zorah and Eshtaol, their brothers said to them, “What do you report?” They said, “Arise, and let us go up against them, for we have seen the land, and behold, it is very good. And will you do nothing? Do not be slow to go, to enter in and possess the land. 10 As soon as you go, you will come to an unsuspecting people. The land is spacious, for God has given it into your hands, a place where there is no lack of anything that is in the earth.”

11 So 600 men of the tribe of Dan, armed with weapons of war, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol, 12 and went up and encamped at Kiriath-jearim in Judah. On this account that place is called Mahaneh-dan to this day; behold, it is west of Kiriath-jearim. 13 And they passed on from there to the hill country of Ephraim, and came to the house of Micah.

14 Then the five men who had gone to scout out the country of Laish said to their brothers, “Do you know that in these houses there are an ephod, household gods, a carved image, and a metal image? Now therefore consider what you will do.” 15 And they turned aside there and came to the house of the young Levite, at the home of Micah, and asked him about his welfare. 16 Now the 600 men of the Danites, armed with their weapons of war, stood by the entrance of the gate. 17 And the five men who had gone to scout out the land went up and entered and took the carved image, the ephod, the household gods, and the metal image, while the priest stood by the entrance of the gate with the 600 men armed with weapons of war.

Psalm 11 (ESV)

The Lord Is in His Holy Temple

11 To the choirmaster. Of David.

In the Lord I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,

“Flee like a bird to your mountain,
for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
they have fitted their arrow to the string
to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
if the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”

The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord’s throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.

The Lord tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.

Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.

For the Lord is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face.

Acts 19:11–20 (ESV)

The Sons of Sceva

11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. 18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

Luther’s first statements concerning this matter we find in the marginal notes written by him in his personal copy of the Sentences of Lombardus, which, in 1510, as a Sententiarius he was called upon to teach. Here we find statements such as the following: “But you, dear reader, whoever you may be, take this as the word of a simple man: no one has ever yet had the experience that the vapors of the earth have illuminated the heavens, but rather that they hold back the light from the earth. By that I want to say that theology is heaven, or, to put it still better, the kingdom of heaven. Man is the earth, and his speculations are the vapors; now understand the rest and see for what reason there are such great di erences of opinion among the doctors. Note, too, that a swine has never been able to teach Minerva even though it o en imagines that it can.”   “All light must come from revelation, the human understanding is unable to understand supernatural matters.”   “For since no one has seen them, whatever is added to revelation is certainly nothing but human invention.”   “Arguments based on reason determine nothing, but because the Holy Ghost says it is true, it is true.” In connection with a disputed question Luther affirms, “though many famous doctors hold this opinion, yet they do not have Scripture on their side but only arguments of reason. But I have the words of Scripture on my side in this opinion that the soul is the image of God, and so I say with the Apostle, ‘Though an angel from heaven, that is, a doctor of the Church, teaches otherwise let him be anathema!’” (13)

–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures

This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.

Learn More

The post Daily Reading – January 12, 2019 appeared first on North American Lutheran Church.

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Daily Reading – January 11, 2019 https://thenalc.org/blog/2019/01/07/daily-reading-january-11-2019/ Mon, 07 Jan 2019 19:28:52 +0000 https://thenalc.org/?p=32493 Psalm 29 is appointed for reading on the Baptism of our Lord, so you’ll likely hear it at Sunday worship two days from now (Sunday, January 13). At the Baptism of our Lord, (Matthew 3:13-17), the voice of God resounded, the Holy Spirit descended, the waters of the Jordan rippled and fell from the hands of John onto the Word made flesh, affirming God’s total pleasure with the only begotten Son of His heart.

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A Psalm for Topsy-Turvy Times

 

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over many waters.

The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.

He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.

The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
and strips the forests bare,
and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

10  The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.

11  May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!

– Psalm 29 ESV

Psalm 29 is appointed for reading on the Baptism of our Lord, so you’ll likely hear it at Sunday worship two days from now (Sunday, January 13). At the Baptism of our Lord, (Matthew 3:13-17), the voice of God resounded, the Holy Spirit descended, the waters of the Jordan rippled and fell from the hands of John onto the Word made flesh, affirming God’s total pleasure with the only begotten Son of His heart.

The 29th psalm connects the eternal promise of God to our daily life as the baptized, the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. God’s voice thunders through the heavens, stirring up the waves before making landfall, whipping mighty oaks around and flattening forests. The landscape, from flatlands to mighty mountains, literally rolls and jumps up and down like a young calf frolicking. If read only through the lenses of catastrophe reporters and script writers, Psalm 29 might leave the reader thinking of natural disasters, what we sometimes mistakenly refer to as “acts of God.” But, Psalm 29 is about more that the natural phenomena of storms, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Taking the 29th psalm to heart prepares us for times when life is turned upside down. All it takes is a life-altering medical diagnosis, an unplanned pregnancy, a family member dealing with an addiction, or loss of the job you have poured your life into, possibly at the expense of other things that are even more important. Indeed, the psalm prepares us for any of those things that are “due to circumstances beyond our control.”

When these upheavals happen, David’s holy poetry reminds me of how the world was turned upside-down, right-side up, inside-out by the incarnation, atoning death and glorious resurrection of the God-Man, Jesus our Christ. The 29th psalm is a testimony to God’s gracious provision in moments of our greatest turmoil.  It’s a psalm for topsy-turvy times in a world that offers a lifetime full of surprises. It’s a prayer that assures us that God is with us, incarnate, all-knowing and all caring amid circumstances that are tearing us apart.

Take God’s Word to heart. Remember your Baptism. When your life is stormy, when all is quaking under your feet and in your soul, sing forth Psalm 29.

Prayer: Your voice, O Lord, is powerful, your Word worthy of all awe and praise. When life is wearying, when circumstances are worrisome, when my soul is quaking, still my heart and surround me with your peace. Show me how I might share your peace and joy with those whose lives are in turmoil for whatever reason, that they might have the hope and blessed assurance that only you can give. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Pro-Life Action: Ask how your congregation specifically connects God’s Word, prayer, encouragement and the hope of Jesus Christ to outreach through food banks, crisis pregnancy centers, support groups, after-school programs and other service ministries.

Today’s devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, STS. Rev. Dr. Braasch is a member of the NALC Life Ministries Team and pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Jackson Center, OH.   

This year’s Advent devotions are written by the members of NALC Life Ministries. The devotional follows the daily Revised Common Lectionary for Advent and includes a Bible reading, commentary, prayer and pro-life action for every day until Christmas Eve.

As we move through the season of Advent, Scripture reveals the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as Mary and Joseph ponder this miracle and seek to understand who this precious child might be. This devotional examines our responsibility to protect all human life in light of Mary and Joseph’s protection of Jesus, the savior of the world.

Our authors include Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Rev. Mark Chavez, Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, Rev. Scott Licht, Rev. Sandra Towberman, Rev. Steve Shipman, Ms. Rebecka Andrae, Rev. Melinda Jones, Rev. David Nelson, Ms. Rosemary Johnson, Rev. Mark Werner and Rev. Steve Bliss.

Learn more about NALC Life Ministries

Judges 17 (ESV)

Micah and the Levite

17 There was a man of the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Micah. And he said to his mother, “The 1,100 pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse, and also spoke it in my ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it.” And his mother said, “Blessed be my son by the Lord.” And he restored the 1,100 pieces of silver to his mother. And his mother said, “I dedicate the silver to the Lord from my hand for my son, to make a carved image and a metal image. Now therefore I will restore it to you.” So when he restored the money to his mother, his mother took 200 pieces of silver and gave it to the silversmith, who made it into a carved image and a metal image. And it was in the house of Micah. And the man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and household gods, and ordained one of his sons, who became his priest. In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Now there was a young man of Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite, and he sojourned there. And the man departed from the town of Bethlehem in Judah to sojourn where he could find a place. And as he journeyed, he came to the hill country of Ephraim to the house of Micah. And Micah said to him, “Where do you come from?” And he said to him, “I am a Levite of Bethlehem in Judah, and I am going to sojourn where I may find a place.” 10 And Micah said to him, “Stay with me, and be to me a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year and a suit of clothes and your living.” And the Levite went in. 11 And the Levite was content to dwell with the man, and the young man became to him like one of his sons. 12 And Micah ordained the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. 13 Then Micah said, “Now I know that the Lord will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.”

Psalm 10 (ESV)

Why Do You Hide Yourself?

10 Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.

For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.

In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”

His ways prosper at all times;
your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
as for all his foes, he puffs at them.

He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”

His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.

He sits in ambush in the villages;
in hiding places he murders the innocent.
His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;

he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;
he lurks that he may seize the poor;
he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.

10  The helpless are crushed, sink down,
and fall by his might.

11  He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

12  Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;
forget not the afflicted.

13  Why does the wicked renounce God
and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?

14  But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.

15  Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
call his wickedness to account till you find none.

16  The Lord is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.

17  O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear

18  to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

Acts 19:1–10 (ESV)

Paul in Ephesus

19 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.

And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

Luther’s first statements concerning this matter we find in the marginal notes written by him in his personal copy of the Sentences of Lombardus, which, in 1510, as a Sententiarius he was called upon to teach. Here we find statements such as the following: “But you, dear reader, whoever you may be, take this as the word of a simple man: no one has ever yet had the experience that the vapors of the earth have illuminated the heavens, but rather that they hold back the light from the earth. By that I want to say that theology is heaven, or, to put it still better, the kingdom of heaven. Man is the earth, and his speculations are the vapors; now understand the rest and see for what reason there are such great di erences of opinion among the doctors. Note, too, that a swine has never been able to teach Minerva even though it o en imagines that it can.”   “All light must come from revelation, the human understanding is unable to understand supernatural matters.”   “For since no one has seen them, whatever is added to revelation is certainly nothing but human invention.”   “Arguments based on reason determine nothing, but because the Holy Ghost says it is true, it is true.” In connection with a disputed question Luther affirms, “though many famous doctors hold this opinion, yet they do not have Scripture on their side but only arguments of reason. But I have the words of Scripture on my side in this opinion that the soul is the image of God, and so I say with the Apostle, ‘Though an angel from heaven, that is, a doctor of the Church, teaches otherwise let him be anathema!’” (13)

–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures

This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.

Learn More

The post Daily Reading – January 11, 2019 appeared first on North American Lutheran Church.

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Daily Reading – January 9, 2019 https://thenalc.org/blog/2019/01/07/daily-reading-january-9-2019/ Mon, 07 Jan 2019 19:15:03 +0000 https://thenalc.org/?p=32492 Blessed are we. My wife was pregnant with our third child. Already the parents of two sons, we decided to find out ahead of time if we were to expect a boy or girl. It didn’t matter to us. If it was a boy, we were prepared with plenty of “gently used” clothes, a basket filled with Thomas the Tank Engine trains, and enough sporting equipment to supply a chain of retail stores. We had boys. We knew boys. If we had a girl, it would be a new adventure. Either way, we’d be delighted. It didn’t matter to us, because life dwelled within.

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When Life Dwells Within

 

67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

68  “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
69  and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
70  as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71  that we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us;
72  to show the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73  the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74  that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75  in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76  And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77  to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
78  because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
79  to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

– Luke 1:67–79 ESV

Blessed are we. My wife was pregnant with our third child. Already the parents of two sons, we decided to find out ahead of time if we were to expect a boy or girl. It didn’t matter to us. If it was a boy, we were prepared with plenty of “gently used” clothes, a basket filled with Thomas the Tank Engine trains, and enough sporting equipment to supply a chain of retail stores. We had boys. We knew boys. If we had a girl, it would be a new adventure. Either way, we’d be delighted. It didn’t matter to us, because life dwelled within.

Learning the sex of our child (our living, breathing child growing and being nurtured from within) was not the sole purpose of our visit to the Ob/Gyn that morning. Since Leslie was turning 35 years old during the pregnancy, she was clinically labeled as being of “advanced maternal age.” Both of us thought that term was hilarious. We weren’t at all offended. We understood the term and the reasoning. But it was (and still is) something we joke about.

Being of “advanced maternal age” meant that we should also receive genetic counseling. This was a good exercise for us as our family nurse practitioner guided us through a conversation on the birth histories, patterns and possibilities based on our family’s trends. The odds of birth and pregnancy complications increase significantly from the maternal age of 30 to 35. We understood. It was good insight. But it didn’t matter to us, because life dwelled within.

Then, the conversations turned to the optional screenings we could choose to determine possible birth defects, chromosomal problems, spinal/brain development issues or other abnormalities. These screenings could produce false positives or false negatives, and some tests might even be dangerous to the child. However, we chose not to have those tests. The results of such screenings didn’t matter to us, because life dwelled within.

The benefit of prenatal tests and screenings is that they provide a time of preparation for a family if special care is needed once the child is born. The results also give parents the option to terminate the pregnancy if certain “positives” indicate severe birth defects. That was an option we never considered, because life dwelled within.

Zechariah knew personally the tender mercy of God and spoke boldly of it. God visited Elizabeth in her advanced maternal age and created life within her when most thought it was not possible. When Zechariah’s tongue was released, he named his son John. God gave John a prophet-like mission and message that he was to prepare the way for the Christ: the way, the truth and the life. In Jesus Christ, the knowledge of salvation and the forgiveness of sins truly brings light and life where darkness and death once reigned.

As for our family, God gave us a son. And we are delighted! He is autistic. His needs are different. His gifts are many. His interests are unique. His world is a happy place, and we are delighted to share it with him. The toys, the hand-me-down clothes and the sporting equipment are still in use. Our sons matter to us. In a miraculous way only possible through God, life dwells within them.

Prayer: Holy God, create in us hearts that can be a dwelling place for Christ. May our actions magnify the gift of life that only comes through You. Amen.

Pro-Life Action: Contact a local school that has autistic or special needs children. Volunteer. Read to them. Eat lunch with them. Be present with them. Model for them and others that their lives have infinite value.

Today’s devotion was written by Rev. Ken Reed, pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church (NALC), China Grove, NC.

This year’s Advent devotions are written by the members of NALC Life Ministries. The devotional follows the daily Revised Common Lectionary for Advent and includes a Bible reading, commentary, prayer and pro-life action for every day until Christmas Eve.

As we move through the season of Advent, Scripture reveals the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as Mary and Joseph ponder this miracle and seek to understand who this precious child might be. This devotional examines our responsibility to protect all human life in light of Mary and Joseph’s protection of Jesus, the savior of the world.

Our authors include Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Rev. Mark Chavez, Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, Rev. Scott Licht, Rev. Sandra Towberman, Rev. Steve Shipman, Ms. Rebecka Andrae, Rev. Melinda Jones, Rev. David Nelson, Ms. Rosemary Johnson, Rev. Mark Werner and Rev. Steve Bliss.

Learn more about NALC Life Ministries

Judges 16:1–14 (ESV)

Samson and Delilah

16 Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her. The Gazites were told, “Samson has come here.” And they surrounded the place and set an ambush for him all night at the gate of the city. They kept quiet all night, saying, “Let us wait till the light of the morning; then we will kill him.” But Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron.

After this he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to humble him. And we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver.” So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength lies, and how you might be bound, that one could subdue you.”

Samson said to her, “If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh bowstrings that had not been dried, and she bound him with them. Now she had men lying in ambush in an inner chamber. And she said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he snapped the bowstrings, as a thread of flax snaps when it touches the fire. So the secret of his strength was not known.

10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “Behold, you have mocked me and told me lies. Please tell me how you might be bound.” 11 And he said to her, “If they bind me with new ropes that have not been used, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 12 So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And the men lying in ambush were in an inner chamber. But he snapped the ropes off his arms like a thread.

13 Then Delilah said to Samson, “Until now you have mocked me and told me lies. Tell me how you might be bound.” And he said to her, “If you weave the seven locks of my head with the web and fasten it tight with the pin, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 14 So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his head and wove them into the web. And she made them tight with the pin and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he awoke from his sleep and pulled away the pin, the loom, and the web.

Psalm 8 (ESV)

How Majestic Is Your Name

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,

all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,

the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Acts 18:1–17 (ESV)

Paul in Corinth

18 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, 13 saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” 14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. 15 But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” 16 And he drove them from the tribunal. 17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.

Luther’s first statements concerning this matter we find in the marginal notes written by him in his personal copy of the Sentences of Lombardus, which, in 1510, as a Sententiarius he was called upon to teach. Here we find statements such as the following: “But you, dear reader, whoever you may be, take this as the word of a simple man: no one has ever yet had the experience that the vapors of the earth have illuminated the heavens, but rather that they hold back the light from the earth. By that I want to say that theology is heaven, or, to put it still better, the kingdom of heaven. Man is the earth, and his speculations are the vapors; now understand the rest and see for what reason there are such great di erences of opinion among the doctors. Note, too, that a swine has never been able to teach Minerva even though it o en imagines that it can.”   “All light must come from revelation, the human understanding is unable to understand supernatural matters.”   “For since no one has seen them, whatever is added to revelation is certainly nothing but human invention.”   “Arguments based on reason determine nothing, but because the Holy Ghost says it is true, it is true.” In connection with a disputed question Luther affirms, “though many famous doctors hold this opinion, yet they do not have Scripture on their side but only arguments of reason. But I have the words of Scripture on my side in this opinion that the soul is the image of God, and so I say with the Apostle, ‘Though an angel from heaven, that is, a doctor of the Church, teaches otherwise let him be anathema!’” (13)

–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures

This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.

Learn More

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Daily Reading – January 10, 2019 https://thenalc.org/blog/2019/01/07/daily-reading-january-10-2019/ Mon, 07 Jan 2019 17:29:32 +0000 https://thenalc.org/?p=32491 In 2016, I visited Washington, DC for the first time, but I didn’t go on any tours. After attending the NALC Life Conference at Trinity Lutheran Church in nearby Warrenton, VA, I had the opportunity to participate in the March for Life with fellow Lutherans from across the country.

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Who Do We Listen To?

 

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

– 1 Corinthians 1:18–21 ESV

In 2016, I visited Washington, DC for the first time, but I didn’t go on any tours. After attending the NALC Life Conference at Trinity Lutheran Church in nearby Warrenton, VA, I had the opportunity to participate in the March for Life with fellow Lutherans from across the country.

I had some idea of what to expect because I’d downloaded the March for Life application on my phone years earlier, always hoping for the opportunity to attend.  But I simply hadn’t expected the enormity of the crowd that was marching that year, nor did I know how to get around town. In fact, if it wasn’t for a dear brother in Christ who drove me there, guided me around, and even drove me to the airport to catch my late afternoon flight, I never would have been a part of this amazing celebration of life.

As I watched thousands of marchers fill up DC’s streets for the largest annual pro-life demonstration in the US, I began wondering how all these people became pro-life.  Who did they listen to?  What changed their hearts?  What did they read?  What caused them to reject the misinformation of Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice groups, and then step out in faith for the lives of the unborn?

Did they find out that Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger, was an avid supporter of eugenics, including the sterilization of minorities?

Did they learn that nearly 100 percent of Icelandic women who received a positive test for Down Syndrome decided to terminate their pregnancies? (CBSN, August 14, 2017). In fact, in a recent interview, Helga Sol Olafsdottir, an Icelandic pregnancy counselor, admitted that in her country they “don’t look at abortion as a murder. We look at it as a thing that we ended. We ended a possible life that may have had a huge complication.” Now we shrug and think, “That’s happening in Iceland, but certainly not here.” But let’s be honest, are our attitudes towards human life that much different here in North America?

Are you thanking God right now that you were not labeled “a huge complication?”  Are you thanking God right now that you know better than Margaret Sanger or Helga Sol Olafsdottir? You should.

Because Jesus offered us another way of living, and He turned the world upside down. Indeed, His ways were not our ways: He exchanged selfishness for selfless love. He removed death as the answer to our problems, and instead gave us life. And all who believed in Him were welcomed into His kingdom and given eternal life.

Yet now, as then, there are some who think they know everything, and they scoff at God. Some of these doubters have more initials after their names than in their names, and they use their media presence and fame to lead others astray. Some write books and articles that are acclaimed by secular “thought leaders,” while others are just loud and obnoxious. But whoever they are, they will try to silence you and cause you to doubt God’s Word.

But before we listen to the naysayers, it’s important to remember that we have a book too — the Bible, and it is like no other. So in 2019, let’s make the Bible a priority in our lives. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you read it and consult a trusted Christian friend or your pastor with questions. Use free commentaries to help you understand God’s Word and download a Bible application on your phone or sign up on email for daily Bible reading plans.

As I looked through the crowd gathered at the march, I couldn’t help but feel the strength of God’s people. I sensed that they knew that “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18 ESV). So stay strong, dear brothers and sisters in Christ.  Keep God’s promise in your heart and mind and don’t grow weary. For the Lord says, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart” (1 Cor. 1:19 ESV).

Prayer: Father, point us to the cross in all that we think and do.  Thank you for giving us the Holy Spirit and the fortitude to stand up and to speak out for injustice and for life.

Pro-Life Action: Write or call your legislators to defund Planned Parenthood in your state.

Today’s devotion was written by Rosemary Johnson. Rosemary serves on the NALC Executive Council, she is a volunteer at her local pregnancy center, and she lives in Wisconsin.

This year’s Advent devotions are written by the members of NALC Life Ministries. The devotional follows the daily Revised Common Lectionary for Advent and includes a Bible reading, commentary, prayer and pro-life action for every day until Christmas Eve.

As we move through the season of Advent, Scripture reveals the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as Mary and Joseph ponder this miracle and seek to understand who this precious child might be. This devotional examines our responsibility to protect all human life in light of Mary and Joseph’s protection of Jesus, the savior of the world.

Our authors include Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Rev. Mark Chavez, Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, Rev. Scott Licht, Rev. Sandra Towberman, Rev. Steve Shipman, Ms. Rebecka Andrae, Rev. Melinda Jones, Rev. David Nelson, Ms. Rosemary Johnson, Rev. Mark Werner and Rev. Steve Bliss.

Learn more about NALC Life Ministries

Judges 16:15–31 (ESV)

15 And she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and you have not told me where your great strength lies.” 16 And when she pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, his soul was vexed to death. 17 And he told her all his heart, and said to her, “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.”

18 When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up again, for he has told me all his heart.” Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hands. 19 She made him sleep on her knees. And she called a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. 20 And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him. 21 And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison. 22 But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.

The Death of Samson

23 Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.” 24 And when the people saw him, they praised their god. For they said, “Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.” 25 And when their hearts were merry, they said, “Call Samson, that he may entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars. 26 And Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.” 27 Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained.

28 Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. 30 And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life. 31 Then his brothers and all his family came down and took him and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had judged Israel twenty years.

Psalm 9 (ESV)

I Will Recount Your Wonderful Deeds

To the choirmaster: according to Muth-labben. A Psalm of David.

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.

I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

When my enemies turn back,
they stumble and perish before your presence.

For you have maintained my just cause;
you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.

You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish;
you have blotted out their name forever and ever.

The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins;
their cities you rooted out;
the very memory of them has perished.

But the Lord sits enthroned forever;
he has established his throne for justice,

and he judges the world with righteousness;
he judges the peoples with uprightness.

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.

10  And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

11  Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion!
Tell among the peoples his deeds!

12  For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;
he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

13  Be gracious to me, O Lord!
See my affliction from those who hate me,
O you who lift me up from the gates of death,

14  that I may recount all your praises,
that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
I may rejoice in your salvation.

15  The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;
in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.

16  The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgment;
the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. Selah

17  The wicked shall return to Sheol,
all the nations that forget God.

18  For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.

19  Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail;
let the nations be judged before you!

20  Put them in fear, O Lord!
Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah

Acts 18:18–28 (ESV)

Paul Returns to Antioch

18 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow. 19 And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined. 21 But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus.

22 When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. 23 After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.

Apollos Speaks Boldly in Ephesus

24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

Luther’s first statements concerning this matter we find in the marginal notes written by him in his personal copy of the Sentences of Lombardus, which, in 1510, as a Sententiarius he was called upon to teach. Here we find statements such as the following: “But you, dear reader, whoever you may be, take this as the word of a simple man: no one has ever yet had the experience that the vapors of the earth have illuminated the heavens, but rather that they hold back the light from the earth. By that I want to say that theology is heaven, or, to put it still better, the kingdom of heaven. Man is the earth, and his speculations are the vapors; now understand the rest and see for what reason there are such great di erences of opinion among the doctors. Note, too, that a swine has never been able to teach Minerva even though it o en imagines that it can.”   “All light must come from revelation, the human understanding is unable to understand supernatural matters.”   “For since no one has seen them, whatever is added to revelation is certainly nothing but human invention.”   “Arguments based on reason determine nothing, but because the Holy Ghost says it is true, it is true.” In connection with a disputed question Luther affirms, “though many famous doctors hold this opinion, yet they do not have Scripture on their side but only arguments of reason. But I have the words of Scripture on my side in this opinion that the soul is the image of God, and so I say with the Apostle, ‘Though an angel from heaven, that is, a doctor of the Church, teaches otherwise let him be anathema!’” (13)

–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures

This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.

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