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.
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. 2 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. 3 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?” 4 And he said to them, “This is how Micah dealt with me: he has hired me, and I have become his priest.” 5 And they said to him, “Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether the journey on which we are setting out will succeed.” 6 And the priest said to them, “Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the Lord.”
7 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. 8 And when they came to their brothers at Zorah and Eshtaol, their brothers said to them, “What do you report?” 9 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.
1 In the Lord I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
“Flee like a bird to your mountain,
2 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;
3 if the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”
4 The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord’s throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
5 The Lord tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
6 Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
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.