Complacency Is Not a Work of the Lord
8 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.
8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. 15 As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”
– 2 Corinthians 8:1–15 ESV
God’s amazing grace shines in Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth! This congregation had dealt with some false teachers and sinful behavior, and Paul both exhorted and encouraged them in his second letter. In today’s passage, Paul underscores the grace of giving, and further, the privilege of giving. Paul reminds us that, first, we give ourselves “to the Lord” (v. 5) so that we can then, in God’s grace, give to others. Indeed, the Corinthians knew this privilege of giving firsthand when they generously responded during a time of trial in the congregation.
Life begins at conception. We know this scientifically; we know that we are unique from day one! We know that God Himself created us and knit us together in the womb; we are wonderfully and fearfully made (Psalm 139).
And yet life continues beyond birth. We collectively know this, too! Numerous charities in our country are devoted to supporting needy families: donations of clothing and food arrive regularly, and families are “adopted” to receive Christmas presents. Lifeway centers are the recipients of donations from “baby showers,” and early childhood programming has one of the higher volunteer rates in the country. Yet, pro-lifers are often accused of not caring about children following birth. Are we complacent about the needs that may be present for some parents following the birth of a child? While we can tally the donated items and in-kind services at our charities, and even chart the hours of volunteer time, it is also good to pause and self-evaluate from time to time. What needs are not being filled? How can we best serve those who so desperately need our help? Because complacency is not a work of the Lord. In today’s reading from Amos, we are reminded:
Woe to you who are complacent in Zion,
and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria,
you notable men of the foremost nation,
to whom the people of Israel come! (Amos 6:1 NIV)
Paul reminds the congregation in Corinth to finish their work, to make things equal between members of the church, but not by commanding, because true charity cannot be commanded. Instead, we are called to respond to the Gospel through the grace of giving.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, you sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, into the world where He showed us the ultimate grace of giving on the cross. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in a Gospel-response of overflowing joy by giving to mothers, fathers and babies; before and after birth. Help us to honor and celebrate this privilege and to do it in the name of the Babe in Bethlehem, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Pro-Life Actions: 1) Organize a diaper drive in your congregation and donate the packages to a local pregnancy care center. 2) Contact a guidance counselor at your local high school and ask about sponsoring a pregnant or parenting teen.
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.
Joshua 24:1–18 (ESV)
The Covenant Renewal at Shechem
24 Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel. And they presented themselves before God. 2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. 3 Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac. 4 And to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. And I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. 5 And I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in the midst of it, and afterward I brought you out.
6 “ ‘Then I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea. And the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. 7 And when they cried to the Lord, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians and made the sea come upon them and cover them; and your eyes saw what I did in Egypt. And you lived in the wilderness a long time. 8 Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan. They fought with you, and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you. 9 Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel. And he sent and invited Balaam the son of Beor to curse you, 10 but I would not listen to Balaam. Indeed, he blessed you. So I delivered you out of his hand. 11 And you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, and the leaders of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And I gave them into your hand. 12 And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. 13 I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.’
Choose Whom You Will Serve
14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, 17 for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. 18 And the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”
Psalm 135:1–12 (ESV)
Your Name, O Lord, Endures Forever
135 Praise the Lord!
Praise the name of the Lord,
give praise, O servants of the Lord,
2 who stand in the house of the Lord,
in the courts of the house of our God!
3 Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
sing to his name, for it is pleasant!
4 For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself,
Israel as his own possession.
5 For I know that the Lord is great,
and that our Lord is above all gods.
6 Whatever the Lord pleases, he does,
in heaven and on earth,
in the seas and all deeps.
7 He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth,
who makes lightnings for the rain
and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
8 He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
both of man and of beast;
9 who in your midst, O Egypt,
sent signs and wonders
against Pharaoh and all his servants;
10 who struck down many nations
and killed mighty kings,
11 Sihon, king of the Amorites,
and Og, king of Bashan,
and all the kingdoms of Canaan,
Acts 9:1–19 (ESV)
The Conversion of Saul
9 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.
Saul Proclaims Jesus in Synagogues
[Luther writes:] “Here the Spirit plainly ascribes to Scripture that it allumines and teaches, that understanding is given alone through the words of God as through a door for, as they call it, a first principle (principium primum) with which everyone who will come to light and understanding must begin. Again: “‘Principle or head of thine words is truth’ (Ps. 119:160). There you see that truth is here ascribed only to the head of the words of God, that is, if you learned the words of God in the rst place and used them as the first principle when you judged the words of all. And what else does this whole psalm do than to condemn the foolishness of our labor and call us back to the fountain (revocet ad fontem) and teach us that we should rst of all and alone spend our labor on the Word of God and that the Spirit is ready to come voluntarily and to expel our spirit so that we pursue theology without danger? … Therefore, nothing but the divine words are to be the first principles (prima principia) for Christians, all human words, however, are conclusions which are deducted from them and must again be reducted to them and approved by them. They must first of all be well known to everyone but not sought through men nor learned by them, but men must be judged by them. If this were not true, why should Augustine and the holy Fathers, whenever they contradict each other, go back to the holy Scripture as to the first principles of truth (ad sacras literas seu prima principia veritatis) and illumine and approve by their light and trustworthiness their own that is dark and uncertain? By doing so they teach that the divine words are more understand- able and certain than the words of all men, even their own … I do not want to be honored as one who is more learned than all, but this I desire that Scripture alone rule as queen (solam Scripturam regnare), and that it is not explained through my spirit or other men’s spirit but understood by itself and in its own spirit.” (77)
–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.